“I’d like to say to the readers of this interview, you have a new superhero, it is no longer Pepe Le Pew, it is now Maxwell Jacob Friedman.” Those words were the last of our interview, but they clearly say a lot about MJF. Nobody in wrestling right now lives his gimmick more than MJF, or this dastardly heel is truly Max Friedman. The man insinuated himself into Chris Jericho’s faction, The Inner Circle, made everything in order to be kicked out of it just to reveal he already created his own faction, The Pinnacle. A war that will lead to the first-ever Blood & Guts match between the 2 stables this Wednesday.

Similar to a WarGames match, the Blood & Guts double steel cage will feature a roof. The rules are as followed, two rings, first two wrestlers get five minutes, then every two minutes, another member will come in (alternating between both teams). Once everyone is in the match, it’s “submit or surrender” (can’t win via pinfalls, count-outs, or by escaping the cage). The Pinnacle are going to get the advantage in the match with the first person entering the match. Shawn Spears wanted the advantage, and he will start the match with Sammy Guevara.

SteelChair Wrestling Magazine had the chance to talk to MJF on Friday two weeks ago. He told us about the Blood & Guts match, the explosion of the Inner Circle, the creation of The Pinnacle, what makes a great faction pro-wrestling, and what the future may hold for him.

How have you been preparing for such a match?

“I’m just preparing by being a student of the game. I’m watching as much tape as I could possibly get my hands on, on these matches that were done previously. I feel like we have a really good game plan going in. We have Tully [Blanchard], who’s the greatest mind in the history of the business, and he’s made up a really good playbook and a good play sheet, preparing us for this match, he’s the ultimate coach you could have for Blood & Guts. So I honestly feel like not only are we going to have the advantage in numbers by being able to have two men in there first on one quite often in the match, but also I feel we have the advantage in the upper hand because one of our members has already been inside of this match obviously.”

Of course, you have the team advantage that you took yesterday. It was pretty surprising not to see the Inner Circle fighting for it because, like you just said, it’s a two-on-one most of the match.

“I think that came down to Sammy Guevara’s sheer stupidity, the guy’s always been dumb as a doorknob, so I wasn’t shocked that they gave their advantage away strictly because he got too fired up. He got too excited, “Oh, I’ll wrestle everyone, I’ll wrestle one, I’ll wrestle two, I’ll wrestle three, I’ll wrestle four, I’ll wrestle the popcorn guy.” He got completely out of hand, and then he showed his cards. Sammy Guevara is just not all that bright, but we appreciate his stupidity because now we, The Pinnacle, have a huge advantage in this matchup.”

Talking about everything that has happened to reach that match, the day you won the match at Full Gear against Chris Jericho, it was so obvious you were coming into the Inner Circle to make it explode. Something Chris Jericho didn’t understand but many people did. Did you have that plan in mind for a long time?

“Absolutely, it was a plan in the making for a very long time. Personally, I made it my mission to get inside that group and rot it from the inside, from its core, and I accomplished that greatly. I was able to get them to turn on one another, I was able to get them to forget about the fact that there was, like you said, clearly a fox in the hen house, but I personally feel I’m a master manipulator, that’s something that I’m proud of, most people wouldn’t be, but I’m proud of it. You gotta love it when a great plan comes together and, pretty much, I’ve never had a plan that hasn’t in the history of my professional wrestling career. I genuinely can say that my men in The Pinnacle, this is the first time I feel genuinely care about or care for the people that I am fighting with. I care about Dax and Cash, FTR, I care about Shawn Spears, I care about Tully Blanchard, I care about Wardlow. I feel that right now we easily are the stronger team and definitely the smarter team at the same time.”

You were able to insinuate yourself into Chris Jericho’s mind because, when you’ve been 30 years in this business, you absolutely want to learn from a person like that. At the same time, do you regret some moments or some matches that you have to work with the Inner Circle, like the Dinner Debonair, for example?

“I don’t regret any of it. I did what I had to do, and out of that singing, I actually became a New York Times best performer of 2020. No professional wrestler has ever been in the New York Times for best performance award, which was massive. I didn’t even regret when I brought up my dead grandfather just so I could get closer to Santana and Ortiz. I did what I had to do, that’s what you do in this industry if you want to be a winner, if you want to be a World Champion, if you want to rule the roost, if you want to have the best, the top faction in professional wrestling, you do whatever it takes, and I feel like Chris Jericho has been in this industry for 30 years so if anybody should understand that, it’s him, but quite frankly he’s gotten a little soft, and I just can’t comprehend that. When I’m going to be in this business for 30 years, my mind is not going to change. The only thing I care about is money and gold and, right now, that’s The Pinnacle’s trajectory after we beat these men at Blood & Guts.”

