The distinct commonalities between the pair can be seen and heard, with impressive mic-skills and legitimate superstar magnetism contributing to significant early-stage career growth for both performers.
So far, the handling of MJF’s development has been near perfect. Not over-pushed or over-exposed, Maxwell Jacob Friedman has maximized his air time week-on-week and has been trusted by management to carry important segments and contribute at a main-event level.
While it remains to be seen how high MJF’s stock will rise, his progress to date means he is uniquely poised to assert himself as a long-term force in the world of pro-wrestling.
Much like The Rock’s rise to superstardom in the 90s, MJF’s rapid maturation as a performer is reflective of an innate skill set, as well as a nurturing environment that plays to his unique capabilities and strengths. With that being said, let’s look at five parallels between the rise of MJF and The Rock.
#1 MJF and The Rock: Insubordination
A period of course correction was required for the Rock in 1997, initiated by a much-needed heel turn and subsequent alignment with The Nation of Domination. Joining the Nation expedited Rock’s upward trajectory, giving him a new platform to showcase his natural confidence and range on the microphone.
As part of the dominant group, The Rock was able to lean on industry veteran Farooq as a source of guidance, but it was clear that he was his own man on his own path, and his ambitions went far beyond those of The Nation.
While there were early insubordination and cockiness signals, The Rock made a major statement of intent when he publicly disrespected Farooq on an episode of Monday Night RAW, presenting a large self-portrait as a gift to the leader of The Nation. This bold gesture amplified tensions between the pair and underlined Rock’s credentials as heir-apparent to Farooq’s throne.
After coming up short against AEW World Champion Jon Moxley at All Out 2020, MJF embarked on a similar career pivot, expressing his keen interest in joining The Inner Circle. His prospective involvement with the group had been hinted at periodically over the previous year, but the link always felt tentative.
MJF cemented his place within The Inner Circle by defeating Chris Jericho in a match at AEW Full Gear 2020, earning Le Champion's respect in the process.
While there was some initial discontent among some group members, MJF now enjoys a mostly docile relationship with leader Chris Jericho and has been broadly accepted in the group by Santana and Ortiz, irrespective of his blatant braggadocio.
However, "The Demo God" is under no illusion that Friedman is a renegade. Instead, he appreciates his tenacity and recognizes that MJF can copper-fasten the group’s long-term success.
Clearly paying homage to The Rock’s brazen 1997 move, MJF enjoyed his own moment of public insubordination on the October 7 episode of AEW Dynamite. There, he presented Jericho with a self-portrait, further teasing dissension between the pair.
While MJF’s presence in The Inner Circle will likely continue for the foreseeable future, it’s only a matter of time before the young lion takes out the elder statesman, much like The Rock did to Farooq as he took over as leader of The Nation.