Was MJF Right?

Maxwell Jacob Friedman is miscast in All Elite Wrestling.

Last week on Dynamite, a show that garnered a still sluggish 688,000 viewers, which is only a slight increase from the previous week, he turned heel on Daniel Garcia. After initially offering Garcia a match for Wembley Stadium, MJF took out the youngster with a vicious attack, implying that this is either a build for the eventual match in London or it will be used to get heat for an potential showdown with Will Ospreay. It doesn’t look like the British grappler will be in the main event picture at All In so a title bout, albeit for a superficial championship, against MJF at the pay-per-view is still a featured spot on the card. There was some speculation that Garcia’s contract status was in question, with some rumors claiming that he already inked a new deal, and other chatter that he might let his current contract expire. This isn’t to say that Garcia doesn’t have talent, but on the surface, it’s doubtful that he showed enough, or even had the opportunity to show enough in AEW to realistically expect an offer from WWE so at least for right now, it would probably make sense for him to stay on the All Elite roster.

After the attack on Wednesday, an appearance from MJF was advertised for Collision, seemingly in an effort to give the Saturday broadcast a boost. As I’ve said before, Collision was more or less labeled as skippable after CM Punk left the company, because too often there wasn’t anything of substance that happened on the show. In fact, a viewer could watch just Dynamite and not actual miss anything important to the product so Collision doesn’t have the same priority to AEW viewers. As egotistical as Punk’s mission to run Saturdays was, at least the audience knew that if they wanted to see CM Punk wrestle, they would have to tune into Collision.

While the MJF promo on the Saturday show didn’t have any key information about the next portion of the storyline, it revealed just how miscast Friedman is in the company. Furthermore, it shed some light on the ceiling that the organization probably has going forward, a vanity project that will have its moments with great matches, but nothing truly competitive or an entity that will further impact the direction of the industry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that there are options in the business, both for wrestlers and fans, but the notion that All Elite isn’t Tony Khan’s E-fed fandom in real life is tough to dispute. Hey, if more wrestlers can make a good living in the business then you can’t blame them for taking the money that’s offered. More specifically, as I’ve had to say on a regular basis to go along with the criticism of the All Elite Wrestling product, by all accounts Tony Khan is a very nice guy that genuinely cares about his roster. That legitimately is wonderful, but just because Tony is a great guy, that doesn’t qualify him to go from booking on the internet to booking for national television. Let’s be honest here, the only reason Tony is the booker of the second largest promotion in the United States is because he’s from a billionaire family.

Make no mistake about it, Tony has a passion for the sport, but again, that doesn’t automatically mean that he can successfully run a national organization. The content of MJF’s promo not only reflected, but almost reinforced that.

Friedman started his promo by replaying a clip from a prior episode og television where he retold a story about when he was a kid in school and the other kids threw quarters at him because he was Jewish. Obviously, any form of antisemitism is completely and totally wrong. There’s no place for it in society, and anyone that is prejudice in any form isn’t worth the hassle to recognize their ignorance. How does retelling that story, or in this case, replaying the clip get MJF any heat? He’s right, and it’s a total clash with the ultimate scumbag persona that he’s supposedly trying to portray on TV. Anyone that is a victim of antisemitism is a sympathetic figure so including the real-life prejudice doesn’t help his status as a heel. Furthermore, MJF claimed that his villainous ways were proven right because when he was trusting of Adam Cole, he was stabbed in the back. Again, the heel is correct in this scenario so why would there be heat for anything that he does after the Cole heel turn? Technically, Friedman would be justified with his actions because he can’t trust anyone in the company anyway.

Finally, and this is what really showed the ceiling that AEW as an organization has in the future. In a effort to sound like he was “going too far” again, Friedman mentioned that Will Ospreay was brought into AEW to have good matches, not sell tickets. Once again, the heel is right so where’s the heat? Will Ospreay has been scheduled for some of those sparsely-attended events so MJF has a point. After that, MJF name-dropped Dave Meltzer, explaining that Ospreay is there for the newsletter star ratings, while Friedman is there for the television ratings. Again, when you take into account that the 10-week average has seen a significant decrease in the numbers, the heel has a point. Prior to this latest ratings slump, it was thought that 800,000 viewers was the core AEW television audience, but over the course of the past two months, the ratings have often dropped below 700,000 viewers, which is an indication that there was a steady decline in viewership. When you compare the current numbers to the ratings when CM Punk usually bought about a million viewers to the show, there was a 30% decline in the TV audience in the past two years. That’s not to say that All Elite is doomed, but rather to point out that the dazzling spot fest on a weekly basis only caters to a niche audience.

This isn’t even meant as a knock on Meltzer, as bias as he might be toward All Elite, he found a niche audience and has made a living from the pro wrestling business for the past 40 years. From a historical perspective, he’s probably still the best resource for the industry. However, The Wrestling Observer by nature is a niche publication, it was never meant for casual fans so the vast majority of the TBS audience probably had no idea what the reference was when MJF mentioned him on Dynamite.

If the intention of the scripting of the promo was to lean into the criticism of the product and thus make the critics of AEW the heel by proxy, it was a misguided attempt, simply because what MJF said was true. There was a slip in the ratings, regardless of the fact that Tony Khan offered major cash to sign some of the wrestlers that Meltzer often praises in his newsletter. Khan has said himself that he’s a diehard fan and that he subscribed to The Wrestling Observer for years. As I’ve said before, unless The Observer “booker of the year” award has a cash prize with it then it’s moot in terms of a national pro wrestling company. I think it’s fair to see that too often Tony books for the niche newsletter demographic, but that doesn’t serve the television audience, which is the entire point of getting the show on TBS in the first place. If Tony just wanted to book “dream matches,” he could’ve ran independent shows for a lot less money then what his family spent on AEW.

As far as MJF, it looks like he’s going back to the previous “shock jock” troupes, which are cheap heat tactics that try to be camouflaged as edgy. If he has to resort to references to suicide or CTE again, it will prove that he’s not quite the heel that some might thought he could be for AEW. If he thinks pushing fans in the crowd is pushing the envelope, it will be a rude awakening when some local yokel decides to throw a punch or someone realizes that Tony Khan is from a billionaire family so they could get a quick payoff from a lawsuit. For nearly the past five years, we’ve heard about how MJF is the future of the business, but after his botched title reign with the silly Adam Cole storyline and the disappointment of the reveal last year, has All Elite fully utilized his talent? A retread of the same tired cliches in promos isn’t going to rejuvenate Friedman’s status in the company so it will be interesting to see if he makes any progress for this run in the company.

Still, it’s difficult for the heel to get heat if they tell the truth, and MJF told the truth about the AEW product.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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