October 20, 2019

AEW Star Maxwell Jacob Friedman on Being a Jewish Wrestler and Proving People Wrong

Maxwell Jacob Friedman

Undeniably the fastest, youngest rising star in professional wrestling today, Maxwell Jacob Friedman — MJF, for short — has accomplished more within the first four years of his career than most of the other wrestlers will throughout their full wrestling journey. Before signing with the newly-launched All Elite Wrestling earlier this year – debuting on both U.S. network TNT and U.K. channel ITV on Oct. 2 — MJF was a champion within numerous wrestling companies including MLW, CZW, Limitless Wrestling, Alpha-1 Wrestling, AAW and MCW.

Pulling the curtain back, most wrestlers who “make it” tend to rely on being great on the mic, exciting to watch in the ring or simply looking cool within their in-ring attire. As MJF is the rare wrestler who is not only renowned for his look yet also his athletic skills and captivating interviews – think “Rowdy” Roddy Piper for the 21st century – he even ought to appeal to people who don’t steadily follow professional wrestling. But that is not at all lost on MJF, who is known to refer to himself “Salt of the Earth” and will proudly declare himself to be “better” than anyone who will listen.

On the evening of Sept. 16, 2019, I welcomed MJF — a fellow native of Long Island, New York— into my home for an exclusive interview. Several minutes of our interview has been transcribed below exclusively for the Jewish Journal, while the full 26-minute interview will be heard on the Oct. 2 edition of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast.

Jewish Journal: You have talked a lot about believing in yourself, but was that belief in yourself always been there? When you were five or six years old? 

Maxwell Jacob Friedman: I mean, I announced live on the “Rosie O’Donnell Show” when I was five, I said, “I’m going to be a professional wrestler.” And I knew that was true like I knew deep down that was true. I remember I had so many detractors, so many people just being like, “You’re a five-foot-ten, white, Jewish kid from Long Island. You’re nuts. This isn’t going to happen. You should focus on your studies. Focus on [going to] school to become a doctor or a lawyer.” Something that I would bash my brains out if I was doing.

I just always knew like, “Nope you’re wrong.” I just always knew better. That also came with a lot of hate because no one likes the kid that calls a shot and then makes it. That’s the worst because then you’re deemed as arrogant or conceited. I always just looked at it as I just always knew what I wanted. I just always knew what I want to do and who I wanted to be. And I wish more people were able to do that, were able to have a goal, a dream and achieve it.

JJ: Going back to what you were saying here about being Jewish. If we think about Jews in wrestling we know “Macho Man” [Randy Savage] was half-Jewish, and [Bill] Goldberg was maybe the biggest wrestling star that’s Jewish. But we also see today Colt Cabana and David Starr and different people are turning out to be Jewish. When did you realize that it was OK to be Jewish in wrestling and outward about it?

MJF: Oh man, I don’t know if it is… (laughs) It’s interesting. I’ve never talked about being Jewish in a promo ever. But my name is just so blatantly a Jewish name. It’s not like my name is Maxwell Jacob Smith. So you would go to towns and people would say a lot of anti-Semitic slurs, and it was tough in that sense, but also I looked at it as, “I’m making people mad. I’m eliciting a reaction, so who cares?…”

There’s been so much stuff and I don’t even know if it’s necessarily ‘cause I’m Jewish, but my car’s been keyed, my bumper kicked in. I’ve had people throw batteries and piss at me. I had one guy threaten me with a blade by my car after a show in Indiana, and he was wildly drunk. So I’ve had a lot of close calls. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Jewish or if that’s just because of who I am as a person…

But I have found now more than ever, especially in my company AEW, we are so open and we have people who are gay, people who are transgender, black, white, Asian, we have it all… We run the whole gamut. To me, I don’t give a s**t, like I’ve never cared who anybody is, what their sexual orientation, religion or skin color is. It’s always just been, “How are you as a human being?”

And it turns out everybody sucks and I’m just better than everyone else and that’s why I hate everyone… Just understand the pecking order. That’s all that matters.

    Maxwell Jacob Friedman

JJ: You trained at the Create A Pro Wrestling Academy. Do you look back at your Create A Pro career entirely favorably? I ask that because a lot of people say, “Well I wasn’t trained correctly.” But it seems like everyone comes out of Create A Pro happy.

MJF: I had close calls with Create A Pro where I almost got kicked out of school because even though I’m so passive about wrestling s**t, I’m a handful. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a handful, I’m aggressive, I’m loud, I’m obnoxious… So yeah, I had close calls but the thing was Pat Buck and Curt Hawkins never gave up on me because they saw the potential and they saw my yearning and wanting to be great. So I can’t thank them enough…

I mean, I would not be in the position I’m in today without CAP to the point where I have a Create A Pro tattoo on my leg… Everybody in the school gets trained properly. We were taught how to perform at the best level strategically and intelligently and safely. I feel if you are listening to this podcast or in whatever form that’s going to be posted on, I would most certainly suggest if you’re interested in becoming a professional wrestler, the only place that you should go in the [New York] metropolitan area is CAP.

More on MJF can be found here and here.