JOHN MOXSLEY WAKE UP hungover on the morning of October 31, 2021 in Des Moines, Iowa. He knew that feeling all too well.

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For more than two years, the All Elite Wrestling (AEW) star has said he drank alcohol almost daily, often in excess. Moxley tried several times to quit cold turkey, but the withdrawal was unbearable with his schedule, and trying to wean himself didn’t work either.

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Moxley, who had appeared on an independent show the night before, took a taxi to the airport that morning. He knew that Southwest Airlines was not serving alcohol on board at this time due to the pandemic, so he headed to the bar at his gate and loaded up before flying home to Las Vegas.

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Moxley said at that point that he did not feel well without alcohol in his system. He Googled the effects of withdrawal: seizures, cardiac arrest, and death. His biggest fear was one of those things that happen on an airplane or on national television, so he felt he had to keep drinking to avoid tragedy. It was a vicious circle.

“I felt the world coming towards me,” Moxley told Sportzshala on Wednesday.

Moxley, whose real name is Jonathan Good, returned home to his wife, Renée Paquette, and their three-month-old daughter, Nora, in a state of exhaustion. It was Halloween night and they were supposed to take Nora out for a treat. Moxley was in no condition to go out, and he knew that it was all coming to a head. He told Puckett that he needed to go to rehab. She agreed.

While handing out candy, Moxley dialed the Desert Hope treatment center. Within 15 minutes, he was on an Uber, and shortly after that, he was at the facility, a large 148-seat complex 4 miles east of the Las Vegas Strip. They took his phone. Nobody knew except Puckett.

Five months after leaving Desert Hope, Moxley will perform Sunday in the main event of Forbidden Door, a joint pay-per-view event in Chicago hosted by AEW and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. His opponent in the World Intermediate Championship match is Hiroshi Tanahashi, one of Japan’s biggest wrestling stars. Moxley drew inspiration from him and turned to him for more than two years.

Sunday’s game will be the culmination of events, as if everything fell into place for Moxley. But the journey has not been easy and is only just beginning. Moxley, 36, has described his alcohol addiction as “a living hell,” something that has permeated every area of ​​his life. He resented coming to work, was afraid of being a father, and was very afraid of losing his life in the ring.

“It took more courage to admit he needed help than not to,” Moxley’s close friend and fellow AEW wrestler Eddie Kingston said. “For me, vulnerable, I need a real man.”

MOXLEY DIDN’T THINK a lot about his drinking until he tried to quit. He said he has been “screwed up” for the better part of the 18 years since his wrestling career began in 2004. It was social drinking and he thought he had nothing to worry about. Like many wrestlers, he has said that he enjoys going to a bar after a show with the boys or having a few drinks on the plane to relax.

When Puckett, a former TV presenter and WWE personality, told him she was pregnant in late 2020, Moxley decided it was time to cut down on his alcohol consumption.

“I was scared as hell I was about to leave him,” Moxley said of the baby. “I don’t know how to have a fucking baby, you know? That wasn’t my plan. What are you going to do with him? Are you supposed to keep him?”

At the time, Moxley generally preferred whiskey. He decided to stop the cold turkey. Within two days his body began to rebel. Moxley didn’t know much about withdrawals at the time, but quickly learned.

“When it’s bad, it’s bad – there’s nothing you can do,” Moxley said. “The best way I can describe it is crushing physical anxiety. Not that you have nothing to be nervous about, but your hands are shaking and twitching.

“It’s hard to put into words. But it’s fucking awful.”

This feeling is unacceptable for everyone, but especially for one of the best bands in AEW. He was expected to appear on television at least once a week, if not more often. So, Moxley said he switched to beer, something with a lower alcohol content, in an attempt to slow down. This didn’t work either.

At some point, according to Moxley, his body became addicted to alcohol. He said he wasn’t sure how much alcohol he drank a day, but it was more than five drinks and “enough to kill a fucking horse.”

It affected his life. When he was younger, he said he could drink a 750 ml bottle of Jack Daniels at night, get up in the morning to run 5 miles, and play a 25-minute main event match in the evening.

Before getting into rehab, it was common to wake up feeling terrible, drink water, go to the sauna, and take countless aspirins to feel a little normal. Moxley said that when he came to AEW matches or segments, he had to shake off the brain fog caused by his hangover and mentally prepare to perform as a character.

