An admitted moment of truth: I’ve never been a fan of a portion f MJF’s promo work.
Now, before you get out the torches let me explain, let me explain.
I always thought his delivery was excellent, his confidence was top-notch, and he was smooth on the microphone. The words just came out of his mouth crystal and clear. The mixture of cocky, confidence, and that snakily and bastardly heel ‘charm’ would always come oozing out of his mouth masterfully.
For me, the issue was always the material. His material rarely if ever landed for me. That’s not to say I didn’t believe he had the chops in that field. It every so often would shine through what I thought was otherwise subpar work, subpar work I knew couldn’t be his best, because I’ve seen his best flare-up. I’ve seen his best flare up against the likes of Cody Rhodes, while I’ve seen it watered down and regurgitated against the likes of people such as Chris Jericho. Uneven, inconsistent, and nowhere near the pedestal I see people propping his words on.
That said, lately, MJF has been on fire in 2022.
Feuding with C.M Punk seems to have ignited a fire under his ass, and caused flame to spit from his mouth. He has been delivering some of the best work of his AEW tenure, and recently, this past Wednesday at that, MJF dropped perhaps one of his best promos of all time. An emotionally manipulative ride through his childhood, to the point of wanting to be a professional wrestler, to what his ultimate goal was, to become better than C.M Punk in spite of him and not because of him. It was an incredible verbal journey and I have to talk about it with everyone.
MJF Is not a likable character. That is the honest truth. He’s never meant to be. So it takes a certain level of ability and charismatic strength to allow yourself to let just enough reality sink into you so we can all feel it. He let enough reality into him that we bit into it and felt it. He let enough guard down, let us in, and trapped us in an emotionally manipulative experience. MJF no doubt is doing all this for his own means, and being the snake he is will eventually bite us and pour his venom back into us as our punishment we richly deserve, but at the moment, at this moment, he did something I didn’t think was possible. He manipulates the microphone in such a way he manipulates us into feeling for him.
He made his vulnerability a weapon.
He did this by weaving reality into his narrative. He brought in his history of having learning disabilities, of being Jewish, of being bullied for both. He brought up how comforting pro wrestling was to him and how it was his escape. How can I not feel this? Okay, not the Jewish aspect as I was raised Christian, but the learning disability portion? I FELT THAT. Even from some of my alleged friends I would get occasionally get verbally spat on with such phrases such as “Oh, so you take classes with the rest of the r*****?” and then a laugh with them legit thinking I’d find such a callous thing to say funny. Looking back, I wish I had the confrontational chops to had punched him in the fucking mouth. Then I would’ve been suspended and him the victim… because that’s how our school systems work. So it goes.
MJF’s promo is a ride, a ride where he breaks up, tears up, gets emotional as if he’s reliving those moments of his life and they hurt all over. He talked about how meeting CM Punk met everything to him, a great counteraction to how CM Punk insulted him by saying it was just Friday. A well-placed counterpunch that you can’t help marvel at and respect. He explains how he quit pursuing football to pursue wrestling. How he quit college to pursue wrestling. He quivers, he falters, you can see it on his face, the pain, the sorrow, the sadness, that will eventually give away to spite and anger and disdain. You can physically see his face make these changes as he takes us through this journey.
When he says January 2014, you know exactly where the promo is going, and when he yells “YOU LEFT ME, YOU LEFT ALL OF US” I feel it. I feel it wash over my body and leave me drenched in his emotional impact.
I knew CM Punk fans who felt hurt like hell when their favorite after all his speeches about change, being the voice of the voiceless, fighting for those who can’t fight, packed it all in, and gave up. It was as if, if he can’t do the things he claims he could’ve done, why could I?
Maybe that’s a bit over the top, but that’s the thing about having heroes isn’t it? When they fail, you feel lost. You feel if the person I looked up to couldn’t measure up, what makes me think I can? Over the top, but it’s so real to so many people who have heroes. When heroes fail you, who do you have to turn to but yourself? And that’s what MJF did. While he became our villain, he became his own hero in his own story.
