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Maxwell Jacob Friedman: The Most Entertaining Heel in the Pro Wrestling Business Today

Tom Clack brings you your true next big thing, and his name is Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Or MJF. It’s wrestling, you pick!

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MJF

Tom Clack brings you your true next big thing, and his name is Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Or MJF. It’s wrestling, you pick!

Maxwell Jacob Friedman is one of the hottest young stars working in the professional wrestling business today. He’s young, he’s talented, he’s solid in the ring and he’s a captivating character. But most importantly, he cuts great promos. 

No one can draw heat like MJF. If the microphone was a pipe-bomb in the hands of CM Punk, then it’s a nuclear warhead in the hands of MJF. Friedman is that good at blistering his opponents and anyone else that he comes into contact with. It’s obvious that MJF is the most entertaining heel in the industry today.

It was perhaps only a matter of time until he reached this spot, though many fans never saw it coming. MJF’s first big break in the business was in CZW, but his first real taste of the spotlight came in MLW. Friedman continues to work in MLW, where he shines as a member of The Dynasty. However, his work in Court Bauer’s company is just a precursor of things to come. 

MJF is a featured star for AEW, Tony Khan’s new venture into the wrestling business. The company has gained serious ground over the past several months and its new television program will debut on the TNT Network on Wednesday, October 2. AEW is delivering a few familiar faces, along with some fresh talents, to a worldwide audience and MJF is an important part of that presentation.

There’s no doubt that the 23-year old star has found his groove in the industry and he’s only just getting started. But his work in AEW is already being hailed by many critics as some of the best in the company and that’s especially true of his character work. Friedman indeed makes it look easy, both in the ring and on the stick.

The truth is that while AEW has some talented performers between the ropes, many of them are unknown to the mainstream audience. The only way for anyone on the roster to standout is by being loud and impactful. This is who Maxwell Jacob Friedman is and right now, no one in AEW can compare to him.

MJF is arrogant. He’s cocky and he’s completely self=absorbed. He’s the kind of guy that fans want to punch in the face and that’s just fine with him. In fact, he’s actually encouraged any and all personal attacks via social media. MJF doesn’t care who hates him, only that their hate for him is all-encompassing. He usually gets exactly that and much more.

Of course many fans understand that he is just playing a character, so they typically play along with him. They respect his work and they have fun with him every time he speaks. But even as he’s an entertaining part of the program, the fact is he’s so infuriating that fans can’t help but to hate everything about him.

This is the key to his progression in AEW. He’s not the son of a legendary Hall of Famer. He didn’t have a championship run in New Japan and he’s not a former WWE main event Superstar. He’s a promising young talent and while that’s a good thing, it’s just not enough. He needs to leave a lasting impression every time he’s on camera and that’s precisely what he does. If no one in the AEW audience remembers anything about the event they just watched, they will certainly remember MJF. 

But perhaps the best thing about Friedman is the fact that he is so extraordinarily obvious. It’s clear that he’s up to something as the confidant of Cody Rhodes. MJF appears to be a babyface with Rhodes, especially when he claims that Cody is his best friend. MJF says he would never do anything to betray Rhodes’ trust. 

But he says those things while hurling insults and raging at anyone that comes within 10 feet of him. MJF could have taken the fight to Shawn Spears, the man who laid out Cody with a steel chair at Fyter Fest. Friedman had plenty of negative things to say about Spears, all of which reinforced the notion that MJF and Cody are indeed close friends. But instead, MJF kept his distance and did the same when Cody faced Shawn at All Out.

However if anyone questions his loyalty, MJF immediately fires back. It’s obvious that his character is acting out of his own best interest and at the end of the day, no one is more important in his life than himself. But even as he delivers his promos with a straight face, fans can see what MJF is really all about.

He’s a classic heel in that regard, as everyone seems to be in on the routine but him. MJF has resurrected the throwback antagonist for the modern era and no one is doing it better than he is. Baron Corbin is indeed despised in WWE. Jay White is a true villain in New Japan. Matt Taven is the most despicable heel in Ring of Honor right now. But MJF would destroy every one of them on the mic and fans know it.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman has barely scratched the surface of what he can do in the business. With the right booking against the right opponents, there’s every reason to believe that MJF will become a main event powerhouse in All Elite Wrestling and beyond. The fans are going on that journey with him, even though he hates every one of them for it.


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The Paradox of the Wrestling War in 2021

The IWC has been talking about a certain Friday Night and what numbers matter. Tommy Starr chimes in with his perspective on this “war”.

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“War is peace… freedom is slavery… ignorance is strength.”  These are among George Orwell’s key three slogans in his novel 1984, which exemplify the ideology that when one has the power to lull individuals into false senses of security, they will blissfully ignore truth and reality to serve a perpetual agenda.

