FROM THE DESK OF … [April 2022 PWI; A Plea To MJF]
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.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated