MJF is the current AEW World Heavyweight Champion, and on May 28 at Double or Nothing, the young star will put his title on the line in a Four Pillars match against “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, Darby Allin, and Sammy Guevara. While Friedman has played the antagonist going into the main event, along with “best friend” Guevara, he is still routinely cheered by the crowd and sells a lot of merchandise.
Friendman’s likeability is a bit of a double-edged sword for Tony Khan and AEW. While his charisma and star power routinely lead to bumps in quarter-hour ratings, it can be difficult to get fans to cheer babyfaces against the cool heel. Earlier this week, I spoke with Conrad Thompson for a Haus of Wrestling episode on Premier Streaming Network, now also available on the Haus of Wrestling podcast feed, about Friedman’s work as All Elite’s top bad guy.
“He is a one-man NWO,” Thompson said. “MJF is a one-man NWO. Ask Eric Bischoff, it’s possible for him to do this, Sting did it. But remember, the NWO became the first cool heels. They were the first heels that would tell you, ‘We’re bad guys, we’re wearing black hats. We’re gonna tell you we’re bad guys, we’re gonna do bad stuff, and we’re gonna be cool doing it.’
“People just gravitated to it, and it became a huge sensation. But they kept Sting cool, and they built it for like 18 months, and then, maybe they could have finished it a little differently, but still, it’s possible. They could have one really cool babyface.”
When it comes to who could be that cool babyface for fans to rally around, and cheer more than Friedman, like Sting did for the NWO, Thompson didn’t hesitate.
“I gotta think you could do it again, with Punk and MJF,” he stated. “The reality is if he does get through Vegas, and he’s still the champ, and we’ve got the United Center, as you think, for the new show. Man, is that not a great way to kick off the new show? We’re going right to Max vs. Punk. That’s a home run.”
One feud that we likely won’t see CM Punk engaged in when he returns, is one involving The Elite. As things stand, it does not appear Punk has been able to make amends with The Young Bucks or Kenny Omega, thus removing the potential for them to work together.
“I’ll tell you this, I know that you’re saying there are some real things that they can’t overcome, and I’ll have to take your word for it because I’ve never seen those in all my life and business,” he lamented. “As a 40, almost 42-year-old man, my mortal enemies, I’ve been able to find some sort of common ground, and come around and figure it out.
“And I think that they will too here but I just got to think, we got to take the real-life stuff and make it a story. It’s right there. And it’s what fans want. And it would do Gangbuster business and have everybody talking about it. Sometimes we don’t need to overthink this, we should just do it at some point.”
If you use any quotes from the article please give a h/t to Haus of Wrestling for the transcription and link back