By: Shayne Carnahan
When Jon Moxley debuted at Double or Nothing last year, fans were ecstatic to see him a new promotion. When Mox came down the stairs through the crowd, the place was louder than any other pop that night. Seeing Mox get out from beneath the thumb of WWE, his former company, where he was known as Dean Ambrose, made fans excited for the future he was no doubt going to have. Things were looking good for the former WWE Champion. Knowing he would have the creative freedom to do what he wanted, something he never had in WWE, made fans excited.
Mox started a feud with AEW stalwart Kenny Omega was a feud no one knew they wanted until it started. Omega and Mox had a great feud too, their blow-off match at Full Gear showed how violent both men could be when given the opportunity. When Mox started in AEW that was his forte, he went back to what made him famous on the independent circuit, extreme and bloody wrestling. It got him started in AEW too. His Light's Out Unsanctioned Match with Joey Janela at Fyter Fest was one of the best unsanctioned matches ever. Fans knew what AEW was building up to, a match with then AEW Champion Chris Jericho was a foregone conclusion.
When the build finally started fans couldn't wait to see what the pair could do with free reign, and to no ones surprise their build to their blow-off match was one of the best ever. It kept in Mox's roots of extreme wrestling, while also allowing Jericho to showcase his outstanding promo work, and his dastardly heel work was on point, and over the top every time the pair met. Jericho "taking out" Mox's eye was a stroke of genius, and even better, it fit the story perfectly. People wanted to see Mox dethrone Jericho, not just because they wanted to see what Mox could do as champion without WWE holding him back, but also because he seemed like the perfect fit to carry AEW into the summer.
Unfortunately the excitement has waned, and Mox's title run is suffering. Granted the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't helped his case any, fans not being in the arena hurts the overall enjoyment of the shows. Weirdly, fans being in attendance makes a previously unforeseen impact on the show, the fans in attendance cheering, jeering, and falling for near falls along the way makes the viewing experience at home that much more enjoyable, and that much more real. If Jericho can get the fans in attendance to boo and hate him, then fans watching at home all over the world will do the same thing. It's the mob mentality rule in grand effect. Just because the people in attendance boo, people at home are more likely to follow suit in some way.
Likewise, when there is no crowd, and the arena is silent, except for the wrestlers that currently make up the AEW crowd, the show seems to drag on. Many moments in AEW and WWE would have been much more enjoyable in front of a sold-out crowd.Moxley's character, like everyone else's in wrestling, relies heavily on fan interaction. It's how they can tell what's working and what isn't. It's alot easier for a wrestler to know that a promo, or a spot in a match, isn't working when there are fans in attendance. If they aren't reacting, it isn't working, and it's hard to read social media and work in the ring at the same time.
The other major problem Moxley is facing right now is, he's a face. AEW is primarily faces, the only good heels they have are Jericho and MJF. Typically, a face vs. face feud doesn't work, especially for a title. There has to be a reason, other than the title that the two are fighting. Like Jericho and Mox, Jericho was afraid Mox could take the title off of him, so he did everything he could to get Mox to leave him alone, to take Mox out of the game. He offered him a spot in his vaunted Inner Circle, and Mox refused, breaking a bottle of champagne over Le Champions head in the process. This led to Jericho moving into extreme measures, and try to take Mox out of the wrestling business for good by trying to stab his eye out.
AEW tried to rush Mr. Brodie Lee into the title picture, but it was just too early for him. Not that Mr. Lee isn't a great wrestler, and isn't ready to be champion, just not at this particular moment. They needed to build him into the title picture slowly for two reasons, he shouldn't lose his first shot at the Championship, and Mox needs more time to be champion.
Moxley deserves a lengthy run with the belt. As enjoyable as MJF's heel work is, he's just not ready to be AEW Champion quite yet. Give him just a little bit more time; he needs to be a midcard champion first. He needs to walk before he runs.That takes all of Moxley's current challengers out of the game. AEW could go back to Jericho, but that feud ran its course and did so to perfection. Jericho gave Mox everything he had, and Mox won. There's nothing left Jericho could do, which is why him transitioning out of the title picture made so much sense. AEW could make Moxley heel, but even then, who does he go up against?
AEW doesn't have enough main event level talent, and that's part of their problem. They have had a year to build up their own talent, and aside from Darby Allin making his own way into the limelight, no one is in a better place than they were a year ago. They took one of their biggest draws, and best wrestlers out of the AEW title picture in Cody forever, a move that makes no sense. Cody would be perfect to slot into a feud with Mox. The pair could have a great rivalry, and either man winning would make sense as well. But that can't happen, not only because Cody is already TNT Champion, but until they remedy the problem mentioned above, Cody can never challenge Mox for the title he holds. Lance Archer could move into the AEW title picture, but he just lost to Cody, and so they would have to repair him in the eyes of the fans. Honestly, if that was the direction they were going to go in, he should have attacked Moxley after he defeated Brodie Lee.
Jon Moxley's championship reign in AEW being unpopular isn't his fault. The crowd being forced to stay home has hurt him, but not nearly as severely as AEW themselves have. They have no one on the roster that is believable enough to take Moxley on, and they dug themselves into that hole. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.