MJF has performed exceptionally well as AEW Champion, but this phase of his title run is lacking a true threat to take the belt.
MJF has put together an important run as AEW Champion. He’s the perfect mix of sports entertainer and professional wrestler that fits AEW’s style. He’s a different champion than the others who’ve held the belt and he’s truly the man to push the promotion in a different direction from the top. But AEW has a serious problem. Who is the man to defeat MJF? There doesn’t seem to be a quality candidate who could take the baton and run with it.
As of this piece, MJF has held the AEW World Championship for 332 days. Along the way, he has put together excellent angles with the likes of Ricky Starks, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, and most recently Adam Cole. The angle with Cole was taking some interesting turns before that substantial ankle injury that forced Cole to the sideline once again. That storyline was heating up, with fans speculating where the outcome was headed, one of which would have been an acceptable victory for Cole to take the title. That ankle injury is so serious that Cole stated during a Twitch stream he will need two surgeries, eight screws, and a plate inserted into that leg.
So where does AEW go from here? AEW’s long-term storytelling is a strength. Fans can see the breadcrumbs down the road and tell where the angles are going with their favorite performers. Cole’s injury throws a lot of that to the side for MJF. He’s currently wrapped up in an angle with Jay White and Bullet Club Gold. This angle has delivered and the two are expected to put on an excellent match at Full Gear in November. But White doesn’t feel like a true threat to take away the championship.
When champions are crowned in AEW, the moment is predictable in the best way possible. Whether it was Britt Baker, Thunder Rosa, “Hangman” Adam Page, CM Punk, or others – fans knew when the performer on the rise was getting a big title win. The same could be said about MJF when he defeated Jon Moxley at Full Gear in 2022. But who feels like the man who will have that same momentum behind him when he eventually faces MJF? Can a real candidate please stand up?
If AEW continues the gimmick of MJF being a babyface, perhaps Swerve Strickland is the one to pick up the big victory. He is surging among fans at the moment, and even though he was recently defeated by Danielson, that match continued the angle between him and “Hangman” Adam Page. Or imagine a situation where Darby Allin or Orange Cassidy are given that big moment to become champions by defeating MJF. Wardlow also has a substantial history with the champion, but his build has never been sustained long enough to present him as a true threat. Regardless of the direction the company goes, it’s clear that there aren’t any clear front runners for the next champion.
MJF’s title run has been a success. His run has created several big moments and there are more to experience down the line. But who is the next individual on the rise to push him out of the top spot? It is a tough question to answer and for the first time in AEW’s short run, the next title holder isn’t as predictable as in the past.