Home AEW ‘Dynamite’ review: Tony Khan makes it clear that MJF is the ‘pillar’

AEW ‘Dynamite’ review: Tony Khan makes it clear that MJF is the ‘pillar’

Chris Graham
mjf cm punk
MJF celebrates his win over CM Punk on the Feb. 2 “Dynamite.” Photo courtesy All Elite Wrestling.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman, MJF, until recently also known as “the less famous Miz,” now has something that there’s only ever going to be one of: the first pinfall win in AEW over one CM Punk.

That it came at the end of a 40-plus-minute classic on last night’s “Dynamite” is the loudest declaration that AEW booker Tony Khan could make that MJF is the cornerstone of the company.

A win over Punk, famously out of the business for more than seven years before returning last summer, is even bigger than winning the world title.

Punk has been the story in pro wrestling since coming out of the curtain in his hometown of Chicago in August.

The simmering feud between Punk and Friedman that got ignited at the “Dynamite” show in Norfolk in November finally saw the two in a ring with a referee and something on the line on Wednesday, and what we can only hope was the first in a series not only didn’t disappoint, but exceeded whatever expectations had been built up for the past couple of months.

Khan has done a solid job of protecting Friedman by having the 25-year-old work the mic, which he happens to be pretty good at doing, and using his Pinnacle stablemates to do his dirty work.

That formula was first played out in a series between Friedman and AEW’s first world champ, Chris Jericho, with MJF eventually coming out on top in that one.

As much as you had to figure that Punk would eventually have to lose a match in AEW, it didn’t figure to be last night in Chicago.

And then, after Friedman had an apparent submission victory nullified 15 minutes in when referee Bryan Remsburg noticed athletic tape that Friedman had used to secure his sleeperhold, and called for a match restart, the psychology here seemed to foretell that Punk, undefeated in 11 AEW matches since his return, would rally to get the win, and Friedman could be able to cite the referee’s decision as his basis for demanding a rematch.

The broadcast team, as the clock was ticking down on the show, sold that AEW had gotten clearance from TBS to stay with the match to its conclusion, as Friedman’s reluctant second, Wardlow, made his way to ringside, and handed MJF his Dynamite Diamond ring, which Friedman used to clock Punk as Remsburg tried to clear Wardlow from the ring apron.

So, yes, a disputed win, but it was a clear 1-2-3 in the middle of the ring, and Punk is now 11-1 in AEW.

As far as the match was concerned, Friedman dominated the action, as a heel should, working the body, old school 1980s Jim Crockett territory-like, first focusing on Punk’s left arm, then after Punk landed awkwardly on a dive through the ropes to the floor, the left knee.

Friedman got the win, but in the process, he looked like a star.

With apologies to Adam Page, Friedman is the guy that Khan needs to build around, the perfect combination of in-ring skills and master showman, this generation’s Ric Flair.

Quick hits

  • Speaking of Adam Page, next up for the AEW world champ is … Lance Archer? The “Revolution” pay-per-view is four weeks away. There has to be something better in the offing. Archer is just back from quite a bit of time off from injury, and this one has absolutely no build.
  • Meanwhile, Adam Cole, is reduced to a taped promo for a match with Evil Uno on “Rampage.” Um, you know, Cole vs. Page wouldn’t be a bad PPV world title match.
  • I know it won’t play out the way I want it to, but the sparks between Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley last night had me thinking something Four Horsemen-like for a stable headed up by those two.
  • A lot of what Danielson had to say in his promo, by the way, straight on the mark. Page hasn’t done anything with his wins over Kenny Omega and Danielson. And having Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus as the tag champs in a company with FTR, Santana & Ortiz and the Young Bucks, among many others, is just plain bad booking.
  • Chris Jericho has called a mandatory meeting of the Inner Circle for next week. Finally, Santana & Ortiz can be unleashed on the tag team division.
  • Noticeable by their absence: No Britt Baker, no FTR, no Sting and Darby Allin. No Briscoes.

Story by Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].