I’m just going to come out and say it: I am getting bored with Jon Moxley’s AEW World Championship reign. It’s dull, it’s uninteresting, it’s bland. It offers me nothing, and while Moxley probably needs a much longer reign so he doesn’t look weak, I honestly wouldn’t mind if he just dropped it now. So let’s dig into why that is, and some of the things that make up a good title reign.
A title reign is a chance to hold up a character and make them the star of the promotion for a period of time. A good reign allows you to spend more air time on someone and really flesh them out, expand on who they are and put them in a new light. Give them more depth. Yes, there are some title reigns that serve other purposes, such as transitional reigns, but for today we are focusing on title reigns that are intended by creative to be defining for the character and/or the title. So let us look at some of those before we begin to discuss Moxley.
Bayley’s current title reign as SmackDown Women’s Champion has been going on for well over a year now (well, Charlotte had it for a couple days halfway through, but eh, not counting it) and yet it hasn’t really felt old or lackluster. Why? Well, right form the start we began a long character arc that led to the long slow build between “The Golden Role Models”. Bayley went from The Hugger, to a transitional stage after WrestleMania where she became more belligerent and angry, to a straight up heel.
All of these moments were brought about due explicitly to the fact that Bayley held a title. Bayley became more arrogant when she won the title, turned straight heel when she lost it for a couple of days, then finally turned on Sasha because Bayley knew she was the better wrestler because of her title. The title was the driving force behind Bayley’s character development, and the added air time gave the ability to really go into that sort of storytelling.
Bayley also had some feuds that didn’t impact her overall story, such as her PPV match against Nikki Cross back when she first won her title. But she’s also has had feuds that did directly impact her arc — Charlotte helped turn her heel, Auska helped cement the fact that she was better than Sasha, you could even argue the feud with Lacey Evans had moments that hinted at Bayley and Sasha not being completely in sync as a team.
For another example, let’s take a quick look at Jericho’s AEW run. It isn’t as complex as Bayley’s, but there is still an underlying story to it. Jericho came in as the cocky, already established legend to a promotion with a lot of indie wrestlers. He ran roughshod over a lot of them, but started to struggle as his reign went on, his arrogance leading him to overestimate some opponents. All this happened while Jon Moxley was slowly gaining on him, soon to be running through each member of the Inner Circle one by one.
Throughout this title reign, we’ve seen matchups as episodic, standalone feuds plot wise that fleshed out his character. Take for instance Jericho vs. Jungle Boy, where Jungle Boy survived the ten minutes and then may have even gotten a pin on Jericho if he hadn’t declared the match over. It showed Jericho was getting sloppy, much like Scorpio’s Sky’s pin on Le Champion during the tag match did.
This sort of storytelling and character growth is exactly what made people so angry when it came to the end of Kofi’s title run. Kofi’s title run was about him breaking out once again to compete as a singles competitor. He overcame obstacles of all kinds, and then when he lost in 10 seconds, he seemed to shrug and forget he was ever champion. All that character development was ignored as if it never happened. However, at least his title reign had some sort of development. There was an arc to it. At least we were invested in it as it was happening.
Which leads us back to Moxley. Moxley hasn’t had any sort of overarching plot during his title reign, let alone one that is influenced by the fact that he has a title. All of Moxley’s title defenses have been extremely self-contained, and Mox hasn’t shown really any change throughout. I would compare his title reign so far to a monster of the week type show, but even shows like The X-Files and Buffy, Vampire Slayer still have overarching plots.
Jon Moxley’s has defended the AEW title against Jake Hager, Brodie Lee, Brian Cage, Darby Allin, and MJF so far. Each of these title defenses were built up prior to their respective match for about three or four weeks. Each time they were defeated and then each person has gone their own separate way (perhaps too early to make a call for MJF, but we’ll see).
On top of that, Darby Allin was the one match he had that truly felt interesting and seemed like we honestly saw a different side of Moxley than we normally do. That brief two to three episode arc was honestly extremely engaging and I wanted more of it. It was the one match in this title run so far that truly had me engaged and had me emotionally connected with the match. But it was over so quick — I can’t really say that for an eight-months-and-counting title run, two or three promos and one match was enough.
It’s not a completely lost situation, though. Despite my complaints, Moxley seems like he still has substantial time on his title reign left. Now is the time to build his reign up. As with other title reigns, the plot doesn’t have to be directly related to every single match he has, but there needs to be some overarching plot which, if it isn’t in the spotlight, is always building in the background.
- Moxley needs to actually learn to trust people to help him out since he has a target on his back.
- Or the opposite of that, Moxley becomes even more paranoid than he already is which leads to him being on edge and causes him to start making mistakes.
- Moxley incurs the wrath of one of the other factions that is not the Inner Circle.
- Moxley befriends Hangman now that he’s all alone.
- Moxley makes it a point to try to ruin Kip Sabian’s wedding simply because he doesn’t like the cut of Kip’s jib.
- Moxley’s feelings get the better of him when someone targets Darby, Mox then has more and more trouble focusing on matches.
- Moxley spends the rest of his title run training Darby and each challenger is essentially a different lesson for Darby.
The point I’m trying to make by rapid firing all these ideas here is that they are all more interesting than what we currently have with Moxley’s title run: a conveyor belt of challengers simply there to add to the tally of successful defenses Mox has had. But the thing is, wrestling isn’t about statistics. It’s about stories, and in a year or two no one is going to remember those numbers if there is no additional reason to remember them. That’s what story and character development gives us: a reason to remember.
A title run for a character as beloved as Moxley is supposed to change a wrestler, or at the very least put that wrestler in situations where we have never seen them before. Give me something interesting, something unique. Something that will make his title reign stand out. Because right now, it’s going the way of Becky Lynch’s reign. Amazing getting to the belt, but the reign itself? Fine, but most of it forgettable.
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