Jon Moxley is the guest on today’s Talk Is Jericho. If you can’t tell by the title - “The Emancipation of Jon Moxley” - the chat between the two former WWE and current AEW/New Japan wrestlers is a bombshell. It’s basically a 90 minute promo from the former Dean Ambrose about the frustration of working for Vince McMahon’s company.
We’ll have more from it throughout the day, but this story from early on (after Moxley expresses his gratitude to WWE for the experience and exposure they gave him, and most importantly for allowing him to meet his best friend and wife Renee Young) is a pretty good example of the podcast’s themes and tone.
Mox takes us through the day he started counting the days until he could leave - Nov. 19, 2018’s Raw at Staples Center, in the midst of his feud with Seth Rollins and the night his character was scripted to imply Roman Reigns deserved his leukemia:
“This is the day that I started - I remember being in the writer’s room and pulling out my phone and counting down the days... We’re in L.A., early start - show starts at 5. Get there at noon, Seth gets there about the same time as me. Working with Seth, I’m the bad guy at this point, I’m a heel. Get to the arena, and immediately a bunch of writers come up to me with a bunch of scripts, and the thread throughout the show is that Seth Rollins will be challenging me to come out to the ring and fight and I will pop on the screen and cut a promo and then - I’ve got like six promos throughout the night saying various stuff and then at the very end we finally have a big fight in the ring, right? So it’s gonna be a long day. Lotta running around, some are gonna be live, some are gonna be pre-taped. Even pre-taped ones that should take 30 seconds, as you know, in WWE they can take 40 minutes...
They hand me these scripts and, to my eye, all the things that are on these scripts - they’re typical WWE scripts. It’s a bunch of words, a bunch of big words, a bunch of goofy words, none of it makes any sense to me. We’re not telling any kind of tangible story, we’re not doing anything to get any kind of characters over or - nothing that makes any sense to me, so, you know, typical.
The one I’m most concerned with is the in-ring promo at the end of the night... 6:16. So we go into the writer’s room, I start reading this promo. And, again, not trying to pass judgement, but to my eye, in my opinion - this is absolute hot garbage, awful crap. I can’t make any sense of it, I don’t know what we’re even saying. The main jist of it was that the people were smelly, disgusting people and they’re foul, disgusting - you can kind of just see Vince saying these words, ‘Ohh, Liverpool - sounds like a skin disease’ you know? You can just picture the Vince face. I don’t know who wrote this, but if it was you, you should be ashamed of yourself...
The things that catches my eye the most is a joke about a pooper scooper. I’m gonna let that hang in the air for a minute. I’m gonna let you really absorb it, then I’m gonna say it again - pooper scooper. Like something along the lines of I wouldn’t come out there without a pooper scooper. I’m like, ‘I’m not saying that, so let’s change it.’ So I’m like, ‘did Vince write this?’ ‘We don’t know who wrote it’, so Vince -
Here’s how the creative process works in WWE. It doesn’t really make any sense, I still don’t know how it works but, so, now it’s like, okay, Vince is in a meeting, so we have to try and re-write it, send it in to Koski, have it re-printed, and put it in front of Vince without the pooper scooper line. Because if he sees it, he’s gonna fall in love with it, and then he’s gonna be like ‘Aw, ya gotta say the pooper scooper line! It’s such good shit!’ So we’re like, okay, hurry up and take out the pooper scooper line. So he writes, it’s something along of the lines of - we’re in L.A., he tries to insult the content of their character more so than their actual smell. He says something along the lines of ‘Oh, L.A. shallow trash, I wouldn’t come out here without a gas mask’ or something. Remember that, because it’s gonna be important later.
And then I’m like, ‘okay, whatever, I might not say that line but okay whatever, we’ll worry about it later - let’s just get it in front of Vince without the pooper scooper line, cause I’m just like - that’s just too embarrassing, I can’t say that.’ So anyway, we get it in, we send it in, we cross our fingers that Vince sees our version and not the original version.
So then I go off to do, then I’m a little bit exhausted just from this insanity. So I’m going off to do the next promo that was in a hallway with another writer. And I’m reading it and again, it doesn’t make any sense, I don’t really know what I’m saying, or what points I’m making, or how I’m supposed to be getting any heat or telling any story or any - I told the writer, I said, ‘ You know, if we didn’t have to run around trying to like, make ourselves not look like idiots and get rid of pooper scooper lines and stuff like that, we could actually sit down and tell a story. We’re all just in self-preservation mode trying to not look like idiots instead of creating good things.’ He’s like ‘ah, uh, hhhh’ whatever. Do that promo, I think that was pre-taped. Come back to the writers room and I’m like ‘any update?’ No update yet, but we did get this - notes from VKM.
And it says, ‘Notes from VKM: Dean needs to understand why he needs to insult the audience. Dean needs to read his promos verbatum and not try to re-write them.’ And I’m just like [long sigh]. Just like the feeling of getting punched in the gut like ‘what the...’ And I said to the writer, it’s not his fault, but I yelled at him. He just took the brunt of it. I’m like, ‘Why do I work here? I’m a professional wrestler who can tell stories and come up with promos and I believe that I have the abillity to talk people into buildings, I learned those skills years ago and wanted to bring them here to WWE and you just want me to say your stupid lines. If you want somebody to read your stupid lines, hire an actor. Cause they’ll probably do a better job of it than me. I’m not interested in doing it.’
