To me, it’s clear that MJF is the absolute best heel in pro wrestling.
Before I really watched his work, I initially thought that Maxwell Jacob Friedman was some kind of variation of the EC3 character from TNA. Now in retrospect, that was a stupid comparison because MJF is leaps and bounds more talented than EC3 ever was or ever will be. MJF is a heel that loves being a heel.
Legendary Promo Skills
His excellent promo work is where MJF really makes his mark. It has been so long since I’ve seen a heel that can hilariously insult the live audience to this level. He and others have compared his unique mic skills to the some of the all-time greats. Ric Flair has stated that MJF reminds him of himself, which is the ultimate compliment.
He channels Roddy Piper more than anyone because he has absolutely no fear when he’s in front of fans in the ring. He’ll insult anyone or any city as a whole or any sports team. Nobody is safe. It does help that TBS and TNT have been willing to allow various swear words onto the AEW shows. So throwing in a variation of shit or godamn or bitch does help get some zingers across more than usual.
Great Heels Like Heat
Even if the swear words were not allowed as much (as most wrestlers have been handcuffed with censoring themselves in the past), he would still get over as a heel more than anyone else in AEW. He just has a knack for needling at people that others will never have. Obviously he’s worked on honing his talking skills but it also seems very natural. He rarely ever stumbles over his words. It’s a real joy to watch him get massive heat.
Maxwell has the look and charisma of a star. Like he says, he’s better than you and you know it. He is just so cocky and brazen; it’s refreshing. With all of the wrestlers who focus on taking high-risks moves and being more like stunt men, it’s so nice to see a performer who prides himself on having a silver tongue. He wants you to hate him and he accomplishes that with ease.
I mentioned this in my column last week, but his in-ring work stands out also. It attracts eyeballs because it is focused more on doing the basics really well instead of multiple dives and flips.
Wardlow is an emerging player for AEW as an athletic big man. He owes a lot of his ascension to MJF because he’s been paired with him since his debut in 2019. Now he’s turned into a babyface badass that is over with the crowds.
It is a “former bodyguard who is now his employer’s enemy” type of angle but it works. It has been done correctly. Long-term story telling that is going to pay off. Imagine that.
It’s very cool to see MJF embrace his Jewish culture with his on-screen character also. When wrestling personalities end up being an amplified version of the real person, that’s when it all can really click for the audience. So MJF being willing to flaunt his heritage without apology makes him come across as even more genuine than otherwise. It’s another instance where he basically is saying to all of us, ”And What?!”.
MJF Vs CM Punk
His feud with CM Punk is the best program AEW has ever done. I suspect that most of that is due to Punk and MJF deciding what to do and which buttons to push with the audience. It’s a safe bet that Tony Khan was mostly hands off here because his influence was not felt much at all.
The insults thrown back and forth between CM Punk and MJF were priceless. The real life story of MJF meeting Punk as a kid being included added a nice layer. MJF going after Punk for quitting the business was something that resonated with the fans too.
The only complaint I had with their feud was that there were a couple times where their talking segments went a little long. Other than that, it was nearly flawless. Their interactions were captivating. It all epitomized what pro wrestling should be.
It is a crazy phenomenon when MJF shows up in his home area of Long Island. They absolutely treat him like royalty. It’s the only place so far where he’s been cheered instead of the usual boos. It will be curious to see if this mega-heel gets the same reaction on May 11th when AEW shoots Dynamite there for the second time.
He referenced in an interview recently how it’s similar to how Piper was treated in Portland and Flair in the Carolinas and Bret Hart in Canada. While he’s not nearly as accomplished as those legends, the fact that he has the balls to make those comparisons is admirable. It also shows that he knows his wrestling history.
MJF to WWE?
The upcoming WWE Vs AEW bidding war for his services is going to be a thing. He’s already been mentioning it on AEW TV and in media interviews. Look, he’s only 26 years old. MJF is so far ahead of most younger wrestlers, it’s silly at this point. I don’t like the idea of a ”PG MJF” in WWE but he would undoubtedly excel there also.
The work that MJF has done in AEW, especially recently, is one of the main reasons that I watch their shows. I fast forward through some of the other segments that are put on Dynamite or Rampage. I never fast forward the MJF stuff. He’s that good and he stands out from everyone. MJF is the best heel in pro wrestling right now.