All Elite Wrestling world champion Jon Moxley tackles some Q&A with The Post’s Joseph Staszewski ahead of his return this week to AEW Dynamite (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., TNT).
(This interview has been edited for brevity)
Q: Chris Jericho’s job as AEW’s first champion was to establish the title and put some meaning behind it. What’s your goal or job as the second champion?
A: It’s not ideal that the whole situation in the entire world goes to absolute hell after you win the world championship. I won the title on a Saturday. We had an AEW live TV on a Wednesday and the very next Wednesday was the last time we were ever in front of people again and for the foreseeable future. It’s not an ideal situation to say the least.
I would say that during a time like this, wrestling is as its best — there is so much bigger problems going on in the world — professional wrestling is at its best entertaining or [providing] inspiration, distraction. I think my job in all this as champion is to take on all comers with no fear and to stare down any adversity and obstacle in the face over everything.
Q: Do you think there is a clear challenger now or do you think someone is going to have to step up and take that opportunity?
A: The immediate and foreseeable future was very clear and delineated and now everything got screwed up. Storylines got screwed up, plans got screwed up. People can’t make it in. People are choosing not to make it in.
Like Blood and Guts, they were talking about doing that in front of an empty arena and I said to one of the guys in that match, I said, ‘A War Games steel cage match in an empty arena sounds like a terrible time. That sounds like a horrible time.’ You need the adrenaline of the crowd, the atmosphere. A War Games cage match in front of 11,000 people sounds like the best thing you could possibly do as a human being. In front of an empty arena it feels like that would hurt a lot.
It’s one of those things they chose — that’s so good let’s save it for when we have an audience. So now as world champion, we have all this good stuff and do we save it all for when we have an audience because who knows when that’s gonna be. There’s kind of an asterisk next to this whole thing probably when you are gonna look back on it in history, for me.
Somebody who steps out of the confusion in all this madness is gonna be the fortunate person that is in the right place at the right time and has the guts to step into the situation and is fortunate enough to be where we are taping. Somebody unexpected will emerge out of this tornado of insanity.
Q: The last time you were in an arena with AEW was in Jacksonville against Jake Hager. You didn’t make the Georgia tapings. Have you been stuck at home because of the stay-at-home order in Nevada or health reasons? What’s kept you away from those tapings?
A: I’ve been home over four weeks. I’m just trying to do that same thing everyone else is doing with the social distance and all that and make sure I’m not doing anything unsafe or anything. I’m pretty fortunate. I’m here in Vegas. I have my dogs with me, I have my wife (Renee Young) with me. The only tough days I’ve had — I shouldn’t even say tough — was when she went to Florida to go tape for WWE where she works. When I was home alone for a couple of days I was like, ‘Man, being alone is weird.’ But everyone is dealing with that.
Q: So for you, staying away from tapings was just a decision to try to stay as safe as possible?
A: Yeah, last time we were wrestling we taped three, four weeks of stuff at one time and they did the stuff after that and they’ve been thrown together. We are going to go back and tape a bunch more stuff soon and I’ll probably just grab the dogs and head down to Florida and just camp out there while we do this.
Q: WWE let people go recently. What was your reaction and what advice would you give them as someone who has restarted their career after WWE?
A: That was a heartbreaking kind of thing to see. We just got up and she (Renee) was getting all that news before it broke from like kind of a source, one of her friends in WWE was being like, ‘Oh my God they are letting all these people go.’
You just start seeing all these names pop up while we were taking a little walk on this kind of nature trail we have around our house. It was just one name after another. I was just like, ‘Really, really, oh!, oh!, God.’ It’s just like during all this, you get that phone call.
I would say, look at all the possibilities more so than what you’ve missed out on because a lot of times in my career these things I thought were bad things or challenges over the years led me to ultimately where I can’t imagine my career turning out any differently and not standing where I’m standing.
Q: Do you think any of them would fit well in AEW?
A: I hesitate to single anybody out because I don’t want to leave anybody out. So many of those people are my friends that I would love to see again and work with again. Really the universe has a way of if you really want something and you really have a passion for something, the universe has a way of washing you up on the shore where you need to be.
Q: We lost Howard Finkel two weeks ago. Do you have any Howard Finkel stories from your time in WWE?
A: He’s just one of the sweetest and nicest guys ever. He was always so nice and gracious to me and my wife and always so complimentary, especially when we were new coming up in the company, to come up to us and say you guys are doing a great job.
I got to get announced by him once and it was at some sort of baseball card or hobby shop, some signing. There were probably a thousand people there I was signing autographs for at this sports memorabilia (place). It was somewhere on the East Coast.
