For followers of All Elite Wrestling, Maxwell Jacob Friedman has been THE bad guy since the company was formed a few years ago.
For pretty much his entire seven-year wrestling career MJF, as he is known, has been portrayed as a character who you would instantly want to hate.
The 25-year-old, from Painview, New York, has won plaudits for his in-ring ability and microphone skills, as he can rile up a crowd better than anyone currently in the business.
But the human side of MJF has often been ignored.
And this is something, for the very first time, that he showcased during an in-ring promo segment last night (Wednesday, February 23).
Back in 2019, he told AEW's Dark show on YouTube about an antisemitic incident that made him want to become a wrestler.
He said: “When I was growing up, I played American football. For those who aren’t aware, I am Jewish — although the name probably gave it away.
“There were no other Jewish kids on my football team, so it was an adjustment.
“The other kids didn’t exactly love the fact that there was this Jewish kid taking their spot.
“When I had the first day of practice, I beat out all of the other kids who had been playing longer than me for the middle linebacker spot.
“The next week these douchebags walked up to me and said ‘hey, Jew boy’ and threw rolls of quarters at me and told me to pick them up.
“I was pretty floored and it messed me up pretty bad and I went home and balled my eyes out pretty bad.
“I realised that you had to kill the person you were born to be in order to become the person you want to be and I was never going to allow myself to be bullied ever again.”
And this week, with tears rolling down his face, he re-told the same story to an audience of millions watching AEW's Dynamite show on television as part of his on-going feud with the legendary CM Punk.
And the “bad guy” received a standing ovation from the thousands in attendance, too.
While MJF has never hidden his Jewishness, he has never been one to openly discuss such incidents, especially on live television.
And, in fact, no Jewish wrestler has ever done so in the history of wrestling – be it scripted or not.
Jewish wrestlers, apart from the beast that is Bill Goldberg, have often been made out to be the comedy character or given stereotypical gimmicks such as Barry Horowitz and Colt Cabana who was renamed “Scotty Goldman” when he was in WWE for a short time.
For the first time in many years, I, as a Jewish wrestling fan, was finally proud of a Jewish wrestler who had the guts to stand up on worldwide television and talk about antisemitic abuse, which has been on the rise every year, year-on-year, in the UK and America for many years.
And the response on social media to the promo shows just how vital it was, as it hit an audience not familiar with antisemitic abuse, as such.
On Twitter, Casey Levitt wrote: “I’ll be an MJF fan for life after this promo – legit chills.
“That '5”9 Jew Boy' became the best in the world."
And TJT Wrestling wrote: “I was crying about this promo because I got bullied too from grade school to early college years, but now I think I'm halfway distance to the pinnacle of my life and that's what professional wrestling did to me.”
I've been a wrestling fan for more than 20 years, and as someone who has suffered antisemitic abuse on several occasions, both growing up and in later life, it's a strange feeling to finally be able to have a Jewish wrestler that I can look up to – and he's seven years younger than I am.
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