Is there one thing that you will keep from Chris Jericho’s mind, one thing that you learnt from him during that time into The Inner Circle?

“If there’s one positive thing I learned from Chris Jericho, it’s definitely that, I learned how to be a leader of men. That’s not something I could ever comprehend in the sense that my whole entire life I’ve been front and centre, I’ve been centre of attention, I’ve only ever had to worry about myself, it’s just that simple, but I actually got to learn how to lead men under Chris Jericho. I’d say that’s the main thing, and that’s benefited me greatly with The Pinnacle so I will give him credit on that.”

Two weeks ago, you did a great interview with Jim Ross and The Pinnacle, who was pretty incredible (see below). Even if, like we say here, you need an iron hand in a velvet glove, someone leading but, at the same time, any member of the group was free to talk and express what they wanted to say, like Wardlow. You seem to lead but a democratic way.

“Absolutely, that is exactly what I want. To me, a lot of people are trying to shove it down people’s throats that I’m the leader of The Pinnacle and, while I appreciate that very much, you use the perfect word, it is a democracy. We’re brothers in arms, a family. All of us have an intention of being together because we feel we are the best that this business has to offer and by having each other’s backs. Like I said, what is the two most important things in this business, in this sport, it’s getting a lot of green and a lot of gold, and we know that by working together, by being a cohesive unit, and by not being MJF and The Pinnacle, unlike Chris Jericho and The Inner Circle because that’s what it feels like at times, I feel that’s what our success is gonna lie. We are genuinely wanting each other to succeed and be at the highest level and we all know what our positions are. Shawn Spears is a guy that could be and should be TNT Champion. FTR are a tag team that, once again, are going to hold that tag team gold, Wardlow, when I’m done with my long illustrious championship reign at the top as AEW World Champion, is a guy who also could easily be a World Champion. Tully Blanchard is the best coach you could possibly ask for. We all know what our jobs are, and we all take a lot of pride in what our jobs are. It shines through in our interviews, and it shines.”

For you, what makes a great faction in wrestling?

“What makes a great faction are people who are all looking out for each other’s best interests and not just solely looking for a way to show that they’re better than everyone else. Granted, I want to prove that I’m better than everybody else on the roster, but I have no intention of doing that with the rest of the gentlemen that are in my group, in The Pinnacle, you have to be selfless individual. I was proud of Shawn Spears last night, he showed the world, “Hey, I’ve been in this industry for 19 years, and everyone’s been too afraid to put the spotlight on me, so I’m just gonna take that spotlight, and I’m going to make sure it’s placed on me, and I’m going to cut a hellaciously great promo.” That’s exactly what Spears did because Spears has been great for 19 years, he just never had the opportunity to show it, and now that he’s in the greatest faction in professional wrestling known as The Pinnacle, he’s gonna be able to show it week in and week out and he has been since the inception of our group. So if there’s one guy who I’m probably the most proud of since the inception of The Pinnacle, I’m going to have to say Shawn Spears.”

If Shawn can be a fantastic TNT Champion, you can be the World Champion, FTR are former Tag Team Champions, there’s one title you can’t reach which is the Women’s World Championship. Would you add a lady to the group if you could? I think Britt Baker would fit it perfectly…

“Right now, our main objective is to get the Inner Circle out of the way, and they do not have a woman in their ranks, so right now, I’m not too concerned with that. Am I saying that, down the line, it might not where it may make sense to add a woman into our group to make sure that we, The Pinnacle, have every single piece of platinum in AEW? I wouldn’t lie to you and tell you that’s not in the cards because it very well might be, but right now, that’s not our focus but absolutely, once we all win gold who’s to say we wouldn’t want a crusade for more by finding a woman that we feel deemed fit enough to join The Pinnacle.

“I hear about Brit a lot, people are saying they wanted to be in The Pinnacle and, like I said, I’m a very affluent man, I am open to conversations if it makes sense for me economically, but on top of that, I will say this about Brittany, she is clearly not just the face of the women’s division in AEW, but at this point, I think it’s fair to say she’s the face of women’s wrestling as a whole, just like I feel it’s fair to say that I’m the face of men’s professional wrestling as a whole. I get why people keep bringing this up, it makes complete sense.”

