When news broke that AEW was heading back to New York City for another running of Grand Slam, the promotion's yearly show at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens, fans wondered how MJF, a native New Yorker who famously calls Long Island home, would handle the situation as the AEW World Champion.
Would he largely keep to himself, filming vignettes and kissing babies around LI? Or would he embrace his newfound babyface-ness to go on a full-on media promotional tour in order to get a few more eyeballs on – and a few more tickets sold for – one of AEW's signature shows of the year?
Well, as it turns out, the man born Maxwell Friedman decided to embrace his spot at the top of the company and hit the media circuit hard, making fun of Chase Utley and the Philadelphia Phanatic in an appearance at a New York Mets game, and stopping by CBS New York to talk all things AEW Grand Slam and his spot as the promotion's champion.
While MJF didn't get too into the finer details of professional wrestling, as the show's hosts admittedly weren't subscribers to The Wrestling Observer, they did ask about the “Salt of the Earth's” signature attitude and how he's been attempting to turn over a new leaf as of late. To MJF's credit, he was willing to take on the question and even christened a new moniker in the process.
“I think I’m salt of the earth, personally,” MJF said on CBS New York. “Here’s the deal: For the longest time, I was a bit of a jerk, but now I’m ‘The People’s Jerk.' People are starting to enjoy the fact that I’m honest – some might say to a fault. But I think people like authenticity, and that’s what MJF brings to the table.”
Is MJF correct? Has he become “The People's Jerk” in the same way that one of his clear influences, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, was “The People's Champion?” Well, considering how fans have reacted to MJF as of late, it's safe to say fans have embraced their champion, warts and all.
Samoa Joe reflects on his main event feud with MJF.
Speaking of Samoa Joe, the “Samoan Submission Machine” stopped by the New York Post to discuss his match with MJF and just how excited he is to be back in the World Championship conversation.
While Joe admits it's unusual to get to this point again at this stage of his career, he's embracing the moment.
“It’s unusual. I think when you look at the breadth of my career, to me I’m never surprised,” Samoa Joe told the NY Post. “This is what you set out to do. These are the expectations I put on myself. I’ve been counted out. I think I’m on my third one now, legitimately as far as it’s done, over with. As long as we keep moving forward, keep finding ways to entertain fans, I’ll be out here doing my thing with the same expectations. Not surprised at all we are where we are.”
Asked if he remembers the moment when he pushed MJF all those years ago, Joe admitted that he did and was incredibly down to embrace the moment when AEW wanted to use it as fuel for his match at Arthur Ashe.
“I don’t think we necessarily had to get to it through that meme or avenue because I think he’s a very talented individual, much like myself. I think we have an innate ability to go out and pick a fight no matter what the circumstances are. It obviously was something that stuck out in a lot of peoples’ minds. I knew for a lot of people it was a funny iconic moment. Why fight the flow?” Joe noted.
” I always feel like if you’re gonna take up screen time at least be somewhat interesting. We were walking down the hallway. He was maybe doing too good of a job trying to clear things out. I put him up into the wall. I think after everyone kind of took a look at it and had a hilarious chuckle and it ended up sticking around and staying.
“I think it was close to live where we had a little bit of a delay because we were running (video) packages and stuff like that. By the time it got to the truck it was gonna be broadcast pretty shortly afterward, and they were all about it.”
So, with a match with MJF set for Grand Slam, how does Joe feel about the prospects of testing the “Salt of the Earth?” According to Joe, this match should serve as an important test in the young man's career.
“I think he’s at a point in his career now where he needs to find out how he stacks up against the most terrifying and most inopportune situations, and I think I present that to him. We’ll see how he does.”
In a few short hours, all professional wrestling fans will find out, too; for MJF's sake, let's hope he's been working on his submission maneuvers, as Joe has a thick neck and incredible strength that has made him a champion 24 times over.