The Post’s Joseph Staszewski will be bringing you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.
You’ve just delivered one of the best promos of pro wrestling’s modern era and maybe all-time. What are you going to do next?
That’s the challenge facing MJF and All Elite Wrestling after his version of the “pipe bomb” promo he delivered on “AEW Dynamite” last Wednesday. It was one part CM Punk’s “pipe bomb,” one part Ric Flair asking Eric Bischoff to fire him in WCW, one part Brian Pillman pitting his employer against WWE and one part Max Friedman cathartically letting out his frustrations over his real-life contract status with the company.
AEW has played the work-shoot angle perfectly since then, having MJF walk out through the crowd and not the tunnel, not mentioning his rant again on air, not posting the video of the promo on its official pages and removing MJF from its roster on its website. But all of that, as well done has it may be, was the easier part. You’ve piqued the wrestling world’s interest — as that segment did the highest total viewers and demo numbers on the show. Now, you’ve got to hold their attention and make them continue to care.
This may need to happen for the next year and a half because, unless MJF signed a new contract behind the scenes, this story could go all the way to Jan. 1, 2024, when his known deal expires.
Punk and Flair’s promos came further along in their stories; MJF’s kicked off this particular tale, and the audience has lost most of the feeling that this could be a shoot. If you were thinking about keeping him off TV for long stretches, that may have gotten even harder to do with CM Punk, your next best story and ratings draw, going down with an injury. MJF’s story, like he said in his promo, may have to carry AEW on his back, and there is even less margin for error for any slip-up. Better keep hitting “grand slams,” kid.
Let’s also hope AEW understands the true tale they are telling here. Despite MJF being wrestling’s best heel, he has himself in the middle of a babyface tale no matter how much he tries to rail against fans. He was cheered at the end of his promo. What’s the story at its heart? MJF is pushing back against his boss because he doesn’t feel like he is being compensated for his true worth. What average person doesn’t feel that way in their own life? And the end game is MJF wants to feel appreciated and get a new contract in order to stay with AEW and not jump to WWE. AEW fans consider MJF one of their own and don’t want to see him leave, so a large portion of the audience will be rooting for him to get what he wants. You should never want heels to get what they want.
So where does this go? Does this force AEW president Tony Khan to become more of an on-screen character as AEW tries to turn this into their own version of Austin vs. McMahon? Khan has always been hesitant to be on camera and is beloved by fans, but MJF can’t keep yelling at a silent stage for a year. Does it end with CM Punk vs. MJF with Max in the Punk role and Punk as John Cena, when Punk pledged to take the WWE championship with him on his way out the door?
What I do suspect will happen is MJF will now enter from the crowd and not the ramp to continue to the illusion he is no longer welcome in the company and tries to do things to get himself fired, because that is the goal for now. His main beef is all the ex-WWE guys making more money than him, so expect them to be the target of his ire. Maybe you start with Dustin Rhodes, because of his connection to Cody, and Christian Cage and work your way up to the likes of Bryan Danielson, Miro, Jeff Hardy and Adam Cole until Punk is the last and highest-paid man standing.
And if AEW is unable to use this story to make MJF an even biggest star and elevate his status in the entertainment world, then maybe — just maybe — he’s better off in WWE.
It was a stunning moment watching Rhea Ripley, Damian Priest and new leader Finn Balor double-cross Edge and kick the group’s founder out of The Judgement Day. While Edge is now freed up to give Raw a needed babyface in Cody Rhodes’ injury absence, the group now feels less with Balor as the leader — whose recent history includes a lot of losing and doesn’t includes Edge’s Hall of Fame credentials. Instead of trying to build a new babyface, WWE is going to a reliable, older one.
This is also what happens when you have a cool faction and no other factions for them to feud with, who have to reshuffle the deck way too soon. At least WWE gave us Bianca Belair vs. Ripley for the Raw Women’s Championship at Money in the Bank. It’s a home run feud that the Street Profits could eventually find themselves in.
Many don’t agree, but I think allowing CM Punk to remain AEW world champion and crowning an interim champion was the right call. It gives me hope that Punk will be back sooner rather than later and created an immediate main event upon his return. It’s also a practice the UFC uses often, and we all heard during Tony Khan’s post-Double or Nothing media scrum how much he respects the UFC and president Dana White. As for who should hold the title, depending on Punk’s timeline, it should either be Jon Moxley (to give him a proper reign), Bryan Danielson (if he is not injured) or Hiroshi Tanahashi (to deliver a major swerve).
