The scum of the earth.
MJF is a character, but not in the sense that you think I'm talking about. I don't mean "fictional character" in the traditional pro wrestling manner, though he may be. I'm not sure that I know the real Maxwell Jacob Friedman.
"Get the fuck out of my hotel room," MJF muttered to me in the MGM Grand, after I asked him a bit of a reverse ice-breaker towards the end of our discussion. He didn't find the question as funny as I did, which was a welcome change from the hour that had preceded.
As far as written word, typically when I interview someone or run a feature on them, I don't include a lot of notes about myself or my experience. It's not important to the story. Quite frankly, for the first few years, most were via phone or video chat, some even text-based. However, upon making the trip to Las Vegas earlier this year for All Elite Wrestling's Double or Nothing and Starrcast, it would have been counterproductive to not cannonball into video interviews. I don't really expect any level of professionalism or lack thereof from people I interview. Some prefer to stay in character, others don't. Some have more time than others. You get in what you can, and we got in a lot during our Las Vegas trip.
The first of which was with MJF, and it very well could have been the last. As much as some enjoyed the actual interview with MJF, the process of speaking to him was even more interesting. I don't know if MJF is a character, or a character.
Everything you're about to hear actually happened.
I contacted MJF well before Starrcast and Double or Nothing to set up an interview. We've spoken before, and worked together prior on an interview that ran on Fightful last year. Aside from that, I know Maxwell Jacob Friedman primarily from his wrestling, and his constant trolling of my posts on Twitter.
Just got off the phone with @SeanRossSapp— Maxwell Jacob Friedman (@The_MJF) August 20, 2018
What a nerd.
We tentatively agreed to speak, which went much smoother than I intended, and I was rather excited about it.
Once in Vegas, it wasn't tough to make things happen. MJF was strangely accommodating. A lot of "sure, buddy!" and "okay, pal!" I figured this was the man behind the mask who often looked to sell fights. I learned pretty quickly that MJF didn't really need to sell fights, as they often just find him.
I set up a shot in the MGM. We figured it would be a neat, different setting that wasn't exactly being employed by the rest of the wrestling world. If you've seen the interview, you may be asking, "well, where's the footage from that?" -- we'll get to it. We didn't stay there long.
An MGM Grand security guard approached us, informing we couldn't film there without a rep. That's understandable, gambling goes on there. Maxwell Jacob Friedman did not understand, as shown on the video.
"Oh, I can't stand here in front of the camera when I'm selling out the arena?," he asked. MJF sounded off for a couple of more minutes as I gathered equipment, pretty satisfied with the podcast fodder and I'd gained in what was unfolding. I couldn't even hear what he was saying, but I could tell the conversation was heated. Later, I sarcastically joked that the conversation seemed like it went well, for MJF to reply "I’d like to think so. I was pretty nice about the whole entire thing. He’s a good guy, you know, he was meaning well. He might be fired. It doesn’t matter."
No big deal. Interviews fall through. You can't win em' all, and things seemed pretty smooth with MJF, so maybe I could reschedule. To my utter shock, he insisted we continue the interview in his room where "errand boys" as he referred to them wouldn't interrupt what he had to say.
"You're going to hate me for this walk!," he excitedly announced as I toted my camera and audio equipment through the casino towards what I expected to be his room.
Well, it wasn't his room. At least not yet. He had errands of his own to run.
Whiskey Down was the first of those. The bar in which MJF had just patroned as we met up, he spotted something (with what I assume he'd call above average vision), and said "Hey, hold on, I have to do this." It was a mid-20s fellow wearing an All Elite Wrestling shirt. MJF stood motionless, at least 20 feet away from the man -- who I assume he had never met -- for at least 30 seconds until he was noticed. When the man stood up, an audible "Fuck you! Haha!" bellowed from MJF.
We literally couldn't move until he accomplished that. He refused.
He was very proud of himself. The process familiarly repeated itself when someone walking by shortly after said "hey, it's...!"
Strange, sure, but that's fine. The trek to casa de MJF continued.
We go to whatever wing of the hotel he claims he's staying in and walk down probably the longest hall I've ever been in. He gets to the door and presents his card.
The door doesn't open. "NOT MINE! Ha!," he says. Okay. This process repeated itself.
MJF and Sean Ross Sapp were a real-life replay of Chris Jericho and Ralphus getting lost backstage at WCW Nitro. Friedman played it off as he was being some sort of hilarious dick, but I'm pretty sure he was actually lost and had no goddamn clue where he was going.
Nonetheless, we made it to his hotel room. The anger that resulted from the MGM employee and the fans he saw that dared to recognize him had seemingly been washed away by his amazing bro prank of causing me to drag filming equipment across the venue. He would then explain to me how happy his life was.
