Looking At Jon Moxley’s IWGP Title Win

History was made last Friday at the New Japan Windy City Riot event in Chicago when Jon Moxley defeated popular star, Tetsuya Naito to win the IWGP world championship, the top belt in the Japanese league. This makes Moxley the only competitor to win the WWE, AEW, and IWGP, titles.

This was a move that isn’t totally shocking, but wasn’t a given either, and the biggest takeaway from the title switch might be, what are the implications for both New Japan and All Elite within the next several months?

In truth, All Elite and New Japan have a solid, but somewhat odd working agreement, as far as the New Japan stars are always featured well when they appear on AEW programming, but at the same time, Tony Khan has cherry-picked the Japanese organization’s top talent throughout that time. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, that’s the free agent market and a reality of the business. However, at some point, you have to wonder if New Japan brass view the partnership differently when their co-promoted shows are more or less an audition for NJPW talent that might get an offer from Tony Khan after he sees how they get over in front on an AEW audience.

To say that the trades have been a little lop-sided would be an understatement.

Yes, Bryan Danielson worked a few big matches in Japan, including a stellar bout against Zack Sabre Jr., and there were guest appearances by All Elite talent at the major shows on the NJPW calendar when Moxley and Eddie Kingston worked a series of events, but those are only key matches, not the acquisition of full-time talent. Tony Khan signed away Jay White, Will Ospreay, and Kazuchika Okada most recently. Remember, he also signed Kenny Omega and The Elite faction for the launch of the company. Omega was the top guy when he was signed away, Jay White was in the main event scene when he left, Will Ospreay was being positioned as the next top star for them, and Okada was essentially the foundation of the promotion. Did Tony do this to damage the Japanese league? Of course not, even someone with the slapstick booking approach of Tony Khan knows the value of New Japan. He was just trying to add to his product, and despite the fact that he mismanages those assets, this scenario isn’t any attempt to negatively impact New Japan.

That said, the damage was done in terms of the depth of the roster. Again, that’s just one of the harsh aspects of the industry, when someone is offered more money, they might exit so the promotion has to rebuild. This isn’t to say that New Japan can’t rebuild, especially with the funding of Bushiroad, the parent company that brought the organization back from the brink of collapse to surge in popularity for several years. NJPW survived much more dire circumstances than this, particularly the failed MMA experiment in the early-2000s that put the organization in jeopardy. Antonio Inoki was as controversial as he was legendary, and the narrative of the history of New Japan reflects that.

Still, New Japan finds itself with a talented, but thin roster in terms of drawing power today. Keep in mind, Kota Ibushi was being pushed as potentially the next main event draw before a very serious shoulder injury led to his rocky departure from the company. Quite frankly, New Japan has seen a huge portion of its top-tier talent leave the company within the past five years. As we know, it’s not easy to promote a talent to that level so it’s undoubtedly been a very challenging period for the group. The pandemic also took a major toll on NJPW because without the ability to run live events, and then only being able to run shows with limited capacity, it drastically affected revenue.

As mentioned, Tetsuya Naito is extremely popular as a multi-time champion, but he works a very physical, and the argument could be made, sometimes reckless style. Despite theoretically still getting a few more years in the prime of his career, the extensive amount of injuries he had will undoubtedly shorten his career. It goes without saying that New Japan has a very physical style and thus the role of IWGP champion can be very demanding so it’s possible the title switch was made in Chicago to avoid the toll on Naito’s body, at least for now.

It will be extremely interesting to see what this translates to for Jon Moxley, as he hasn’t been seen in AEW since the Revolution pay-per-view, and despite his star power, it might be wise for him to take some time away from the organization to allow for a fresh chapter upon his return. Regardless of some of the rightfully criticism about his work, Moxley is one of the top stars of All Elite Wrestling and a major asset for the company. As we saw over the past few years, when All Elite was in a jam, Moxley picked up the fumble and ran with it on more than one occasion. His value to the organization is proven, but it’s possible that he was somewhat overexposed at the same time. To actually quote one of his biggest critics, Jim Cornette, “how can we miss you if you don’t go away?” With as flimsy as The Blackpool Combat Club is, specifically without a member from Blackpool, this might be an opportunity for Moxley to reestablish himself outside of the faction.

In some ways, this situation is a way for AEW to help New Japan after the company took some many of the top guys from NJPW. Tony Khan allowing his talent to work other shows is a different approach than most national groups of the past, but again, at the very least, this gives New Japan a bridge to their next major Japanese champion, as a victory over the former Dean Ambrose could help cement that status. It will be intriguing to see what Moxley’s schedule will be during his tenure as champion and how long he has the title. I could be wrong, but I don’t think he will travel to Japan to defend the belt on a full-time basis so this is probably going to be a short reign for him. It’s very possible that this switch was booked to set up for the eventual rematch at the Forbidden Door pay-per-view in June.

Finally, this might be an opportunity for All Elite Wrestling to add something different to the line-up for the pay-per-view this weekend. Sure, it would be very short notice without the usual build up, but given the audience that will order the PPV, the addition of an IWGP title defense could be an another selling point for the show. Either way, it’s very unique that a performer with a full-time contract in the United States wins the top championship for New Japan, simply because of the logistics of scheduling and the travel involved with working for both companies.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail [email protected] | You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, & Threads @jimlamotta89