MJF has become one of the most intriguing characters in AEW. Here’s a look at the steps the promotion could take to further his booking in the coming months.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman, the former WWE Tough Enough candidate has made quite the splash in All Elite Wrestling. He is the reason Cody can’t challenge for the AEW World title, throwing in the towel in the American Nightmare’s match with Le Champion. And then betrayed the grandson of a plumber, setting up a feud that has helped cement him as a bright star in the young promotion.
He has already won the Dynamite Diamond Ring, a mostly ceremonial but impressive feat all the same, and has emerged a regular challenger for the TNT and AEW world titles.
Now, after Full Gear, we see MJF has made his way into the Inner Circle; Chris Jericho’s faction of elite wrestlers. Channeling his inner Eddie Guerrero to pull a cheap win against the former world champion and even drawing admiration from Jericho for the move.
But what now for the 24 year old? Where to next for the unlikely pairing of MJF and Y2J? And can their hulking henchman learn to co-exist?
Tag Team aspirations
With Jericho and his cronies by his side, surely the first thing MJF will look to do is capture his first strap in the promotion. With the TNT title currently occupied in a war with Brian Cage and Ricky Starks going after Darby Allin, and the AEW World title on its way to the waistline of a certain cleaner, the straps that make sense to go for are the tag titles.
The teaming of Jericho and Friedman could prove to be a formidable team in an already stacked division. Before going for gold they should show their ability as a pair, teaming against teams like Jungle Express and Best Friends will give the perfect opportunity to build an impressive win-loss record. They can lie, cheat and steal their way to the top, and when the going gets tough, have Wardlow and Hager deal with their problems as they come.
The Young Bucks should successfully defeat FTR to retain the tag titles. After their match they should declare that in order to prove The Young Bucks are the best tag team of all time, they will defend the belts each week via an open challenge.
In the first week, MJF and Jericho appear to answer the challenge, coming out with their Inner Circle pals, during the walk out however, Wardlow and Hager appear to continue a disagreement , as tensions get physical MJF and Jericho turn their attention to cooling down the big men. In the rising problems, Santana and Ortiz proceed to answer the challenge and take on The Young Bucks, much to infuriation of Jericho and Friedman.
The match continues and LAX even come close to winning the belts, but the Bucks manage to overcome them and retain their belts. They cut a promo afterwards and proclaim that Jericho and MJF could never successfully challenge them for the belts for they aren’t a team.
The next week, Wardlow defeats Hager, when the match is over and the rest of the Inner Circle come into the ring, FTR emerge and cut a promo about how the Inner Circle is making a mockery of tag team wrestling and challenge MJF and Jericho to a match next week in order to show them what tag team wrestling is. Jericho explains that they have their match next week with the Bucks (overlooking their match with Ortiz and Santana on the night) and have no intention of facing FTR until they are champions. Instead, MJF inserts himself into the equation and offers the team of Wardlow and Jake Hager to face them next week. FTR accept and Wardlow and Hager argue with MJF.
Later on in the night when Jericho and MJF are facing Santana and Ortiz, the more experienced tag team dominate the match and show the true inexperience of Jericho and Friedman. The end of the match comes when MJF baits Sammy Guevara who is ringside into hitting him, causing a DQ win for them against Ortiz and Santana and granting them the opportunity against The Young Bucks for the next week.
Wardlow and Hager defeat FTR shockingly and MJF uses the Dynamite Diamond Ring to get the 1-2-3 and win the tag titles for the Inner Circle leaders. After the match, Ortiz and Santana ask Jericho to do the right thing and offer them the title match they would have got if Sammy hadn’t attacked MJF. Before Jericho can dignify them with an answer MJF denies them the opportunity.
Keeping the gold in the Inner Circle
After picking up wins in defenses against The Natural Nightmares, MJF and Jericho continue to dream of singles titles, with MJF and Jericho both taking on AEW world champion Kenny Omega unsuccessfully whilst holding the tag belts. Thanks to help from Wardlow, Sammy Guevara wins a multi man ladder match for the right to challenge Darby Allin for the TNT title. During his title match, botched interference from Hager sees Allin retain the title and deny Guevara the opportunity for gold. As tensions between Inner Circle members continue, with Ortiz and Santana resentful of MJF and Guevara angry at Hager, we begin to see a rift within the faction as loyalties and leadership are questioned.
