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Full spread (dual cover) of April 2022 PWI

FROM THE DESK OF … [April 2022 PWI; A Plea To MJF]

Full spread (dual cover) of April 2022 PWI
Back/front cover of PWI April 2022 issue

TEMPTING AS IT is to use this space to reminisce about 2021, that’s not what I’m going to do here. At the risk of seeming biased, I’ve instead got some things I’d like to say about Maxwell Jacob Friedman.

This year, MJF took home PWI’s notorious Most Hated Wrestler of the Year Award in what amounted to a landslide. He received more votes for Most Hated than any winner in any other category. He’s ably played his job as a villain, although he’s crossed a few lines that some of us wished he wouldn’t have. (That comment about Melanie Pillman? C’mon, Max.)

Friedman has made a choice to be detestable, and it’s mostly working out. As much as he claims to be “Salt Of The Earth,” he’s been pretty much untouchable in AEW. And, when I say “untouchable,” I mean that literally. Over the last 12 months or so, MJF has talked a much bigger game than he’s played, leaning heavily on his cohorts in The Pinnacle or, just as often, choosing not to compete at all.

And I get it. After all, it’s pretty easy to boast a high win-loss percentage when you take most weeks off from competition.

At press time, MJF has wrestled about a dozen-and-a-half times in 2021. Compare that with 2019, when he signed with AEW—and wrestled 84 matches. Sure, it’s important not to burn yourself out, but Friedman enjoys a relatively light schedule compared to the other “Pillars Of AEW.” For instance, Jungle Boy has wrestled 52 matches in 2021, as of this writing.

It’s certainly not because MJF can’t go. He’s in incredible shape; has remarkable stamina. He’s proven that he’s a great mat wrestler, showcasing technical ability that rivals his ego. His talents between matches—his vicious promos, his singing voice—are proof positive that he’s not only gifted, but willing to put in the work. And yet … he trades verbal insults far more than holds.

Deep down, I’m convinced MJF doubts his own merit. Though he appears confident, he’s taken shortcut after shortcut to win matches, and he’s made opponents, like Chris Jericho, jump through hoops merely for the chance to punch him in the mouth.

And that mouth. Whew! There’s no denying MJF has a unique ability to talk fans into seats, and foes into encounters they may not be quite ready for. The guy, for all his faults, has “Future World Champion” written all over him. But he’s not going to get there unless he allows himself to be vulnerable—to take the chance that he might actually get his butt kicked more often.

Max, if you happen to read this—and I have a feeling you might—please realize you won’t get where you want to be by coasting. Get out there and wrestle. Wrestle at least half as much as you talk. And rely on your actual abilities inside the ring. Because, at the end of the day, you’re good enough to be the star you already say you are. But, first, you need to get out of your own way.

Kevin McElvaney

Pro Wrestling Illustrated



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PWI Women’s 150 – Top 5 Revealed

2021 PWI Women’s 150 – The Top 5 Revealed!

As revealed by PWI Contributing Writer Kristen Ashly on the latest episode of Renee Paquette’s Oral Sessions, WWE superstar Bianca Belair is the #1 ranked wrestler in this year’s PWI “Women’s 150.”

The January 2022 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustratedavailable now for preorder—includes this year’s ranking in its entirety, plus special coverage of NWA EmPowerrr, Ring of Honor’s Quest for Gold tournament, and Ashly’s extensive “Hotseat” interview with Paquette.

Belair, who memorably main-evented this year’s WrestleMania against Sasha Banks, tops the list on the strength of that victory, her victory in the 2021 Royal Rumble match, and her prominent position on WWE Smackdown—along with a string of high-quality championship defenses and a remarkable win-loss record. Heading into her world title loss to Becky Lynch at SummerSlam, Belair had not lost a singles match since last December.

The number-two ranked wrestler, Utami Hayashishita, is a former runner-up for PWI’s Rookie of the Year award (2019). The reigning World of Stardom champion at the time of this writing, she is the highest-ranked representative of a Japanese promotion in the history of our annual women’s ranking.

Since its inception in 1979, Pro Wrestling Illustrated has been considered the world’s #1 professional wrestling magazine. And, 40 years on, we pride ourselves on covering wrestling as both sport and art form. Our annual women’s wrestling ranking, which is released each year after our much-discussed PWI “500” list, began in 2008 as the “Female 50.” As women began to take on a more prominent role in North American wrestling, the list expanded to become the “Women’s 100” in 2018.

The “Women’s 150,” which focuses primarily on the in-ring success of wrestlers competing in women’s divisions and promotions, is based on the evaluation period beginning October 1, 2020, and ending September 30, 2021. In order to qualify for the list, wrestlers must have competed in at least 10 matches or, if less than 10 matches, in six bouts in six separate months during the evaluation period.

Criteria for the “Women’s 150” list included:

  • In-Ring Achievement (championships, tournaments, win-loss record)
  • Influence (in one’s home promotion and the industry at large)
  • Technical Ability
  • Breadth and Quality of Competition
  • Activity

For posterity, here are the top five wrestlers ranked in this year’s “150” issue:

  1. Bianca Belair
  2. Utami Hayashishita
  3. Deonna Purrazzo
  4. Britt Baker
  5. Thunder Rosa

CLICK HERE to preorder the print edition of our January 2022 “Women In Wrestling” issue, which contains the “Women’s 150” list in its entirety. It ships out to subscribers soon, followed by internet preorder customers. The magazine will be available on newsstands beginning November 9, 2021.