AEW’s MJF has his mind on his money ahead of Grand Slam
Since returning to AEW from his extended absence, MJF has taken up the practice of speaking about himself in the third person. ‘What MJF wants, MJF gets,’ ‘MJF always does what’s best to MJF;’ you know how things thing tends to go.
But why? Is Friedman fully embracing the WWE way of doing things before he flips sides in the “bidding war of 2024?” Or has “The Salt of the Earth” simply lost it? Well, speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, MJF laid it out simply enough: at this point, he’s pretty much going to do whatever he wants. After getting in trouble with AEW PR for speaking with Helwani earlier in the year without clearing it, MJF assured the journalist that that won’t be a problem this time, as transcribed by The Wrestling Observer:
Did PR get a little upset that I didn’t clear it with them? Yes. Does PR now have absolutely no choice but to just salivate at the fact that MJF is leaving his house to do an interview in regards to Arthur Ashe? Yes, because things have changed a little bit,” he said.
The ball’s in my court, pal, that’s what’s changed. What does that mean? Let’s talk now. I’m one of the biggest ratings, not just in AEW but in all of professional wrestling minute for minute. If you don’t believe me, hit up Brandon Thurston, he’s a great guy, puts up a lot of great information.
So why did MJF return to AEW if he clearly doesn’t want to be there? Is this all a work to get angry fans and generate some cheap heat, or has MJF truly decided that getting himself in the headlines as often as possible trumps all, even if it alienates fans across the professional wrestling world?
According to the man himself, the answer is simple: MJF is all about the money, baby.
MJF has a lot to say about his financial ambitions in AEW.
When asked about what Tony Khan had to do to get him back in AEW, MJF provided a surprisingly simple answer, as transcribed by Fightful.
“Money,” MJF told Helwani . “I’m a simple man. I go out there, all I do is win. I’m winning in the ring. I’m winning on the mic. I’m constantly winning. Obviously, I had no problem with how I was being showcased. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was money. I was looking to my left and my right, and I was hearing rumblings about what guys were making when I was two times, three times the draw they were minute-by-minute. I’ve seen the analytics. I went, ‘That doesn’t work for me.’ I’m MJ freakin’ F. Pay up. Not just in AEW. Guys in WWE, guys in IMPACT, guys in Ring of Honor at the time.”
Now granted, MJF was likely making less money than guys in AEW, WWE, ROH, and even Impact, but that has more to do with the contract he initially signed with the promotion when he was a then-unknown Major League Wrestling star. Had MJF come to AEW from WWE like, say, Swerve Strickland, maybe he too would be clearing six figures on the regular, but because his biggest accomplishment at the time was being a member of The Dynasty with Alex Hammerstone and Richard Holliday and was brought in as Cody Rhodes’ friend, he wasn’t exactly drawing big money offers.
Still, when Helwani circled back to the question of why he left and sat at home for three months, MJF remained persistent.
“When I went home, I made it very clear to Tony Khan, ‘Pay up or daddy doesn’t show up.’ Fact. I took my now beautiful Fiance to Greece for two weeks. On the last three days of the trip we went to Venice in Italy. I then went home, and I stayed home. I did not leave my home because I did not one single solitary wrestling fan to see me out in the wild. They don’t deserve to see me unless I’m getting paid to be seen. That’s why the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he does not exist, which is exactly what I did for three straight months. I take what I do very seriously. If you want to see a star, pay to see a star. I stayed in my home. I went to a gym inside of my home. I did not leave my home. The only time I left my home was for those two weeks. I was committed to making sure that, if any wrestling fan wanted to get a taste of MJF, MJF needed to get that money, and I did.”
Will MJF finally be happy when he signs a new contract? Only time will tell, but extensively holding a wrestling promotion hostage until you get your way probably isn’t the best long-term strategy in a business where folks can continue to perform into their 50s, 60s, and, in the case of Ric Flair and Ricky Morton, into their 70s.