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Entering Jon Moxley’s Narrative of Redemptive Combat

While we often hear that remaining calm, passively observing our negative thoughts, and accepting our problems is the way to handle adversity, Jon Moxley is showing that fighting can have the power to heal like nothing else. His brutal feud with “Hangman” Adam Page is creating the ideal path to redemption, and this approach may align with a forgotten psychological theory.

To join the Blackpool Combat Club, it has been said that one must “bleed” with one of its members, a peculiar form of endearment, but it can be a particularly effective and salient one for many men struggling with personal and mental health challenges. The appeal of battle, the desire to come out victorious, and not just calm down or let things go is so strong for many men that they eschew conventional mental health treatments and self-care for “Manosphere” influencers, like former professional kickboxer Andrew Tate, fitness influencer “Liver King,” and controversial psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, who generally support this idea of redemptive combat but also regrettably pair it with a variety of hateful ideologies. In a less harmful vein, there is a nonstop stream of posts on social media talking about “fighting your demons in the gym.” Further, some who have had negative experiences with therapy express their disdain for the “soft platitudes” of therapy and being told to “just let go” and accept their lot in life. By offering an empowering narrative of using masculine strength to solve problems and let people become their best self rather than just let things be, the Manosphere has risen to power and relevance through a time of political, social, and mental health crises disproportionately affecting young men.

Jon Moxley is no stranger to emotional issues and personal tribulation. He has famously struggled with alcoholism and attended rehab in 2021. While he made an excellent recovery and was likely generally compliant with treatment, he has also reportedly ignored his therapist’s advice to leave professional wrestling. His decision to return to wrestling (along with his apparent willingness to repeatedly postpone his vacations) has been a blessing to the AEW movement in bringing it through the tribulations that ensued after the “Brawl Out” and “Gripebomb” incident involving CM Punk at All Out in September 2022, where he insulted Adam Page and The Young Bucks and proceeded to allegedly assault Matt Jackson. Moxley boldly proclaimed what AEW truly stood for on the Dynamite after that tragic incident, regained the World Championship, and at a time where the organization’s leadership was under massive controversy, his undisputed positive reputation in the locker room cemented him as a leader in AEW. His wise decision to keep fighting, along with his simple, brutal, unapologetic, yet oddly conscientious approach, is exactly what is needed to create a definitive and strong recovery from crisis, both in wrestling and in our own lives. 

“I choose to walk another path, through sheer force of will, refusal to die...because at the end of the path is something that looked impossible not too long ago.” - Jon Moxley

A Non-Toxic Way to Control Your Narrative

While methods that incorporate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which encourages one to refute and delegitimize their negative thoughts in order to behave better, and Mindfulness, which calls for calm, passive observation of one’s thoughts, have been recognized as the gold standards for psychotherapy with strong scientific evidence for their efficacy and by far the most popular among therapists and public and private payers, there remain a wide variety of other therapeutic modalities used by practitioners today. One of these is “narrative therapy,” which focuses on the totality of our life story, reinterpreting the stories we tell ourselves about the problems we face, helping to discover our true purpose and potential, and that views people as “separate from their problems and destructive behaviors.” As part of this externalization, patients are encouraged to create a character based on those traits, naming it, even describing it using metaphors of combat, and understand and engage with said character to solve their problems. Professional wrestling, of course, is too based in storytelling, centered around combat, and characters who represent a certain set of concepts or ideas. 

Some in the sport have explicitly designed storylines and even entire promotions around using this combination of storytelling and combat to battle one’s inner demons, such as Control Your Narrative (CYN), whose founder EC3 states “you do not fight an opponent, you fight your past self.” It is important to note that CYN has been very controversial for accepting wrestlers with questionable pasts into their promotion and potentially supporting conspiracy-type ideas similar to those in the Manosphere. CYN states their “3 Essential Pillars” are Control, Freedom, and Purpose, and that those who join them “will find redemption through absolution,” their “regrets no longer hang over their head,” and will “leave any apprehension, anxiety, depression.. cold, dead, on this floor.” These ideas certainly feel far more empowering and motivating than just being told to breathe and be happy about your situation, and I will admit that I too have used CYN’s content for motivation. Their matches are often designed to have a character whose specific goal is to bring out a flaw of their opponent. For example, when Gentleman Jervis (who has come under fire for supporting a wrestler who made anti-Semitic remarks) joined CYN, he had a match against Parrow with a storyline emphasizing how Jervis’ “Gentleman” character was committed to being always nice and diplomatic, and needed to learn the lesson that diplomacy doesn’t always work and he needed to embrace brutality. 

