Jon Moxley on just how scripted modern wrestling really is

Jon Moxley shot on Brock Lesnar in a revealing interview with wrestling journalist Wade Keller, and in the process, shot on the way wrestling is done in the modern era.

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Moxley, the former Dean Ambrose, was talking about the walk-up to his match with Lesnar at WrestleMania 32, and how Lesnar basically blew off all efforts at pre-match planning and choreography.

With help from this transcript on 411mania.com, you can get a sense of how it’s all done, and how wrestling today is what I’ve been calling it the past few years, basically, combat theater.

For starters, consider the idea that if you want to do a table bump in a match, it needs to be approved.

“This thing is a Street Fight. It’s not a match you can just call in the ring. It’s a Street Fight at WrestleMania, so we’ve gotta get stunts approved and set up, we’ve gotta get props for table bumps, or whatever we’re gonna do.”

I mean, OK, it makes sense. If you’re going to do a table spot, somebody needs to make sure the table is under the ring so it can be retrieved, set up and used, at the least.

The psychology of the table even being there is questionable at best. I tell myself that, of course it’s there, because the ring crew, earlier in the day, probably had to use tables to put stuff on while they were doing whatever it is they do to set up the ring and ringside, and, why not just leave those tables under the ring when they’re done?

I’ve worked behind the curtain in indy wrestling, so that seems at least plausible to me.

But, still, seeing it spelled out like that, that wrestlers need to get stunts approved, it’s not something that the average fan would even think of.

Though, again, sure, makes sense.

Next, to the idea that even how the match itself is to progress is something that is worked out by a committee including the wrestlers and writers.

“We have one conference call. It’s like me, Michael Hayes, Jamie Noble, Brock and Paul Heyman. A conference call on Wednesday, because he’s not in Dallas yet. So, I’m just in Dallas waiting, and none of my ideas are approved yet, Brock hasn’t even heard any of my ideas, because he doesn’t care, hasn’t been around.”

They lay out matches by conference call. Wow. Didn’t know that.

I worked on one indy pay-per-view, the Awesome Wrestling Entertainment “Night of Legends,” in 2011, in creative, the head writer, and what we did was very much old-school. We booked the matches, laid out basic storylines to lead in, gave the wrestlers basic talking points for their promos, but let them get their points across in their own voice, then gave them finishes to the matches, and let them work out how to get from ring entrance to go-home.

We at least now know, in full, gory detail, that WWE doesn’t do it that way at all.

Conference calls.

Next, to how the matches you watch are rehearsed ahead of time.

“At WrestleMania, you have, like, rehearsals. They have rings in the hotel, and so you don’t have to do it on the day of, you put together your match, try stuff out. Because everybody wants to steal the show at ‘Mania, you put in maximum effort during the week. You have scheduled rehearsals. We had one scheduled rehearsal on like 11 p.m. Saturday night the day before the show at the stadium.”

Later, Moxley revealed that some wrestlers ahead of WrestleMania matches “were literally rehearsing their match for a month at like the Performance Center.”

Again, I get it, but it’s just not something that you think about when you’re watching, though now that you know this, it’s hard to not know this, if you know what I’m saying here.

You want to think when you’re watching that you’re watching something free-flowing, organic, creative, spontaneous, but what you’re actually watching is something more akin to, again, to use the term, combat theater.

It’s actors who are also their own stuntmen working without the benefit of extra takes or a net, in essence.

This is all, of course, on top of how, again, at least in WWE, promos are scripted to the nth degree, and the talents get little, if any, input into that process.

Moxley talked about a silly segment at the go-home show to WM 32 in Brooklyn that involved him dragging a little red wagon full of weapons to the ring to demonstrate, apparently, that he was willing to pull out all the stops to beat Lesnar.

“I go into Vince’s office. I’m mortified. Mortified! And I’m like, ‘Yo! I’m going to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. I’m going to my death! This is so serious, and you’ve got me dragging a little red wagon. Make me understand.’ And he’s like ‘Oh, it’s uh, it’s dead serious to you. You used to drag that white weapon out there, you aren’t even going to look at him. You’re gonna drag the wagon out, put your weapons in. ‘I’ll see you at WrestleMania.’’ I was like, I couldn’t convince him otherwise.”

They really are just actors playing roles. Often reading poorly-written scripts. And acting out poorly-schemed action scenes. All leading to finishes that usually go nowhere, because the overarching storylines are literally tossed into the trashcan with no rhyme or reason.

And folks wonder why there used to be 10 million people watching wrestling on Monday nights at the height of the Monday Night Wars in the late 1990s, and now it’s hard for WWE to get a quarter of that 20 years later.

We’ve known for a long time that it’s not real, but you could at least suspend your disbelief when the performers could make it feel real.

The performers aren’t even buying it anymore. So, why should we?

Column by Chris Graham



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