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Since its inception last year, AEW has been a company that relies on records and statistics. It’s an analytical approach to wrestling that has made Tony Khan’s promotion stand out against WWE, whose booking often feels directionless and without much, if any, continuity.
But even AEW finds itself falling into the same traps as WWE sometimes. The rise of MJF is a good example.
MJF is set to challenge Jon Moxley at the All Out pay-per-view next month. MJF is a future star, there’s no doubt, but AEW has done little to get him ready for a main-event push and even less to get him on the road for a world title match. Again, in a company where wins and losses matter, and where there are rankings and supposedly a strict system to determine who gets title shots and who doesn’t, MJF’s record just doesn’t seem worthy of a world title match.
Sure, he hasn’t been pinned or submitted, but who has he faced?
Since March, MJF’s singles victories on AEW television include wins over Lee Johnson, Marko Stunt, Jungle Boy, Billy Gunn ,and Griff Garrison. That’s worthy of a top-five ranking and an AEW World Title match?
MJF beat Cody at AEW Revolution this past February and he beat Adam Page on an episode of Dynamite last November, but those two huge victories feel like ages ago.
From a talent standpoint, MJF may very well be ready for this spot. That’s not the argument. The point is that AEW should have done more on television to get MJF ready for this spot. All Out is one of AEW’s two big pay-per-views, and it might be their biggest on the calendar. MJF needed to get wins over some more prominent members of the roster in order to feel like he’s in a proper position as the no. 1 challenger to the AEW World Title.
Perhaps a more recent win over Adam Page, who is currently in a tag team anyway. He could have beaten Cody again, if they worked a non-title match, or even Dustin Rhodes, Luchasaurus, Matt Hardy, Pentagon, or Fenix. Anyone who has been positioned in a higher spot on the card, but AEW didn’t do that.
Squash matches over a couple of no-names and wins over Billy Gunn, Mark Stunt, and Jungle Boy hardly feels like the road to a world title match.
The apparent lack of planning is surprising considering AEW’s usually strict and sturdy booking. It feels like this match was booked out of nowhere, and maybe it was.
There are really only three scenarios:
(1) AEW didn’t plan on booking MJF in the main event, so they never had him on a road to get to a world title match by September.
(2) AEW always planned on using MJF in this main event, and just neglected to put him on a better path to a world title match.
(3) AEW thinks they did everything right.
Again, this isn’t an argument over whether or not MJF “deserves” the spot in the main event at All Out. He’s a great talent, and he deserves to be in the match based on that talent. The problem is that AEW didn’t do enough to put him on that world championship path. His singles victories are just nowhere near big enough to be deserving of a world title match.
WWE will start and stop storylines without any reason or explanation. WWE pushes guys out of the blue (hello, Dolph Ziggler). Now we’re seeing these same troubling trends in some of AEW’s booking. Allie dropped the Bunny character and joined QT Marshall without any explanation. Brandi Rhodes has flipped between heel and babyface more times than Big Show. Now it feels like AEW is booking on the fly, shoving MJF into an AEW World Title match without getting him there on television.
Just because WWE does it, doesn’t make it right. Just because WWE does it, doesn’t make it okay.
(Mike McMahon hosts the PWTorch Dailycast’s Thursday program, “All Elite Aftershow,” with cohost Andrew Soucek. Search “pwtorch” on your podcast app to subscribe. Mike has been a PWTorch contributor for years, including covering Impact Wrestling on a weekly basis for many years.)