MJF: Let him entertain you (he is well on his way to being a megastar)
Admit it, while we may have all fell for the “good guy” act MJF was putting on we deep down knew that something was up…….didn’t we? It’s been reported that young Maxwell enjoys being the Heel, he is great at it, he doesn’t break kayfabe and even though Chris Jericho feels he would make a terrific babyface, MJF is smart enough to know that there is still plenty of legs in him being the bad guy. Don’t get me wrong, its only a matter of time before he will have to stop swimming against the current of the cheering fans and that’s ok, it just means he is well on his way to being a megastar. It’s hard not to make comparisons to The Rock in regards to how the fans are reacting to him, it’s funny, the more things change and evolve, the more they stay the same. Back in mid 1997 Rocky was despised by the fans when trying to be a happy go lucky babyface, so he lent into the booing and utter hatred towards him and became The Rock. He was a guy so over the top with his facial reactions and cocky promos that he became to entertaining to boo, the same is happening to MJF. We no longer boo him because we despise him, we boo him because he is entertaining, and because he is a bad guy we are meant to boo him.
When Max first appeared for AEW I wasn’t too familiar with his work, all I knew was he was a young cocky heel that did more talking than actual wrestling, and in a new company that was trying to put the focus back on the actual in-ring aspect of pro wrestling I became frustrated by his work. I had been so conditioned by the story heavy, soap opera drama that WWE has been putting out for years that I wasn’t interested in hearing some guy I had never heard of ramble on a mic for 15 minutes anymore. I was bored of it, I had grown tired of it, I just wanted to see athletic, hard hitting professional wrestling. To be blunt, Maxell Jacob Friedman just wasn’t for me. The more I thought about it though the more I began to realize that what MJF was doing was putting a modern spin on what the industry used to be about, making us feel like its real. He is an old school heel in a world where everybody that watches pro wrestling “knows” what’s going on backstage and takes more enjoyment out of being “smart” to the industry (this writer included.)
Everybody has a camera on their phones these days (unless your Mick Foley…….love ya Mickster) and we all know that kayfabe is well and truly dead, We could spot Kenny Omega and Penta in public together, whip out our phones, record it and plaster it all over social media for the world to see and no one batts an eyelid anymore. This is what Makes MJF such a special talent, a GENERATIONAL talent to quote the man himself, he is committed to his character at all costs. If he is booked for an autograph signing he turns up, signs his name with a nasty comment and will make fun of the paying fan, he won’t hesitate to use social media to destroy some poor soul with an opinion and we love him for it. You won’t catch him in public with Mox anytime soon that’s for sure. The guy is just so entertaining that we are willing to forgive all the cheap heat tactics he uses to get boo’s from what ever grotesque, basement dwelling, soda chugging, hot dog eating fan that is at the arena on any given night. we pay our heard earned money to be entertained, whether that be laughing, crying, angry, overjoyed, shocked, we want to feel all the emotions and MJF is happy to oblige. Here is also a little (not so secret) “psssst, the guy can wrestle too, really really well.”
He has had banger matches against everyone he has been up against. My personal favorite is his match with Darby Allan, everything about this match and the story leading into it just worked. Claiming he could beat Darby with a headlock takeover was such an arrogant heel thing to say to then cheating in the match. using the Dynamite Diamond Ring to knock Darby unconscious and then using a headlock take over to beat him was just masterful. this was the moment I really started to appreciate what Max brings to the table, there are no holes in his game and he understands his character to a tee.
Now here is where the comparison to The Rock comes into play. When MJF returned to AEW after a short break the fans were elated to see him, try as he might with his scathing promos on the crowd they just didn’t want to boo him because they were happy to see him and wanted to be entertained. All the cheap heat in the world was going to be hard to get the boo’s he craved MJF – “Toronto is full of disgusting fat slobs.”
Toronto fans in the arena – “Yay he said Toronto, that’s where we live, we live in Toronto” (I know that’s a promo The Rock did years ago but just go with me on this.)
The fans are ready to cheer for him, that’s the point I’m trying to make. He is their savoir from all of the “mess” that’s been going on backstage in AEW for the past year. He even leaned into the cheers leading up to Full Gear playing a type of Tweener role, walking the tightrope between good and evil. It became clear at the PPV who the fans wanted to see win the World Title and it sure wasn’t Jon Moxley, and not because they dislike the guy, no they respect him for what he has done for the company and know he is overdue his vacation, they still love him. They cheered hard for MJF because he is entertaining, he is the main reason people tune in to Dynamite, we want to see and hear what he is going to do next. We want to know what kind of despicable things will he do with the World Title around his waist and what kind of shenanigans will he employ to hold on to it. Personally I will be glued to my TV every week to get my MJF fix, and so should you.