On Tuesday, reports began to circulate that the 33-year-old Jonathan Good (WWE‘s Dean Ambrose) had turned down a five-year, seven figure contract with the company, citing a displeasure with the creative direction of his character. While his reasons for leaving are still speculative at best, WWE did in fact confirm, a few hours after the reports broke, that Good/Ambrose would be done with the company when his contract expired after WrestleMania 35.
To many this came as a shock as Ambrose has achieved a great deal of success in his eight-plus years in WWE. A member of the Shield, Ambrose was part of one of the most dominant factions in WWE history and one whose three members all went on to incredible and in some ways, unprecedented success. Ambrose was the first of the trio to taste gold when he won the United States Championship in May 2013, a title he held for a still-record 351 days. Over the next eight years, Ambrose added six more titles, a Money in the Bank win and became just the 16th wrestler at the time to win the grand slam (WWE/World, Intercontinental, United States and Raw/SD tag titles). He also became one of the top babyfaces in the company in those eight-plus years, constantly popping the crowd who enjoyed both his in-ring style and his antics.
But before the grand slam, the accolades and success, before the multi-year feud with Seth Rollins that helped establish him as the top face, before the Shield’s formation and his introduction to the WWE Universe, even before the character of Dean Ambrose was born, there was a kid making a name for himself and working his way up the East Coast and Midwest indie scene. Chances are you’ve heard of him but if you haven’t, you’ll likely be hearing his name soon as come April, prepare for Jon Moxley to be re-unleashed on the indie scene.
A lifelong wrestling fan and historian who watched every single match from WWE, WCW, ECW and beyond that he could get his hands on, Moxley was just a young teenager when he discovered Les Thatcher’s Main Event Pro Wrestling Camp through a flyer at a flea market. As he’s said in interviews, Moxley instantly knew that this was what he needed to do in order to start his journey as a professional wrestler. But at the time, he was too young and Thatcher refused to train him until he turned 18. In June 2004, after training with Thatcher and Cody Hawk for about a year, Moxley, who had dropped out of high school to fully commit to his pursuit of becoming a wrestler, made his in-ring debut for Heartland Wrestling Association.
Moxley started fast and furious out of the gate, wrestling 32 matches in his rookie year. He quickly formed a tag team with Jimmy Turner (Necessary Roughness) as well as had the chance to fight Hawk, one of his mentors. In his second year with HWA, Moxley wrestled 54 matches, as well as made his debut outside of the company, working for NWA Wildside. Moxley also won his first career title that year as Necessary Roughness defeated Mike Desire and Tack.
Spending his early years wrestling in “every bingo hall and armory and bar and night club imaginable” with hopes of one day making it to the WWE, Moxley continued to wrestle prominently for HWA for the next five years, winning the tag team titles four times and the world heavyweight title three times, which is tied for the second most in the promotion’s history. Moxley has cited his time there as invaluable as learning under Hawk and Thatcher’s tutelage enabled him to become a “pretty polished wrestler who learned to work the right way and had a pretty good grasp of basic psychology and wrestling.”
It was also in HWA where Moxley teamed up with fellow Ohio native Sami Callihan for the first time as members of the Crew (Callihan, Moxley and Pepper Parks). The two developed a friendship during their time there as Moxley mentored Callihan, and in 2009, found themselves reunited as both ended up making names for themselves in the hardcore/deathmatch promotion, Combat Zone Wrestling.
But that’s somewhat jumping ahead of things as before CZW and becoming a household name in the East Coast wrestling scene, Moxley traveled to Puerto Rico where he wrestled extensively for International Wrestling Association in 2006. That was the same year that Moxley wrestled in CHIKARA, taking part in their Young Lions Cup IV and more importantly, made his WWE debut. Moxley wrestled matches on both Velocity and Heat, taking on MNM (Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro – IMPACT‘s Johnny Impact/Lucha Underground‘s Johnny Mundo/MLW‘s John Hennigan) in his debut.
From there, Moxley was on WWE’s radar and returned for his last match there under the Moxley name a year later. In addition to wrestling Val Venis for Velocity in 2007, Moxley also made his Ring of Honor debut, began wrestling more regularly for Northern Wrestling Federation and Insanity Pro Wrestling, where he is a former world champion. By 2008, he added IWA: Mid South to his resume.
Continuing to expand his presence in the Midwest indie scene, Moxley also made a huge step and huge career move forward when he decided to relocate from his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a place he would later consider to be his second home. With ultimate aspirations to get to WWE, Moxley’s move to Philly allowed him to increase his visibility and do so for a company that had been picking up steam under new owner DJ Hyde. It was in CZW, that Moxley developed his niche as well, becoming a hardcore/deathmatch wrestler and excelling at it.
