This is the second and final part in a series dissecting some of AEW’s most fleshed-out storylines. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, I highly suggest you do before continuing! Have fun.
Big Bad Boss
MJF vs Wardlow
Now I’m sure a lot of you are going, ‘What part of one man beating multiple security guards at once is realistic?’ None of it. But that’s not the point. The essence of the story between the ‘Salt of the Earth’ and the current TNT Champion makes perfect sense and can be regarded as a dramatized version of real toxic boss-employee dynamics.
Power can ruin anyone, and it does not help that MJF was already quite the handful of a person. Once he hired Wardlow to be his bodyguard, he saw it as a ticket to treat Wardlow in whatever way he wished, because he was paying him after all. A lot of bosses (and people in general) have a corrupted concept of how they can treat employees; they assume that the check they hand them at the end of the day is enough to warrant the abuse and harassment that they might put them through, and this story did a good job of conveying that.
With this comes the constant gaslighting and blackmailing that employees in this position may be subjected to. MJF often reminded Wardlow that the only reason the latter could afford a good living and take care of his mom was because of him. He used the things that were near and dear to Wardlow’s heart as a means of threatening and manipulating him to stay in their toxic boss-employee cycle.
It was almost poetic that this feud was brewing alongside MJF and Punk’s showdown (which I also analyzed in part 1 :)). That story revealed the cracks in MJF’s persona and the reasons for much of his insecurity today. It helped the audience get to know him more and shone a light on how MJF was projecting these very same insecurities onto someone else.
A Mentor in Disguise
Christian Cage vs Jungle Boy
A story that’s been gaining a lot of traction lately is the feud between Christian Cage and ‘Jungle Boy’ Jack Perry. I will say, the venomous promos referencing deceased family members and marital issues every week aren’t necessarily scenes you would see in everyday life, but inspecting the roots of the feud will show you that it’s in fact more realistic than you think.
Christian came back into the wrestling business with a chip on his shoulder – as a well-respected veteran of 16 years, did he still have what it took? Could he keep up with the young faces that were being set-up to carry the company? And more importantly, could he prove that he truly deserved the same amount of praise as a certain Rated-R Superstar, whose shadow seemed to have hidden him at times?
A battle royal to determine the #1 contender for Kenny Omega’s AEW World Championship seemed to be the perfect opportunity; however, he was bested by a young pillar of the company, Jungle Boy. Christian was so impressed by his performance that he decided to take both Jungle Boy and his tag team partner, Luchasaurus, under his tutelage – or so we thought. Under his guidance, Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus captured the World Tag Team belts and had a fulfilling reign on top of the division for six months.
As soon as they lost the titles, however, things went south. Christian turned on Jungle Boy and revealed that his mentorship towards the team was simply a ploy to stick close to them – to keep them under his thumb and learn their ways.
While the feud is largely dramatic in a way that most of us might not be able to relate to, the insecurity that a veteran in his field might face when presented with younger, more athletic prospects is realistic and intuitive. Worry about his position and exposure in the company, coupled with his desire to prove his skills and worth in a way that he hasn’t been able to before drove Christian to make a drastic decision – and it seems to be paying off for him. He is cementing his place as one of AEW’s top heels and it seems like he still has a lot more to show.
That marks the end of this little project! Thank you for reading, and here’s to more gripping stories from AEW!
Feature Image Credit – AEW