I met Tommy “Wildfire” Rich, my late father’s favorite wrestler, at a wrestling show in Carollton, Georgia. After a brief conversation, the topic turned - as it often understandably does with wrestlers behind a table at a show - to his merchandise. Gesturing to the stacks of DVDs in front of him, “Wildfire” explained to me that “these are all my good guy stuff and these are all my bad guy stuff.” This was a turning point in my wrestling fandom. As much as I love this great sport, I’ve never been one to pepper my conversation with “insider” terms. I don’t talk about a crowd’s “pop,” I don’t refer to wrestlers “going over” and I definitely don’t use the terms “heel” and “face.” I’ve never taken a bump. Those words are not mine. But former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Tommy Rich specifically dividing his career between “good guy stuff” and “bad guy stuff” cemented it for me. Those are the terms I will always use.
I bought both of those DVDs (and a signed 8X10 that’s so pixelated it looks like “Wildfire” was built in Minecraft), but the one I go back to most often is his “bad guy stuff” DVD. I think about “bad guy stuff” quite a bit in terms of professional wrestling, what makes a bad buy most effectively bad and what seems like a good idea in theory and kind of falls flat in practice. One of the most effective “bad guy stuff” tools in professional wrestling today is former AEW World Champion Jon Moxley’s thin gold hoop earring.
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I’m not sure when Moxley debuted this accessory. I spent a significant portion of the morning after AEW’s recent “All Out” pay-per-view scrolling through the results of a Google Image Search for “Jon Moxley” trying to figure out any sort of methodology to when the earring is present and when it isn’t. I couldn’t do it. Seems like his ear has been pierced for years, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when the hoop becomes a part of his look. As a wrestling fan, it’s infuriating. I wish I could tell you why this character detail works so well, but I can’t. It just absolutely does. Why is it so thin? Why not both ears? Why yellow gold instead of white gold or silver?
Let’s be honest, Jon Moxley, when he’s working, is a mess. He’s covered in sweat and blood, spitting water everywhere, sometimes dressed in those bleach-splattered pants. You can tell he absolutely revels in it, too. Photos of Moxley where he’s clean and dry don’t look as authentic, as real as when you see him at work. There he is, messed up and loving it, and all the while that tiny gold hoop’s just shining away. Top-tier bad guy stuff.