There’s an interesting development in the world of wrestling as it pertains to one of All Elite Wrestling’s brightest young stars, Maxwell Jacob Friedman aka MJF.
As I’m sure most wrestling fans know, the fourth annual AEW Double or Nothing pay-per-view takes place tonight in Las Vegas. MJF is advertised to be in one of the biggest matches of the show since he’s going to be facing his former bodyguard/associate Wardlow for the first time. The long story there is that Wardlow worked for MJF for nearly two years, then he got sick of it and broke out on his own, but MJF told him that Wardlow has to beat MJF to “earn his freedom” so to speak so that Wardlow can work for AEW while being free from his deal with MJF. As we covered in our in-depth Double or Nothing Preview, most of us expect Wardlow to win.
(The five-minute video above was posted by AEW on Sunday morning. They did a Twitter post about the match too, but then it was deleted. Could be something? Could be something? You decide.)
Before I dive into the current story, just a few thoughts on MJF the performer. I’m a huge fan. The guy is an awesome professional wrestler that is already one of the best heels in the business at 26 years old. A few years ago you could tell he was going to be great and he keeps getting better. His biggest strength are his promos that come off so naturally. It seems like he’s willing to say anything to get heat. That’s the kind of heel that people pay attention to because you never know what they might say. In the ring, I think he’s very good too. I’ve reviewed pretty much all of his AEW matches and several have been around the four-star (out of five) level. My biggest complaint with his AEW usage is that they don’t put him in the ring enough. He might wrestle on TV once every two months at this point and I just don’t think that’s enough. Anyway, I really enjoy MJF as a performer. He’s already a big star and he’ll be even bigger as he gets more experience in the business as well.
Moving on to the present situation, there was a story on Saturday afternoon that MJF no-showed a meet and greet at AEW’s Fan Fest. At first, I just thought that it was MJF being a jerk because that’s what his character is and there are stories of him being at appearances where he’s giving people the middle finger or being a jerk because that’s the gimmick. However, it escalated from there. Apparently, MJF refused to return any calls or messages from AEW people. I think it’s terrible to miss something at a Fan Fest because then you start to lose fan support. I realize the fans could have got a full refund or transferred their ticket to meet somebody else, but part of being a contracted talent is fulfilling your contract obligations.
Later on Saturday night, there was a story (credit to Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select) about how MJF booked a flight on Saturday night to go from Las Vegas home to the New York area with a redeye flight to Newark, New Jersey. However, MJF wasn’t on that flight. Here’s a summary of the situation from our friends at Inside the Ropes:
This was followed by a report which claimed that MJF had booked a flight out of Las Vegas where Double or Nothing is scheduled to take place. The report also detailed how AEW has recently made attempts to discuss a new contract with MJF, even offering “top performer money” to get him to sign an extension, but the 26-year-old has purportedly ignored those efforts and has kept to himself since his tensions with Tony Khan began a few weeks ago.
In addition to that, there are these comments from the Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez talking about the MJF situation. Thanks to Inside the Ropes for the transcript:
“We know that he’s unhappy, we know that he wants to make more money. The rumour that has been out there is that essentially he wants more money, Tony [Khan] will offer him more money if for example he extends his contract. But he doesn’t want to extend his contract. That right there would tell me that he wants out, because if you don’t want out and he’s willing to pay you more money, and extend the contract, if you didn’t want out, you’d extend the contract and make more money.”
Keep in mind that all of this is happening three days after MJF tweeted “f**k this place man” and then it was deleted, but it was up long enough for a lot of people to see it.
Were those his true feelings or was it a work? I don’t know. That’s the thing about MJF. You really don’t know what’s true and what’s part of his gimmick.
Regarding the work or not thing, PWInsider’s Mike Johnson wrote this: “For those who are asking if the situation is a work, that is a big NO, but obviously everything can be retroactively converted into one if everyone gets on the same page.”
That’s the thing about pro wrestling. It’s such a unique form of entertainment that this whole thing can be real and it probably is, but you could definitely turn it into a storyline if MJF agrees to some new deal with AEW or something like that.
“I think there’s a lot of stuff going on in this company that is inaccurate. I think all these ex-f*cking WWE guys that are making an absurd amount of money when quite frankly they can’t sniff my f*cking jock when it comes to the ratings I pull in whenever I am on screen, I think they can all go to hell. I think that somebody in the upper management has a problem with me, and it’s very obvious if you see what I am dealing with week to week.”
Truth or work? You decide. I don’t even know anymore with this guy, but then when I read about him no-showing the fan fest and being unhappy about his current situation, those comments from earlier in the month sure seem like his true feelings.
It was also reported by PWInsider’s Mike Johnson added that there are issues backstage with MJF and AEW since they are not on the same page on a lot of things, which has led to him keeping more to himself. MJF has publicly commented that his contract runs out in 2024 (he signed a three-year deal in 2019 when AEW started and extended it for two more years), which could mean January 2024, so that’s more than a year and a half away. What’s interesting about the contract situation is that MJF has publicly stated on multiple occasions that he plans on seeing what AEW amd WWE might offer him when his contract expires. He might go to the highest bidder or he might just go to WWE because he’s not really happy with this situation in AEW. The point is that it’s very rare for somebody in AEW to be talking openly about possibly leaving the company. As we have also covered on the site, MJF has not been receptive to sitting down and talking about a new deal. There have been some reports that MJF has also been disrespectful to AEW’s Owner/President/GM Tony Khan as well.
That’s a summary of the whole situation as best as we know it on a Sunday morning before Double or Nothing takes place.
