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Moose on becoming Impact champion: “The hard work starts now”
Moose became Impact’s new world champion at last month’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view, cashing in a title shot he earned earlier that night by winning the “Call Your Shot” gauntlet match. After a fleeting feel-good moment that saw Josh Alexander win the Impact title from Christian Cage, Alexander then dropped it in only seven seconds to Moose to close out the show.
As frustrating as it was to see Alexander lose the belt literally moments after finally winning it, there is logic behind the decision. It prolongs the chase for the babyface Alexander, who continues to be more likeable by the match, as well as makes Moose a legitimate player in Impact. Instead of being solely another piece of a talented roster, Moose is now the champ, a villainous force who has the most important piece of gold around his waist.
“I bring something different to the table,” says Moose, who is 37-year-old Quinn Ojinnaka. “I feel like there is no one quite like me in wrestling, and I’m excited to make the most of this opportunity as champion.”
Standing 6' 5" and chiseled to the bone, Moose has hardly any peers in terms of size and look. The former NFL offensive tackle has completely transformed his body by tightening up his frame.
“I needed to change my look,” Ojinnaka says. “I was talking to EC3, who is a real good friend of mine, and he told me I needed to trim up if I wanted to be a top guy. That really hit me, and he was right. So I changed my diet, and I used the pandemic to focus on diet and cardio and my workout regimen.”
The result has significantly enhanced Ojinnaka’s presence and body of work in the ring. That was on display again on Saturday in his Battle in the Valley match against Juice Robinson, where he was victorious—and then had a staredown with the newly debuted Jonah Rock (who was known as Bronson Reed in NXT).
If Moose ever defended his title at a show like Wrestle Kingdom in the Tokyo Dome, that would be an incredibly bright spotlight for Impact.
“Wrestle Kingdom, I would love to be part of that,” says Ojinnaka, who worked with New Japan icons like Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi during Ring of Honor/NJPW crossovers five years ago. “I’m a huge fan of their whole product, and I’m proud of my New Japan Strong matches with [Tomohiro] Ishii and Juice. And I would love to work Okada or Naito or Tanahashi again, but there’s a great first-time matchup in Will Ospreay, too. They have a stacked roster.”
Impact is touting Moose as the best former NFL player of the modern era to become a pro-wrestling world champion. Ojinnaka has achieved remarkable success in the ring, putting himself in a rare echelon as one of only a handful of pro wrestlers who played in regular-season NFL games to become a world champ. (Ojinnaka appeared in 62 games, including 20 starts, across seven seasons with the Falcons, Patriots, Colts and Rams.) Others that have accomplished the same feat are Bill Goldberg, Ernie Ladd, Bronko Nagurski, Dick The Bruiser and Gus Sonnenberg.
“I used to be known as a former NFL player who became a wrestler,” says Ojinnaka, who will wrestle former Impact champ Eddie Edwards on Saturday at Turning Point on Impact Plus. “Honestly, I would hear that and take it as an insult. I’ve always wanted to be known as a wrestler that used to be an NFL player, and that is who I am now.”
Ojinnaka’s NFL career included a run in New England, where he took lessons from famed head coach Bill Belichick that still apply to his everyday life.
“I watched Coach Belichick every day as he, this extremely successful guy, put in the work,” Ojinnaka recalls. “It didn’t matter how successful you were, he’d put in the work like he had something to prove. That’s what he expected from everyone. You’d bust your ass every day. That’s what I am doing: I’m putting 110% into everything I’m doing every day, and that’s a lesson Coach Belichick instilled in me.”
In addition to growing, maturing and evolving as a performer in the ring, Ojinnaka has also placed the same diligence in his everyday life. While he will never erase his 2009 domestic battery arrest, he has made every effort to ensure that that incident will not define him.
“Social media rules the world in our society, so people can see that headline and judge my character, but I know who I am as a person,” Ojinnaka says. “I’ve had the chance to grow as a person in Impact with my friendship with Scott D’Amore, who is a mentor of mine. I pride myself on being a good human being. My family knows me. My wife, my son and my friends, they know me. That’s what matters most to me.”
