For the champion of a company that was once childishly derided by Rob Van Dam as being ‘All Petite Wrestling’, Jon Moxley is really having to fight a lot of massive blokes at the moment.
Having seen off Jake Hager in a pretty uninspiring cinematic affair, and conquered Brodie Lee (sorry...Mister Brodie Lee) in an absolute barn-burner, at Fight for the Fallen MOX found himself up against his biggest monster yet in Brian Cage. Cage being known as ‘The Machine’ is an incredibly apt nickname, as he really does look barely human when he marches to the ring.
No matter however because despite having previously been thrown about by Cage like a limp sack of plums, MOX now had a plan, and was very open about that before the match began. Basically, he was going to take The Machine’s surgically repaired bicep and rip it from the bone. Extreme? Yes. Effective? Indubitably.
Cage’s gameplan on the other hand was clearly just to hoss about and out-power MOX, with Taz delicately and elegantly describing Moxley’s insinuations about Cage not being fully fit as ‘propaganda bullshit’. And so the stage was set for what became a slightly strange if ultimately enjoyable match.
Cage predictably jumped MOX, resplendent in his Danny Havoc (RIP) t-shirt, before the bell and after some meaty strikes and a massive clothesline, mocked the champion by picking him up and doing arm curls with him, something which I think could most accurately be described as ‘unwise’.
MOX indeed fought back and began attacking Cage’s arm following a casual middle-rope shotgun dropkick to his challenger. The first cross-armbreaker in many arm-based submission attempts followed (the submission statistics in this match clearly favour MOX) but the purveyor of violence certainly wasn’t afraid to throw in plenty of strikes as well.
The match soon spilled to the outside as each man got their licks in during what was a very topsy-turvy start to proceedings. MOX executed a barreling dive to the outside, only to be smashed into the barricade, but quickly recovered (because only a softie is hurt by metal railings to the face) to retaliate by smashing Cage’s vulnerable arm and shoulder into the same barricades moments later.
Sadly the always fickle barricades turned on MOX fairly quickly, with Cage suplexing him onto the metal before following up with another almost desultory slam. This set up the only real period where either man had a prolonged period of control, with Cage permitted to exhibit his brute strength.
The Machine powered out of a sleeper-hold as if it was being applied by a toddler, and then embarked on a sustained assault on the champion’s back. We saw a vicious looking torture rack applied which was then turned into a suplex, and followed up by a Camel Clutch which even the Iron Sheikh would have been proud of, even if he would certainly have expressed such emotions through some artful and magnificent swearing. The final element of this beat-down saw Cage suplex MOX through a steel chair leaving the champ writhing in pain and the chair in serious need of rehabilitation.
A little bit disappointingly, this supposed mangling of Moxley’s back didn’t really play into the match from there on, and indeed the AEW champion was soon back in the ascendency. Following a fairly weak looking ‘crunch’ of Cage’s shoulder into the ringpost, some thunderous looking strikes from MOX and a failed (if also beautiful) moonsault attempt from The Machine, MOX was able to hit the Paradigm Shift with an ease that the storyline and Taz’s repeated technical videos, told us should not be possible on a man with shoulders the size of watermelons.
Cage did kick-out though and also powered out of a Kimura lock from MOX with just one-arm, highlighting again that even with one paw, he is an extremely powerful foe. This was further underlined when The Machine hoiked MOX up and over the ropes whilst standing on the second rope with alarming ease. The sort of move that makes me fairly embarrassed that picking up my cat now causes me back-pain.
None of this was enough to finish off the champ however and in the pivotal part of the contest, MOX reversed a Drillclaw attempt into another cross-armbreaker. Cage tried to withstand the pain on his battered bicep, but Moxley persevered with nasty looking kicks to the face to keep the man-mountain grounded.
Finally, with a delightful smirk and a textbook middle finger towards Taz, Moxley transitioned into a torturous looking armbar which looked like it might snap The Machine into bits. Taz, realising that he couldn’t afford for his ‘investment’ to have another 5 months out injured (as the commentators repeatedly told us), threw in his very fetching orange towel, and that was that. Another dragon slayed, and Jon Moxley remains AEW World Champion.
In truth it was a slightly disappointing match with the focus on Moxley’s back not really being sold and the much vaunted difficulty in applying the Paradigm Shift not being followed up on. However the booking was a clever way to have the new boy Cage lose and look strong, as only a sustained assault on his already wounded arm was able to stop him, and even then it was not The Machine who made that call. He is still very much a threat to whoever comes next.
And it didn’t take long for that next step to be revealed. Like all big bullies after losing, Cage through a hissy-fit and walloped MOX with his un-earned FTW belt, but fortunately for the retaining champion, an old frenemy was on hand to save him. The lights went down, and as the glow returned, Cage turned round to a returning, and airborne, Darby Allin shoving a skateboard into his massive throat. The Machine postured and raged on the stage as officials held him back, whilst in the ring Darby and MOX shared a slightly awkward fist-bump, signifying that their story is also not over.
Find other work by @danspursquins at www.wrestlingwithprocrastination.co.uk