In the Jewish religion, thirteen-year-old boys become men upon celebrating their Bar Mitzvah. This life cycle ritual is similar to that of a Confirmation. I hear JR yelling at me in the background, “Good Gawd, this is not a Theology course; we’re here to talk about wrestling.” Excellent point, thank you, Mr.Ross. Last night at the All Out PPV at Daily’s Place, MJF fought the match of his life and fell just short of capturing the AEW World title against Jon Moxley, who retained it. It was evident from last Autumn and MJF’s betrayal of Cody that Friedman was destined to be a significant character in AEW programming and plot lines.
Up to now, MJF has pretty much been the “Mouth that Roared.” Sensational mic work, highly polarizing yet unproven ring skills. Talented enough to have an acceptable win-loss record but doing so via bending the rules. I refer to triumphs of this nature as being tainted victories. The tide turned in Jacksonville last night. Friedman took his craft to a whole new level by outplaying Jon Moxley at what Larry Zybszko refers to as the game of human chess. MJF came in with a brilliant game plan: keeping the action inside the ring and sticking to scientific wrestling instead of letting himself be pummelled outside the ring where Mox is most dangerous.
Friedman spent a good part of the hook-up working on Moxley’s left arm, which significantly hampered the champion’s ability to carry out an effective pin. The damage was done to the contender when the action left the confines of the squared circle. Friedman bled profusely throughout much of the match, which also led to building up his wrestling credibility.MJF wore the Crimson Mask as credibly as Dick the Bruiser.
Jon Moxley Retained AEW World Title, MJF Comes Of Age
Both performers were all in; they held nothing back. They communicated and worked very well together. The numerous momentum shifts were flawless. I spent considerable time on the edge of my seat, as would be the case with a “real” sporting event. Towards the end of the match, MJF hit Mox with a Cross-Rhodes, phenomenal irony coming up just a milli-second short. We all love those deliberately aborted two counts where the referee stops his or her hand in mid-air even before the wrestler gets the chance to remove the his-her shoulder from the mat.
While technical wrestling and sound strategy came so close to bringing Friedman to the land of milk and honey, it was an underhanded tactic that led to his defeat. As Wardlow attempted to toss NJF his diamond ring, the challenger fumbled it a la Jackie Smith allowing the champ to administer the Paradigm Shift when the official’s back was turned. The contest rules set out that if Moxley were to use that hold, he’d automatically lose the belt to MJF.
Yup, we all know the cliché, you can’t call what you don’t see.
Very often, marks and smarks will lament that losing a key match will bury a performer. This certainly wasn’t the case last night. Throughout the encounter, the announce team referred to MJF as a prodigy. They underscored his technical prowess and instincts beyond his years. While he did lose, Friedman brought his profile and character to a whole new level. No longer just a guy who cuts unique promos but, more importantly, a highly skilled and cerebral ring general. MJF is still better than us, but now we know it as well. His claim to be ready to carry the company for the next twenty-five years is more credible than ever. Like the Shawn Michaels iron man match Mania’s victory, “The Boyhood Dream has Become a Reality.”