The closest people began to notice him. Kingston said he had discussed the subject with Moxley several times. Puckett said she started to really see it when she was pregnant with Nora. She couldn’t drink anymore, but Moxley continued to drink. For many years she said that he would look at his watch until 5:00 pm. This time was getting earlier and earlier.

“Seeing how he drank the way he was and how much he saved, that was a lot,” Puckett said. “It’s hard to watch your partner go through something like this and try to tell him, ‘Hey, it shouldn’t be like this – you shouldn’t drink like that.’

Over time, he began to not even want to go to the fight. For someone who has dedicated his life to the arts, who will have physical, bloody matches at shows of all sizes around the world, this was a terrible realization. Moxley said he didn’t know if he performed well in his matches and segments and didn’t care.

“I started to resent having to go to work,” Moxley said. “I thought if I could just stay at home and fucking figure it all out myself – if I could lock myself in a room, I would figure it all out. But I have to keep getting back on the road. , back to the fucking plane. I couldn’t get out of it.”

PACKAGE Remember A On the morning of last October, when Moxley returned from the wrestling show already drunk from drinking on the plane.

“I was like, ‘Damn it, I was waiting for you to come home so I could hand over the baby to you so I could go and mind my own business,'” Puckett said. “And he had to go to bed because he wasn’t feeling well, his body hurt.”

It was then that Puckett said she knew her husband’s drinking had escalated to an unmanageable degree. She spoke to her father about the situation, then contacted Kingston, AEW Executive Director Megha Parekh, and AEW President Tony Khan. Puckett said that what surprised her most was the AEW staff; Few noticed what was going on. Moxley did not show any major warning signs, such as getting into trouble while drunk or causing a stir.

“[When he’s drinking,] fun with him. He’s always in a good mood,” Puckett said. “He is never the guy you see getting drunk or wanting to drive. He just wanted to drink and sleep.”

Puckett didn’t know how to directly discuss the topic of rehab with Moxley. Kingston, she said, was a good mouthpiece.

“I told her: ‘He has a girl now, he has you – he needs to seek help immediately,’” Kingston said. “That’s all. It wasn’t like, “Oh, he’s got this fight ahead of him, maybe he should wait.” No, fuck it. Help him now.”

The timing was not ideal. Nora was only 3 months old, Moxley and Puckett were in the process of moving from Las Vegas to Moxley’s hometown, Cincinnati. His autobiography was due to be published on November 2, 2021. At AEW, Moxley was one of the top performers on every show.

Moxley said he is doing his best to get on AEW’s pay-per-view show, Full Gear, scheduled for November 13, 2021. Then he decided that he could take a break to sort things out.

“I don’t want to tell anyone I’m going through this because it’s a little embarrassing,” Moxley said. “I have all these people counting on me for shows and pay-per-views and stuff. So I’m trying to deal with it myself.

But in Des Moines, he realized that he had to give something. He couldn’t go on like this anymore. Moxley wanted to make sure he fulfilled that date, an October 30 Iowa Street Fight match against Jimmy Jacobs, for his friend Sami Callihan’s Wrestling Revolver promotion.

When he returned home to Vegas in amazement and saw the look on Paquette’s face, Moxley knew it was time.

“[It’s] like going 12 rounds with a professional boxer and just getting your ass kicked every single day,” Moxley said.

“You won’t win,” he said. “You just keep coming back to the ring and getting the fucking shit kicked out of you.

IT WAS Packet to let everyone, including AEW, know that Moxley had checked into an inpatient drug rehab facility. Moxley said he had no idea how the news would be received.

“As far as I know, everyone is just mad at you,” Moxley said. “Fans are like, ‘Oh, this guy is fucked. What an opportunity he ruined, he’s a loser.” I got fired and everyone hates me.”

Two days later Moxley called Puckett from a pay phone downtown. Paquette said that everything is fine and that AEW fully supports him. Khan, however, wanted to know what the advertisement had to say about Moxley’s absence. Moxley was supposed to be on an upcoming AEW TV show and apparently he wasn’t there.

Moxley said that he thinks if he just tells AEW to announce that he’s out for personal reasons, the rumors will be worse than what’s actually going on. He saw no reason to lie and was relieved when he told Puckett what AEW could say…