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MJF announced for Dynamite as suspicion mounts Double or Nothing drama was a work

All the reporting on the drama that unfolded between Maxwell Jacob Friedman and AEW over Double or Nothing weekend agreed on one thing — this was not a work. Sure, everyone added the “everything in pro wrestling can/will be used in a storyline eventually” caveat. But all the most reliable wrestling media were adamant that MJF no-showing a $100 per ticket meet & greet session on Sat., May 28, and the heat between him & Tony Khan that contributed to Friedman’s decision, was absolutely real.

With a few days of additional information and perspective, there’s some reports coming out that seem to contradict that. One prominent outlet is now seemingly unsure altogether.

In a lengthy discussion of the situation on a PWTorch VIP Audio show yesterday (May 31), Wade Keller backed up much of the existing story. The tension between Friedman and his boss has been going on for months. It’s over money, and communication about a new contract. While MJF received one raise over his initial “starter deal”, he wants to be paid as much as the ex-WWE talents Khan’s signed over the past year, who are making “four to five times more than him.” He’s had a good relationship with Khan, and expected the owner to approach him about another new contract with a raise, and when he didn’t, Max got “very angry privately.” TK, meanwhile, “was caught off guard by how angry MJF was getting”.

Keller’s report describes Friedman as someone who “gets really worked up.” The Torch’s sources say, “he’s been so worked up that he just became sort of withdrawn and bitter” while at work.

Which led to Saturday in Las Vegas:

“... the way it was portrayed to us is MJF was in no place to be in public. He was in a bad place. And so it just seemed if not mutually agreed upon [it was] pretty obvious to everybody that it would be good for him to not make a public appearance yesterday. So that kind of got things rolling.”

That’s getting close to saying it was planned, but not quite. Combined with a pay dispute each subsequent report makes sound more like “these dudes just need to talk to other”, it paints a certain picture. Especially when we did get word earlier this week that MJF & TK would finally talk, Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp noted he couldn’t get AEW to confirm if it was an angle or a legit business meeting.

Bryan Alvarez of Wrestling Observer is more explicit in his latest for Sports Illustrated. The entire premise of Alvarez’s article, “The MJF Situation Is a Major Test for AEW’s Relationship With Its Fans” is about the pitfalls of trying to recreate a Brian Pillman-esque worked shoot angle. In his conclusion, Alvarez comes out and says it (emphasis mine):

“If this MJF situation is an elaborate work, and quite frankly all evidence points in that direction, Khan will have to walk a very fine line to ensure that he does not destroy that trust, because we have seen it happen elsewhere in the past and things did not end well.”

Was it a work all along? Or just a shoot that turned in a work (goodnight HULKAMANIACS)? Maybe MJF will tell us on Dynamite tonight...

Join us in our live blog and we’ll find out together.

H/T: WrestlingNews.co for transcription of Wade Keller’s PWTorch VIP Audio