Why MJF Works

Maxwell Jacob Friedman is one of the most renowned heels in wrestling. This is a remarkable accomplishment given he is 24 years old and has only been on national TV since last October. So, what is it about MJF that makes him so successful? How does a guy in a Burberry scarf generate this much heel heat since the Four Horsemen?

I’d argue it’s because MJF does a perfect job of blending fiction with reality. With the rise of social media, the concept of “kayfabe” has become increasingly difficult to maintain. MJF seems to have no trouble convincing people that he’s just as arrogant and annoying in real life as he is on TV. This is the result of both his commitment to the role, as well as his crafting of a character that gets to the very root of what we hate in people. 

Credit: AEW

Real Heel Heat

Much of MJF’s character has been inspired by the real life bullying he faced as a child. Last year on a segment of Undesirable to Undeniable on AEW Dark, MJF opened up to Cody on his experience with bullies. He told his then-best friend about how he was bullied by his childhood football team for being Jewish.

“There were no other Jewish kids on my football team, so it was an adjustment for me because the kids didn’t exactly love the fact that there was a Jewish kid taking their spot. So when I had the first day of practice, I beat out the other kids who had been playing a little bit longer than me for the middle linebacker spot, and I remember next week, [REDACTED] and his band of d**chebags walked up to me, and they said “Hey Jewboy,” and they threw rolls of quarters at me, and told me to pick it up. I was pretty floored, and it messed me up pretty bad. I remember going home and just, bawling my eyes out.”

He ended his story in typical MJF fashion, saying: 

“And now I can proudly say that [REDACTED] is a drug addict, he’s dropped out of college, and I’m famous.” 

Part of what makes his character so unlikable is the fact that he’s drawn from his real life experiences. MJF is a caricature of the bullies that Maxwell faced in real life as a child. He’s a very recognizable figure, and one that people find it easy to root against.

MJF betrays Cody Rhodes
Credit: AEW/Scott Lesh

Best Bros Turned Foes

It’s not enough to just be a posh, self-absorbed prick to get heel heat, though. Heels need to give the audience a reason to feel angry, not just annoyed. This is where his feud with Cody comes in. Their feud was built for nearly a year before it even officially started, with MJF acting two-faced on Being the Elite, and dropping hints that one day he’d turn on his so-called best friend. Of course, being the absolutely horrible person he is, MJF chose the most dire moment to make his true self known, as he sabotaged Cody’s chances of winning the AEW Championship from Jericho and effectively barred him from ever challenging for the title again. Such a drastic, dastardly act of betrayal is bound to get a heel a lot of heat. But to betray Cody, the golden boy of AEW, sent MJF to a point of no return.

MJF 2020

Recently, MJF has shifted his gimmick to become a politician. In America’s current climate, I can think of no figure or occupancy more despised than politicians, regardless of someone’s political affiliation. It makes perfect sense for MJF to embody the typical rich, snarky, and arrogant political candidate. If a heel’s job is to make people look forward to seeing them get their comeuppance, then MJF is doing a fantastic job with his current politician gimmick. 

MJF and Jon Moxley
Credit: AEW

What’s Next?

MJF’s attack on Moxley on the Dynamite before All Out, as well as the brutality in their PPV match, shows a new aspect of MJF emerging. The posh, snarky, rich boy facade is beginning to crack, while the unhinged anger inside MJF is beginning to boil over. This is an amazing contrast that I hope AEW explores more in the coming weeks. We’ve seen MJF at his highs– from defeating Hangman for the Dynamite Diamond, to defeating Cody at Revolution– now I think it’s time we see MJF at a low. Much like characters in novels, the best way to see a wrestler at their strongest is to see them at their breaking point. We’ve seen hints of the brutality that hides behind MJF’s Burberry scarf through his bloody beating of Moxley before their match at All Out. Now that he’s embarassed himself by tainting his perfect record in a huge loss to Jon Moxley for the AEW Championship at All Out, it’s time for MJF to show AEW exactly how savage he can be.

Again, MJF is only 24 years old. He has decades of wrestling ahead of him. If you ask me, the best of the Salt of the Earth is yet to come.