All the pictures of The Pinnacle, with the jets and the limos, couldn’t help but make us think of The Evolution and The Horsemen. Did you think about them when you started to think about what The Pinnacle image could be?

“To me, what we are is a throwback to a bygone era. I can easily say that, as a student of the game, I am fully aware of those factions, and those factions were all incredible in their own right but, to me, The Pinnacle is something entirely new. It’s something that we’ve taken that was old school and we’ve modernized it and made it new school, we’ve made it ours and I feel that just like people bring up when they bring up the best factions and they bring up the Evolution and the Horsemen, I feel that in 10 years from now people are going to be saying when they bring up greatest factions of all time, they will be saying Pinnacle and I’m looking forward to that.”

You’ve been in many factions in your career, in the different promotions you worked for? Do you feel like it’s something that is good for you or you could easily go for yourself, make your thing and have the same success?

“I made it very clear that alone, I could easily have the success because, at 24, I main-evented a pay-per-view for probably the most important promotion in professional wrestling right now, in AEW. The reason why I gravitate towards being in a group, it’s just simple science here. If I have men surrounding me who are like-minded, who are willing to protect me, then that means that I’m not going to be in danger of having to deal with these men that are all mad at me because let’s face it, I’m a silver-tongued devil, I really get to people when I speak. I’m going to have protection, I’m not going to have to wrestle as often and when I do wrestle, I’m gonna be able to demand a bigger winner’s purse. That is why I love groups, but more importantly, the reason why I love my group is that I’ve never been inside of a group that I’ve had this many like-minded men, this many people that have winning attitudes. I’m surrounded by winners, and that is why personally you can tell that in my career, I’ve been in a lot of groups, I’ve been in a lot of factions, it’s because it’s the smart thing to do and also it’s because I’m a very likeable guy and I have a lot of friends. I can’t help that, I’m Salt of the Earth.”

It’s not usual in this business to see some wrestlers coming to see a 25-year old wrestler like you, feeling like this you can help them and, even more, can help them go to the top. Being a leader at 25 is far from normal.

“No, it’s not. I’m a prodigy, but people have been saying that about me since birth and the reason why it doesn’t shock me, but it shocks everybody else, is because, let’s face it, there’s ageism in this world. When people hear the number 25, they think, “Oh, that person probably doesn’t have their ducks in a row, he’s probably immature, he’s probably not ready for a big opportunity.” I’ve been a top name in this industry since I was 22. I’ve been in this business since 2014, that’s not a long time but, however, since I started in this industry, I have been non-stop travelling the world, and I’ve been a top guy in every single promotion I’ve ever stuck a foot in. That’s why I was not nervous when I got called upon to be a part of AEW, not nervous at all because I knew that whatever the top spot, whoever was in that top spot, whether it had been a Cody Rhodes or a Chris Jericho, I was gonna take it because nobody’s more talented than me, nobody’s better than me on the microphone and in the ring. I feel now when people talk about MJF, it’s no longer, “Man, he’s great for 25.” That stops, thank God. It only took a year and a half of people having to do mental gymnastics pretending I’m not the best in the world. Now people just say MJF is great, period, and I’m very proud of that.”

You are under contract with AEW for a long time, until 2024. If we were having this conversation in three or four years, where do you think you would be, Championship wise, faction wise? Where do you see yourself by the time your contract will expire?

“I’d say I’d be near the end of my contract. I would be the AEW World Champion, I would still be a part of the greatest faction in professional wrestling known as The Pinnacle, all of my brothers in arms would also have gold and then, at that point, the highest bidder, baby. Me and my boys were willing to go wherever the money’s at, it’s that simple. Don’t get me wrong, AEW runs deep in me, I don’t want to leave, but I am a businessman at the end of the day, and I can’t help myself if somebody’s got an offer for me, I’m going to listen to it.”

Follow MJF on @The_MJF.

AEW Dynamite: Blood & Guts is taking place this Wednesday at 8 PM EST on TNT in the USA, on Thursday at 7 PM BST on ITV Hub and on Friday around 11 PM BST on ITV4 in the UK. 

All pics and videos courtesy of AEW

By Steph Franchomme

News, Reviews, Social Media Editor, Impact Wrestling Reviewer, Interviewer Well, call me The Boss... And French...

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