MJF Is the Villain That Social Media Deserves

MJF Is the Villain That Social Media Deserves
By Tiffany Rose

Twitter: @ThatRoseTattoo


When I was a kid I used to love it when my dad would watch wrestling with me. My old man was
a real old-school rasslin’ fan who, in today’s parlance, “got it”. I used to wonder why, as I sat
there with an 8-year old’s righteous indignation at whatever misdeeds the bad guys were up to,
my father would sit there and laugh - actually LAUGH - as the unfair antics went on in the ring.
He’d even provide his own running commentary, loud and delighted: “Look at that! They
DIRTY!”

Daddy was a fan of the heels, which was not unusual for people who watched wrestling from out
of Memphis and Atlanta back in those days. The bad guys were the most charismatic ones on
the show, how could you not love them? I get it now too. As I got older I gained the same
understanding of over-the-top wrestling personas. Not only did I figure out how to slightly relax
my moral standards when it came to heel characters but I also learned how to appreciate these
people for doing such a great job of being assholes. After all, it was all a part of the show.

There was a point in time (some call it ‘the 90s’) where the cool contrarian heel was the big
draw. The Rock didn’t want us to sing along with him and boy, did we love it when he told us so.
Stone Cold gave us Austin 3:16 in a promo that was really just him being a damn jerk and we
ate it up with a spoon and bought all the t-shirts. DX and nWo...well, you see where I’m going
with this. People made a lot of money by working heel; in return the babyfaces showed their
edgier sides to gain more popularity, lines got blurred, and it all seemed to work fine for
everybody. Times change and tastes evolve, however.

I think wrestling fans forgot in those days how to get pissed off - truly angry - at the dirty players.
Maybe it was because cheering the heels simply became a common thing to do. Maybe it was
because fans had become jaded from overexposure and settled into the mindset of “it’s just a
show, laugh it up and trash it later online.” Not a great mindset for a fan to have. That’s a quick
way to settle into boredom and eventually tune out because nothing in particular is moving you
in any way. It’s all well and good to understand that wrestlers are playing a character in general,
but it’s so much more fun to watch and so much more emotionally engaging when they make
you forget that they’re only playing.

Enter Maxwell Jacob Friedman. He couldn’t have happened at a better time, really. Here’s a guy
who’s dedicated to being the biggest jerk he can possibly be. He’s that guy who’ll have the
smart fan laughing at every diss he launches until he finds one that hits the mark (pun possibly
intended). In a brave new society that places respect of others at a premium, MJF is out there
disrespecting at will, God bless him. My dad would have loved this guy. And why not? This is all
classic heel behavior, to rile up the crowds to a steaming hot frenzy and run away laughing with
all of the spotlight. What MJF does for his character is nothing new, but the platform he’s using
is pretty contemporary. For those who haven’t seen it, his Twitter account is a master class in
insults and self-aggrandizement; if one were a non-wrestling fan and happened to stumble
across some of the things MJF has tweeted, they just might come away with the notion that this
isn’t a very nice guy. Couldn’t blame someone if they actually did get upset, even. And man, did
that ever happen this week…

By now most wrestling aficionados and Twitter-watchers know about the battle of bants between
MJF and the entire Dungeons & Dragons fandom that started with one simple tweet on Tuesday
(which ideally should have been read as a heat-seeking subtweet directed at his upcoming
opponent Brandon Cutler) and quickly escalated into a raging flame war inferno. What’s so
great about the initial tweet is that there’s no direct slam on the game right away, it’s a photo of
MJF posing in a mirror with a caption that merely proclaims he doesn’t play Dungeons &
Dragons. The replies, as expected, would take on a life of their own. Defiant tabletop gamers
both well and lesser known either attempted to insult MJF in return or, in a humorous reflection
of ‘cancel culture’ and how it doesn’t apply here, rallied to get him fired from AEW for bullying.
Imagine that. These are individuals who wholly understand the ins and outs and nuances of
roleplay but just let one exceptional heel wrestler imply that their favorite game is weak and see
how legitimately fired up they get. Kayfabe never died, it was just the sword in the stone waiting
dormant for the right one to come along and wield it as intended. By golly, I think we’ve found
our new king.

MJF has given us a free class on 21st Century Heel Tactics 101. If you’ve got an upcoming
match, promote it on social media. If you’re working heel, throw in a good insult at your
opponent in that promotional post. If you’re working as a great heel, find a way to insult your
opponent and thousands of other people in that promotional post. And for God’s sake, double
down when they come for you. Nobody’s supposed to like you anyway. The MJF vs. D&D
tweets this week made me realize how great this unapologetically heel character is in the world
of social media where people’s outrage is so amplified and reactive.

The takeaway from all of this? Hate him or really hate him, MJF got word out both far and wide
that he’s got a match with Brandon Cutler coming up in a couple of weeks on the premiere
episode of AEW Dynamite. All the attention that comes with that announcement is just gravy.

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