Jon Moxley made his first post-WWE live appearance in the wrestling world when he showed up at All Elite Wrestling‘s Double or Nothing and announced he had signed with the new company. His first in-ring success, however, came in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he defeated Juice Robinson to win the IWGP United States Championship in his first match for the promotion. Days later, he declared his intention to enter the G1 Climax, and he was soon announced as an official entrant in the tournament.
But despite Moxley’s popularity in the United States and the fact that he holds the stars-and-stripes belt, NJPW announced that he will not be at the opening show of G1 Climax 29 on in Dallas, Texas, on July 6, or the press conference the day before, and will join the tour on July 13 in Tokyo.
On the latest episode of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer confirmed what many fans guessed was the cause of this: AEW controls where Moxley is allowed to perform in the United States. Though AEW and NJPW are not partner companies, AEW performers Moxley and Chris Jericho (and Kenny Omega, though he has yet to return to New Japan) are allowed to work for the Japanese company when it doesn’t conflict with their AEW schedules, but working for them in the U.S. was apparently a step too far.
Since Moxley is in B Block and the first night of the tournament features only A Block tournament matches, this isn’t a big shake-up to the G1 schedule. It’s possible that New Japan put him in B Block because they knew he couldn’t wrestle for them in America and this would allow them to schedule block competition as usual. The July 6 G1 show features five tournament matches, including Sanada vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Kenta vs. Kota Ibushi, and Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, as well as three tag team matches that pit upcoming B Block opponents against each other. The only match that’s an outlier from how the G1 opener usually works the opening tag match between G.O.D. and Roppongi 3K, none of whom are in the tournament.
In addition to the absence of someone who could move ticket sales in America, this news reveals that New Japan put their United States Championship on a wrestler who can’t perform for them in the United States. The U.S. Championship has been a staple of NJPW’s recent overseas expansion, with 2017’s G1 Special in USA based around a tournament to crown the first champion and defenses a regular feature of the company’s subsequent shows in America, at least up until the NJPW/ROH G1 Supercard in which champ Juice Robinson was involved in a street fight with Bully Ray instead. But putting the title on the former Dean Ambrose did get NJPW a lot of press, and whoever takes it from him gets a high-profile win over a former WWE Superstar.