Chris Jericho decides that his pursuit of singles gold is being held back by the tag title he holds and declares that he is no longer one half of the tag team champions and vacates his title belt. MJF furiously questions Jericho’s ability to lead the Inner Circle if he only focuses on himself and his own personal gain, before rebuffing Ortiz and Santana’s proposal to take the belts instead. He instead opts for an Inner Circle ladder match, where Hager, Guevara and Wardlow will battle to grab the single tag team belt.
Jericho questions the authority MJF has to make such a match but is outnumbered when all of his Inner Circle faction members relish the opportunity, barring Ortiz and Santana. In the match Wardlow clutches the belt to become the new tag team champion alongside MJF. Prompting Hager to question the validity of the match and claiming that when he went to grab the belt the hook was raised. As Jericho prepares to face new AEW world champion Hangman Page (Page booked to beat Omega) he decides to settle the tensions in his faction by putting MJF against Hager, with the winner becoming the tag team champion next to Wardlow.
The Inner Circle Implodes
Following his loss to Hangman Page, a bitter Chris Jericho declares that he wants MJF out of the Inner Circle, although Hager, Ortiz and Santana agree with the decision, Wardlow and Guevara do not. Confirmed for the week after, The Inner Circle will battle each other in a six man elimination tag team match, Y2J, Ortiz and Santana vs MJF, Guevara and Wardlow, with Hager sitting out as he is tag team champion with Wardlow. The match sees Wardlow complete a clean sweep of the other team and establishes MJF as the leader of the faction.
Jericho and MJF enter a battle royal to determine a new number one contender to Hangman Page, with MJF last eliminating Jericho to earn the opportunity.
The Inner Circle agree then to fall in line and put tensions to rest as MJF goes for the title. Jericho makes it clear he doesn’t believe that MJF will achieve what he could not. Low and behold during the title match MJF counters the Buckshot lariat into The Salt of the Earth and against all odds Hangman taps out to give MJF the AEW World title clean. Jericho fumes backstage at the idea of MJF bettering him and emerges to challenge him to a match.
During the next Dynamite episode MJF asks Jericho what he is willing to put on the line for the title opportunity and Jericho promises if MJF beats him, then the Inner Circle will be his. MJF confirms that if he does win and become the leader of the Inner Circle, Jericho will be kicked from the faction and anyone else who doesn’t follow his lead will follow suit.
Wardlow and Hager defend their belts against Ortiz and Santana and when Hager has Ortiz in the middle of the ring in an ankle lock, Wardlow takes his tag belt and drives it into the back of the head of Hager and walks off. Ortiz crawls over Hager and LAX win the AEW tag titles. Wardlow effectively leaves the Inner Circle of his own volition.
The AEW world title match between Jericho and MJF goes on and Jericho has the match wrapped up after landing two consecutive Judas effects on the champion, as Jericho takes his time to relish the easy win he has in front of him, he beckons towards Sammy Guevara, enticing him to come in the ring to get a closer look at the beaten MJF, when Guevara enters the ring, standing with Jericho, Jericho urges Sammy to attack MJF (As in-ring enforcer this wouldn’t cause DQ). Sammy puts on MJF’s famous Dynamite Diamond Ring, gears up to strike MJF, but hits Jericho in the face, and hits the Burning Hammer GTS, before pulling MJF over Jericho and forcing the count. MJF wins, he leads the Inner Circle.
The future of the Inner Circle
After MJF vs Jericho, we see MJF take rule over a broken faction. Ortiz and Santana rule the tag team division on their own merit. Sammy Guevara continues to war with Jericho in coming months, offering Y2J the opportunity to cement Guevara as a future star. Hager can take his break for his Bellator MMA career or he can continue to take on Wardlow in a singles feud. Wardlow can emerge as the next challenger to MJF’s reign as world champion, as a defector from the faction MJF now leads.
MJF joining Jericho’s Inner Circle is the perfect opportunity to put MJF over as a top star in the company and world wrestling in general and begin to build AEW’s homegrown star power, everyone involved can receive substantial pushes and compelling stories similar to the way Bullet Club is over in Japan. I like the idea of Wardlow and Hager grinding against each other as the big boys in the group, and MJF and Jericho in the clash of egos. I believe that MJF and Jericho for the tag team belts is a really exciting concept but the inevitability is that an established tag team like Ortiz and Santana will feel some sort of way about having their title opportunities squandered.
But what do you think? Should MJF and Jericho tag together? Is the world title the end game for the Inner Circle?