"Your creative process sucks, WWE."
"This is embarrassing."
"I hate this goofy prop comedy."
"Vince needs to go."
This may shock the dire-hard WWE loyalists and apologists out there, but those lines are from an internet "smark" on Twitter that you thin only lives to complain. They are from former WWE Superstar Dean Ambrose, now AEW's Jon Moxley. The de facto leader of the Shield during their first run and one of WWE's more popular and featured full-time current stars of the last 7 years. Jon Moxley was a guest on Chris Jericho's podcast, Talk is Jericho, this past Wednesday and Jon, while grateful for his time spent in WWE, aired out every issue he had with the company. Issues with random creative geeks, to long-time agents and all the way up to Vince McMahon himself. It is similar to CM Punk's shoot with Colt Cabana, but Jon comes off as much happier. He is just happy to be out of WWE. He wasn't upset with his spot on the card. He wasn't upset about who he had to work with or put over. His main issue is the WWE creative process, which most fans would agree is very much flawed since the company's move large creative teams of people who don't really know wrestling. Also, being a virtual monopoly for well over a decade, there has been more of a focus on popping Vince and putting over the McMahon Family as the big stars instead of writing for the fans.
Jon said at one point that he "grew up" in WWE and came out a grown man. I gave my thoughts on his appearance on the WWE Network version of Steve Austin's podcast where I thought Jon had to hit a home run (or at least a solid bases-clearing double off the Monster) and he struck out bad. After hearing this interview I may not even think much of it was his fault. Steve Austin himself hates the scripted nature of WWE today. They tried handing Austin a script at Wrestlemania 30 and he threw it in the trash without reading it. Considering there hasn't been a Stone Cold Podcast since the Ambrose interview, it wouldn't shock me that Vince tried to get his fingerprints on that as well and when it turned out shitty Austin said thanks, but no-thanks in regards to doing future episodes. This appearance on Talk is Jericho is a lot more real, honest and down-to-earth almost making me think that Ambrose was perhaps "coached" or over-produced by someone before doing the show. Steve Austin announced his podcast (on PodcastOne, not the WWE Network) will be returning this June and I'd love for Moxley to have another go at an interview with Austin with the chains off.
Moxley was heavily critical of the creative process in WWE. He feels the scripts suck, like most of us do, and that everything is too micromanaged. Another great line he had was how this large team of writers and producers backstage all feel they need to justify their paychecks by putting their fingerprints on every little thing that makes air in WWE. Moxley's main complaints about WWE's scripts, which he was ordered by Vince McMahon to remember and repeat word-for-word even late in his run, were that the comedy sucks and that they are written very wordy and shoehorn these obnoxiously big and obscure words in promos that are supposed to make WWE sound smart and sophisticated... or something.
Moxley was dead on there. Vince McMahon and the WWE higher-ups have had this obnoxious elitist mentality that over the years has created a disconnect with fans. They are so ashamed of what they are when what they are made them a billion-dollar company. They are pro-wrestling, but they want to be accepted with the Hollywood elites and be apart of some black tie circle jerk with a bunch of other out-of-touch from reality elitist snobs who walk around with a heightened sense of self-worth. WWE's product is very homogenized and because no one gets any, or very little, creative input in their promos everyone ends up sounding the same. Using the same buzzwords and reciting the same annoying wall of text every week. Moxley said promos were his favorite part about wrestling and WWE takes that away. Its true. Promos are rarely fun or must-see any more. It's like being at church and hearing the same guy drone on about the same stuff every week and you just end up falling asleep. Moxley later said that part of his job and pride as an artist is talking fans into the building and coming up with compelling promos that get him, his opponent and their storyline over and if McMahon wants someone to just recite lines then he should just hire actors to be on his show instead of wrestlers.
The line that everyone took away from CM Punk's shoot was "I owe ya one, pal". That's a Vince line any time he needed someone to do a match or put someone over he would come to Punk and butter him up with an "I owe ya one". The line from Moxley on Talk is Jericho is "this is some good shit!" Apparently, when talking about a promo that Jon had issues with, Vince would put over his own scripted promo by going "haha this is some good shit! Its so good! This promo is going to get you so much heat!" when Jon knew it sucked. Jon is the one out there trying to sell this nonsense to the fans. If anyone is going to know what will and won't work it is him, but instead, he is shackled to bad prop comedy and cheap heat. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but he was against using Roman's real-life leukemia in a wrestling storyline. I wrote about it every week on Twitter and in some columns that you could tell Jon did not like this angle and knew it would never work. It made both he and Rollins look bad and in the end, they had a bad match at TLC and... surprise-surprise... Ambrose did not become some massive using ridiculous cheap heat that none of the audience bought into except for one night when Dean turned on Seth in Providence but that was before he started cutting promos about how God is punishing Roman with cancer. Ugh... Just thinking about it makes me cringe.
It is not much of a secret to reporters and the more astute fans out there that the morale within the WWE locker room is very low right now. They are paid well, yes. They are also overworked, have little to no say in what they consider their craft and are trotted out there like a bunch of faceless clowns to put on a show. No matter if you get over, if they have no plans for you or don't see you as a featured talent you will no be pushed like one unless their hand is forced like Daniel Bryan's Wrestlemania 30 push that did not come without months of kicking and screaming by WWE. They all get the brass ring speech, but the "brass ring" is different than it was in the '80s and '90s. Back then the brass ring was to work hard, get over and it will all pay off because the promotion will have no choice but to feature you as a star to meet the demand of the fans. Today, and has been since the purchase of WCW, the "brass ring" they want you to reach for is the be a good little soldier brass ring. Don't speak up, dress the way we tell you, tweet what we want, read your lines we prepared for you, do your match and hit the gym.
