It was halfway via 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 massive PPV 1 / 4 lets tales dwell, breathe and construct to a crescendo that merely isn’t potential 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 will have been effective to depart it right here. Punk and MJF might have ran with this system 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 a substitute 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 peak of his fame, with a younger Maxwell Jacob Friedman. It was a photo-op, a enjoyable second from the previous, however via 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 bear in mind it in any respect, calling it “just another Friday,” in an try and anger his opponent.
There’s nothing inherently particular with the well-worn trope of “never 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 during which 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 wrestle 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 trip via his early life. When it was over it was troublesome 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 not knew who they had been alleged to cheer for. Die-hard CM Punk followers might relate, in addition 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 unattainable, however this week the duo discovered a strategy 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 just accept one other path.
And it began from a hug, not certainly one of equals, however the place MJF pressed his head into Punk’s chest, like a toddler wanting reassurance from a mother or father — 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 “dog collar match” this weekend, the place Punk and MJF might 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 finest 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 fantastically within the lead as much as this match. It’s been a construct that has completely achieved its aim of giving everybody one other CM Punk match, and elevating MJF to be his equal.
It’s unattainable to not really feel one thing after watching how this story has developed, and that’s what makes it so stunning.