“I am the fire-breathing, blood-spitting living embodiment of the sport of professional wrestling. I am indomitable will personified…you have been warned.” - Jon Moxley

In his promo against CM Punk prior to their title match at All Out, Moxley said Punk had a “fragile ego, fragile body, weak mind, weak spirit” and that “champions never fold.” Moxley in those four phrases laid out the antithesis of his approach to wrestling and life, and I believe, what he seeks to purge from all those who get in the ring with him in good faith. Those four factors are all interrelated: a fragile ego can lead to not challenging your body so as to not see who you really are, an unchallenged body gets weak, a weak body leads to a weak mind, and a weak mind erodes one’s character and their spirit, and conversely a weak mind erodes how you maintain your body, how you view yourself, and how your spirit is expressed to others, and so on and so forth. Moxley’s opponents, not just those who are considered for the BCC, are challenged on all four factors to learn about themselves and improve. He does not hate his opponents; he challenges them without toxicity, vitriol, or avarice, so the opponent knows that resentment or personal conflict is not the intended response. It is only when they have revealed their flaws and resolved them that they achieve the validation of victory that frees them from weakness and fragility. 

Here, in spite of the clear and unmistakable respect between Page and Moxley, their matches have certainly not been “masturbatory” (as Page would say) nor did they become a perfunctory rehab assignment after Page’s injury. As such, Moxley subtly drove into Page’s known areas of insecurity in the promo leading up to their first match, referring to him as a “kid,” which resulted in Page finding his confidence and asserting why he is a man, having “lowered relatives into the grave and brought new life into this world,” and making the breakthrough that his hesitation has been a major contributor to his difficulties and the loss of his World Championship. Narrative therapy is designed to be “non-blaming” and notably it was Page who made these discoveries about his character through the dialogue, not Moxley directly correcting or confronting his “false beliefs,” nor spoon-feeding new “correct” beliefs. This is also in line with the idea that in narrative therapy you are the “expert on your own life.” Through the matches themselves, it could not be more clear that nothing is being handed to Page. In fact, their first match tragically lead to a severe concussion that knocked Page unconscious, landed him in the hospital, and rendered him unable to even remember his son’s name at one point. This trauma has clearly affected Page tremendously, leading him to lash out against Moxley and even wanting to fight before he was medically cleared to do so, as his friends in the Dark Order were increasingly concerned for his safety. 

“I didn’t deserve it, I f-n earned it.” - Adam Page

The Power of “I Earned It”

Sometimes the only way out is through. The only way to kick out of a bad situation is to actually kick out. Simply calming down about it will not necessarily fix “Shitty Life Syndrome.” Some fears just cannot be rationalized away.  After a major personal crisis, it is normal to lose confidence in yourself and your abilities. It is also very easy to drastically regress from your prior level of performance, settle on this new state, and revert to old habits. For Page, he entered his first match against Moxley with the backdrop of Brawl Out and negative statements made against him by CM Punk during the “Gripebomb.” The injury sustained during this match created even more trauma for Page, physically and psychologically. Though there is certainly a place for comfort and compassion, nothing restores confidence like being able to actually fight back and make things right. Going through the pain and reaching an irrefutable outcome are essential elements to redemptive combat. Page knew this truth instinctively, so instead of backing away and hesitating as one could have done after such a severe injury and as was the pattern of the “Anxious Millennial Cowboy” in the past, he stuck with his drive to face his torment head on, and got to face Moxley again as his first match on his return to AEW. 

Further, on an external level, today’s wrestling fans are constantly criticizing on Twitter when a wrestler is being pushed who they believe has not earned their place, with a certain segment of fans criticizing those associated with The Elite and the EVPs for what they perceive as unearned exposure. Likewise, in the general discourse, “Nepo Babies,” who were primed and positioned for success by their parents, are being called out for their privilege. Hence, the only true and pure way to regain one’s credibility and victorious stance among others is to fight for it. As a failed Nepo Baby myself, I have come to learn this the hard way myself. When I have succeeded in life, I often find myself questioning whether it was really me, was I good enough, or was it really just a hand out that put me over? Setting aside for a moment the importance of understanding the reality of interdependency and the complex, multifactorial determinants of success, I keep coming back to wanting to feel like “I Earned It,” wanting to know with certainty that my work is what gave me this success, a sentiment Page clearly expressed after winning the World Championship. 

Moxley deciding to fight Adam Page with all of his might and without reservation in a good, clean way multiple times has proven to be the ideal way to rehabilitate Page’s reputation post-Gripebomb. Page’s win couldn’t have come in a better place for his redemption: in Los Angeles, where CM Punk was very loudly and proudly celebrated after winning his world title off of Page and the former champion not even in the show, now in 2023 the crowd was cheering just as passionately for Hangman. Some dressed like cowboys and many others asked to take pictures with my Adam Page for President sign. Though the tension and animosity coming into the match was palpable, it was released through battle, and immediately afterward Page showed great concern and compassion toward his injured opponent at the end of the match. 

