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AEW star MJF on working with DDP, his NFL dreams & more (Exclusive)

  • In an exclusive interview, AEW's rising star opens up on working with DDP and much more.
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Exclusive
Modified 17 Sep 2019, 10:27 IST

Photo courtesy of All Elite Wrestling
Photo courtesy of All Elite Wrestling

Undeniably the fastest, youngest rising star in professional wrestling today, Maxwell Jacob Friedman -- MJF, for short -- has accomplished more within the first four years of his career than most of the other wrestlers throughout their journey. Prior to signing with All Elite Wrestling earlier this year, MJF was a champion within Major League Wrestling (where he is still one-half of the World Tag Team Champions alongside Richard Holliday), Combat Zone Wrestling, Limitless Wrestling, Alpha-1 Wrestling, AAW and MCW.

Beyond signing with AEW -- which premieres on U.S. network TNT and U.K. channel ITV on October 2nd -- 2019 also saw MJW jump 217 spots on the PWI 500 list, reaching No.135. It also saw him defeats the likes of Joey Janela, Shane Douglas, Scorpio Sky, Colt Cabana, Ethan Page, Teddy Hart and Davey Boy Smith Jr. in various matches.

On the evening of Monday, September 16, 2019, I welcomed MJF -- a fellow native of Long Island, New York -- into my home for an interview. Several minutes of the interview have been transcribed below exclusively for Sportskeeda, while the full 26-minute interview will be heard on the October 2nd edition of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast.

So everybody knows that you are the youngest, fastest-rising star in professional wrestling…

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: Accurate.

But what else do you wish more people knew about MJF?

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: I just wish more people knew how humble I was. I don't feel like that comes across well enough. I mean, I have all these talents, I have all these skills and I am ridiculously good looking. Yet I'm still able to sit down here in this disgusting apartment with an awful view and I'm still basically happy, you know? And I think that just goes to show how good of a person, how I’m salt of the Earth.

You're gonna be on national television regularly starting in a couple of weeks, but not everybody realizes that you've been on lots of TV before [with MLW]. Do you like the idea of being on national television?

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Maxwell Jacob Friedman: I love the prospect of TV because it's even more so long-form storytelling than you would get with a movie. Whereas a movie, you kind of have to jam-pack a whole entire story in an hour and a half, two hours. Watching Lord Of The Rings, I want to rip my eyeballs out of my face, three hours and a half. But with TV it constantly leaves you at a cliffhanger and you can go for six seasons, seven seasons however successful a show is going to be.

To me, AEW is gonna be around for a really long time, and I can really sink my teeth into the fact that I'm going to be able to portray myself as both an entertainer and as an athlete and evolve as a person in front of everybody's very eyes for, god, however long I feel like, to be completely honest. I've already signed a sheet of paper. I have the longest contract of any active roster member in all of All Elite Wrestling, which is pretty wild. But it seems about right, about fair, considering how much money I signed for and I'm really happy with everything.

Do you think that there's anything that people have wrong about you? Besides them not getting that you’re “salt of the earth?”

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: I think the biggest thing is, I'd like to say I'm more than just a wrestler. I have so many different things that go in my background. I mean, I was a very serious football player. I was very into acting, choir, a cappella. I really was a “jack of all trades” when I was growing up as a kid. And what's going to be cool is how I'm gonna be able kind of infuse all of those talents into weekly TV. Once I see it deems fit.

Looking at the people that you're working alongside, like your best friend Cody Rhodes.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: He’s the best. The Rollercoaster is the best.

And Dallas, who you have worked with on DDP YOGA stuff, or you just know him as a friend?

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: DDPY, man. It's so funny, the first time he brought it up to me, I met him at a housewarming party at Cody's house actually, and it was so wild. He walked up to me and he was so friendly, he said “MJF!” and I was like, “Oh snap, okay, so you know my work.” We got to talking and this is somebody that I've looked up to my whole entire life. It was just cool he took an interest in me what I was doing.

Then I was explaining to him that I'm 23 and I have back pain and my joints hurt. He explained to me what DDPY was. At first I was like, “Oh now that sounds like yoga. I don't want to do yoga. Yoga is for women and very frail men. I'm not interested.” He was like, “No come on bro, you gotta try it.” And I did it.

Now I feel like I'm completely invincible. I've never been in better shape in my entire life. My flexibility is through the roof. I have no pain in my neck, my back, my knees, my joints. DDPY works and I think especially if you're an athlete you would have to be a complete idiot not to at least try it.

You mentioned that before that you originally had back pain and all that, and everybody who watches you now versus four or five months ago goes, “Wow this guy literally is in the best shape of his life.” What is it that inspired you to go that route to actually get in the best shape of your life? Was it being on TV?

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: I think the fact that people are going to be looking at me half-naked every week is definitely, you know, a little push. But besides that, I want to be the best professional wrestler in the world. I want to be the best athlete in the world. I want people to watch our program and be like, “Oh MJF by far by miles is the best thing that they have on their TV show, whether that be on the microphone or in the ring”… I don't want anyone to ever look at me and think, “Oh he's great at all of this except” -- I don't want to have one weak point. I don't want one.

That's something I've always prided myself on since I was a little kid. Granted, if there was something I wasn't interested in, it meant nothing to me when I pushed it over to the side. Like, for example, me and school never got along. And I think that's why me and Dallas kind of got real close real quick, ‘cause we had a lot of similarities, like I was not good at reading. I was really bad at reading and it almost felt like teachers would call me out to read in front of the class almost as like, “Haha, this is funny for us.” That sucked.

I had terrible attention deficit disorder. It took a lot for you to get me to sit down and care about what you were talking about. You had to be a very charismatic person, or I had to care about the subject matter. So when I found things that I did care about, like acting, like wrestling, like football, it was just like, “Oh I'm really good at this and I'm really good at this because I'm passionate.” And that's what I love about wrestling. The second that goes away, I'm gonna stop. But for now I'm just so in love with every aspect of my business.

We've talked about it briefly here, but you've talked about it in general, that you were a standout high school football player, and that led to you getting a college scholarship within football. Was the goal ever to play in the NFL?

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: You know it's so funny. I wanted to play in the NFL just so I would be more appealing to WWE because there was no AEW at that point. So in my head I was like, “OK, I'm going to be the best middle linebacker in college sports, then I'm going to go play in the NFL for like a year or two and I'll be famous. I'll call Vince McMahon on his cell phone and say, ‘Hey, book me.’” So that was my game plan.

But once I got to that college, I immediately felt it in my bones… I've always had like the sixth sense. I'm very good at reading people, I'm very good at reading situations, and I just knew I wasn't supposed to be there. I remember calling my parents being like, “Hey I'm going to come home.” And them laughing at me, like “No you're not going anywhere.” So when I did come home it was definitely not easy but they understood the sincerity in my voice and my face that I knew what I wanted to do. I didn't want to waste away four years playing college football at the prospect of playing in the NFL so I can get noticed for wrestling when I could just literally start doing professional wrestling. And that's what I did for four years until I got signed to AEW.

Published 17 Sep 2019, 10:04 IST
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