So I’m just like ‘uh’, so we’re still just hoping we got our version in before the pooper scooper version. So go off to do ANOTHER promo, I believe this one was live. And again, it doesn’t really make any sense to me, I’m just like saying stuff. And earlier I had to go into Vince, because in this promo there is a line, that’s a very distasteful line taking a jab at my friend who had leukemia and is now going off to recover from that, Roman Reigns. I don’t remember what the line was, but I went, ‘I’m not saying that - are you kidding me?’ I’m going right into Vince on this one, this is clearly a mistake. [Jericho: It’s a cheap heat line.] Yeah, this is clearly a mistake, right.
I go into, I think it was a production meeting at the time, and I’m just like, ‘Hey, real quick, this is [laughs] surely you don’t want me to say this.’ And he’s like ‘oh but Roman’s part of the story, we’ve got to make sure he’s still included, you turn on him and Seth,’ and he kind of explains it to me, ‘you know, you just say the thing about Roman, just include him’. And he said it in kind of an innocuous way, where it kind of didn’t seem so bad, and I was just like, ‘uh, okay’ and all the writers were like ‘oh, you gotta say this’ and basically he gave me the Vince jedi mind trick. Which I’m pretty immune to at this point, but every once in a while he still gets me. It’s my fault, I got jedi-ed, whatever.
So I think this one we did live, I cut the promo. Soon as that line left my mouth, I went ‘Oh my God I can’t believe I just said that. [Jericho asks if Moxley remembers what it was] It was just something about ‘He’s got cancer, sucks to be him’ something like that. Not cool... and in the middle of all this, trying to get pooper scooper lines out of the script, I don’t even realize that this HORRIBLE thing that I shouldn’t be saying, it’s like oh my god.
Now I go back into the writers room, this is getting to be an exhausting day. And if you’re having trouble following all this, imagine what it was like to be me. So I go back into the writers room and - success! We got our version of the promo in before the pooper scooper line. And also, keep in mind during all this - this is a billion dollar company, run by a man who’s allegedly a genius. And keep in mind, we’re all adults, and we’re talking about stuff like this. So, good news, we got it in before the pooper scooper line. But when he wrote that, whatever line he wrote ‘I wouldn’t come out here without a gas mask or whatever’, now, I read the new promo, now this is written by Vince.
And it says, ‘Dean Ambrose enters wearing a surgical mask,’ you know, like a mask like a doctor would wear to protect you against diseases, disease from the disgusting smelly people. And it’s just more of the same... and I’m so embarrassed and I’m just like, ‘are you kidding me?’ Cause he saw the gas mask - here’s where he made a mistake. He used a noun. You gotta watch out for nouns, cause Vince will turn a noun into a prop real quick. So now I’m wearing a surgical mask. ‘He wants you to wear a surgical mask tonight, then next week come out with a gas mask, and then the next week come out in a full HazMat suit’ to protect myself against the disgusting fans. And I’m like ‘OH MY GOD’, so now I gotta go in to Vince. Again.
I remember I walked up to his office, where he is at this point. And Koski was about to go in to go over something or whatever and I’m like, ‘can I go in real quick? I just gotta do this,’ and he’s like okay, cool. And I was about to walk in and I was just like, ‘can you give me 30 seconds though first?’ I remember physically leaning on a road case and feeling like actual exhaustion, just like emotional, physical, mental exhaustion. And not so much because of that day, but because of six years of this. Six years of having to go into this man’s office - this old man, and trying to explain to him why wearing a surgical mask is a stupid idea. Why carrying a little red wagon to the ring is a stupid idea. Why naming a mannequin in the ring is a stupid idea. I was just like, I was done.
So I go in, and I’m like, ‘yo, I tried to explain it that like I don’t think people will be able to understand me if they can’t see my mouth moving.’ But he’s like, ‘oh, but it’s such...’ So we came to some sort of compromise where I have like a handkerchief, which is a little less embarrassing and he’s just like, ‘oh, you just - it’s just so you. You don’t want to lose that thing that makes you you cause you have so much creative license you can do anything. You can check with props, see if maybe you can put a clothespin on your nose, I don’t know, something like that.’ I’m thinking, ‘What? Creative license? What creative license do I have? I do exactly what you tell me and it’s terrible crap. That’s not creative license.’
So I’m like oh my god, so, whatever, do the promo with the handkerchief, whatever. I remember I ran out of the building when I was done. We had a big fight, I was hot, had a little bit of adrenaline. Everybody’s super happy, people are high-fiving at the end of the show like it was this great success. We got in the truck, went to the hotel around the corner and as soon as I got in the room I was just like - first of all, I need a drink right now. Second of all, I’m like what a waste of time. We didn’t accomplish anything. I have nothing. I did six promos, I can’t tell you what I said. I can’t tell you what the story is. Our angle now is gonna be dead, if it wasn’t dead already. You know? I don’t even have words.”
I know I have a ton of thoughts and comments, but we’ll let you have the first go in the comments below.
As mentioned above, we’ll have more on this throughout the coming days. It’s pretty much the biggest shoot interview since CM Punk on The Art of Wrestling. Set aside some time and listen to the whole episode here.