“I think it ends when two men go back in that cold, dark alley and only one gets to come out.” - Adam Page 

Tell me you believe in me without telling me you believe in me

Page is no stranger to being told by fans that they believed in him when he did not feel it himself. He said that it was at one point it was “the one thing that felt real to him.” The story of him achieving the World Championship was driven fans cheering and pushing a discouraged Page along and by The Dark Order choosing to believe in and support him. Even though this feud is as heated as heated gets in the ring, it is clear and apparent to me that Jon Moxley believes in Adam Page, but he is expressing it in a far more unique way. Jon Moxley predominantly expresses his values through his actions, and the intentionality thereof. He does so in words as well, having stated his respect for Page repeatedly, but in a measured way that keeps the battle real and sportsmanlike, a key measure to preserve the validation which will come from the triumph his opponent earns. Moxley is not merely saying the words “I believe in Adam Page,” but rather showing it and letting the reasons for this belief be revealed in the ring. Even as Moxley tried to assert himself as the victor and dissuade him from a rematch after the loss in their third match, with a roll-up ending Page believed both men found disappointing, Moxley was “kind of hoping” Page would ask for a rematch. The fact that Page came back shows he passed the test. 

As discussed above, Moxley did clearly, ambiguously, and without reservation assert his allegiance to the AEW way in the promo on the Dynamite after All Out 2022. A key distinctive of AEW’s approach is the Elite Era mode of storytelling emanating from Being The Elite (BTE). The Dark Order, a group representing the legacy of the late Brodie Lee and now known for its comedy on BTE, which has even created a viral meme, and communitarian “crew” approach, signifies this form of storytelling perhaps more than any faction other than The Elite themselves. On this past week’s Dynamite, the Dark Order sought to assist Page in a confrontation with Moxley where he claimed he didn’t have “any friends” and unlike when he aided Page in a similar situation with Kenny Omega, Moxley showed some deference in handling Evil Uno and has taken a match with Uno, who is one of the few people to ever get in Moxley’s grill the way he did. This interaction and upcoming match signifies that Dark Order, which has lost many members, down to only three currently, and has been nearly pronounced “dead” as a faction, has now also embarked on this road of redemption set forth by Moxley. Evil Uno, who is often seen as the “nice guy” or gentleman of the Dark Order, like Page, is finding his warrior in the build to their match. He stated on last week’s Rampage that Moxley didn’t realize he “had a little bit of a history of violence myself.” Uno recognizes the special power of a Moxley match and the restorative power it brings, stating he will “bring back respect to the name of Dark Order, and it starts with you Jon Moxley.” Opening this door and hence allowing the Dark Order to regain respect proves Moxley’s commitment to the Elite Era mode of storytelling is real. 

“Now victory is all you need, so cultivate and plant the seed.” - Shinedown, “Cut The Cord”

Blood Is Beautiful

In this new world, there are no clear answers, no correct, positive thoughts that definitively replace your negative thoughts with, and you cannot just passively observe the bad things that happen in the world or the bad things you think, you must take them to task with all your might. You cannot just force yourself to paint over a bad situation with false happiness and positivity, you must embrace the darkest pits of your soul and of reality itself. The self-inflicted oppression of pity must be squarely rejected. Where reassurance, awareness, and rebutting negative thoughts is just not enough, the test of battle provides unimpeachable proof of victory, hope, and competence, and an unshakable foundation for confidence. Then, coming out as a survivor from that “cold, dark alley,” you will prove to the world, and most importantly, to yourself, that you have earned your place. The outcome of combat will be “Checked Ego, Strong Body, Strong Mind, Strong Spirit.” You have created your own story, something beautiful, perhaps something that can only be bought with blood. Jon Moxley has led the way, and with Adam Page choosing to go on this journey with him, they have made a marvel for the world to see, setting an example for all of us. Moxley’s approach not only creates a great wrestling story but is also instructive in creating a new “Muscular Psychology” that guides its followers toward peace not through reframing and scaling down their emotions, but through the resolution of them through battle and triumph. We are sure to see more as he and Page go to battle again in a Texas Death Match at Revolution in March, as he faces Evil Uno this week, and perhaps other Dark Order members on their path of redemptive combat in the weeks to follow. 

Greyson Peltier is the host of The Fixerpunk Podcast, a podcast seeking to Bridge The Divide Between Personal and Social Change, a communications consultant specializing in social impact and political advocacy, and founder of consulting firm Off Speed Solutions. Peltier holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Southern California, an Associate’s degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Coastline College, and has been featured in media outlets like Vice, ESPN Radio KLAA, USA Radio Network, Sportskeeda, and Street Fight Radio.

This content is for entertainment and general informational purposes only. We do not warrant or guarantee the accuracy of the information herein. The viewer should not rely solely upon such and consult a competent professional before deciding to follow any course of action. If you have any mental health or medical concerns, we urge you to contact your health care provider. 


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