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31 Days of Wrestling (12/12/19): From Purveyor Of Violence To Death Rider (Jon Moxley in NJPW)


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies, and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2019 produced for us.

There is a lot to be said about pro wrestling in 2019 when it's the wrestlers who are asking for their release instead of the other way around.

Once upon a time, wrestlers in WWE dreaded the day they end up in the "future endeavors" chopping block, seeing that the biggest wrestling company in the world was once the end-all be-all for wrestlers all around the world. But with the way things are going in 2019, with New Japan Pro-Wrestling expanding their reach to different companies, AEW becoming wrestling's newest alternative, and regions like Southeast Asia proving to be a growing wrestling hub, there are more choices for an average wrestling fan to watch than ever before. It is no wonder why guys like KENTA, TJ Perkins, and Shawn Spears had no problem leaving the bright lights of WWE to become the stars they were meant to be.

So when the former Dean Ambrose decided not to renew his contract with WWE to once again become Jon Moxley outside the E's restrictive confines, it was a huge win for himself and for the greater wrestling world. You can see how much of an impact he's already making on AEW Dynamite every week.

But who would have ever thought in a million years that this Purveyor of Violence would end up competing in the King of Sports?


When videos of a mystery man targeting Juice Robinson during the second quarter of 2019 revealed the impending debut of "Death Rider" Jon Moxley to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, wrestling fans around the world lost their minds. This man, a WWE Grand Slam Champion, a member of one of the greatest trios faction in WWE history in The Shield, and all around hardcore madman... in the Cerulean Blue ring? It's practically a dream come true!

At the same time, some questions were understandably raised. How would he fare in the world of New Japan, against some of the best wrestlers in the world working a generally stiffer style? Will fans in Japan be appreciative of what Moxley will bring to the table?

Thankfully, that answer to the latter question was an emphatic yes. He wrested the IWGP United States Championship away from the Flamboyant One himself, Juice Robinson, in his debut match in the final night of the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament, impressing Japanese fans in the process. Not only that, he also proved his mettle by competing in the 29th G1 Climax Tournament, highly regarded to be the most prolific and grueling professional wrestling tournament in the world.

Being in B Block meant that he had to prove himself against the likes of (Kuya) Jeff Cobb, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Jay White, and Tetsuya Naito. And in every one of his matches, he proved himself to be a force in his own right, delivering stellar performances worthy of the tournament in every block match he was in.



As if these hard hitting performances from Death Rider were not enough of a contribution to New Japan, you can argue that he also accelerated the rise of one of New Japan's brightest Young Lions, Shota Umino, by taking him on as his sidekick. This led to some tremendously humorous moments between the two during the G1 tour, as if the newly-christened "Shooter" was meant to be associated with Moxley. Interestingly, Umino's rise while being a Young Lion is parallel to Kazuchika Okada's: rookies who had the most fan support during the early stage of their careers while having through-the-roof potential. Moxley effectively helped create a new megastar in New Japan in Umino, securing the company's future in the process.

Most importantly, through his stay in New Japan, it is evident that we are seeing the most inspired Moxley we have ever witnessed. We could never have imagined him going toe-to-toe with Ishii years ago, but he delivered a fantastic bout that was as physical as it was dramatic. He worked a Japanese-style comedy bout with Toru Yano, of all people, that had fans see a different side of him. He even had a win against one of the top wrestlers on the planet in Tetsuya Naito, a match we never thought was possible as recently as a year ago.

While he lost his U.S. Championship by forfeit due to unforeseen weather conditions, he will still get to work the Tokyo Dome for the first time in his illustrious career on January 4 (and 5, assuming he beats Lance Archer) for said championship. His inclusion on the card will elevate the prestige of the show, the championship, and most importantly, the competitors he will be competing against. That is a beautiful combination of passion and star power being put to good use in today's wrestling environment.

It was clear that Dean Ambrose was always going to be successful in WWE, but he was never going to be beyond what the machine was designing him to be, if his now-infamous interview on Talk is Jericho is anything to go by. But by breaking away from the confines of his creative prison, Jon Moxley not only found a new lease on his wrestling career, but he also sparked a new kind of fire in the professional wrestling world through his endeavors in AEW and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He stuck to his guns, bet on himself, and it has paid off in spades.

If Jon Moxley can do it, then there is definitely hope for wrestlers all around the world to find success in their own way, even in the most unexpected of promotions.

*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2019.

Read our previous entries:

1. The Man Stands Tall at WrestleMania (Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey, WrestleMania 35)
2. The Game Changes (Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega, AEW Double or Nothing)
3. Still the Ace (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega, Wrestle Kingdom 13)
4. #KofiMania (Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania 35)
5. Starting With A Bang (The Premiere of AEW Dynamite)
6. Let's Start A War (The Premiere of NXT On The USA Network)
7. For You And Me! For All Of Us! (Jake De Leon vs. TJP, PWR Homecoming)
8. It Takes a Bird and a Villain (G1 Climax Finals: Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White)
9. The Fall of Bray Wyatt and the Rise of the Fiend
10. Johnny Champion (Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano, NXT TakeOver: New York)
11. Do You Wanna Yeet a Four-Man? (QUATRO vs. Chris Panzer vs. Jeff Cobb, PWR Homecoming)

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