It was halfway by AEW Dynamite that it struck me — I’d by no means seen a construct to a match this good. There have been the fruits of nice rivalries earlier than, Hogan vs. Andre at WrestleMania III, Rock vs. Austin at WrestleMania 17, however nothing feels fairly as excellent for its time, place, and standing as what CM Punk and Maxwell Jacob Friedman have been crafting within the lead as much as Revolution, the corporate’s subsequent pay per view.
A big a part of that is the extra relaxed AEW schedule. This isn’t meant to be a knock on WWE, although it’ll sound like one, however solely having one large PPV 1 / 4 lets tales stay, breathe and construct to a crescendo that merely isn’t attainable underneath an every-month grind. The story of Punk vs. MJF started in mid November, kicking off with trash speaking and face-to-face promos, as all wrestling storylines do.
It could have been superb to depart it right here. Punk and MJF might have ran with this components all the way in which to the PPV. Each are gifted sufficient talkers that there was no scarcity of fodder for them to name one another all method of names, however as an alternative what’s occurred during the last three weeks of programming has turned a normal rivalry, and elevated it into efficiency artwork.
All it took was a single picture from each wrestlers’ collective pasts.
This one picture has launched the rivalry into the stratosphere in the very best method. It’s CM Punk, posing on the top of his fame, with a younger Maxwell Jacob Friedman. It was a photo-op, a enjoyable second from the previous, however by talent and storytelling the performers have escalated this picture into the crux of their rivalry. A younger boy, whose world revolved round assembly his idol — and the wrestler who didn’t keep in mind it in any respect, calling it “simply one other Friday,” in an try to anger his opponent.
There’s nothing inherently particular with the well-worn trope of “by no means meet your heroes,” however using the picture as a MacGuffin has given the viewers a touchstone to maintain going again to. It highlights the distinction in age between the wrestlers, the shifting atmosphere wherein they discover themselves, and even managed to make the viewers query who’s actually good and who’s dangerous on this story.
That every one culminated final week on Dynamite, when MJF gave, what can solely be described as a masterpiece.
There’s a lot this speech touched on. It wasn’t simply the portrait of a battle in opposition to self-doubt and racism. This was MJF, blurring the road between fiction and actuality, bearing his soul and making a crowd really feel for him, regardless of being essentially the most hated wrestler in all of AEW. It was the origin story of a villain, the bully admitting his bravado comes from insecurity, all woven along with the thread of abandonment.
For eight minutes MJF had the viewers within the palm of his hand, as he took them on a experience by his childhood. When it was over it was tough to even course of what we’d witnessed. Solely 10 days faraway from the PPV match months within the making, with Punk established because the hero and MJF because the villain, right here was an viewers who now not knew who they have been purported to cheer for. Die-hard CM Punk followers might relate, additionally they felt deserted when Punk walked away from the enterprise in 2014. Anybody who has been marginalized might relate. Anybody let down by their idols might relate.
Following a promo like this was all the time going to be unimaginable, however this week the duo discovered a method to reestablish the dichotomy of this match. The veteran who has conquered his demons, desperately desirous to cease somebody following in his footsteps, and the teenager, too mired in his personal darkness to simply accept one other path.
And it began from a hug, not one in all equals, however the place MJF pressed his head into Punk’s chest, like a baby wanting reassurance from a father or mother — solely to kick him between the legs and demolish his hero.
The bloody beatdown is again to the roots of professional wrestling, particularly one ending in a brutal “canine collar match” this weekend, the place Punk and MJF will probably be hooked up with chains so neither can escape. At this level although, the match is secondary — it doesn’t actually matter within the grand scheme of issues. Certain, each wrestlers will wish to tear the home down and provides everybody a five-star match to recollect, however the lasting impact of this match would be the story that constructed as much as it.
Wrestling is at its greatest when the road between fiction and actuality is indistinguishable. No wrestling fan has some bizarre disillusion that what we’re seeing is actual, however that’s the road that’s been walked so superbly within the lead as much as this match. It’s been a construct that has completely achieved its objective of giving everybody one other CM Punk match, and elevating MJF to be his equal.
It’s unimaginable to not really feel one thing after watching how this story has developed, and that’s what makes it so stunning.