The Highs and Lows of MJF's 2023 World Title Reign

Maxwell Jacob Friedman held the AEW World Title for over a year taking up all of 2023 with the highs tall as mountains, but the lows crashing down into valleys.
MJF Dec 2.png
MJF Dec 2.png /

2023 was supposed to be the year of MJF finally taking over the wrestling industry. While that was true at times some things he did with the belt turned AEW fans away.

Beginning with the first two months of the year, MJF couldn't have started off on a better foot. A World Title Eliminator match against Konosuke Takeshita that I would regard as a top 10 AEW Dynamite match of last year. MJF helping a young star break out is the best possible thing he could've done in his first match in 2023.

March was highlighted by a 60-minute Iron Man match in the main event of AEW Revolution. MJF lauded this as the "greatest Iron Man match of all time", and although I'm a relatively young wrestling fan there probably isn't a better-paced match of that length that kept fans interested the whole time.

Going from the absolute highest of highs to the lowest of lows is what happened next. MJF being involved in his own creative has been reported by a variety of outlets after the Worlds End pay per view, and his own ideas dropped the ball on his next feud.

AEW chose to go ahead with the four pillars being the main event feud, but MJF had to carry along both Jack Perry and Sammy Guevara so much in this feud it was tough to watch at times. The start of this feud happened just two weeks after Revolution and was over two months long. It is safe to say that AEW over exposed younger talent into a light they were not quite ready for yet.

The feud fell so flat that it wasn't granted the main event spot at the Double or Nothing pay per view, and was honestly two months for the AEW World Title scene to erase from its history. Through June and the rest of the summer months MJF got things back on track with one of the best 'can they co-exist?' tag teams to ever go into a squared circle.

The chemistry between Adam Cole and MJF is probably something AEW didn't even expect to work as well as it did. Every single move including the double clothesline and the kangaroo kick got immediately over with the fan base and created one of the greatest pay-per-views for an AEW World Champion at All In London.

MJF and Adam Cole won the Ring of Honor tag team titles on the pre-show, and in the main event put on one of the most prominent false finish matches in 2023. Ultimately the two ended up remaining best friends after their incredible match, a perfect compliment to what the event meant to AEW's history.

Right back into the void slipped this reign after September. The quick feud with Samoa Joe was littered with theatrics and lacked substance at times. MJF got on the wrong course defending his Ring of Honor tag team titles instead in the late fall, and the product was carried by many undercard feuds.

The highlight of the autumn months was easily the match made on three days' notice Kenny Omega vs MJF on the October 28th edition of AEW Collision. For a television main event, this was one of the better of the year that let two of the best in the industry go at it for over half an hour.

The ups and downs went right back down after that with MJF and Jay White having what I would call a circus feud. White stole the belt and ran around with it, plus MJF's main material was calling White "tofu" all felt like AEW was just wasting time and had no true direction.

Last but not least, in my opinion, was when AEW fans began getting sick of MJF's reign and wanting him to take a hard reset break that he is currently on. The mystery Devil and his group overshadowed yet another Samoa Joe and MJF feud, the complete opposite of how it should have been. MJF and Samoa Joe could've had a great feud referencing their past, but their time only focused on protecting one another when the lights went out.

The Devil storyline was another case of too long and too overexposed leading to MJF's reign having a damaged image. Once the devil was revealed and Samoa Joe became champion, it felt like a weight had been lifted off of MJF and hopefully, he could come back to his old self.

MJF at just 27 years old worked some of the best in the history of the injury during his reign, but also had to carry along talent that wasn't quite up to his level yet. MJF doing his creative certainly impacted his reign in a negative light, and he needs to leave that area of wrestling to those who get paid to do it.

Even through ups and downs, I didn't think MJF's reign was particularly bad, but just not up to the standard that AEW fans expected it to be.