The most gripping, compelling man currently operating in sports entertainment is an old-school pro wrestler.
He has never headlined a WrestleMania, pays homage to Terry Funk every opportunity possible and cut his teeth on the indies. And that is exactly where Jon Moxley is headed next, main-eventing GCW’s Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 5 on Saturday against Harry Smith, who is best known as Davey Boy Smith Jr.
“This is pro wrestling, exactly what f------ pro wrestling is supposed to be,” Moxley says. “No choreographed horses---, no frills, nothing that’s ironic. It’s hard-hitting wrestling, that’s Bloodsport.”
The Bloodsport shows present a shoot-fight style of pro wrestling that rooted in a combat, MMA foundation. GCW first ran the event in April 2018 under Matt Riddle’s name, then transitioned to Barnett after Riddle signed with WWE. This Saturday will mark the fifth of the Bloodsport shows under Barnett’s name, and will be a return for Moxley, who defeated rising star Chris Dickinson at Bloodsport 3 in October.
Bloodsport is a unique entity. The traditional ring is replaced by a canvas, with no ropes or turnbuckles, and every match must end by knockout or submission. Given the structure the matches routinely feature a heightened level of athleticism, innovation and ingenuity, and Moxley is eager to return to this spartan forum.
“This is a destination for me,” Moxley says. “I wanted to do this while I was with WWE when I watched Harry Smith fight [Karrion] Kross [in April 2019]. That stood out to me, and even then, I thought Harry embodied that Bloodsport style.”
Dating back to 2019, Smith has won all four of his Bloodsport encounters, defeating Kross, “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Josh Alexander and Calvin Tankman.
“This isn’t going to be a payday; this is going to be a moment,” Moxley says. “I can beat the guy that’s undefeated at Bloodsport, but I know he can beat me, too. Harry is legit, and I know he’s going in confident thinking he’s going to kick my ass. Maybe he will. But if that’s what he thinks he’s going to do, it’s going to be a long f------ night.
“Bloodsport reminds me of a deathmatch, even though it’s the complete opposite. It’s the attitude that feels the same. Bloodsport captures my spirit—we’re not there to do a dance routine; we’re two competitors laying it on the line, trying to hurt each other. This is the hardest-hitting wrestling on the planet. This is as serious as it gets in pro wrestling, and the vibe and attitude fits everything about me. And it’s even better because I get to go against Harry Smith, this brick s---house that’ll knock you in the dirt the first chance he gets.”
In addition to bringing sorely needed attention to the badly wounded indie wrestling scene, which has been rocked by the pandemic’s impact on live entertainment, Moxley is also feuding with AEW champion Kenny Omega—whom he will meet for the AEW Championship in an exploding barbed wire deathmatch at the Revolution pay-per-view on March 7—and New Japan Pro Wrestling star Kenta, who challenges Moxley for his IWGP U.S. championship on Feb. 26 at New Beginning USA.
“I’m big game hunting,” Moxley says. “I am searching for the top opponents and the best experiences in the ring. Plus, I want to give back to the indies. Let’s put the spotlight on them, too. I want to be part of helping indie wrestling get back to where it was before this pandemic.
“And I am making up for a lot of lost time from my schedule in WWE, putting my body through a lot of abuse but without getting the return on the investment I wanted in terms of a body of work. I was able to connect with people all over the world, and I’m grateful for that, but now I get to make my highlight reel and make every match a memorable piece of work. AEW, New Japan and Bloodsport are the perfect place for me to do that.”
It would be revisionist history to say Moxley was not a massive star in WWE. He made Dean Ambrose into a genuine superstar, combining with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins to create The Shield. But ever since leaving the McMahon empire and taking his talents to Jacksonville, Moxley has carved out a place in wrestling history by doing business his way.
The Moxley way is a unique, distinct formula that comes off as carefree and spontaneous. Although Jon Good is certainly easygoing, he takes enormous pride in delivering the best possible content. Even at the height of his run in WWE, Moxley was not always content with the direction of his character or even certain storylines. This frustration led to sleepless nights and, ultimately, a change of scenery. (On a side note can you begin to imagine how different AEW would be if Moxley never appeared at its first pay-per-view in May 2019?) And while Dean Ambrose would undoubtedly still be playing an important role in the WWE Universe, there is no chance that WWE would have allowed one of its top stars to accept indie bookings or defend a championship from another promotion. Yet that is exactly where we currently stand with Moxley, who is still sleepless at night but now due to nonstop creativity around his next move.
There is so much reason for optimism in Moxley’s life. His wife—the incredibly talented Renee Paquette—has her own successful podcast and just released her cookbook. After nearly a decade with WWE, she is now a broadcasting free agent with a world of possibility in front of her. The couple is also expecting their first child by the end of this summer.
“Maybe becoming a parent will change my entire perspective on everything, who knows,” Moxley says. “I have another deathmatch coming up, and I’m grateful to wrestle—and I get paid for it. And I get to do indie shows, like Bloodsport. Those are fun, with awesome opponents and new matches.
“Yes, I’m a husband, and I’m about to be a father, but I’m also going to be a bad mother------ this Saturday at Bloodsport.”
A wrestling maverick, Moxley desperately needed to exist outside the walls of WWE to reach his greatest heights. The manner in which he accomplished this feat is exceedingly rare, though it does set up an unorthodox blueprint—and serve as inspiration—for those struggling to find their destiny. Moxley’s seemingly omnipotent abilities continue like waves that cannot be corralled, and he cannot wait to make more magic for AEW, NJPW, GCW and beyond.
On the precipice of so much anticipation and suspense, Moxley is delivering on his vow to create more captivating stories. And the narrative entering Bloodsport is an undefeated warrior squaring off against a conquering hero, in a bout both simplistic and raw, where the victor will be the one willing to endure more pain and inflict the most violence.
“You’re going to see complete freedom of expression through violence,” Moxley says. “We’re going to let the f--- loose and let the chips fall where they may. There is no hiding behind pyro or your entrance, there is no crowd. There is nothing to rely on but your skills.
“This is going to be pure freedom of expression in the most physical and violent form possible. There is a high possibility that Harry Smith might f--- me up, but I’m here for it. Let’s go.”