All Out is All Elite Wrestling’s biggest pay-per-view event of the year. For the 2022 version of AEW’s WrestleMania, the show lived up to its billing. The pro wrestling promotion crowned its first trios champions (The Elite: Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks), an interim women’s champ (Toni Storm), and a new world champion in an epic main event between CM Punk and Jon Moxley. The real fireworks, though, came after the main event ended, and AEW’s prodigal son, Maxwell Jacob Friedman, aka MJF, made his shocking return.
The Joker won the Casino Ladder Match at AEW ‘All Out’
Maxwell Jacob Friedman is one of (if not) the biggest homegrown success stories in AEW history. While much of the top talent on AEW’s roster came from WWE or New Japan Pro Wrestling, MJF only had a few years on the indie scene before joining Tony Khan’s company.
The 26-year-old Long Island native quickly became AEW’s top heel, feuding with the likes of Chis Jericho, Cody Rhodes, Jungle Boy, and Wardlow.
However, by mid-2022, while wrestlers like Jericho, Kenny Omega, CM Punk, John Moxley, and “Hangman” Adam Page fought over the AEW World Championship, MJF continued to play second fiddle in the company.
On the June 1 episode of AEW: Dynamite following Double of Nothing 2022, MJF finally had enough. In his passionate — verging on unhinged — promo, MJF (seemingly) shot on CEO Khan (more on that below).
Ever since that night, MJF disappeared from the AEW universe altogether. That changed at All Out.
During the PPV’s opening Casino Ladder Match featuring Rey Fenix, Wheeler Yuta, Rush, Andrade El Idolo, Claudio Castagnoli, Dante Martin, and Penta Oscuro, the final participant was billed as “The Joker.”
Before The Joker entered the match, a gang of masked and hooded figures entered, beat down all the competitors, and took the casino chip down from above the ladder. The person on the ladder took off his mask and revealed himself as manager Stokley Hathaway. The rest of the gang was the stable Hathaway has put together over the last few weeks: The Gunn Club, W. Morrissey, “All Ego” Ethan Page, and Lee Moriarty.
Finally, a wrestler in a devil mask billed as The Joker strolled out of the tunnel to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” Hathaway handed The Joker the chip, which guarantees him a shot at the AEW World Championship.
The Joker left without revealing his true identity.
The Joker was revealed as MJF
By the time the Chicago crowd watching All Out got to the main event featuring CM Punk vs. Jon Moxley, most likely pushed The Joker to the back of their minds.
However, as Punk celebrated his bloody victory to the strains of “Cult of Personality” blaring through the stadium speakers, the lights suddenly went out.
In the darkness, a voicemail recording from Tony Khan came through the PA system.
“So, it’s been a few months now, and your continuous, unexcused, extended absence is hurting the company, and it’s definitely hurting the fans,” Khan says after the beep. “And I know you don’t care about the fans, but I do. So, if you will show up at All Out, I am willing to swallow a very bitter pill for the sake of the fans.”
“I’ll put you in the Casino Ladder Match. I won’t force you to sign an extension, and I will pay you [bleeped] dollars. But you have to show up at All Out. This is my final offer, and you’re not going to get a better one.”
A video then appeared of a very young CM Punk talking in a ring and paraphrasing Usual Suspects, saying, “the greatest thing the devil ever did was make you people believe he didn’t exist.”
The Joker came on screen, turned his back to the audience, unmasked, and said, “And I am the devil himself.”
For those who didn’t know from the voicemail or the voice that it was MJF, he threw his trademark Burberry scarf around his neck for good measure. The crowd popped in a big way when that happened and popped even louder when MJF’s music hit, and he sauntered into the arena.
MJF told CM Punk, in no uncertain terms, that he wanted the belt, flicked off the entire arena, and completed his comeback to AEW.
Why was MJF gone from AEW?
The reason MJF had to return at all was because of his (seemingly) shoot promo on Tony Khan on June 1’s Dynamite.
The epic five-plus-minute promo, which many compared to CM Punk’s iconic “pipe bomb” from WWE, was MJF’s manifesto about why he was mad at his pro wrestling promotion.
MJF claimed he was “carrying this company on my back” and “wrote his own ticket” in pro wrestling, unlike all the former WWE and NJPW stars that Khan is so fond of bringing in. He took on AEW fans, the company’s advertisers, and TV partners and told them all he didn’t want to be there anymore.
The wild promo mercifully ended when producers finally cut MJF’s mic as he screamed, “Fire me! Fire me!” at Khan.
From that unforgettable moment until late at night on Sunday, September 5, MJF was out of AEW. Now he’s back, and no one can wait to see what’s next.