"I’m happy. On any given Sunday I can get a text from my best friend, Cody Rhodes, the Rollercoaster. And he can go, “you know, MJF, come on down over to the spot. We’ll shoot some stuff. We’ll have some fun, drink some brew. have some American Rebel cigars—” AmericanRebelCigars.com, check it out. It’s just always a blast, man. It all fits my schedule. Then I can also hang out with my other bff, T.K. You might know him as Tony Khan. What I would love to say about this business venture is that I feel like I’ve made friendships for life, man. I don’t care how busy you are, that’s important. It’s important stuff," he said.
MJF has mentioned Cody, going as far as to call him a "mentor." However, things have never seemed so peachy with Cody's brother Dustin, the former Goldust. In an episode of Being The Elite, MJF could be seen approaching the elder Rhodes brother with a novelty size sword. While intentions are still unknown, I asked Maxwell if he attempted to murder Cody's brother.
"Okay, so that’s fake news. And I don’t appreciate fake news," MJF said, as he defensively began berating me. "Granted, that’s all you really do, isn’t it, Sean? First of all—No, I did not try to kill Dustin. As you all know, I am a big fan of Zelda. Okay? And I just got lost on my way to the Zelda competition. Which, by the way, I won handedly. Won the competition. That master sword, [phew], you’re welcome, (I won) a trophy. Yeah. It was big. Real, real big. It’s got uh, it’s got the Zelda logo, which everybody knows. The big Zelda logo. You know what it looks like. And then uh, some uh, some elf…elf stuff. It’s good stuff. It’s—it’s a big trophy. I’ll show you it later. I’ll show you it later, I’ll send you a photo later."
I was never sent the photo.
It's not tough to see that MJF is among the fastest rising wrestlers in the world. Everything he says in that regard, while obnoxious, is absolutely true. His Twitter followers have more than tripled since the time we spoke. On a show full of great wrestling, many left the even talking about what Friedman accomplished on the microphone -- good, bad or indifferent as the emotions related to it may be. In a cutthroat world of professional wrestling, competition is a major factor. AEW has changed the pay scale for WWE wrestlers, with some going from not being used to landing seven-figure deals. MJF's situation is unique in that he was already signed to Major League Wrestling when his AEW deal came about.
"With my MLW contract, there are zero restrictions for me to work at All Elite Wrestling. I was very ecstatic about that. Mainly because I truly do feel that AEW is about to change and revolutionize the business. As am I, duh. I was very excited. So I was able to take the contracts legally, completely. There wasn’t an issue; there was no binding issues with the contract," said MJF, who would later sign a multi-year extension with AEW.
"I felt it like was the best bet for me," said MJF of the move to AEW. "What I love the most about All Elite Wrestling is some might consider us a bit of an outlaw promotion. Some might consider that we do things our own little way, and if anybody’s like that, it’s me. I’ve never been one to go on the same beaten path as anybody else. I’ve never played the same tune as anybody else, I’ve always beaten to my own drum. It’s a very expensive drum, but I’ve always beaten my own drum. And to me it fit who I am, the mold of who I am as a human being"
AEW's gain is everyone else's loss. The formation of the company has sent shock waves through the rosters of WWE, IMPACT, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and especially the indies. AEW took a fresher approach to their roster, and as a result, MJF specifies that he's finished with independent wrestling before he even hits his mid 20s.
"Am I still going to be working the independent promotions while I am wrestling at Major League Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling? I have taken my last new independent professional wrestling dates and I will no longer be taking any new dates to answer that question. Because I proved my point. I used everybody as an easy stepping stone. And I did not slip at any single point while I was jotting along the side of the ocean that was the pro wrestling industry," said MJF.
Indie wrestling's boom was the product of many things, including a growing industry with many avenues available to see it. Even though these companies are more open and easy to view than ever before, Friedman is under the impression that his absence will be relative to Scar taking over the pack in The Lion King.
"I feel me leaving the independent territory is the equivalent of just dropping a gigantic nuke. Because without me, how many amazing talkers are there left?," MJF asked. "How many amazing in-ring performers are there left? How many hybrid professional wrestlers, total packages are there left on the independents? I don’t know. Would I love to see somebody stand up and go “Yeah, I’ll be the next top guy?” I would love that. I am begging, I am pleading to see that happen. Because unlike people realize, I do genuinely care about professional wrestling. Do I care more about the bottom dollar when it comes to my professional wrestling? Uh, yeah. However, I am very excited to see who the next crop of independent talent is. You had amazing guys in my crop. And I think almost all of us that I came up with—it’s a ridiculous thing to say, I’ve only been wrestling three years, no big deal—but who I came up with, it’s gonna be very interesting to watch who is that next crop is gonna be. What’s the next gen?"
If you've seen MJF's interview with a friend of Fightful, Chris Van Vliet, you've seen that Maxwell isn't really keen on doing things on anyone else's time. In the aforementioned, he ordered, then fed room service to Chris. During ours, he paused filming to gloat about his blackjack winnings. His haul? Six dollars, American. He just wanted me to know.
