After Switchblade Jay White picked up a Mogul Embassy-assisted victory over Hangman Page on Oct. 10’s “Title Tuesday” edition of Dynamite, AEW World champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman appeared to demand White return his belt to him.
That led to a strong promo exchange between the two men who will fight for that title next month at Full Gear. It also led to some words from Switchblade’s Bullet Club Gold partner Juice Robinson that will keep wrestling fans talking on the internet for a while.
Robinson pointedly referred to the champion solely by his surname Friedman, which isn’t something anyone else on AEW television does. Juice revealed this year’s Dynamite Diamond Battle Royal is next week on Dynamite, and he plans on winning it to take the ring Max wears as the winner of each of the previous four such battle royals.
It was what he said next that’s generating conversation... and real & storyline heat. Robinson’s segment starts at ~1:13 of this clip:
Juice told MJF he had a present for him, revealing a roll of quarters with “FRIEDMAN” written on them. Robinson has been using similar rolls to nail opponents and rivals with loaded punches for a long time now, but threatening to give Max a gift of them also calls back to the story MJF’s shared on multiple occasions about anti-semitic bullying he was subjected to in high school.
It first came up in AEW back on Dark in 2019:
“Let’s go there, we can go there — I’m gonna go there. So when I was little growing up, I played football — I loved football. For those who aren’t aware, I am Jewish — the name might have given it away — and there was no other Jewish kids on my football. So, it was an adjustment for me because the other kids didn’t exactly love the fact that there was a Jewish kid taking their spot.
“So on the first day of practice, I beat out some of the other kids who had been there a little longer than me for the middle linebacker spot, and I remember the next week [name removed] and a band of douchebags walked up to me and they said, ‘Hey Jew boy’ and they threw rolls of quarters at me, and they told me to pick it up. And I was pretty floored and it messed me up pretty bad.
“I remember just going home and bawling my eyes out. I learned that day that you have to kill the person you were born to be to be the person you want to be. So, I was never going to let myself be bullied ever again and I made it a point to go to the gym every day. Eat right and train right.”
So having Max lose his temper before Robinson could finish his promo, and later wanting to talk to his brochacho Adam Cole about Robinson opening up some “old wounds”? It all works in the story MJF and AEW have been telling for a long time.
But it’s also a very real world issue, told at a time when anti-semitism has been on the rise in recent years. More specifically, they’re having Juice push these buttons in the week following an attack on Israel that’s been called their 9/11 and has shaken Jews worldwide.
For those reasons, a segment of AEW’s online fanbase isn’t directing their anger at the heel character of Juice Robinson and pulling for babyface MJF to give him his comeuppance. They’re disappointed with Tony Khan and the people who booked or approved the angle because it hit their screens.
Who’s right? Should wrestling stick to over-the-top escapism and not touch sensitive real world topics? Would AEW have been better off to keep this in the idea file for a time when the world’s only Jewish state isn’t at war? Should stories be able to tackle any subject, at any time? Are there objective answers to those questions, or is this angle just our latest reminder there are multiple, fundamentally different ways of looking at pro wrestling — or any artform — in the modern world?
That’s what some wrestling fans are debating because of tonight’s Dynamite, and likely will be for the next several days.
UPDATE: MJF has commented on the segment. You can read his statement on it here.
UPDATE 2: MJF has further thoughts on the controversy that he shared here.