They brought in The Fink and he actually got to like announce me to come out to the table to do the signing and I told him afterward, I think I told him before, like ‘Oh man, I get to get announced by The Fink.’ Like I never got that opportunity before. It was kind of a dream come true. … He told me that really meant a lot to me that it meant something to you that I got to announce you. But I’m like dude, you’re like the voice of all our childhood. Of course that means a lot to me to hear my name coming out of The Fink’s mouth.
He was legitimately touched, you could tell. I was like, that’s so cool that he’s so humble. Because like, to me, The Fink is the s–t. He could be like, ‘I’m The Fink and he could walk around like I’m The Fink and I know it. I’m a bad motherf–ker.’ But he was legitimately touched.
Q: When you left WWE you talked about some Vince McMahon phrases and one of them was, “This is such good s–t.” They used that with the Vince doll during the Firefly Fun House match at WrestleMania. What was your reaction when you saw it and were you surprised to hear it?
A: I kind of popped for it, honestly. I thought it was pretty funny. But it’s like, I think I might have popularized that or made it into a pop culture thing, but everybody knows that’s what he says. He’s been saying that for decades. People who were probably doing Vince McMahon impressions have been saying ‘that’s good s–t’ before I even got into wrestling.
Q: What’s it been like watching Brodie Lee and Matt Hardy work in the AEW creative environment?
A: They have yet to perform in front of an actual AEW audience. For Matt Hardy, he’s probably well-suited. It almost fits him in a way, him debuting with Vanguard and holograms and so forth because that’s such a popular thing. He was doing all those quote-on-quote empty arena matches at the Hardy compound that was so popular back then.
Everybody knows he’s (Lee) a badass in the ring, was in Dragongate in Japan and all over the world, and for whatever reason wasn’t getting booked or used on television toward the end (in WWE). Now it’s an opportunity for him. He kind of stepped into this kind of role that was created where I don’t know, but I don’t think that he was the guy in mind when that role (The Exalted One) was officially created. So I think what he’ll do is take it and mold it into something that he can use that works for him or he might go in a totally different direction.
Q: What were you most proud of from your feud with Chris Jericho?
A: I was proud of the whole thing because it was a really … it’s like one piece of work that you can like hang up on your wall.
The whole story started on the very first night (at Double or Nothing) last year. He was the first guy I drop with the DDT and then he went on to win the title. I was always kind of lurking in the background, kind of like the boogeyman so to speak during his little championship reign. We had a clear story. It’s fun because it’s like just me, him and maybe a couple of other guys throw a couple of ideas. We don’t need a team of 30 writers to put together a story. We just stood by a ring, talked about what are we going to do for eight weeks.
It starts out kind of interesting and fun. He tried to get me to join the Inner Circle. We do that whole sports entertainment bit. I smash the thing on his head, I steal a car. Then it gets serious. He stabs my eye out, then I’m stabbing his friend’s eye out. Now they’re bringing in assassins to take me out and I have to go through all these obstacles and then I finally get there to the day and it’s kind of like Sting at Starrcade ’97 except we didn’t screw it up. It felt like all the work was done by the time we got to the pay-per-view. … We kept it simple on the night and didn’t overthink it and I felt like the home team won.
Q: You are also the US champion in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Zack Sabre Jr. challenged you to a match at Wrestle Dynasty at Madison Square Garden in August. Do you have a response to that and do you plan on going back to New Japan when they reopen?
A: As long as I’m wrestling I’ll always be wrestling in Japan as often as, maybe not so often or more often. I don’t know. It just depends on everything. I definitely will be back there one day. The way the world is right now, I have no idea when. I think Zack probably did that interview quite some time ago before all this insanity. There is zero timetable for me to end up back in New Japan, although it will happen eventually one day. I cannot even begin to speculate when that will be possible or even legal.
Q: You are in the new movie “Cagefighter: Worlds Collide.” What was going back to acting like and is acting something you want to pursue a little more?
A: My goal is not to take over Hollywood and make a bazillion dollars. My goal is to be a professional wrestler. If something is cool creatively, that would the fun because movies are fun. It doesn’t even feel like work, but it is challenging.
I was going back and forth between AEW Dynamite, being on the road and going up to Saskatchewan on the off days then going back to wherever we were filming during the winter. … We were doing three days to film these big long fight scenes, 10-12 hour days in this big, cold warehouse, fake blood on you. It’s all sticky, they’re spraying you down with water. It looks like sweat, so you are this giant freezing cold Jolly Rancher and you got to try to stay warmed up and keep your adrenaline and intensity for a 10-12 hour period.