MJF promises not to leave any kid who watches him on TV. Kids who get bullied would not be abandoned by him like CM Punk abandoned him. Abandoned him when he needed him the most. That has happened to many of us. Someone we care for, respect, look up to not being there when we need them the most. Usually, for us, it’s a family member, a friend, a teacher, or maybe a neighbor who always said they look out for us.
In the end, there is always a moment when that person we expect to always be there will leave us high and dry, and at that moment we convince ourselves we are alone. MJF realized or at least felt he was alone and he claims, possibly pretends, he will never do that to anyone who is watching him on television. We already knew he considered himself the hero of his story, but here he is now trying to make us his hero, or at the very least no longer his villain. He does his best to convince him he’s the good guy, the white hatter, the babyface, and not the other way around. He has overcome the odds despite all we think of him and that should be respected.
MJF gave up everything to be a professional wrestler because CM Punk made him feel alone, and now he’s come to get his payback. He tells CM Punk he can choke him and make him bleed buckets but he would not quit because it would just make him like CM Punk. When he delivers that line the venom makes my skin burn. I can feel it bubbling as it burns and penetrates right to my heart.
The whole promo had led to that moment, the crescendo, the climax, the vindictive, vicious, venomous, vilifying ending. At this moment MJF makes CM Punk the bad guy. Sure, in the end, MJF’s real motives will come forth, but at this moment he is more vulnerable than he ever has been or pretended to be. He’s let us in, we’ve accepted the invite, and we’ve felt everything he’s had to offer.
Chills, magic, a master of the microphone.
The icing on the cake of this verbal concoction is CM Punk coming out to no music, no fanfare, just storms out with an expression on his face that is both pained and unsure. Unsure if what he is told is real, but also pained at the thought it might have been, and that he along with those very bullies was a cause for what created MJF.
The only thing worse than facing a monster is realizing that the monster is of your own creation no matter how indirect. MJF walks off without a word, without an interaction as CM Punk desperately asks if what he has said was real. MJF doesn’t want to say anything, doesn’t need to, he has said all he has said, and all that is left is backing his words up, and the only way he’ll do that is beating CM Punk in the very stipulation he suggested.
CM Punk/MJF storyline nuances (VIDEO THREAD):
Punk in his First Dance promo immediately apologises to his fans who may have felt disappointed with him leaving wrestling 7 years ago. pic.twitter.com/iM3OLGgg9A
— Drain Bamager #FreeMustafaAli (@DrainBamager) February 24, 2022
Make no mistake, and most of you will not, MJF is the heel, the bad guy, the evil presence of this match, but with one promo we got his backstory, how this villain originated. No matter how set up we are to allow ourselves to be stabbed in his back he has used his vulnerability as a weapon and he has wielded it brilliantly and stabbed us all in the hearts. He has used his own past to justify his present and to give us a glimpse into his future, a future where he is better than C.M Punk, a future that could be coming true sooner than we realize. A future that will hurt CM Punk to his core for he created this monster, and if he doesn’t stop him now he’ll be powerless to do so later. It is one thing for me to recognize great works, it is another thing for me to feel that great work. MJF made me feel his absolute best by taking us to a time where he was made to feel his absolute worst. By weaving grounded reality into the over-the-top fictional world of professional wrestling, MJF made us drop our guard when it comes to being worked and allowed ourselves to believe just for one second, MJF is the victim and a good guy.
We’ll pay for it, but of course, we will. Part of us want to pay for it, part of us wants to be betrayed as the payoff, because then we can lean back, extend our middle finger, and say “FUCK YOU MJF WE WERE RIGHT ABOUT YOU ALL ALONG.” We want that satisfaction to go along with the sting. Contrary to some circles, it’s fun being worked. Let pro-wrestling be pro-wrestling, and let MJF let you in, guide you to his heart, and then bite you, and as you fall to your knees he’ll just smile that cocky smile and you’ll give a smile in return because you both know, you should’ve known better.
When it comes to the microphone when it comes to tugging at our emotions when it comes to manipulating and forcing a reaction out of us, MJF is better than us… and we know it.
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