Jon Moxley vs. Jimmy Jacobs (WR Tales from the Ring 4 10/30/21)

Match Reviews

Featured photo by Robert Starkz-Bellamy

This isn’t a perfect match, but these aren’t perfect men either. That’s not meant to be a slight on either Mox or Jacobs, I’d say that a large part of what’s made both men so successful and appealing through the years is that they’re rough around the edges in compelling ways. This extends to their ring work. Mox has always had a very vibrant in-ring physicality that doesn’t concern itself with neatness, while Jacobs made his name doing nutty bumps and bleeding more so than being a wrestler filled with finesse.

Of course, that same roughness applies to their in-ring personas. Both men really reached new levels of success in the industry when they tapped into darker aspects of their personalities. It’s what made their feud in 2010 so damn compelling in the first place–seeing these two characters always coping with the worst aspects of themselves clash together.

This match doesn’t have any of the high emotional stakes of that original feud. Jacobs does his best with a video promo to set up the bout, and it’s a good promo. He bleeds to symbolize his return to the darkness of this feud, he delivers it with all the great energy of his old performances on the mic. But there’s a real struggle in that promo to elevate this beyond the nostalgia-based booking that it is. The best Jacobs can muster is tying this into Mox’s post-WWE complaints about creative. When Jacobs retorts, even he seems unconvinced when he says, “For some reason, I take offense to that.”

Luckily, this isn’t really a match that needs all that much build up anyway. These two laid the groundwork in 2010, and it’s been long enough that returning to it feels fresh again. It’s nice to see them back in the ring together, and it’s not a massive stretch to extrapolate the heated emotions of their original feud into this particular encounter. Once things get going, it’s like they never stopped fighting.

From bell-to-bell, this match is quite strong. There’s things I don’t like about it, for sure. Jacobs is another decade on in his career, and there’s rough patches that show. In particular, a mid-match spear might be one of the softest iterations of the move I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. The segments on the floor don’t do much, they feel perfunctory more than anything. Then, as is a surprisingly common theme for much of his career, Mox’s bladejob doesn’t look all that great. You’d think given his reputation and career, he’d be better at that but this is another signature Mox trickle instead of a real great gusher.

But outside of that, there’s so much that this does right. Firstly, it understands that Jacobs was always the much more natural babyface in this dynamic. That’s the way it worked best when this feud ran in DGUSA, the switched roles that ran in smaller indies like IPW never really had the same bite. Secondly, to complement that, this might just be one of Mox’s most vicious performances in recent years.

Even AEW’s attempts at giving Mox’s hardcore matches to sink his teeth into feel like watered down versions of the Mox performance we get here. There’s a unity to it as well with how it’s an extension of Mox’s more brutal performances from the recent AEW World Championship Eliminator tournament, except this someone gave Mox a fork. And boy, does Mox work that fork well. He’s a madman with that thing, really going at it to convince us that he’s trying to stab his way through Jacobs’ face.

Jacobs on his end, is ever so scrappy in this. He keeps looking for those openings to overwhelm the larger, more furious Moxley. Now in 2021, Moxley feels like an even greater mountain to climb than before. For one, there’s the literal fact of Moxley being probably twice as big as he was in 2010. Then there’s meta context of Moxley being a contracted AEW wrestler while Jacobs remains a freelancer, there’s just no way Jacobs leaves this match with a victory. But he sure does try, even whipping out his signature spike to get to his own stabbing as well.

I thought the sense of timing in this match was real keen as well. Things hit their climax at the exact point that leads straight into the finish. In this setting, there was really no topping the bump through the barbed wire board and it’s smart that they don’t try. That’s the kind of masterful touch that you only really get from the absolute best in the game these days. It’s a small thing, but one that always resonates when it hits just right.

So yeah, that match rules. It’s great for its history, and it’s great for the way these two veterans maximize that history through their actions in the ring.

But there’s also the elephant in the room here.

Just days after this match, Moxley announced that he was checking into inpatient treatment for an alcohol addiction. It’s awesome that Mox is able to take the time to focus on himself and his health without having to worry about anything else for a while. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we all hope he takes as much time as he needs. That is an undeniable win for Moxley, and by setting a precedent, for the industry as a whole.

It’s near impossible for me to think of this match separated from that context. A big part of that is because of how much of the 2010 feud was centered around Jacobs’ own struggles with addiction, and how the violence of that rivalry acted almost as a metaphor for those demons. Jacobs spoke very candidly about his own personal demons in 2010. Mox himself has also been incredibly open about his substance abuse especially during his time wrestling in Puerto Rico in the mid-2000s.

In the time since them, it’s easy to assume that their demons were things of the past. As Moxley moved on to bright lights and gigantic stadiums, as Jacobs settled into the backstage mentor role helping put show together, one can’t help but assume that all those demons can remain in the past. Sign a big contract, leave the addiction behind in the bingo halls along with the blood and the chains and spikes. But much like the emotional stakes of this match up, demons can linger. In the blink of an eye, it’s like they never left at all.

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