Jon Moxley Discusses AEW Continental Classic, Swerve vs. Hangman, CM Punk's WWE Return (Exclusive)

AEW's ace is testing himself in this new round-robin tournament.

Few professional wrestlers possess the work ethic of Jon Moxley. The Cincinnati native has been all gas, no brakes since shedding his Dean Ambrose skin back in May 2019, with only a life-threatening staph infection taking him away from the ring since joining AEW upon the company's inaugural event. Moxley has headlined pay-per-views, reigned with the AEW World Championship on three occasions (an AEW record), and has constantly re-cemented himself as AEW's most reliable performer.

(Photo: AEW)

"I don't want to waste any time," Moxley told's Liam Crowley. "I've definitely felt like I've been along for the ride and done the making towns, rockstar lifestyle thing for periods of time, and I've had a great time, but really I've wasted some time not necessarily growing and getting better. I don't want that to ever happen again. This could all get taken away at any moment. I could fall and crack my head open and be done tomorrow. I think I probably still got a hell of a lot of years left."

Moxley specifically has redefined what it means to maximize your minutes. Following AEW All Out 2022, Moxley was scheduled to take time off, but various suspensions and injuries within AEW's main event picture necessitated a top guy to step up.

"I feel like I thrive in those situations," Moxley said. "Scramble to the f--king jets and get Moxley in the air. Oh f--k, we don't have a main event. You've got to make people care about this and make this a main event in a week. I just pull main events out of my a-- when I'm in those situations. I feel more comfortable when I'm the guy with the ball in the fourth quarter. It's hard to not want to grab the ball and take the shot myself."

(Photo: AEW)

Those fourth quarters seem to come around for Moxley every couple of months. He put AEW on his back throughout the pandemic era, reigning with the AEW World Title "at a time when the world needed heroes." He saved AEW's summer in 2022 when the then-champion went down with a short-term injury. He paused his personal life in an effort to course-correct AEW following the aforementioned AEW All Out controversy. One common denominator in these next-man-up opportunities has been CM Punk, the polarizing former AEW star who recently returned to WWE.

(Photo: AEW)

"You don't want to know what I think. I didn't see it," Moxley said of Punk's "I'm home" promo on WWE Monday Night Raw. "You do not want to know what I think (laughs)."

It's been 14 months since Moxley's rain-checked his vacation, and he's still in no rush to reschedule.

"I don't even think I was going to go anywhere. I don't know, maybe at some point [I'll take time off]. I guess I feel that there's always something to do," Moxley said. "Oh, we need a main event. Oh, we got this Continental Classic. There's always something around the corner."

That Continental Classic is the latest high-octane environment Moxley is testing himself in. The round-robin tournament kicked off earlier this month, boasting a roster of 12 of AEW's best in-ring talents.

"We're only a couple days into it. It hasn't really formed an identity yet," Moxley explained. "I think it'll be the thing where all the talents involved and the human stories that play out throughout this thing and the excitement of the matches and so forth. I think that'll just kind of have to take on a life of its own. Right now, we've just created this monster, this animal, and set it free. We're waiting to see what it does.

(Photo: All Elite Wrestling)

"If it was going to be good and if it was going to become a thing that you'd want to become a part of in the future and be the thing that was a marquee event and something that wrestlers wanted to do in the future, we had to make it good. My only job is really to wrestle my ass off. That's easy enough. I can handle that. That's pretty much everybody's job. I think just straight-up in-your-face, one-on-one wrestling with a clear result is something that we need to always do. I think that's something we were founded on."

While tournaments have become commonplace in AEW, the Continental Classic is being built unlike anything else. The round-robin nature draws immediate parallels to New Japan Pro Wrestling's G1 Climax, a summertime showdown that is widely regarded as wrestling's most prestigious tournament.

"It's a completely different product, a completely different business plan, a completely different universe over there, comparing New Japan and American television," Moxley detailed. "You're not encumbered by commercial breaks. There's more shows right in a row. You're not at the mercy of a television schedule or anything. It is a little bit more of a challenge to do it on the television format as opposed to just once the G1 is going, it's just going and you're in."

