“I like to feel really alive. I like to drive really fast. I like it when I feel blood pouring out of my head and I hear it hit the canvas with that little sound blood makes when it hits the canvas. I like to feel my fingernails and this [fork] here dig into the forehead of somebody else. I like to feel when it hurts a little bit. I like to feel alive. I like to go to bars and bang really ugly girls. I’m just a sick guy. A really dirty guy.” – Jon Moxley after a match with Drake Younger for Insanity Pro Wrestling (11/01/2008)
If you are reading this it is almost certain that you are familiar with Dean Ambrose of The Shield. I am not much of a Twitter guy, but the “Dean Ambrose” tag in Tumblr exploded as soon as he made his debut at the end of last year’s Survivor Series. Not the “Roman Reigns” tag and not even the “Seth Rollins” tag, everyone was blogging about Dean Ambrose. If you happen to be among the people who don’t know what the fuss is all about, this piece is for you.
Dean Ambrose, a.k.a. the independent circuit’s Jon Moxley, began his career in his hometown of Cincinnati, wrestling for Heartland Wrestling Association. He is more famously known, however, for his work for Combat Zone Wrestling, Dragon Gate USA and Insanity Pro Wrestling, among other promotions. It was precisely in IPW that he cut the promo I quoted in the beginning of this article, which you can view at this link.
This is arguably his most famous promo for a reason, as it reveals what Jon Moxley is all about – twisted evil. A friend of mine compared his presence to that of Heath Ledger’s Joker and I can certainly see why. Jon Moxley gives off the impression of “evil without motive”, or the way The Joker puts it in The Dark Knight, “he’s like a dog chasing cars”. He is an agent of chaos.
Wrestling announcers like to throw around phrases like “He enjoys pain” and “He’s just twisted”, yet in most cases the wrestlers they are directed at are stereotypical monster heels with the stature of Kane or Mark Henry. Jon Moxley, on the other hand, looks like the average person one would walk past on the street and relies on his eyes and speech to do the work. Not only is that more terrifying because it feels more realistic, but because it is about the evil that is not necessarily obvious at first sight. Moxley exploits the common fear of the unknown. His behavior and the delivery of his promos hint at a sick soul confined within a regular human body.
The Dark Knight’s Joker, however, never reveals his true origin, whereas Jon Moxley we do know some about. He has confessed in promos that he has had a troubled childhood and that he has had to fight on the streets to survive. He never reveals too much and leaves the rest to the audience’s imagination, which is much creepier than the multiple back stories WWE has fabricated for Kane. We can’t know for sure how much of it is true, yet listening to Moxley never makes me want to question it. As far as I am concerned, I don’t see Jon Moxley sporting a gimmick, I see Jon Moxley, a really scary guy who also happens to hurt people within wrestling rings.
Whoever has paid attention to Moxley’s ring work knows he is not a wrestler of beautiful manoeuvres, as opposed to someone like his Shield partner Seth Rollins. He is a pure brawler and he fights the same way a dog would fight over a piece of meat. When weapons are added to the mix, things get even uglier, and if you are interested you can have a look at this match of his in CZW. This video is not for the faint-hearted and yes, this is how far Moxley is willing to take the violence.
Even if you are not a fan of hardcore wrestling, however, you have to appreciate the intensity Moxley brings to the table. His arsenal might not be as awe-inspiring as Evan Bourne’s high-flying moves or Lance Storm’s technical ability, but Moxley certainly knows how to tell a story and stay in character throughout his matches. He adapts to his opponents in a way few wrestlers can and he can produce entertaining matches relying on perfect timing, crowd manipulation and vivid facial expressions. Make no mistake about it – despite the differences in style, a 30-minute match between Dean Ambrose and Kurt Angle would be an instant classic. You can watch a brilliant match between Ambrose and Seth Rollins at this link.
The key word when it comes to Dean Ambrose, as Moxley is now known in WWE, is “personality”. His ring work, despite simplistic at times, makes an impact because every physical action of his seems like the natural thing the sick-minded Dean Ambrose would do. The decisions he makes are those of a street dog, they lack a motive, but they make sense in the world of Jon Moxley, a world of brutality and anarchy. He simply enjoys doing what he does, as he explains in that famed IPW promo.
Several months ago Ambrose made his debut in WWE as a member of The Shield, a stable which is all about the delivery of “justice”. I expect “the agent of chaos” to have a more prominent role in the faction in the months to come, making it obvious that he is leading the group according to his own thirst for violence, as opposed to the higher purpose they currently claim to be serving. When The Shield’s run does come to an end, you can rest assured that Dean Ambrose will unleash anarchy on the WWE Universe.
Then again, the process has already begun. As The Joker likes to say, “It’s all part of the plan.”