Updated: Sep 9
For almost two years Jon Moxley has been AEW's top babyface. He had arguably the greatest babyface championship reign in modern wrestling history, some of AEW's biggest crowd reactions and faced all of AEW's most devilish heels. But, with the arrival of many new fan favourites and Moxley teasing an edgier, more violent version of himself, are we about to see a character shift to the paradigm of Jon Moxley?
After losing his AEW championship to Kenny Omega at Winter is Coming, then losing again at Revolution, Mox went on to lose to the Young Bucks at Double or Nothing before losing his IWGP US Championship to Lance Archer. This has all led to tension building within Moxley bringing a more violent Mox with a certain edge that has got some fans speculating on whether he is about to fully turn heel.
Why Would AEW Turn Mox Heel?
The first thing we have to explore here is why AEW would want to turn their top babyface? The answer is really quite simple though. When we look at the top heels in AEW we only really have five at present. Kenny Omega, Miro, MJF, Malakai Black and Andrade el Ídolo. Even then, it's debatable whether Miro or Andrade are quite at that top level in AEW, but they're names on the precipice of that honour.
Five may seem enough, however when you look at how many babyfaces AEW have around that same level, you have nine, not including Jon Moxley or Eddie Kingston. Those are Sammy Guevara, Pac, Jungle Boy, Adam Page, Darby Allin, Cody Rhodes, Christian Cage, Chris Jericho and CM Punk. With rumours of Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson signing, it is safe to assume that they will also be more on the babyface side of things based on the reactions they'll naturally garner.
Furthermore, we are soon to see a new top babyface in 'Hangman' Adam Page, who will take Moxley's crown in that regard. A crown that may have to be fought for at some point. Ultimately, all of these babyfaces will need opponents and many of the existing potential matchups have already been explored.
On top of that, from Moxley's point of view he has done everything a babyface can really do over these past two years. He isn't someone like Jungle Boy who is so naturally likeable, he can play a heel very well. So, it's kind of falling at the perfect time for AEW to turn Mox heel.
Why Would Mox Turn?
From a character point of view it makes perfect sense. Not only has Mox had a fall from grace in recent months, losing both his championships and all his major matches, which would naturally breed frustration, but also with so much excitement around AEW, Moxley has been somewhat of an afterthought.
Ultimately, I don't have to tell you why Moxley would turn heel because this past week on Dynamite he told us in an amazing promo:
"The events of earlier tonight got me thinking about how everybody wants a piece of AEW these days. They're coming from everywhere, now that we're the hottest promotion in the world, selling out buildings, changing the game. And it makes me wonder, what makes them think it's so easy?"
Here Jon Moxley is loosely addressing how Daniel Garcia and 2.0 jumped him from behind, but more to the point Mox is hinting at the new arrivals we all know are/were AEW-bound. Mox is also pointing out how successful AEW is, and this is key to what Mox says later in this promo.
"And then I look and I see Kenny Omega who needs an army to keep that championship around his waist. These Elite guys running around in Space Jam outfits looking like goofs."
Mox addresses issues he has already faced in AEW. He points out how hard it would be to take the title away from Kenny Omega, but in a way that confirms that Moxley is still *the* top guy in AEW. In his mind at least.
"Our white knight on a white horse, Adam Page, calls himself a cowboy. Can't get over his high school drama, BTE, emo bullcrap long enough to get the job done. He ain't no cowboy, I'd drink him under the table and beat his ass."
Now here we have to ask, why would Mox address Adam Page? Particularly in a way like this. Is he merely acknowledging Page's presence as a main event concern, as he did with Omega? Or is he planting seeds for a future match between the two? And question, would Moxley have spoken about Adam Page in this way 6 months ago?
"Don't even get me started on Christian. I would walk through Christian's shoulda stayed retired ass like a wheat thresher."
Here is where it really gets interesting because it is well documented that Moxley wants to wrestle Christian. It's one of his dream matches and, really, the best way to get to that match is to turn Moxley heel. So, at this point, it is fair to assume that Mox is potentially laying crumbs for future feuds.
"Don't forget, I'm the guy who carried the world championship on his back, I'm the guy who waved the flag for this company through dark days, through dark times, through empty buildings, through uncertain times!"
Here Mox brings it back to his motivation in this promo that he mentioned at the start. He feels that he is the heart of AEW, he feels that people are beginning to forget what he did and he is here to remind people who he is. But, he's got a chip on his shoulder about the way he's been treated, overlooked and how others are coming to take what's his.
"Until we planted the flag on Wednesday nights and now... now ya'll want a piece. I think it's about time we send a message about what it really takes to be on top in AEW. About who's still at the top of the food chain in AEW!"
Mox reiterates that it is he who put AEW on top and shows a level of entitlement to that top spot in AEW. Mox also speaks about sending a message. But, Garcia isn't the target for Mox, he's just the statement being put out to anyone who now wants to come and eat off the table at which Moxley feels he is still the head of.
Moxley then addresses Daniel Garcia, before taking a pause:
"Ask yourself if this is where you really, really want to be. Protect your neck and make sure this is where you really, REALLY want to be! On top in AEW."
The pause before Moxley says this isn't for dramatic effect, and neither is the reiteration of "really, really". This is almost certainly being directed at CM Punk and that is, perhaps, the most fascinating part of this promo. Mox is warning Punk, or anyone, that if they step onto his turf, they'll have him to deal with.