I've written about that a thousand times over the past year. WWE, even with an eroding fan base, gets bigger and bigger and more financially stable thanks to their new TV deals and their deal with the Saudi Arabian government to be a glorified propaganda vehicle. It was actually becoming discouraging as a fan. Before AEW got all this momentum and a primetime slot on TNT there was pretty much no incentive at all for WWE to listen to their fans or even the talent since they created this culture of promoting the brand and the actual wrestlers are just interchangeable cogs in the machine. To put it one way, the WWE used to be like the 90's Chicago Bulls where the casual viewer can roll off the names of a few stars on the team or even just one, Michael Jordan. Today WWE is more like the Harlem Globetrotters. A fun little act with some talented dudes that nobody knows the names of as individuals, but people are familiar with what the act is. The WWE locker room is full of guys that want to be stars and feel creatively starved. Yes, there are plenty that are just happy to be there and collect a good paycheck, but contrary to what many older fans and even wrestlers think that is not all of them.
A telling moment in Moxley's shoot was that even before Double or Nothing was booked and long before AEW got a TV deal on TNT he knew he was done with WWE. While injured he fell back in love with wrestling and had all these cool ideas of what he could do. He was watching everything, including how much fun and freedom Chris Jericho had in New Japan, and knew that WWE would never go for any of his ideas because, quite simply, they didn't come up with it and feel like if they let one of their inmates get some creative freedom then everyone will want it. The most telling moment was when Moxley was offered a new contract by WWE and he didn't even open the envelope. He turned it around and gave it right back. He said even without AEW he would have been just fine going to New Japan or opening his own wrestling school and living off the royalties he gets from Shield merchandise.
People get out of WWE and compare it to prison. Moxley and Dustin Rhodes recently did. There's a reason why. There's a reason why many talents are asking for their release from the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. There's a reason why former NXT stars, now main roster nobodies tweet about how they miss NXT. There's a reason why in interviews they are always happy to be out of the WWE system. Especially now when they are pretty much just trying to stockpile talent in long contracts just to make sure they don't go anywhere else. One thing I remember the most from CM Punk's shoot that was about 5 years ago now. He said the WWE should be the most fun place in the world to work but instead it is a chore and a place that discourages and artistic creativity.
Mirroring what Austin said on his podcast with his challenge to the boys in the locker room to reach out and speak up for the sake of their career, Moxley had a simple challenge for Vince McMahon: "your creative process sucks -- change it." Moxley never got into his frustrations about his match with Brock like he did on the Stone Cold Podcast where he said he was "met with laziness", but I wish he did even though that is old news now and most of what he talked about were issues with the creative behind his return from injury (no major plans and basically just wanted him to tag with Seth for a bit) and issues with his heel turn late last year.
I will close with this, Moxley did business the right way. He didn't try to get fired. He didn't pout on Twitter. He didn't walk out and go home (though he thought about it). He showed up, worked his dates, did what they wanted and when his contract was up he was a free man. Take notes to the Sasha Banks' of the world who signed a new contract last year, knowing exactly what type of environment she is working in at the mercy of the whims of a crazy out-of-touch 73-year-old billionaire with nothing to worry about and now suddenly wants out because ANOTHER SURPRISE -- the WWE treated the Women's tag titles like shiny new toy that simply got tossed aside and forgotten about after a month and a half. I feel Sasha's pain. She's a great talent and has a lot of passion for wrestling. She could be used better but... dude. No one forced you to sign a new deal. Moxley is a good example for everyone unhappy with their position in WWE and thinks they can do better elsewhere.
I am glad Moxley went straight after Vince for much of this. Yes, he buries creative but he makes it clear that Vince doesn't have it anymore. He has his hands on too many things and has lost touch. I've heard so many ex WWE workers bury guys like Bruce Prichard, Michael Hayes, Jim Ross, Johnny Ace when they all know it boils down to Vince. Its easy to bury agents and talent relations. Its not so easy to bury Vince and Jon goes straight for him and good for him for doing so.
Thanks for reading this edition of Planet Kayfabe. I hope you enjoyed my take on Jon Moxley's appearance on Talk is Jericho. NXT TakeOver XXV is tomorrow which I'm sure will be great. Hey, not everything is bad in WWE, right?
A good takeaway from this interview is that Jon sounded happy and optimistic. He feels he's been creatively held back for years and now we are going to get to see what he is capable of. I didn't want to come off as entirely doom and gloom because WWE is fine financially, but every sign points towards their locker room being a mess. Their response to the great Double or Nothing event Saturday was a Raw that went almost half the show before a real match concluded. The first official match began 51 minutes into the show and it was Shane McMahon vs a random job guy supposedly related to Roman Reigns. Their response this week? More stale old McMahons on TV to address Brock Lesnar's refusal to cash in his contract even though he legally has another f***ing year to do so. The Undertaker will be there and Goldberg will be on Smackdown. Holy f***ing hell, I feel like I need a hip replacement just typing that.
Follow me on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe I'll be back next week right here on NoDQ. I'm K.C., this is Planet Kayfabe. Enjoy your weekend and God bless.