Wardlow vs. MJF
Written by Canadian Bulldog
One of AEW's best long-term feuds has only produced one match (to date) but it's a tremendous example of what happens with long-term booking and listening to what the audience wants to see.
In the early days of AEW Dynamite, Wardlow was hyped through a series of vignettes. But instead of him getting the "big hoss squashes jobbers" treatment that so many people of his size receive, Wardlow was immediately paired with MJF in a heater-type role.
Over the next couple of years, Wardlow would stand menacingly in MJF's corner and when the situation called for it, would get into the ring to take care of business himself. It was impressive that a relative rookie was able to hang with the likes of Cody Rhodes, Hangman Adam Page and members of The Inner Circle, while still silently serving his boss.
By the time MJF began feuding with CM Punk, it was apparent that Wardlow was preparing to step out on his own.... but the split didn't happen the way one may think. After screwing his boss out of a match with Punk, Wardlow declared that he wanted to exit his "business agreement."
Unfortunately, MJF did everything he could to keep Wardlow in his contract, including taking away his entrance music, being surrounded by security guards (while handcuffed) and having to face whomever MJF forced him to fight.
The move did wonders for Wardlow's popularity, as each he competed in only built up his reputation. Everyone knew there would be a confrontation between the two, it was only a matter of when.
The match happened at Double or Nothing and was surrounded by controversy. MJF no-showed a fan festival a day earlier and had fans whether he'd even show up. The Salt of the Earth and showed up and took a quite beating at the hands of his former servant. The following day, MJF cut a "worked shoot" promo on the company and disappeared.
Unfortunately, the two had only one match, but for fans of Wardlow, it was a satisfying conclusion to the lengthy build-up and bad blood. Let's hope one day the rivalry is revisited.