At time of writing, AEW hasn’t run a single show since Revolution. I do not know what is going to happen, nor do I claim to know what is going to happen. But with this feud firmly in the books, I’d like to infer what could happen next. This is the art you’ve been waiting for: the art of long-term storytelling, and where we go from here.
This match, in my opinion, brings the career arc of CM Punk full-circle. Leaving WWE on such bad terms put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and in a way, using MJF as a surrogate for the audience feeling that abandonment helped to give closure. In addition, this match was the reversal of roles from the CM Punk vs Raven dog collar match. Rather than the fiery upstart, Punk became the legendary wrestler who wanted to show a young brat who wouldn’t stop running his mouth that he still had it. Whatever CM Punk does from this point on is all gravy: his core career story arc, at least in my book, is complete.
We’ve known for quite some time that AEW has downright massive plans for MJF as a character, but now I think I’m finally starting to see what they’re doing. Past this initial feud with Wardlow that will almost certainly be starting this coming week, MJF’s current major story arc is that he can’t win the big one. He beat CM Punk twice on free TV, but couldn’t do it when the lights shone the brightest at the pay-per-view. He beat Chris Jericho multiple times in his last major feud, but couldn’t end his career in their final match, where Jericho promised to retire if he lost again. MJF is going to be the next AEW World Champion, and at this point I’m fully convinced. Just when you think he doesn’t have what it takes to win the big one, he’ll take the belt. And then, he’ll never shut up about it. And it’ll be great.
This match did more for Wardlow than it did for CM Punk and MJF combined, and he wasn’t even in it. AEW’s been teasing turning Wardlow against MJF for months now, and it seems they’re finally putting the rubber to the road on that long-term storyline for him. That initial act of defiance, mixed with the big win he had in the multi-man ladder match earlier in the show, tells me that AEW is all-in on Wardlow’s success as a budding star. He has superstar written all over him, and this upcoming feud with MJF will be perfect in showcasing his talent as a hero, rather than a villain. Wrestling doesn’t need complicated storytelling. “Hero vs Villain” will work just fine. And Wardlow vs MJF is going to be a wonderful example of that, just like CM Punk vs MJF was.
Feature photo courtesy of AEW and the New York Post