Jake Hager challenges Jon Moxley for the All Elite Wrestling world title Wednesday night on Dynamite.
Though Hager always believed in his ability to add color to the main event picture, there were a number of executives in WWE that ultimately did not agree with him. After struggling to find himself on the independents and a brief stint in Lucha Underground, Hager’s career has been rejuvenated as a member of The Inner Circle in AEW.
“It feels vindicating,” said Hager. “I needed to move in a different direction, and that was a risk. I never stopped believing in myself, but I had support from people who stood behind me, like [training partner] Josh Rafferty, [boxing coach] Rob Radford, and my wife Catalina. She likes to say I finally started listening to her.”
“And it’s been really fun to work with AEW, with people that believe in you. Instead of trying to fight your ideas, they give you resources to make you better.”
Re-establishing himself as a key player in a major promotion has justified the belief he held so tightly.
If Hager were still in WWE, he would not be in a match this week for the world title. More than just the high-profile match is the program that went into it, as Hager is looking to dominate Moxley after Inner Circle leader Chris Jericho dropped the title to him in February at the Revolution pay per view. The chance to be Moxley’s first opponent since he won the belt is an opportunity to add strength to the company by enhancing its champion.
“I really respect Moxley’s toughness and his attitude,” said Hager. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the dude back up a day in his life. He’s never afraid to go forward.”
Wednesday’s episode of Dynamite was taped in advance, but Hager stated that he is willing to work shows during the pandemic, viewing them as a new chance to connect with the audience every time he appears on television.
“This is an opportunity to be more creative,” said Hager. “And for me, I’m kind of an introvert, and since I’m not traveling as much, I get to put out more content from home. I’m working to really accomplish some good things.”
In terms of creating new content, the chance to work beside Jericho has been incredibly meaningful for Hager’s career.
“There is no higher praise than the best wrestler in the world asking you to come and perform at a high level and deliver with him,” said Hager. “I still watch Chris as a fan, he’s so great at what he does.
“There have been a couple times after segments when I’ll say to him that what he did was really good, and he no-sells it. ‘I already know it’s good, Jake,’ he’ll say. ‘I’m the one who did it.’”
While a title change is unlikely to occur this early into Moxley’s reign, the match stands for more than just the belt.
“Tony Khan tweeted he believes this will be the greatest empty-arena match in pro wrestling history,” said Hager. “That’s a big statement. This is going to be an incredible fight. I wanted to get my hands on Mox, and I needed to show the world exactly what I am now.”
Another compelling layer to the storyline is that the monstrous Hager can beat down Moxley, placing the champ in a vulnerable spot before an eventual rematch with Jericho.
“This could very well be a chance to weaken Mox up and get him ready for Chris,” said Hager. “If one of us in The Inner Circle has the world title, then we all have the world title. You would be absolutely crazy to turn the channel from TNT and miss one second of this.”