AEW's MJF Has Become One of the Hottest Properties in All of Pro WrestlingDecember 18, 2021
It didn't take long in All Elite Wrestling's young lifespan to see that MJF was one of wrestling's next great things.
MJF, shorthand for Maxwell Jacob Friedman, of course, is all of 25 years old and already one of the best talkers on the mic in the business—even on the planet.
That's not hyperbole meant to generate hype, either. His work ever since AEW launched has always been really, really good. But it's the recent spotlight given to him via a must-see feud with CM Punk that has pushed things over the top.
AEW, naturally, shared their first jaw-dropping promo that got the feud going:
Three million views and counting explain just how special this moment really was.
So much so, in fact, even WWE has taken notice. Fans familiar with the war between the two promotions know just how rare that is.
Wrestling Observer Live's Andrew Zarian reported (h/t Randall Ortman, Cageside Seats) that "non-wrestling people" at various networks took notice of the promo. That notice has organically led to WWE taking an interest, too.
Being the character that he is, MJF has naturally worked this into an angle already:
And talk about a huge win for AEW. MJF can literally touch on this topic for the next two years while channeling his inner CM Punk, whose arguably most iconic wrestling moment ever was the extended storyline in which he went to leave WWE, stealing one of Vince McMahon's titles on his way out, exiting through a hometown crowd.
Like Punk back then, MJF's flirtation with actually leaving AEW would be totally believable, too. So far, it has strictly been AEW signing former WWE Superstars, not the other way around. But imagine if somebody as talented, over and popular as MJF were the first to establish the AEW-to-WWE pipeline?
Chaos. The sort of win WWE just hasn't been able to brag about in any sense. And the storyline potential—MJF is guaranteed to be in AEW's top title scene by 2024—is enormous.
But maybe that's getting too far ahead of things. MJF is, after all, only just getting started. Once he's through this feud with Punk, win or lose, fans will get to see the inevitable-feeling betrayal by Wardlow. He can still go on extended feuds with Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole and Kenny Omega.
While it's hard to predict what the title scene will look like by 2024, there's surely a "Hangman" Adam Page feud in there somewhere, too. Based on the way AEW built up Page since the company's first show, and how it's doing the same for MJF, it almost feels right for the two to headline with each other right around MJF's supposed contractual expiration.
No matter the path or feud, it speaks to MJF's talent that he's generating this much interest. And if there's one thing that speaks to WWE above all else (which would explain a lot of the company's booking problems, but that's another story), it's "non-wrestling" attention. MJF's so captivating on the mic and as a character it doesn't matter if he's in a wrestling ring—he's just that entertaining.
None of this has even touched on MJF's ability in the ring. He's good, if not bordering on great. That sure doesn't hurt. The fact he's only 25 without a ton of wear and tear on his body this early in his career only helps when he inevitably drums up a bidding war.
We won't spend a lot of time speculating where MJF might actually go when his contract expires (and if). It's hard to imagine AEW lets that happen, though he'd benefit by drumming up a bidding war. From an outsider's perspective, there's a reason so many Superstars have jumped ship from WWE to AEW. But while the latter permits more creative freedom, an easier schedule and less stressful working environment, the former provides a bigger launching pad to international exposure, be it sheer wrestling or off into other non-wrestling ventures.
To say AEW needs this is an understatement, too. MJF flirting with achieving household-name status right as wrestling is getting cool again would work wonders for the smaller promotion.
The bigger point is that it's stunning to see this fast of an ascension for MJF. It's also a testament to AEW's plan—and it's hard to imagine he would have ever achieved the same heights in WWE's ecosystem, which just gutted the old NXT and is more than content to roll out the same old main-events ad nauseam. The closest fans might ever get to seeing MJF in WWE is from an old "Tough Enough" promo WWE uploaded.
Where things stand now? It's worth advising fans to just enjoy the ride. It's not often a Superstar like MJF comes around, and it's not often it's so telegraphed in advance that his prime is going to be something so special. That this layup of a natural storyline involving a war between two promotions fell into AEW's lap—and is sure to be a hit because of MJF's sheer talent—is just a nice capper on a great time to be a wrestling fan.