AEW and Bellator star Jake Hager spoke with Sports Illustrated ahead of his world title No Holds Barred showdown against Jon Moxley on tonight’s Dynamite. The Inner Circle member talks his career moving in an upward direction, discusses how tough an opponent Moxley is, then praises faction leader Chris Jericho. Highlights are below.
On getting a chance to main event in AEW:
It feels vindicating,” said Hager. “I needed to move in a different direction, and that was a risk. I never stopped believing in myself, but I had support from people who stood behind me, like [training partner] Josh Rafferty, [boxing coach] Rob Radford, and my wife Catalina. She likes to say I finally started listening to her. And it’s been really fun to work with AEW, with people that believe in you. Instead of trying to fight your ideas, they give you resources to make you better.
On Jon Moxley’s toughness:
I really respect Moxley’s toughness and his attitude,” said Hager. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the dude back up a day in his life. He’s never afraid to go forward. This is an opportunity to be more creative,” said Hager. “And for me, I’m kind of an introvert, and since I’m not traveling as much, I get to put out more content from home. I’m working to really accomplish some good things.
Praise for Chris Jericho:
There is no higher praise than the best wrestler in the world asking you to come and perform at a high level and deliver with him,” said Hager. “I still watch Chris as a fan, he’s so great at what he does. There have been a couple times after segments when I’ll say to him that what he did was really good, and he no-sells it. ‘I already know it’s good, Jake,’ he’ll say. ‘I’m the one who did it.
Talks Tony Khan’s praise for his empty arena match:
Tony Khan tweeted he believes this will be the greatest empty-arena match in pro wrestling history,” said Hager. “That’s a big statement. This is going to be an incredible fight. I wanted to get my hands on Mox, and I needed to show the world exactly what I am now.This could very well be a chance to weaken Mox up and get him ready for Chris,” said Hager. “If one of us in The Inner Circle has the world title, then we all have the world title. You would be absolutely crazy to turn the channel from TNT and miss one second of this.