CM Punk is a man who spoke of leaving WWE, going to Japan and the indies and flying the flag for pro-wrestling. Punk didn't do this, he stayed in WWE before leaving wrestling altogether. Leaving Moxley who many saw as Punk's heir in WWE.
Except Moxley actually went and did all the stuff Punk said he was going to do outside of WWE. He went to Japan, he's gone to the indies and he's flown the flag for pro-wrestling by putting AEW on the map.
This promo is aimed at someone coming to AEW and trying to take Jon Moxley's spot, just as Daniel Garcia said he wanted to do. But this promo was not aimed at Daniel Garcia, which is what makes this mini-feud between Darby Allin, Sting, Eddie Kingston and Mox vs 2.0 and Daniel Garcia so good.
This feud allows AEW to hide in plain sight whilst they plant seeds for future feuds, whilst putting on a quick, fun mini-feud which highlights some new talent. It allows Moxley to cut this all-timer promo, without spoiling anything.
How is Moxley Wrestling?
As my fellow Pro Wrestling Musing's writer, Sergei Alderman, will tell you, "styles make fights". And just as Sergei analyses, the way wrestlers wrestle tells us so much about their character. Is it then fair to assume that with Moxley adopting more heelish tendencies in recent matches, is he potentially foreshadowing a heel turn?
In his match with Garcia, Moxley was dominant, as you would expect. Despite Garcia getting 55% of the match offence, Moxley got double the amount of Garcia's big offence. This was wrestled almost as a mini-Brock Lesnar style match with Garcia almost performing as a babyface, trying to find windows of opportunity whilst Moxley just smashes through his smaller opponent, particularly with grapples and knockdowns.
Even though Mox is technically the babyface and Garcia the heel, the way this was performed was actually the opposite of what you'd traditionally expect. Perhaps this is a coincidence, with it being such a short match at just four minutes. But what wasn't a coincidence was Moxley "playing the heel" against Lance Archer in Lance's hometown.
This was very obvious and the graph below proves it. Moxley dominated the early going after attacking Lance before the bell, mainly utilising weapons in order to do so. However, Lance came back into it with a big babyface comeback later on. I wrote a Tale of the Tape article about this match, so I won't go into too much detail here. But, Moxley adopted various heel tendencies throughout, as Archer got a huge babyface pop in his hometown.
Perhaps these are coincidences and Mox is just playing the role he needed to for that specific match to work. Or maybe, these are perfectly constructed mini-stories that are informing a shift in Moxley's character over time?
Just like what happened with Kenny Omega who showed signs of a heel turn in July 2020 before confirming it in December 2020 (against Moxley). Just as with the Young Bucks who showed signs of a heel turn in September 2020 before confirming it in April 2021 (against Moxley). Maybe, Moxley is sick of being stepped over for people to get to the top of AEW and is now changing his approach.
Still not convinced?
What about Hiroshi Tanahashi?
If you want to turn someone heel, there are worse opponents to have them face than Hiroshi Tanahashi, arguably the greatest pure babyface in wrestling history. It is rumoured to the point of pretty much confirmation that Tanahashi was supposed to face Moxley at All Out. These plans have seemingly been tabled for the time being for issues related to Japan and New Japan's roster. But Moxley addressed Tanahashi on the same night Tana appeared on Dynamite.
Moxley, drinking, insults Tanahashi, says he's been ducking Mox and the second he no longer holds the IWGP US title, Tanahashi puts his face on AEW TV. Mox then warns Tana to learn from Suzuki and Nagata, because whilst the forbidden door might be open, "ain't nothing good waiting for you on the other side."
Since this promo Tanahashi has defeated Lance Archer and now holds the IWGP US title, so as the theory goes; Mox vs Tana was supposed to happen at All Out for that title. As previously explained, that's now unlikely to happen. But it begs the question; why on Earth would you have your top babyface challenge Hiroshi Tanahashi of all people?
The answer: they're turning Mox heel.
Is This Really a Heel Turn?
Moxley's character is perhaps above needing simplistic terms such as "heel" or "babyface". Many fans may describe him more as a "tweener", however this is still a short-hand term that ignores then existence of a much more complex character.
Moxley doesn't need to "turn heel" in your traditional sense in order to face Christian, Hangman, CM Punk or Tanahashi. He can simply play a more violent, motivated version of Jon Moxley who is willing to run through any and everyone to get what he wants.
Even if it is a full heel turn, don't expect a "moment" to confirm it anytime soon. Whilst Omega and Young Bucks did both put a stamp on their heel turns at some point to confirm it, as I mentioned before, these were more character transitions over a period of many months that built to these moments.
However, don't rule out a headline grabbing moment where Moxley attacks CM Punk after the main event of All Out. CM Punk will have his moment to bask in the glory in the coming weeks leading up to All Out. It will not rain on his parade, Punk's parade will happen leading up to and during his match with Darby Allin.
But, don't expect it either. All I'm saying is if AEW do decide to do that right away, they have laid the groundwork and the story is ready to tell. That could well be your main event for the AEW event at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and with Dynamite in Moxley's hometown the week after All Out in Punk's hometown, that could be very interesting. But we should know to expect the unexpected with AEW, so who knows what will happen?
Call Moxley's turn or character shift a heel, a tweener, an anti-hero or whatever term you want to use. Call it whatever you want. What matters is we're about to get a much darker, more violent version of Jon Moxley and that is something that should excite fans.