(Photo: NJPW)

Having the ability to compare the two is another reason why Moxley stands out in the AEW Continental Classic field. Moxley competed in NJPW's G1 Climax back in 2019, finishing with 10 points. 

"I think I'm a lot better since then. I think I went into that with a lot of letting it play out and I just basically went in with nothing but my instincts," Moxley shared. "But I feel like I'm a lot smarter and have a lot more weapons and tools now four years later, but I like to get a chance to do something similar now. Something to really sink my teeth into and all these different opponents that have totally different styles to do all this different stuff. I feel even more prepared."

Moxley currently sits atop the Gold League with three points thanks to his pinfall victory over Mark Briscoe, a first-time matchup.

"Just the joy of going to the ring with a guy who's been doing it for over 20 years who's a total pro and just going out there with no stress, not having to talk a bunch or anything, and just go into the ring and letting a match happen," Moxley pointed to the tournament's ability to create fresh matches. "It was a rare thing to be able to do that. It is a real joy. It was in a great city like Chicago, too. So far it's been just a really enjoyable experience for me."

Ground-and-pound singles contests are a bit of a change of pace for Moxley as well. The "Purveyor of Violence" and "Death Rider" nicknames were not given to him hyperbolically, as Moxley has reminded audiences in his current run of what he's capable of in a death match capacity.

Moxley's violent style has raised the bar for death matches within AEW, and the company's roster has not shied away from the challenge of meeting it.

(Photo: AEW)

"I actually missed it. I had to catch up on it later," Moxley said of Swerve Strickland and Hangman Page's critically acclaimed Texas Death Match at AEW Full Gear earlier this month. "But that's an awesome thing where those Texas Death Matches have become kind of a go-to match for us for the ultimate, end-of-the-road match. That's the cool thing. We have to deliver on that and as the bar keeps getting raised higher and higher, it takes more creativity and everything to keep pushing the boundaries."

To Moxley, matches like Swerve vs. Hangman exemplify what makes AEW different from any other promotion in the game right now.

"When it comes to matches like that, that's one small thing that we can do differently than anybody else in this s--t. That was one thing I remember, telling (AEW President) Tony [Khan] that when I first came in. 'If you're going to put me in one of these matches, be careful what you wish for because I am not in the business of under-delivering.' I'm not spitting some taglines of like, I'm going to crush your skull with my fingers and pull out your eyeballs and all this s--t and then we're not going to do it," Moxley detailed. "AEW has been able to consistently deliver on that. I think it's very important for us to always remember where this started in the first place, which was the need in the industry for an alternative. We should always be different. We should always be thinking about what we can deliver that nobody else can. Otherwise, we're just another wrestling company, of which there have been a million.

"Not every single match needs to be chopping each other's heads off. But that's one small thing and I definitely feel like I've definitely held up my end on that in that small area of the business. If you can't be the first in a category, create a new category in which you can be the first."

When he's not chopping heads off, Moxley is doing quite the opposite backstage. Moxley has cemented himself as a leader in the AEW locker room, helping mentor younger talent by enriching their wrestling minds. For that reason, Moxley makes an effort to carry his behind-the-scenes values into his on-screen promos.

(Photo: AEW)

"There are people that will take what you say seriously and whether you like it or not, when you're at this level in the major leagues, you set an example for people, for the kind of person that you want to be and the kind of message you want to send and so forth," Moxley noted. "That has to be on your mind. If I go out there and the things I say and the things I do don't match up with who I am in real life, there's a problem there. There's athletes in the back and young athletes that I set an example for. There's kids I trained with that I set an example for. It's kind of always growing into that where it's kind of always peripherally on my mind, but I don't really think about it."

Moxley returns to the ring this Wednesday, November 29th when he faces Jay Lethal in another AEW Continental Classic contest on AEW Dynamite, airing at 8 p.m. ET on TBS.