My Thoughts on Why MJF Is Unhappy in AEW
I think it’s a combination of MJF being upset that he’s not being paid as well as some of the other top guys in the company. I don’t know what CM Punk or Bryan Danielson makes, but it likely cost AEW a lot of money to bring both of them in. The same goes for Jon Moxley three years ago and whatever he got on a contract extension. Going back to Chris Jericho signing with AEW on day one, I bet that was a huge deal too. If you’re MJF, you certainly have a right to complain considering all the great performances on a consistent basis. If they aren’t willing to offer him something similar to what the top guys make then maybe he should move on.
Another issue is the booking. I think my good field Joel McIntyre laid it out really well in a column he did about MJF on May 18th. The way AEW books MJF is as a guy that gets a lot of screen time and he can express himself in promos, but he loses the big matches far too often.
When MJF feuded with CM Punk earlier this year, MJF won their first match in a cheap manner thanks to Wardlow, but Punk won the blow off match at Revolution and Punk is getting the AEW World Title match at Double or Nothing.
When MJF turned on Chris Jericho and they got into a lengthy feud, MJF did get some wins, but who won the blow off match? Jericho did. I like Chris Jericho as much as anybody, but Jericho is 24 years older than MJF. Should he really be winning a feud over the younger guy? I don’t think so. I get that babyfaces should win sometimes. I just think MJF should win sometimes too.
If you look at The Pinnacle group that MJF is supposed to lead, they have been booked terribly. They were originally a five-man group consisting of MJF, Shawn Spears, Wardlow and the FTR tag team consisting of Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler. Wardlow has split to go babyface, but I can’t remember the last time we saw the group together. Basically, the group was created to have a Blood & Guts match against Jericho’s Inner Circle group last year with no long-term plans after that. FTR are now faces. They don’t even appear on screen with MJF. Spears is with MJF as the guy to get beat up once in a while and that’s it.
Those are just three points I can make about how MJF is probably frustrated with the creative structure in AEW and that is on Tony Khan, who is AEW’s booker. MJF has a terrible record when it comes to PPV matches and he’s going to lose another one tonight too. I don’t think he has a problem with putting over Wardlow, who is likely a good friend. I just think he has a problem with what’s next because I doubt he’s going to be pushed that much better in the future.
There have been some positives to MJF’s booking like beating Cody Rhodes, he beat Jungle Boy in a great PPV match and lost to Jon Moxley in an AEW World TItle match that was great. However, I think it’s been more frustrating than a happy situation for him.
I have no idea if MJF is bored by the fact that he barely gets to wrestle on TV in AEW. As we sit here at the end of May, MJF has wrestled a total of FOUR matches in five months this year so far. Two of the matches were long matches against CM Punk including the loss at Revolution, and the other matches were short losses to “Captain” Shawn Dean, who beat MJF by disqualification and countout in short matches. I don’t know if MJF wants to wrestle more, but if I was 26 years old like him I’d be begging to be in the ring more to try to improve. If he was in WWE, he’d probably have two or three TV matches per month (plus PPV matches) and then a handful of live event matches as well. Once again, I don’t know if he’s bored by it. Just a thought on my part.
I don’t know how this ends or what the next step is. I think there’s certainly a chance that MJF is legitimately angry with AEW management for his contract, his booking and maybe the lack of matches that he has. I also think he’s going to have people telling him you have to honor your contract, so go to work and when you’re free in 2024 then you can move on if you want. I think his good friend Cody Rhodes being in WWE and being booked so well there has caused MJF to see that he could be a big star there too. It’s been three years in AEW, he’s seen how they have booked him and maybe he wants out. If I was AEW, I’d say no way. Honor your contract, then do what you want. Will it come to the point of MJF asking for a release? I doubt it, but I guess it’s a possibility when a guy no-shows a Fan Fest and is clearly unhappy with the company he works for.
I don’t know MJF, but if I did I’d tell him to do what makes him happy. If he’s not happy in AEW then try to figure it out, maybe compromise a bit and ride it out until you’re free to sign elsewhere. My feeling is that if his very public thoughts are what he feels then he probably does want to be in WWE. We know he’s friends with Cody Rhodes, he knows WWE VP Bruce Prichard well from their days in MLW together and MJF said he really liked Bruce. MJF likely talks to WWE people all the time. That’s just the nature of the business. A lot of kids grow up dreaming of that WrestleMania moment, entrance and match the way that Cody Rhodes was treated like a big deal at WrestleMania 38 this year. Maybe MJF wants that one day. It wouldn’t shock me if he does.
I’m not biased towards WWE or AEW. I rate AEW Dynamite higher than any WWE show on a weekly basis, but I don’t have a favorite company. I’m for pro wrestling. I write 30,000 words a week about it, not to mention working on my second book about it, which means it’s even more than you might think I do. I want every show to be great, every talent to have an awesome match and every fan to enjoy it. I think people that treat WWE and AEW like sports teams where you love one of them and hate the other one is so f’n stupid. What you really should do is support the guys/girls that beat up their bodies to entertain us. They are all one bump away from a career-ending injury. Ask Tyson Kidd. Ask Big E. My point is to support the talent because they have families to support just like all of us. I like that wrestlers have more options now whether it’s WWE, AEW, NJPW or smaller companies like Impact Wrestling, MLW, whatever ROH is going to become, the NWA, the indy scene in North America is strong as well as all the places in Europe doing well too. Support that talent first and foremost. That’s how I always look at it.
That’s all for me. I didn’t expect to write 2500 words on a Sunday morning knowing I have a lot of writing to do until midnight tonight when it comes to AEW Double or Nothing, but I felt compelled to write.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back for a live review of AEW Double or Nothing right here on TJRWrestling later this evening. I assume MJF will be there too. I guess we have to tune in to find out. My contact info is below.