Home The MJF-AEW controversy, from the perspective of old-school AWE
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The MJF-AEW controversy, from the perspective of old-school AWE

Chris Graham
chris graham wrestling
Chris Graham, from his days in the wrestling business. Photo by Crystal Abbe Graham.

I’ve had a feeling since MJF first dropped hints about his frustrations in AEW in a podcast interview several months ago that we were in for a fun story at some point down the road.

The reason: I once helped concoct a similar story arc to help build an indy wrestling pay-per-view.

Back in 2011, Awesome Wrestling Entertainment staged a live pay-per-view event featuring a Kevin Nash-Ricky Morton main event.

The show was broadcast in October. We started working on laying out the story arc in March.

AWE co-founder Marvin Ward was the key here. Ward had worked mainly as an enhancement talent in WCW and Smoky Mountain before injuries cut his career short, and was partnering with money folks from Los Angeles to try to build a touring company, with talk from the people on the Left Coast that a TV deal could be in the works.

A planned October 2011 big house show would become a pay-per-view because the money people had connections.

Ward had engaged me at first to build a new website for the company, and somehow – I don’t remember exactly how – I ended up becoming his sidekick in creative.

We schemed up a main event featuring Nash and Morton, then had to come up with how to sell them on the idea, and from there how to make it seem logical.

Nash and Morton were in from the get-go, so that part was easy.

What we decided on for the build was to play off Ward’s real-life friendships with both, and use him as a wedge.

The first hint was, as with the current MJF-AEW story arc, a podcast interview.

I was in the early months of building my own podcast, and had Ward on as a guest to talk wrestling, and in the course of the chat, asked him a seemingly innocent question about who he thought the best tag team of the 1980s had been.

The kayfabe assumption had been that he’d name the Rock ‘n Roll Express, and when he didn’t, I asked him why.

His answer: he felt the Rock ‘n Rolls had been overrated.

The seed was planted.

I followed up a few weeks later with a podcast interview with Morton, one of my childhood wrestling faves, who in the course of that interview said something off-hand about having listened in to one of my earlier podcasts, and raised issue, seemingly innocently, about Ward’s offhand comment.

The door was open.

Next, we staged a parking-lot attack in which a masked man – Morton, his blonde locks sticking out from under the mask – beat down Ward, sending him to the hospital.

We posted video of the beatdown on the AWE Facebook page.

It blew up.

People called the local hospital to check on Ward.

We had folks on the hook.

We posted photos of a severely-beaten Ward being loaded into an ambulance – we’d hired a movie makeup artist to make him look badly injured, and made a donation to a local rescue squad to make it look as authentic as possible.

Then we did a video interview with more makeup artist work in which Ward broke down in tears.

Morton responded in a video post, telling Ward to call one of his friends, going off on a rant about his one particular seven-foot friend, who wouldn’t have ever won the WWE world title if he hadn’t, um, engaged in a certain activity with Vince McMahon – Nash said Morton needed to say that to make it real – and the game was on.

The videos garnered tens of thousands of views on Facebook and YouTube. I still get comments almost daily on my YouTube channel referencing them.

We did this because we had to build a pay-per-view without having a TV presence.

The pay-per-view was, we hoped, the way toward having a TV presence.

Unfortunately, AWE didn’t hit it big. We did the one pay-per-view, and faded into obscurity.

The build was something that I’m proud to have been a part of. Our hope was that we could inject some reality into wrestling, by building up an old-school beef in the direction of a blow-off match.

MJF and AEW founder Tony Khan are building the old-school beef, and it feels real.

I get it that people want to parse the details – was the fanfest no-show real, or a work? How about the flight out of Vegas? And now they’ve removed MJF from the AEW website. What’s going on here?

I say, as someone who had the chance to be able to build one of these story arcs what feels like a hundred years ago now, just sit back and enjoy it.

Wrestling is entertainment; allow yourself to be entertained.

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].