Arn Anderson wants to help Maxwell Jacob Friedman evolve as a wrestling bad guy.
Friedman, 24, will face Jon Moxley for the All Elite Wrestling world championship on Saturday (8 p.m., B/R Live). Friedman, who goes by MJF, is already one of the rising stars in pro wrestling. That doesn’t mean there isn’t more to be added to his repertoire.
As a member of the legendary Four Horsemen, one of the best heel tag teams ever with Tully Blanchard and a match producer with WWE, Anderson thinks he knows just the thing.
“What I want to do, if I have the opportunity to work with him at some point, is teach him all the nasty cheap stuff,” Anderson, Cody Rhodes’ on-screen manager in AEW, told The Post in a phone interview. “There’s nothing cheaper than getting knocked on your ass in the corner and begging the referee to bail you out and kicking a guy’s knee out from under him from being on your ass.”
MJF does his fair share of underhanded things to help himself win matches, including using his bodyguard Wardlow and his Dynamite Diamond ring to get the job done. Anderson would like to see more, saying it will help turn some of the fans who actually root for Friedman against him.
“For those people who are so entertained by him and do like him no matter what he says as long as he’s insulting everybody else and he’s not insulting me I like that guy, for that group of fans, once he continues to be that cheap and not earning everything he gets in the ring then those people will turn on him and then you got a guy that sells tickets,” Anderson said.
While Friedman is over with the audience as a classic heel, wrestling legend Taz – an AEW manager/commentator who is a good friend of MJF — believes he can eventually go the other way. Friedman is good enough to become a beloved babyface.
Taz cited the transitions of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper – whom MFJ revered – and “Macho Man” Randy Savage from heel to babyface as examples.
“[Savage] was such an amazing bad guy that people had to like him and he became a babyface,” Taz said. “They loved him. I think MJF can do the exact same thing because he’s so damn entertaining. He’s so good on the mic. He’s so cunning and insulting and crass and unscripted. It just fit all those things to become a good guy. But stay the way you are, still act like a jerk and people are gonna laugh. He’s entertaining as hell.”
It’s why Taz says Friedman’s upside is “endless” and can eventually see him cross over into acting one day. MJF, who lives his wrestling persona, was part of the choir in high school and sung “You Are My Sunshine” on the “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” when he was 6 – telling her he wanted to be an opera singer and a wrestler.
“He’s a talented guy,” Taz said. “He can sing. He can act. He’s an athlete. He’s everything.”
Friedman left open another direction for his character.
Chris Jericho originally wanted him to be part of his Inner Circle in AEW, but Sammy Guevara was made the young up and comer of the group so MJF could stay a solo act. Friedman and Jericho did a promo in a storyline together where the question of him joining was again posed. It was never fully resolved as far as MJF is concerned.
“Do I want to finish that conversation? Some days I do. Some days I don’t,” he said. “I respect Chris more than anybody in our industry. I think Chris is a hero. I think Chris is a trailblazer, but so am I. Do I think the industry as a whole would be flipped upside down and be completely different things if I was in the Inner Circle? Probably yes, because you would have two of the biggest stars in one stable.
“But do I believe I might be better off standing on my own two feet? Also, a good question and I don’t know if I can answer any of those questions today.”