I tried to corral the conversation by asking MJF why it is he thought MLW's Court Bauer was so willing to accommodate him heading to AEW while under WWE contract. It was a rough edit transition, but Friedman was willing to answer.
"Court Bauer knows where his bread is buttered, and that's with MJF," he said. "Court Bauer understands that the most important person on his roster is Maxwell Jacob Friedman, because nobody else is like Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Nobody can carry a show with a microphone in his hand, and nobody can perform like I can with two beautiful, black leather boots and this bodacious Burberry scarf. There is no one on this planet that can say no to me. Because if you say no to me, you lose the opportunity to work with me. And if you lose the opportunity to work with me, you lose your whole fan base."
Friedman, along with the like-minded Alex Hammerstone and Richard Holliday have formed the successful "Dynasty" trio in MLW, and met great fortune along the way. Last month, Fightful learned that MJF will remain with Major League Wrestling through the duration of his contract, at which point he will become exclusive to All Elite Wrestling.
He doesn't expect a Bo Jackson-esque (who was retired before MJF was borne) burnout, he's planning on being around for the long haul.
"So here’s the thing—my job was to get into the position I’m in today as fast as humanly possible. And I obtained it. But the way I obtained it was through hard work. A lot of people wanna go “Oh, MJF, he’s a loud mouth, he’s cocky, he’s arrogant.” Of course I’m cocky, of course I’m arrogant. Who was the last person to achieve what I’ve achieved in the past three and a half years? Can you name one? No, you can’t. And if there was anybody in my age range that even came close to achieving what I’m achieving —they’ve slipped up. They’ve messed up. They’ve done something stupid," said MJF "I’m not an idiot. I’m not gonna slip up. I’m not going to mess up. There is not going to be a part of MJF’s career where everybody goes “Oh, here’s where he went wrong. Here’s where he should’ve turned right when he turned left.” That’s not going to happen. Because I have a road map for this business. What I did was I studied the greats. And I went to myself, “okay, I need to work for the top promotions in the U.S., in Canada, in Mexico, in the U.K.” I have been literally at every single top tier promotion in the world. And now I find myself at the pinnacle. So, yes. I do think it was very important for me to have worked all of those independent promotions that I worked, because if it was not for me working those independent promotions I worked, I would not have the seasoning and I would not be able to look into this camera and tell you that it is talent over tenure."
Sometimes a leg up on success is a result of nefarious means. MJF has never been above bending the rules in the wrestling ring, and his historic ascent in pro wrestling is pretty impressive even without considering his age. But if you do consider his age, I brought up the story of Danny Almonte, a Little League celebrity who later was revealed to be much older than he was, which was used to gain a competitive edge. Any rumors of a "worked age" were quickly shut down by Friedman.
"I see where you're going with this, and this is what we're going to do," MJF expressed, pulling his driver's license out for our cameras. "I'd like you to read aloud what number is on this. It's 1996." When I let MJF know that showing his ID to thousands of wrestling fans on the internet, he didn't seem concerned. "Look, man, it’s not my fault that I was able to attain my dreams while you guys just simply dreamed dreams. That’s not on me, you know? There’s some people out there who like to go “Oh, MJF cut the line. MJF doesn’t deserve all the success he’s getting.”
As many know, Susan Boyle also "dreamed a dream." In 2009 she took her abilities to Britain's Got Talent and became a viral sensation. The wrestling sensation didn't quite like being compared to the singer, who he called an "ugly, fat lady."
"You know what, pal? I have a dream -- that you'll get out of my hotel room. This has been an amazing interview, I'm Maxwell Jacob Friedman, I'm better than you and you know it. If you have any other question that you'd like to get out of my way, so you can get out of my face, now's the time," he said.
"Did you steal Stokely Hathaway's CD player?," I asked, hoping to conjure a laugh. It didn't.
"Get the fuck out of my hotel room."
It was over.
In the weeks that followed our interview, MJF made multiple attempts to get me arrested by posting snitch tweets on social media, whether it be in response to serious or comical tweets.
@cops arrest this man.— Maxwell Jacob Friedman (@The_MJF) July 3, 2019
@cops seriously do your jobs.— Maxwell Jacob Friedman (@The_MJF) July 11, 2019
Fortunately, I've not been arrested yet.
Unfortunately after all of that, I started to edit the video and realized that both times, MJF found a way to disable my microphone when I was setting up the shot. When I asked him about it, he called me a "rookie."
Throughout the weekend in Las Vegas, I ran into Maxwell speaking with his father. All I can really say about that is if the elder Friedman didn't find his way onto a television screen before all is said and done I'd be surprised, but also maybe a little relieved considering the experience that was just covered.
Maybe we can give this another go and get MJF on the record in the future. Until then, he'll be around All Elite Wrestling's "All Out" show on Sunday, August 31. You can check out the show by ordering on B/R Live.