AEW star Maxwell Jacob Friedman — more popularly known to fans as MJF — created quite the uproar following a controversial incident at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo over the weekend. As first reported by TMZ, the villainous wrestler stayed in character during the event, where he was caught on camera giving the finger to a 7-year-old boy who was posing next to him for a picture. With opinions divided on whether MJF was at fault for the child’s “stunned” reaction, wrestling industry veteran figure Eric Bischoff recently aired his thoughts on the incident.
On the latest edition of his After 83 Weeks podcast (quotes via Wrestling Inc.), Bischoff initially explained that he wouldn’t have done what MJF did at the Chicago expo, but added that he understands why he did it. The former WWE SmackDown executive director said that based on his experience at meet-and-greets, fans typically want to see their favorite wrestlers in character more than they want to know the people behind the gimmicks. He then conceded that if he were the same age as the 23-year-old MJF, he would have made the obscene gesture as a “judgment call.”
As noted on TMZ’s report, the 7-year-old’s father, Tom Gilmartin, tried to “laugh off” the incident because he’s familiar with MJF’s heel gimmick. He did say, however, that his son is still too young to understand these things, adding that fans are now poking fun at the boy online and that AEW should police its talents when it comes to meet-and-greets with children. This prompted a response from company vice president Cody Rhodes, who later posted a statement on Twitter stressing that his promotion’s talents have “freedom of expression” and therefore have a right to act in character even when off-camera.
— Maxwell Jacob Friedman™️ (@The_MJF) March 6, 2020
According to Bischoff, the young fan’s father should also take some responsibility for what happened, considering his knowledge of the MJF gimmick.
“If the dad is that sensitive to it, or thinks his son may be that sensitive to it because his son may not understand that he is playing a character, then that’s the dad’s responsibility to some degree—maybe a large degree.”
So far, MJF is on a roll as one of AEW’s youngest and most promising performers, having picked up a win over Rhodes at the Revolution pay-per-view on February 29. As Bischoff concluded, he agrees that the New York native is a name to watch in the business, a “great, great young talent with an amazing future” who cuts excellent promos. According to the former World Championship Wrestling booker and executive, MJF’s ability on the microphone puts him “head and shoulders” above many of his peers.