Since the inception of AEW, wrestling media has insisted on this idealistic narrative of a born-again “Monday Night Wars” comparative to that of a bygone era of professional wrestling that has not been seen since and will never be seen again.  For one reason or another, modern wrestling fans have bought into this impractical religious doctrine hook, line, and sinker, despite statistical evidence that contradict this ideology.

To put this in perspective, if there is a genuine wrestling “war” in the wrestling market today, it is not merely a war of the companies of AEW vs. WWE, rather it is a frivolous war between the oppositional fans of AEW and WWE.  The center of authority that continues to drive this animosity amongst the opposing fan bases rests at the helm of the wrestling media and the individuals within the business itself.  The manipulative narrative of the wrestling media and wrestlers in the business have managed to perpetrate a falsified creed that AEW and WWE are “at war.”  It is interesting to note that this blanket statement hedges the particular element of what both companies are at war with. The common implication is the war of competition, particularly competition for viewership.  And while this narrative carries some validity, it misses the key detail of what this abstractive war revolves around.  It is a waging fight among AEW and WWE fans to try and claim superiority over the other, despite the apparent truth that both sides are failing to expand beyond their niche audiences.  Hence, neither party can credibly claim any form of superiority.  In essence, this religious irrationality to suggest that one company is directly “winning” over the other continues to miss the essential endgame of what winning a war truly looks like.

In the business world, “smart companies” understand and invest in long-term strategies of acknowledging that when they lose small battles, they allow their opposition to enjoy those smaller victories; meanwhile, they do not allow those battle losses to obstruct their long-standing progress.  So contextually, AEW would be wiser to accept that their Friday night edition of Rampage show running head to head with SmackDown lost in overall viewership numbers by approximately 288,000 viewers, despite the fact that not only was SmackDown running on a different network due to Fox coverage of the 2021 American League Championship Series, but that AEW Rampage had actually gained viewership from the previous week by about 15.14%.  Instead, wrestling media continues to propagate that overall viewership is subordinate to what truly matters in this equation, that being the key male 18-49 demographic.  What this discounts is that when one analyzes actual numbers, both shows essentially tied in the target 18-49 demographic at a 0.24.

A strategic business owner obsessed with “winning wars” understands his opposition’s leader and avoids engaging in projecting irrational and petty beliefs in order to stir up his or her army.  Rather, it would be wiser to quietly and cautiously observe the opposition’s decision-making to effectively counter-program and capture the attention of potential consumers.  This does not bode well for Tony Khan when he engages in social media warfare with the opposition to try and stoke a fire that merely exists in a metaphorical fantasy.  All the while, the rival niche audiences partake in nonsensical arguments over which organization “won” a war that has not, does not, and will not exist, despite a genuine hope that professional wrestling will ever reach that level of popularity again worth necessitating a war.

A true and authentic wrestling war in today’s culture should be the fight to reassemble a lost and/or new audience. Per discussion of a lost audience, that insinuates both parties fight for the admiration and trust of disgruntled audiences that have since tuned the product off from their habitual consumption.  Arguably, this can be seen as a lost cause, considering most of these wrestling fans have long since distanced themselves from professional wrestling. However, a business that can successfully earn back that trust of disassociated consumers is a fruitful investment. Catering to loyal and clinging fan bases may be short-term goals, but they are not expansive business strategies.  And based on the weekly viewership numbers, ratings, and key demos for both parties, AEW and WWE continue to cater short-term appeal to their niche audiences instead of investing in long-term strategic outreach to new audiences.  The art of mastery on this level is a war worth fighting for.

Sources:

  • Casey, C. (2021, October 18). Who won Friday night’s ratings battle between WWE smackdown and AEW Rampage? WWE. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://comicbook.com/wwe/news/wwe-smackdown-aew-rampage-oct-15-ratings-war-who-win-tied-demographic-smackdown-wins-audience/.
  • Feloni, R. (2014, August 14). 33 war strategies that will help you win in business. Business Insider. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.businessinsider.com/war-strategies-to-win-in-business-2014-8.
  • Thurston, B. (2021, January 15). Key demo and total audience: What are they and how much do they matter? Wrestlenomics. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://wrestlenomics.com/2020/07/14/key-demo-and-total-audience-what-are-they-and-how-much-do-they-matter/#:~:text=With%20a%20new%20head%2Dto,advertisers%20to%20the%20programs’%20networks.


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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: October 2021

From the Head Of The Table to the Future Head Of The Table, and more, Steve Cook has his Fave Five for October!

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Bron Breakker

From the Head Of The Table to the Future Head Of The Table, and more, Steve Cook has his Fave Five for October!

We’re more than halfway through October, and you know what that means! It’s time to make a list of my five favorite wrestlers! It’s either do this or write about the latest wrestling news, and as fun as it is to talk about television ratings, this seems more productive at the moment.

