This week’s (Mar. 10) episode of Dynamite closed with a major angle where MJF joined up with a new heel faction with horsemen vibes to destroy Chris Jericho and the Inner Circle. Nearly 24 hours later, I am still floored at what a tremendous piece of business that AEW and all the wrestlers involved pulled off here.
The long-term nature of the story is the crux of why MJF’s big swerve at the end was so exciting to watch unfold. After losing an AEW world championship match against Jon Moxley at All Out 2020 in September, MJF teased that he needed to surround himself with a faction in order to one day win the top gold in the promotion. This led to some funny and goofy skits with Chris Jericho, including the incredible Le Dinner Debonaire.
MJF defeated Jericho in November at Full Gear to gain entry into Jericho’s Inner Circle. At the time, a lot of pro wrestling fans (myself included) thought they knew where this one was going; MJF was obviously masterminding a plot to eventually ouster Jericho from the group and become its new leader.
AEW immediately leaned into that idea, with MJF directly addressing how implausible it was on Dynamite. But the weasel was lying, of course. He was simultaneously weakening the faction by finding different ways to screw over Sammy Guevara and later push him out of the group, while increasing his foothold within the stable by directly bonding with the remaining members. In the case of Santana, MJF shared the grief of family death. MJF also reassured Jake Hager about his toughness after losing a hard-hitting match against Wardlow. These touches were subtle but still masterfully fed into the expectation that MJF was going to eventually gain leadership over the group.
When this week’s angle was booked in the main event segment, it seemed like this could finally be the big moment that so many fans have been waiting for. MJF and Jericho lost a tag team championship match at Revolution, and it was time for major changes to shape the group’s future.
But the segment strangely cut right to the chase, with Sammy Guevara returning to television and almost too easily revealing MJF’s true intention to incite a coup within the Inner Circle. We’ve seen pro wrestling angles like this before, where a conveniently placed hidden camera reveals the big swerve (for example, Sonya Deville betraying Mandy Rose in WWE last year, or Triple H’s attack on Shawn Michaels to set up their match at SummerSlam 2002).
So even though the pacing was odd with Guevara almost immediately exposing MJF’s scheme, it was reasonable to think that the segment would simply play out with the Inner Circle beating the hell out of the obnoxious MJF, who certainly deserved his comeuppance. It appeared the big swerve was going to be that MJF actually wasn’t going to take over control of Jericho’s group, and was instead going to take an ass-kicking. Or maybe the rest of the Inner Circle was still truly going to turn on Jericho at the very last second. There was still some thought that the slimy heel had an ace up his sleeve, but it seemed like an impossible situation for him to escape.
That’s when MJF begged off like a coward before changing his demeanor and dropping the bombshell - he’s been building his own faction this whole time. The lights go out, they come back on, and there is FTR, Tully Blanchard, Shawn Spears, and sexy Wardlow. A brutal and violent assault ensued, culminating with Jericho being bloodied and broken through a table. It was a jaw-dropping display of brilliant pro wrestling story-telling and drama.
The possibilities coming out of this angle are very exciting and breathe new life into all of these performers. The Inner Circle has been been involved in quite a few comedy angles or matches over the last year, from the Stadium Stampede, to Mimosa Mayhem, to the Las Vegas getaway, to the aforementioned Le Dinner Debonaire. Many of these segments provided great fun, but it was time for the Inner Circle to regain a more serious edge. This angle allows them to head in that direction as babyfaces, opening the door for an obvious Blood and Guts match.
Then there is MJF, who was never really a natural fit for the Inner Circle. Simply replacing Jericho with him as its leader could have some potential downsides, so it was for the best to give him his own group. This angle paves the way for MJF to one day win the AEW world championship, regardless of how long it takes. But the faction is also great for Wardlow. Being the muscle in a faction like this can provide the exact kind of environment that Wardlow needs to one day break out as a singles star on his own. Then there is FTR, who now have an easy plot device for getting involved in fights against babyfaces all over the roster who don’t have much to do with tag team wrestling, such as Jon Moxley or Cody Rhodes, simply based on the principle of group warfare. As for Shawn Spears, well...someone needs to eat the pins, right?
Overall, I am amazed at how well AEW, MJF, Jericho, and everyone involved pulled off this masterpiece, and I’m very excited to see where it goes from here.
What are your hopes and expectations for MJF’s new heel faction and Jericho’s Inner Circle going forward?