Revisionist history on MJF's run should not lean too far in either direction

MJF held the AEW World Championship for 400 days. Along the way there was a lot of good and questionable decisions made that fans and critic will use in debates.
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At AEW Worlds End, and era itself came to an end. MJF’s run as AEW World Champion was brought crashing down by none other than future Hall of Famer, Samoa Joe. Joe’s exceptional run in AEW continued with him capturing a major championship on a huge platform in professional wrestling. And he did so by crushing MJF under an onslaught of pressure. The pressure that was mounting from carrying AEW for much of the last year. But in the eyes of many his championship run highlighted some problems within AEW that were pushing its original fanbase away.

MJF is the longest-reigning AEW champion, holding the belt for 406 days. That’s an accolade that he will probably hold for a long time, as the excitement of rising stars in AEW quickly shifts momentum to new names. AEW kicked off its time in wrestling carefully curating its main championship, developing engrained storylines around their rise and fall with the title. But things changed with CM Punk when injuries and backstage antics caused the championship to hot potato six times in that year. MJF’s reign was supposed to bring stability to that title and it did, both for the best and worst in the eyes of many.

Fans could trust that MJF would give them a fantastic match. Look at his catalog which includes his battle with Ricky Starks, the 60-minute Iron Man match with Bryan Danielson, the time-limit draw against Adam Cole, or the 30-minute battle with Kenny Omega. Each of those was an instant classic that left fans excited for what was to come next.

But towards the end of this run, some matches didn’t quite fit. Take the entire run as ROH tag team champions with Adam Cole. Yes, Cole’s injury severely hampered that part (and perhaps the entire closing chapter) of MJF’s time as champion. But what it also did was hinder ROH’s title in a way that fans of that brand/promotion didn’t appreciate. Could Tony Khan make the call to have MJF vacate the belts? Yes, but they kept on him up until The Kingdom, now members of Cole’s stable, defeated him right before the championship contest at Worlds End.

MJF also stood as the bridge between the sports presentation of AEW and the company’s initial steps into a sports entertainment space. There are times when that shift into a more sports entertainment realm worked, but toward the end of his run, the attempt started to wear out its welcome. By the time Joe picked up that big win, fans wanted to see someone take the championship off MJF to bring the promotion back to what it initially was, and MJF started to represent something further from that perception.

Looking back at MJF’s title run, there is a lot of good and a lot that was unenjoyable. That is going to be the case with any person who holds a championship for a long time in professional wrestling. While some of the issues were MJF’s along with Tony Khan, there were also things outside of his control such as individuals getting hurt or fired. Still, think of the middle ground when talking about his 406-day tenure as AEW World Champion. Painting it all in one direction or the other is a misstatement that happens all too often in professional wrestling.