Alongside Callihan and later Joe Gacy, Moxley formed the Switchblade Conspiracy and found his first but certainly not last success in a faction. Switchblade Conspiracy dominated and terrorized CZW for two years as Gacy, Callihan and Moxley showed no regards for the rules, the roster or even themselves as all three put their bodies on the line in extreme matches. Plus, they cut incredible promos filled with the same intensity they showed in the ring.
In 2009, Moxley took part in his first Tournament of Death, reaching the semifinals after winning his first round tables, chairs and silverware match. Moxley didn’t lose many matches his first year with the company as Switchblade Conspiracy dominated CZW. But soon, the trio took their brand of destruction and disruption around the local indie scene, wrestling matches in Absolute Intense Wrestling, International Wrestling Cartel, IWA:MS and Germany’s wXw, where Moxley and Callihan won a tournament to crown new tag team champions. All of that was in their first year as a faction showing that Switchblade Conspiracy wasn’t going to wait for their opportunities, they were going to take them.
By the end of his first year with CZW, Moxley found himself in the world title picture, winning a #1 contendership match at Cage of Death XI. And much like how Switchblade Conspiracy found success right out of the gate, so did Moxley’s singles career. In his first chance at the title in 2010, he took it, defeating then-champion B-Boy at 11th Anniversary Show. Moxley held the title for just under six months, defending it against Nick Gage, Callihan, Greg Excellent and Egotistico Fantastico. He lost the title to Drake Younger on August 7 at Southern Violence but got it right back a week later at A Tangled Web 3. Moxley picked up victories over Scotty Vortekz, Robert Anthony, Gage, Danny Havoc, Devon Moore, Younger and Homicide as he ended the year still CZW champion. For most of the calendar year, Moxley held the title and for much of the calendar year, Switchblade Conspiracy was the talk of the wrestling world. Moxley and Callihan especially had developed fantastic chemistry, both against and with each other, and the two young stars were just getting started.
In addition to his CZW success, in 2010, Moxley won the Full Impact Pro world title, defeating Roderick Strong, holding both that belt and the CZW championship at the same time. Moxley also reached the finals of FIP’s Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup, losing to Callihan. He also debuted for EVOLVE, a seemingly unofficial proving ground for WWE, wrestling against guys like Brodie Lee (WWE’s Luke Harper), Johnny Gargano and Rich Swann, and increased his work with DragonGate USA, where he had a memorable feud with Jimmy Jacobs as well as wrestled Tommy Dreamer, Bryan Danielson (WWE’s Daniel Bryan) and Kyle O’Reilly.
By 2011, Moxley was fully in WWE’s sights and by that June, he signed with the company on a developmental contract where he began with Florida Championship Wrestling. It was there that Dean Ambrose was born and where his WWE journey, one that is soon coming to an end, first began. Ambrose opened his FCW career with a notable feud with Rollins, one that saw the FCW 15 Title change from being fought in a 15-minute iron man match to a 30-minute one. Ambrose couldn’t quite take that title or the FCW Florida Heavyweight Title from Rollins, but much like Moxley had with Callihan, Ambrose had found a sparring partner in Rollins. It’s only fitting then that Ambrose will be leaving the company after one final feud with the man whose WWE career will always be linked with his.
It is unknown how WWE may opt to use Ambrose over the next two-plus months of his contract. What is known however, is that when WrestleMania ends on Sunday, April 7, Ambrose/Moxley will be a free man and will be re-entering an indie scene that is absolutely exploding right now. This means that Moxley will have no shortage of options as to where his path will take him next.
He could return to his old stomping grounds in CZW or perhaps even reunite with his old friend, Callihan, in IMPACT Wrestling. After all, Moxley is originally from Ohio…There’s also the possibility of Game Changer Wrestling, which is taking an increasingly larger-by-the-year piece of the hardcore pie. Major League Wrestling could also be a good fit and Ring of Honor is also an option, though that seems it might be lowest on the list. And then of course, as will be the case when almost anyone leaves WWE, there is always All Elite Wrestling. Recently, Chris Jericho went on a rant claiming AEW only wants “6 to 8” of WWE’s guys. Moxley could be one of them as he looks to become the biggest former name to hit the WWE scene in a long time. In fact, while he doesn’t carry a last name with pedigree, Moxley is arguably a bigger star than Cody Rhodes was when he completely changed the wrestling landscape a few years ago.
Wherever Moxley chooses to go, fans will no doubt welcome him with open arms, especially the real him, not the watered down WWE version of the past eight-plus years.