The 10 Count
Cody Rhodes is hurt. But him teasing a Money in the Bank appearance and then shunning a stretcher to walk off on his own power after being attacked by Seth Rollins – who had just shown him respect – felt like overbooking at its finest. It made Rhodes’ real injury feel more like a wrestling angle than it should be.
I’ll put my support behind Cesaro returning to WWE to be the first client of Max Dupri’s Maximum Male Models. One, Dupri is a fantastic talker and will give Cesaro the mouthpiece he can benefit from and is a very good worker himself if WWE ever wants to go the tag team route. Also, Cesaro will look like a star in suits and be put in the leadership role of a faction.
So instead of having Ruby Soho finally pin Britt Baker to win the Owen Hart tournament, AEW has her do it during a meaningless tag team match on “Dynamite” this week. Let’s see where this goes, but that feels like a WWE move at its best.
As uninspiring as another Natalya-Ronda Rousey match is, The B.O.A.T. was the right person to win the six-pack challenge on SmackDown. (Pat McAfee saying at least this one happened, after the Sasha Banks-Naomi walkout nixed WWE’s last try at one. was gold) Let Nattie keep Rousey busy, and likely have a good match, while the newbies compete in the Money in the Bank ladder match.
After her debut match on “Dynamite”, Athena feels like she could best the women AEW has signed from WWE. She comes off so polished. If she doesn’t beat TBS champ Jade Cargill, than at worst Athena helps her reach the next level in the ring.
William Regal gave the yelling “Blood and Guts” moment we all wanted, but how much more “blood and guts” can we get after Anarchy in the Arena?
Seeing Becky Lynch’s character being so lost that she tried to fill her championship void with the 24/7 title of all things — and lose — was absolutely brilliant. Lynch then turned all of her social media dark. She is an artist when it comes to the details of her character’s fascinating journey.
John Cena is returning to “Monday Night Raw” on June 27 to celebrate his 20th anniversary with WWE. This will be just in time for him to have a match with life-long fan and off-camera protégé Theory at either Money in the Bank or SummerSlam … or both.
Hiromu Takahashi won this fourth Best of the Super Juniors tournament by defeating El Desperado, but the biggest story coming out of that New Japan show is Impact’s Ace Austin joining Bullet Club and Kenta returning for the first time in January. Austin deserves this type of spotlight and I’d expect Kenta to be involved at Forbidden Door somehow.
NXT, as much as I’ve expressed my issues with their weekly TV show, does have a number of fresh talent who could and likely should be on the main roster in the very near future. Their In Your House pay-per-view last Saturday really put a spotlight on them. Tops on the list is Carmelo Hayes, Santos Escobar, the Creed Brothers and the teams Gigi Dolan-Jacy Jayne and Kayden Carter-Katana Chance.
Wrestler of the Week
Cody Rhodes, WWE
How could it not be after “The American Nightmare” chose to work with a torn pec in the main event of Hell in a Cell and turned in one heck of a victory over Seth Rollins. Rhodes fought through the pain to deliver the advertised main event for fans, and he and Rollins worked the injury into the psychology of the match. Get well soon and speedy recovery, Cody.
Match to Watch
Ricochet (c.) vs. Gunther, WWE Intercontinental championship on SmackDown (Friday, 8 p.m., Fox)
The only other time these two have faced off one-one-one was at Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s All Star Weekend 13 in 2017 in a match won by Ricochet. Gunther feels ready to be crowned Intercontinental Champion and give the title a chance to feel like a featured attraction again. Maybe WWE delays it, or maybe they set Ricochet up for the chase back to the top. Either way, their opposing styles have a chance to make some magic in the ring if this isn’t a squash.
Around The Ring
WWE announced Monday that has hired Catherine Newman as its executive vice president and head of marketing. Newman brings more than two decades of executive experience to WWE including her most recent role as chief marketing officer of Manchester United Media. Her oversight as part of the WWE senior leadership team will include marketing, brand, community relations, entertainment relations, creative services and photography. Newman will likely be taking over some of Stephanie McMahon’s former duties after the company’s chief brand officer announced a leave of absence on in May.
Liv Morgan and Samoa Joe were announced to have landed significant acting roles. Morgan will make her big screen debut in a dark comic thriller film “The Kill Room” alongside Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson. Joe landed the physical role of Sweet Tooth in Peacock’s upcoming “Twisted Metal” series. Will Arnett will voice the character.
WWE’s Money in the Bank show, after moving to MGM Grand Garden Arena from Allegiant Stadium, is basically a sellout with less than 300 tickets of the 12,088 distributed left to be sold, according to WrestleTix.