When All Elite Wrestling star Maxwell Jacob Friedman was growing up on Long Island, there was a book in the basement of his childhood home in Plainview that his father had shown him — the Jewish Athletes Almanac. He remembers reading through it and it didn’t take him very long to do that.
“It wasn’t particularly big,” recalled Friedman who is now more commonly referred to as “MJF”. “I remember reading that book and thinking to myself I’m going to be in this book one day.”
Just when the former Plainview Kennedy High School football star gets his name in that almanac is still to be determined, but today, at the age of 27, he can boast about two things.
He is the reigning AEW World Heavyweight Champion and, during a ceremony on Monday morning, he was inducted as the newest member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame at the Suffolk YJCC in Commack.
“There’s been so many incredible things that have happened to me this year and it’s due to hard work,” said MJF during his induction speech. “But of all the things that have gone down, this is the most near and dear to my heart.”
When he’s not in the squared circle for a match or exhibiting is exceptional microphone skills, Friedman uses his very public platform to advocate against Antisemitism. He is a member of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS) and “Stand Up to Jewish Hate”.
It was his childhood dream to become a professional wrestler and now he has accomplished that referring to himself…and really nobody can dispute this…as a “generational talent” in the pro wrestling industry. But he is also very proud to be Jewish and wants his voice to be heard about it as much as possible.
“It’s wildly important just because I faced so much antisemitism growing up,” said MJF during a one-on-one interview with Greater Long Island. “I know it sounds nuts because I grew up here on (Long) Island but anybody who lives here will tell you antisemitism is not a regional thing…it’s a worldwide thing.”
MJF becomes the second pro wrestler to be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame joining former WCW and WWE champion Goldberg. But while Friedman mentioned Goldberg and wrestling promoter, broadcaster and manager Paul Heyman during his speech as Jewish people in the business that he followed, there hasn’t really been anyone like him in professional wrestling…someone who is Jewish, displays how proud he is to be Jewish, and someone who speaks out against antisemitism.
MJF was mocked during his entire childhood about being Jewish and having big aspirations.
Guess who got the last laugh?
“I feel like I get to be living proof that if you set your mind to something, you can be anything,” said Friedman. “A 5-foot 8-inch ADD riddled (Jewish boy) is not supposed to be World Champion in any realm of reality. Point blan. I did it. What’s your excuse? Get out there and go after it.”
MJF certainly went after it and has had his dreams come true in a big way to the point where he now boasts about now living in “a very luxurious home in Melville”. His contract with AEW is set to expire after this year and it has been suggested that he could sign with rival WWE giving him the chance to tease the “bidding war of 2024”.
He has been a box office and ratings magnet for AEW and has been their World Champion since beating Jon Moxley last November at the Full Gear pay-per-view at Prudential Center in New Jersey.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself a little bit,” said MJF. “It means the world to me that with me at the helm in the main event, we’ve had a lot of million-dollar gates. There’s been multiple times where during my quarter-hours, (there’s been) a spike in ratings. I take pride in that because it’s not just a sport but also a business.”
And MJF is set to be all business on Dec. 30 when he defends in title against Samoa Joe at the AEW Worlds End pay-per-view event at Nassau Coliseum, an arena that has great meaning to him. He’s been part of AEW live events at the Islanders’ new home UBS Arena, but getting a chance to perform at Nassau Coliseum is a dream come true.
“I can’t wait,” said MJF. “I’m pumped. It’s the building I grew up in as far as professional wrestling goes. Those were my first wrestling events.That was where I truly fell in love with the idea of becoming a professional wrestler. That’s where we went to watch hockey and wrestling and concerts. It was a dump but it was our dump. I love Nassau Coliseum.”
This will be a rematch for Friedman against Samoa Joe after the champ retained his title at Dynamite Grand Slam back in September at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens.
“The match was the most grueling match of my title reign,” said MJF.
This time around, Friedman is a little banged up heading into the match.
“I have a torn labrum in my shoulder,” said MJF. “I’m not going in 100% but what I can say is I’m going to make a promise to everybody that I’m going to give it 100% and I do not plan on leaving Nassau Coliseum without the Triple B.”
Triple B is his nickname for the championship belt designed to match his customary Burberry scarf.
While MJF continues his championship reign, he continues to let the world know how proud he is to be Jewish and is standing up, in a big way to antisemitism. He points out that while Jewish people continue to be the target of discrimination, those who are showing the hatred are fighting a losing battle.
“It is 2023 and you would think by now people would understand that we’re not very easy to run off,” said MJF. “We’re not very easy to scare. They’re still trying but they’re still failing.”
When Maxwell Jacob Friedman was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on Monday, the audience was made up of members of the media, invited guests and fans including some youngsters who played hooky from school to be a part of MJF’s special day.
He had a message for those young fans.
“If you say a dream and people snicker at you, just know that’s because their goals aren’t as lofty as yours,” said Friedman. “They’re scared and Jews don’t get scared. We go for it, we go big and we always get it done.”
MJF has been getting it done in a big way.
Top: Courtesy photo of AEW champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman. (Credit: AEW)