The hottest story in AEW right now is boss Tony Khan’s contract dispute with MJF, but the reason it works so well is that it’s both fake and real.
The contract dispute between top heel MJF and AEW boss Tony Khan is the talk of AEW devotees, with the potential to be their best story ever. Any wrestling company roster is usually composed primarily of two types of performers, those being established stars made in other companies, and homegrown talent looking to prove themselves. When AEW was founded in 2019, it was quickly clear that Maxwell Jacob Friedman was one of the new faces bound to use their newfound fame to reach the highest heights.
MJF is an old-school heel, someone who does not try to be cool, and does not care one bit whether the crowd enjoys his work. MJF has no problem unleashing the vilest insults at anyone who opposes him, will cheat flagrantly and without remorse to win, and will destroy anyone in his way. There’s a reason MJF is constantly compared to legends like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Naturally, the fact that MJF is so good at his job has still led him to be quite appreciated by the AEW faithful, even if they continue to happily boo him out of each and every building he enters. Unfortunately, reports have been floating around for months that MJF was at odds with Khan due to unhappiness over his pay level. This came to a head recently when MJF no-showed a meet and greet event the day before the Double or Nothing pay-per-view, then reportedly almost flew home instead of wrestling on the event. He did ultimately decide to appear on the show to lose to Wardlow, but since then, it became decidedly unclear where MJF and Khan stand with one another in reality. Thankfully, this blurriness is likely to do nothing but help the story get better.
MJF’s Onscreen Issues With AEW Boss Tony Khan Are Based On Reality
Based on all available evidence, MJF has, or at least up until recently had a legitimate behind-the-scenes beef with AEW boss Tony Khan. MJF is reportedly very unhappy with his current contract, as he feels he’s drastically outperformed the pay he’s receiving. He’s also unhappy with how much more ex-WWE signings like Malakai Black and Jon Moxley are being paid than he is. Many AEW fans would definitely agree with that, as MJF is super over and is often the most entertaining part of an AEW Dynamite, Rampage, or pay-per-view broadcast. Most importantly, he never fails to get the crowd – both live in the arena and watching along on TV – riled up and excited, even if it is due to how much of a controversial figure he has managed to be this time.
On the other hand though, not everyone is siding with MJF against Khan, as no one forced him to sign a multi-year contract under his current rate, and he was mostly unknown prior to AEW. Since MJF has made it publicly known he is interested in working for WWE, he does not want to extend his AEW contract beyond 2024, but at the same time, Khan does not want to give him a substantial raise just to see MJF walk away from AEW in two years. Reports suggest MJF thinks he could hit the jackpot by jumping to WWE like his mentor Cody Rhodes, but Khan is only likely to increase MJF’s pay in the near term if Friedman agrees to a corresponding contract extension. It’s a complex situation, one in which both sides have valid points.
MJF No-Showing An AEW Meet & Greet Was Almost Certainly Not A Storyline
Since MJF did end up appearing and losing to rival Wardlow at Double or Nothingthen appeared on Dynamite to cut a fire-breathing promo against Khan and AEW, some are suggesting that perhaps the entire situation has been a storyline all along. After all, wrestling often loves to blur the line between real and fiction in order to keep audiences guessing. This has been the case at least since WWE killed kayfabe. Still, one major factor ensures that everything up until Double or Nothing was almost certainly real, and that’s MJF missed the meet and greet appearance.
While it might seem odd for a dastardly heel character like MJF to take part in such events, he’s a popular request, as AEW devotees love to get insulted or brushed off by their favorite bad guy live and in person. People spend in some cases hundreds of dollars to attend these meet and greet events, and also often travel great distances to do so. The idea that AEW would intentionally have MJF not show up to an event and thus disappoint hundreds of paying customers just to further an onscreen storyline is absurd. To that end, all reports out of the canceled event were that both the customers and MJF’s fellow AEW wrestlers were angry, suggesting that even Tony Khan himself was left fuming as well.
MJF’s Dynamite Promo Was Obviously Scripted (& That’s A Good Thing)
Since MJF worked Double or Nothing and then took part in the next Dynamite, it’s clear that he and Khan worked out some kind of agreement behind the scenes to bury the hatchet and move on. It seems incredibly unlikely that Khan would give a live mic on his flagship TV program to a wrestler still legitimately threatening to walk out of AEW. Doing so would be a recipe for disaster. While MJF’s promo saw him bury Khan, criticize his hiring of ex-WWE stars like CM Punk and say he wanted out of AEW, and AEW has tried its best to pretend he’s legit on the outs since then, it’s incredibly unlikely things are still tense. between MJF and Khan in reality. The two were reportedly quite friendly up until the last few months, so a genuine reconciliation certainly could have happened in only a matter of days.
MJF’s Dynamite promo was just as scripted as CM Punk’s famous “pipebomb” promo on WWE Raw was back in 2011, in the sense that while every word may not have been pre-planned, the major points were definitely okayed by Tony Khan and WWE boss Vince McMahon. Yet, that is far from a bad thing. The start of an MJF rebellion story means that at least for now, one of AEW’s best performers is back in the fold and refocused on making AEW great, not jockeying for a job in WWE. The stage is also set for MJF to become an even bigger star, perhaps even a rebellious but hard-edged babyface in the style of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. This can only do good things for AEWand help it continue to gain more notoriety and more viewership.
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