MJF and Wardlow were booked to have a public whipping segment on AEW Dynamite. Somehow both performers made it entertaining.
On paper, a public whipping segment doesn’t sound like an entertaining bit for AEW Dynamite, but MJF and Wardlow are so over with crowds that they made it work. Wardlow wants his match against MJF at the upcoming AEW Double or Nothing pay per view. Friedman, of course, had some stipulations before making that bout official.
The first was that War Dog had to withstand ten lashings from MJF in the middle of the ring. So Wardlow walked to the squared circle on Wednesday night, topless and handcuffed, to no music and a solid ovation. Friedman then took to whipping his former bodyguard, and what happened next not only worked but was effective.
Make no mistake: this was some Vince McMahon-level stuff in terms of being questionably amusing at best. Yet MJF and Wardlow dedicated themselves to the segment 110 percent, and the outcome was something that propelled their feud even further into can’t-wait-to-see-them-fight territory. Wardlow no selling the whips couldn’t have been easy. And it’s not as if the two could have practiced backstage, as his flesh would have already been swollen and red. There were aspects of it that were a work, obviously, but the physicality of getting whipped means that it certainly wasn’t CGI swelling on Wardlow’s back – making the bit all the more impressive.
It was MJF losing his cool entirely that pulled everything together, though. Because as much of a heel as he is, he’s still got friends like Shawn Spears helping him every step of the way. That’s a role that Wardlow once had, and it cost him companions in the back. So while MJF and Spears continued to assault him after the ten lashings were up, no one came to his aid. No music hit, and there was no pop for a run-in. He was simply left, beaten and motionless in the middle of the ring as MJF left. It’s Wardlow against the World, and he’s no one to blame but himself for that. It’s compelling storytelling.
Lesser performers would have burned this segment to the ground by overselling or not committing to it enough. It’s a fine line to walk, and it’s a tightrope act that MJF seems to manage perfectly every time he appears in front of AEW crowds. Everything he touches turns to gold, and that Midas touch carries over to the faces he’s tasked with putting over and wrestling. CM Punk doesn’t feel like a championship contender in AEW without his feud with MJF. If not for his work with Friedman, Chris Jericho might not be as relevant on Wednesday nights as he is. And MJF took the ball and ran with it when allowed to toil through a program with Cody Rhodes. The level of showmanship and skill that were on display on Dynamite deserves praise – even if the segment itself probably shouldn’t have worked in the first place.
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