AEW: Revolution Redefined Maxwell Jacob Friedman’s Role in AEW

As thousands of raucous fans packed the Chase Center in San Francisco to see All Elite Wrestling continue its Revolution in the sport of professional wrestling, Tony Khan’s AEW presented a sixty-minute affair as its headlining attraction. The match drew the largest gate in AEW Revolution’s history due to the personal nature of the program, spearheaded by its top champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Of course, in addition to MJF’s war with Bryan Danielson, the show featured contests such as Jon Moxley and Adam Page in a violent fight to the Texas death, Saraya’s first AEW Women’s Championship opportunity and, of course, the threat of Danhausen cursing those who didn’t spend their human dollars on the festivities.

One of AEW’s four pillars, MJF has become the company’s biggest homegrown star; a reason they no longer rely on veteran’s such as Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, CM Punk or Jon Moxley to carry the company on their shoulders. He’s one of the most trusted performers in the locker room, but one of the most vilified on-screen. MJF exudes confidence like no other before him, representing everything that everybody hates: an arrogant yet self-aware, conceited, sybaritic grifter with a pleasure for the finer things. However, in the build to this show, the audience had the opportunity to explore more of what makes the devil tick when he shared a story from his formative years, eerily similar to Last Kiss. The story is descriptive, compelling, his vocal variety is in full force, his mannerisms bring everything to life and his delivery comes across authentic. But unlike Eddie Vedder in the Pearl Jam cover, there’s no shred of remorse in his voice because in life ‘there are winners and there are losers.’

It’s that notion that Max Friedman’s lived by in his AEW tenure, finding ways to weasel his way into every major situation and finding even more ways to come out in top when the situations present themselves. It’s his character arc and it’s been one that’s made him the most vilified man in entertainment, sending his stock as a performer through the roof despite only 55 matches in the four years he’s been in AEW.

For the talk of a wrestling prodigy, MJF has delivered. While his sensational pay-per-view contests with Jack Perry and Jon Moxley in 2020 and Darby Allin in 2021 immediately spring to mind, it’s the wisdom beyond his years conflated with his commanding presence that makes him jump off the screen and become larger than life. Yet, prior to Revolution, there were still doubts regarding the totality of the package MJF provides in the ring and whether or not he could deliver as the main headliner when the lights were their absolute brightest. It’s in similar vein to Randy Orton when Randy was wrestling’s big prodigy at 26 years old, and much like WWE’s Apex Predator, MJF needed the one major performance that solidified him as the main event despite being positioned in the role as World Heavyweight Champion.

In fact, that was a major part of the story that played out on television when MJF wasn’t incredulously trying to get into Danielson’s head. The longest match of MJF’s career to that point had been his Dynamite battle with CM Punk that went approximately 38 minutes. Danielson has made a career on drawn-out, layered marathons and questioned MJF’s ability as a match progresses.

With that, he walked into AEW’s first pay-per-view of 2023 with a purpose and left a different performer altogether. He went one hour with The American Dragon, a performer that’s re-conceptualized what professional is and can be for the better part of two decades all over the globe. He locked up with not only one of the best bell-to-bell scientific wrestlers in the world, but arguably the best conditioned athlete in the industry, and MJF went blow-for-blow for over an hour. MJF’s work smarter not harder mindset was put into question because despite the low blow that scored him to consecutive falls to tie the score, MJF dug deep into the playbook throughout, highlighting his athletic prowess as well as his psychological, strategic prowess.

Through an hour of bending, and at times inherently breaking, the rules, MJF added nuance to his in-ring style at the pinnacle of AEW. Not only did they go an hour, they put together a match that was nothing but action for the full hour. Needless hammerlocks that feel out of place to kill time? Absent. Wasted movement following the initial feeling out process? Nonexistent. Investment level emotionally? High.

It was a match with classic MJF peppered in throughout, but it was also a match where MJF was more physical than ever, highlighted by the tombstone through the table. He targeted Danielson’s historically compromised head and neck, playing into the CTE factor he’d mentioned leading up to the show. He worked the audience to a tee early, specifically pouring water on a little kid, but cut out the sideshow aspect the moment he felt challenged. With the wrinkle of referee Bryce Remsburg taking the the Dynamite Diamond Ring off of his finger, MJF had to get far more creative in his path to victory. The way he did it? A clean, classic wrestling maneuver: Bryan Danielson’s LaBelle lock. Not only did he beat the best wrestler in the world, he made him give up in a rather colorful war of attrition to his own hold, silencing every critique given to MJF on the road to Revolution both on-and-off television.

From a non-kayfabe perspective? MJF made over an hour of professional wrestling feel fresh and riveting for every single second between the bells. It was a robust combination of athleticism, fundamentals, psychology and a subtlety layered storytelling that combined the personal animosity of the character’s with an old-school painting of professional wrestling’s art form onto the canvas in a very much modern style.

In MJF’s biggest test to date, he shattered business records in the state for a promotion still somewhat reeling from the drama that surrounded 2022’s All Out extravaganza, delivered what may be the best match in the promotion to date under arduous circumstances and ultimately proved that he is, in fact, better than you.

For MJF, his character is now opened up to the possibilities of longer encounters. MJF has more ways to win and his character has proven that because of his makeup both physically and mentally, he can step up to any challenge on his own. He’s established not only as their top villain, but their best and most believable in-ring competitor through his match with Danielson, a credit to Danielson for completing the job he was supposed to do in the biggest way imaginable.

The Salt of the Earth has officially arrived and he’s AEW’s most important piece ahead of what MJF wants you to believe is an impending 2024 bidding war. As he seemingly gears up for a program with ‘Hangman’ Adam Page, who was victorious in his bludgeoning battle with the man MJF defeated to become World Champion at Revolution, it’ll be fascinating to see how MJF’s story evolves in the fallout of Revolution and if his character becomes more physical as time progresses. All of that being said, the standard of match quality for MJF as a headliner has been set and the ceiling is extraordinarily high.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheJameus

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