Now that he has earned the opportunity—and responsibility—of being the face of Impact, Ojinakka is ready to embrace the challenge.
“Becoming champion was the easy part,” Ojinnaka says. “The hard work starts now.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- WWE by no means put extensive work into building the card for Sunday’s Survivor Series, but Big E vs. Roman Reigns should be a spectacular main event.
- I know Becky Lynch is supposed to be a heel, but it feels like she is on the verge of another breakout moment this Sunday against Charlotte Flair. And after this match, could we finally see a Liv Morgan title run?
- The CM Punk–Eddie Kingston match at Full Gear was a tribute to the art of pro wrestling. I can’t wait until we see a rematch somewhere down the line.
- Kenny Omega was incredible in his run as AEW world champion, and now we have his upcoming AAA title match against Vikingo on Dec. 4 to look forward to.
- On the subject of must-see matches, Josh Alexander wrestles Minoru Suzuki this Thursday on Impact! Every time I think of a great Impact match from the past year, the one constant is Alexander.
- The Keith Lee/WWE disagreements have reached a boiling point.
- Jay Lethal makes his in-ring debut for AEW this week on Dynamite. Allegations of sexual misconduct by Lethal resurfaced during the July 2020 “#SpeakingOut” movement, and he was named in a discrimination lawsuit filed by former Ring of Honor wrestler Kelly Klein against her ex-employer in February. It will be worth seeing if AEW makes a statement about whether it performed its due diligence before signing Lethal, or whether that question is asked in an interview with either Lethal or Tony Khan.
- Jonathan Gresham entering the main event of Final Battle against Bandido is a phenomenal title bout that will possibly close the curtain on ROH.
- Best wishes for a quick and full recovery to Chris Dickinson, who has put in so much sacrifice to reach new heights in pro wrestling.
“Hangman” Page seeking to become the elusive beloved babyface champion
“Hangman” Page reached the pinnacle of AEW on Saturday at Full Gear, defeating Kenny Omega and becoming the new world champion.
This was the satisfying end to a very detailed story line. Even if it was part of the plan, climbing the ladder to the top of AEW was no easy task. Splitting apart from Omega and the Young Bucks was a smart choice, and he has engaged with audiences in an authentic fashion. He now has an even more difficult task in front of him: He needs to be the company’s most compelling figure as their babyface champion.
In order to reach new levels of success, the first goal for Page should be to stay true to himself. The “Anxious Millennial Cowboy” needs to continue to evolve, but he does not need to change. Top babyfaces like Bret Hart and Steve Austin did not radically alter their characters as soon as they became champs, and neither should Page, who possesses a rare combination of charisma and skill. He also needs the right opponent. Austin following his WrestleMania XIV win against Shawn Michaels with a matchup against Mick Foley was an example of this. Who should be first for Page?
Adam Cole would make a lot of sense, but there are drawbacks to that matchup. Cole is an incredibly popular heel, and AEW is still building Page as its top draw. While it would ultimately be a strong program, the timing is likely off. So what about a new hire, someone like Brody King? His Ring of Honor obligations are complete after losing to Jonathan Gresham at Honor for All, which means he will not partake in the ROH title bout at the Final Battle pay-per-view in December. Big and menacing, as well as surprisingly agile, King would make a compelling first opponent for “Hangman.”
AEW has shown an incredible talent for matchmaking. The new title run for Page is a chance to highlight its storytelling, and the first challenger for the belt will be pivotal.
Tweet of the Week
Being a champion extends far deeper than what happens in the ring.
- ‘Hangman’ Adam Page Era Begins at ‘Full Gear’
- AEW Raises the Bar Again With Thrilling ‘Full Gear’
- Nakamura Hopes He Hasn’t Seen the Last of Roman Reigns
- Becky Lynch Addresses Real-Life Heat With Charlotte Flair
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.