5. Mercedes Martinez

It’s considered impolite to discuss age. At least it used to be. I’m not sure anything’s considered impolite anymore based off of what I read on the Internet & see on television. People have pitched manners out the window as they’ve become accustomed to not worrying about getting punched in the face. There’s a point I’m trying to get to here, and that point is that it’s nice that women’s wrestling has arrived at a place where I can write about somebody that’s been wrestling about as long as I’ve been an online wrestling journalist, and they’re kicking ass & taking names. Makes me feel a bit less creepy.

Martinez’s return to the indies & emergence in Impact Wrestling has gone well. What Impact is doing with her isn’t exactly rocket science: have Mercedes Martinez destroy everybody in her path to a title shot, and make people believe that whoever the champion will be between Mickie James & Deonna Purrazzo will have a difficult test on their hands. Simple, right? Throw in the incoming debut of the IInspiration, and it’s pretty easy to get excited about the Knockouts Division & where it’s headed.

4. Bron Breakker

Yes, the name is pretty awful. Yes, NXT 2.0 isn’t exactly setting the world on fire after a few weeks. But it’s tough to deny the talent of the son of Rick Steiner. Dude has the physicality & the speaking tone of his father & uncle. Not quite the size of Rick or Scott in later years, but if genetics are any indication he’ll get there. It won’t be long before he’s NXT Champion, heck, I’m kind of surprised he didn’t get drafted to Raw or SmackDown already. He’s got money written all over him.

As for that pesky name issue…names aren’t as big of an issue as we like to think they are. Dolph Ziggler would have been future endeavored years ago if bad names held talent back. You also have to keep in mind that WWE will probably change his name before he gets to the main roster. No need to sweat the small stuff here. This guy will be a star somewhere under some name. Probably for the best the longer he holds off using the Steiner name, given how the wrestling business works.

3. Junior Dos Santos

If you’ve followed mixed martial arts for any length of time, you know that most fighters’ careers don’t end in a blaze of glory. Fighters want to keep fighting, and even if the losses keep stacking up they still think they’re one win away from getting back to the top. Young fighters are looking to make their names, and beating the brakes off of fighters with track records is a good way to do that. At age 37, JDS has entered that phase of his MMA career. He’s lost four straight fights, all via TKO, all to younger fighters looking to make a name. He could keep doing that, or he could move on to something else while his name still has value.

Why not pro wrestling? Granted, I seem to be one of the few people writing words on wrestling websites that actually like AEW’s angle with American Top Team & Dan Lambert, but JDS is the perfect fit for something like this. He’s a large human being, wrestling fans by & large know who he is, and he has the type of athletic ability that should transition well to pro wrestling. He’s lost a few fights, but the people he lost to are doing pretty well in UFC’s heavyweight division. I’m willing to give it a chance. Also, when the inevitable AEW vs. WWE shootfight rumble happens, AEW’s going to need him around.

2. Roman Reigns

It’s like we said years & years ago: Turn Roman Reigns heel and people will start to like him. I don’t know why the idea took so long to enact, but WWE finally turned Roman Reigns heel and people have started liking him. How about that? Amazing how these things happen. Roman’s charisma has become much more apparent in his role as the Tribal Chief, Head of the Table, Big Dog, Island of Relevancy or whatever else they’re calling him this week. The interactions between Roman & Brock Lesnar have made for good television, so good that I think even Patrick O’Dowd is on the Paul Heyman bandwagon these days.

That all being said, I think I’m enjoying his off-screen character more than his on-screen character these days. Reigns has taken the baton from Seth Rollins & become Mr. WWE Defender, and does it in a way that’s less whiny than what Seth used to do. Perhaps a bit delusional, but much more convincing. Who would win in a shootfight between Roman & CM Punk is completely irrelevant, as last I checked none of these people were shooting in WWE or AEW rings, but he managed to make people care about it somehow. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

1. Bryan Danielson

I know we’re supposed to care first & foremost about what company somebody works for these days. So I’m sure there are some of you out there that have decided that the man formerly known as Daniel Bryan has to be washed up and no longer one of the best wrestlers in the world. Or he’s unfairly putting his life on the line outside of the welcoming bosom of WWE. Nah, it’s probably just the easy “B+ player” talking point that most of the same folks went with when Bryan was still with WWE.

Me, I just care about what’s going on in the ring. Whether other people like it or not has never been one of my main problems. As I’ve pointed out before: I don’t get paid by any of these companies, and I don’t get paid by other people to shill for them. All I know is that it’s a joy to have Bryan Danielson back on my television, and his matches have been as good as expected. It really doesn’t take all that much to make me happy, just good wrestlers doing good things.


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