Updated: Sep 9
Jon Moxley vs Lance Archer is a feud that perfectly encapsulates that famous "fight forever" chant. Although the matches have to end at some point, these two could believably keep having match after match and one wonders if you would ever get bored.
They couldn't be more similar and different at the same time. There is an obvious difference in size and style of wrestling between these two, yet their mentality is pretty much the same. Neither will ever say die, so what happens when the Murderhawk Monster meets the Death Rider?
Moxley summed it up best in his pre-match promo, "one does not beat Lance Archer, one survives Lance Archer." This is so true to the allure of Lance Archer that Moxley actually said the exact same thing, word for word, in his promo building their October 2020 match in Jacksonville.
This is precisely what makes this match-up stand out. There's no personal conflict between these two, despite their history. They have even teamed together twice since they had last faced one-on-one. These are two men who share a level of respect for each other, but neither is ever truly willing to let the other one be. It's a conflict that can't be solved regardless of a result.
So why, exactly, should we care?
Moxley and Archer first fought at Wrestle Kingdom 14, also in a Texas Death Match. Many people, before their latest bout on Fyter Fest Night 2, weren't too excited about this rematch having the same stipulations.
This match, however, was completely different. In their first match in New Japan, Archer played a monster heel whereas in this match he finally gets over as a babyface in AEW. Moxley played a babyface at Wrestle Kingdom and somewhat took on the role as the heel in AEW, sort of.
Looking at the stats above compared to the ones below, we can see just how different these matches were. Archer had less total and big offence in the Fyter Fest match, but he was much more explosive in big comeback spots. Traits generally associated with wrestlers playing babyface.
The match as a whole was a lot more explosive, also. Whatever the reason for this, be it changes in character dynamics or simply the nature of being in the main event versus a mid-card match, we saw a lot more 'dynamite' in this match.
Both Moxley and Archer threw around 3.7 times more strikes with significantly more strikedowns and weapons attacks from both men, despite the match actually being shorter. This led to an electric match coronating a new champion by the end.
Moxley dominated large parts of the match, as we can see in the minute-by-minute breakdown below. Utilising 13 more weapons attacks than Archer, which was key to Mox's dominance early on. The fork in particular was key for Moxley and we can see this from the third to fifth minutes. This is where Moxley utilised that fork and busted Archer open.
Mox then focuses his attack on Archer's leg, attempting to chop the bigger man down. It's clear Moxley's tactics have changed from the previous match. He hasn't turned heel, he merely has to adopt heelish tendencies out of respect for Archer.
Not that it's unlike Mox to utilise weapons and bend the rules. However, it is unlike to see Mox attack his opponents before the match without good reason or hit low-blows in moments of desperation.
From the 9th to the 11th minutes we get various Lance Archer comebacks. Punching through Moxley's weapons attacks and utilising traditional wrestling manoeuvres, before using the weapons Mox introduced against him.
Archer has Moxley in the position to hit the Blackout, just like he did at Wrestle Kingdom, through two chairs. But instead of wiggle out of the move, Moxley hits a low-blow out of desperation before seeking to put Archer through the same chairs. Archer once again turns the tables on Mox and puts him spine-first through those same chairs.
Back to his feet, Moxley hits Archer with a Paradigm Shift and signals as if he's won the match. Archer, though, powers up, flipping Jon Moxley off, telling him to bring it. Here Moxley goes back to the fork to gain an advantage and goes under the ring to find wooden sheets with barbed wire attached, laying them across tables which he set up earlier.
Moxley looks to end Archer the same way he did at Wrestle Kingdom where he reversed a chokeslam and hit a Paradigm Shift through the tables. However, once again, Archer uses Moxley's own tactics against him and mashes the fork into Moxley's forehead. Archer then calls back to that Wrestle Kingdom match and hits the Chokeslam through two tables that he almost hit in the Tokyo Dome.
This secures Archer the win as the referee counts to 10, with Moxley, beaten at his own game, by his own tricks, symbolised as he's stuck in the barbed wire.
Archer was never ahead in this match, as the graph below shows us. Unlike in Tokyo, Archer worked smarter, not harder, to defeat Jon Moxley who threw everything he had at Archer.
For his entire run in AEW, Lance Archer has failed to win "the big one". He's continuously lost big matches despite looking so dominant. It was getting to the point where many had lost faith in AEW when it came to Archer. He became a stain on Tony Khan's booking record.
Once again, however, we are forced to say, "never bet against Tony Khan", even if he had some help from New Japan here. A shift in mentality for Archer and a refocusing on his targets re-heated Archer to the point where it felt he was being built to face Kenny Omega. Instead he stood up to Miro and... lost.
He moved on and refocused on the prize that marks the highlight of his career; the IWGP US Championship. Moments that feel "do-or-die" is what great drama is made of and this match, for Lance Archer, was certainly do-or-die. And that, to answer my question at the start of this article, is exactly why we should care, and why so many did.
This was the perfect time to pull the trigger on a big moment for Archer and a fitting ending to the Moxley vs Archer trilogy. Even then, I'd happily see them "FIGHT FOREVER!" *clap clap, clap clap clap.*
Match Star Ratings (out of 5):
Grappl: 3.98 stars.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 4.5 stars.
Cagematch: 4.1 stars.
PWM Writer's Opinion: 4 stars.
With thanks to Scott Lesh for photography.