So, today I’m going to talk about something that happened in the world of professional wrestling. Since I’m assuming anyone who ends up subscribing to my Patreon in the future who doesn’t already know me personally will have found their way here from Letterboxd, I’m going to do a lot more explaining than usual in addition to my commentary on the subject, so if you already know about it please bear with me.
On November 2 of last year, AEW star Jon Moxley entered inpatient alcohol rehab. He asked AEW President Tony Khan to announce the reason for his absence via social media as well as giving the green light for it to be explained on AEW programming beginning with Dynamite the following night. To its credit, AEW and the larger wrestling community largely rallied around Moxley, highlighting that he was making an extremely positive choice for his health and safety.
On January 19th of this year, Moxley returned to a hero’s welcome and cut easily the best promo of his career and beyond that one of the best promos I’ve ever seen in professional wrestling. It was raw, it was emotional, and to my eyes and ears it was heartfelt. It folded what he had been through neatly into his character in a way that made him look like an unmitigated badass, and it continued to set an incredible example of what recovery can look like.
To be honest, I was never a fan of his in his Dean Ambrose persona in WWE, and I hadn’t seen much of his AEW work but what I had seen didn’t really change my mind. But after this promo, I am emphatically a convert. He’s one of the top guys in wrestling for me now, which I realize he has been for others for quite some time, but I’m finally on the train now too.
And then along came fucking Bully Ray.
Speaking on Busted Open Radio, the former WWE and Impact star said, “I would have liked to have heard just a little bit of accountability from Jon. […] I would have liked to have heard him say a bit of an apology to the AEW fans. You don’t have to apologize to the boys even though the boys do count on you but any one of those guys and gals could have the same problems that you did. And trust me, I came up in an era where a slew of men and women had their demons. The fans expect a little bit more from you.” And just… wow? What an absolutely trash take?
If I stopped there I wouldn’t be telling you anything you couldn’t find out on basically any wrestling news site or podcast or etc. But I want to go into some more depth here on just why I think this take misses the mark so spectacularly.
The first and most obvious problem is that Bully Ray’s take is clearly symptomatic of the rather unhealthy attitude capitalism fosters where people’s health and overall well-being are privileged less than other people’s (usually your employer, but sometimes in cases like these paying customers) entitlement to their labor. I don’t really know that there’s a whole lot more to say about that aspect of it, but it bore mentioning.
Beyond that, though, the real beauty of how Moxley handled this entire situation is the example he set. He made the choice to put his health first, for himself and his family. He admitted he needed help and, more than that, chose to set an example. To show people that recovering from something like alcoholism is seriously badass. And the fact that it didn’t detract from his tough guy image at all, if anything enhanced it, is something I think could help a lot of people who might be able to see him as an inspiration because he was so transparent about what he was going through and how he was handling it.
It’s amazing that Bully Ray misses the point so completely, but he says specifically of Moxley’s fellow wrestlers that “any one of those guys and gals could have the same problems that you did,” and… yes? They could? That’s kind of the entire point of what Moxley did? He just showed them exactly how they can handle it if they are going through the same thing as him. What he did is admirable. Everyone should feel empowered to do exactly what he did, but they don’t, and one of the surest ways to change that (besides, cough, overthrowing capitalism) is to show them in dramatic fashion what success looks like.
For someone going through what had to have been one of the lowest moments of his life to think about other people and want to actually use that moment to benefit others is just all kinds of incredible. So, yeah, no. I don’t think Jon Moxley owes anybody an apology. Moreover, I don’t want to see him acting like he did something wrong, adding to the stigma that makes it harder for people to open up when they’re having problems and get the help they need. I think he handled this exactly right, and I think what he did has the potential to do a lot of good. Especially if people with dumbass takes like Bully Ray’s can learn to keep their mouth shut about shit they clearly know nothing about.