Dog collar matches are notoriously dangerous. The first rule of pro wrestling is safety for both yourself and your opponent, but when you have a collar and chain around your neck and are being yanked around by another person, it’s a little harder to keep each other safe than in a normal match. Dog collar matches are rare treats reserved for only the most gruesome of blood feuds, and CM Punk vs MJF fits that bill perfectly.
We’ll start with the entrances, specifically CM Punk’s. Since 2011, Punk has been widely associated with Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality.” Fitting for a wrestler who, again, became a cult hero during his time in the industry. But in a successful attempt at both nostalgia and pre-match mind games with MJF, Punk opted for a throwback in the form of AFI’s “Miseria Cantare,” the song he entered the ring to during his time with Ring of Honor and first used in that 2003 dog collar match against Raven.
Now, onto the match. My favorite kind of wrestling is that which makes me just a little bit uncomfortable, and this match was wonderful for scratching that itch. The story was simple: these guys absolutely hate each other, and they’re going to kill each other. Both men bled buckets, leaving the ring so stained with blood that the AEW ring crew had to switch out ring mats after the match. There were callbacks to multiple points in the history of both competitors, and their history with each other was on full display throughout.
Finally, the finish of the match is what sealed this one for me as true storytelling art. There’s a third actor in this play, maybe the key to the entire thing. I haven’t talked much about Wardlow, MJF’s bodyguard, before this. In truth, I only mentioned him earlier so that we could talk at length about him now.
Throughout the months leading up to this match, Wardlow has shown signs that his patience with MJF ordering him around is wearing thin. His facial expressions are less eager, his thinking has far more layers beyond needing to help Friedman, and most of all, the AEW crowd absolutely loves him, and MJF hates it. So when MJF called for Wardlow to bring him the diamond ring that he often uses to cheat in his matches, Wardlow came down the ramp and found himself shocked that he didn’t have the ring, allowing Punk to take control of the match. With his boss’s back turned, Wardlow gave a classic “oh, there it is” face, and placed the ring in front of Punk, allowing him to use it to secure the win.
Malicious compliance is the funniest plot device on planet Earth.