A compelling tool of storytelling narratives encompasses many things. One such thing is friendship. It’s the tie that binds, be it long established or newly forged; it is that which lies in the heart of the universe.
I even use it as a recurring joke in my life, that even if things are bad between people, ‘it’s all about friendship at the end of the day’. From sports to awkward dissension, I love throwing it at anyone who will listen.
Wrestling – same formula. A wrestling storyline that proved to be one of, if not the most popular of the year followed that very format – the tale of when Sami Zayn earned the trust of all of the Bloodline. The jokes meant more, the drama meant more, and the tension meant more. Fans, podcasters, and critics were stumbling over each other to call it ‘cinema’.
I’m so glad I’m experiencing that feeling with the tag team formation between Adam Cole and Maxwell Jacob Friedman.
Off the heels of the four-way Double or Nothing match that saw the Long Island native heel victorious, he boasted his usual self-praise, doubtless in anyone’s ability to challenge him.
Enter Adam Cole.
After an exchange that saw both men’s criticisms and slander leave the online space and into the kayfabe realm, the pair had an Eliminator Match that would’ve opened Cole up for a chance at MJF”s AEW World Championship should he have one, but through some undisputed bullshit, MJF was able to escape due to a time limit draw.
Rejecting Cole’s demands for a rematch, MJF thought his hands were washed of Adam. Little did he know that Tony Khan had plans for a Blind Tag Team Eliminator Tournament, with the two of them paired up.
Fans were audibly groaning, as this was a WWE thing; they were left scoffing at the idea of a coexisting storyline in AEW. Some even speculated that Tony Khan was losing his way.
The fans weren’t alone, for Adam and MJF disliked it also, but they pressed on regardless. Throughout each match, they found chemistry in one another. To their surprise, they worked well together. As they surpassed Daddy Magic (Matt Menard & The Butcher); Big Bill & Brian Cage; and lastly, Daniel Garcia & Sammy Guevara, they knew they had something special.
Not only was this pairing relegated to in-ring segments, but also to fun little skits where they hung out while at the gym, playing video games, or eating at a fancy restaurant. These were so entertaining with comedic chops that were executed to perfection. I grinned from ear to ear with each video segment and would get texts from friends and family who don’t even follow wrestling closely as this storyline was infectious. Max learned to enjoy the things he’d normally scoff at, and Adam was able to let his guard down.
Perhaps one of the funniest moments in this budding bromance was MJF’s celebration of Adam Cole’s birthday with his Boys II Men esque rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song, the double-take he does with putting on Adam’s birthday cap, and falling into the birthday cake after failing to smash Cole’s face in it himself.
With the war with FTR on the horizon, the tournament winners find themselves at a juxtaposition with a team that hates Max’s guts. After weeks of phenomenal and serious tag team bouts with Bullet Club Gold, the goofy antics of Cole and MJF stand across all it stands for. Why, they won the finals of the tournament in the same match they had a dance-off in. To FTR, tag team wrestling is life and death; to Cole and Friedman, this is a sick rager at the club with VIP access and the keys to the club manager’s penthouse on Billionaire’s Row.
So, stop me if you heard this one before: it felt like MJF was really coming around. It felt like he was growing and that he cared about someone other than himself. All the while, Cole was running into warnings from his friend Roderick Strong, his girlfriend Britt Baker, and FTR, and he would not listen because he thought he had things under control, while visibly having fun with MJF.
It’s not like Max hasn’t been in this situation before, going head-to-head with someone he looked up to growing up – Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho, and CM Punk send their warm regards.
But having someone closer to his age that seems to “get” him, Max’s smile gleams a different shine. How long had it been since someone cared about him, and he about them? After things fell off for him and his fiance, surely that pain would lead someone to the embrace of others. It’s an unhealthy cycle.
Part of me wonders if he’ll ever turn as he did to friends of the past because of this.
So, what if Adam Cole is the one who fills the role of the betrayer? We’d cheer him along because MJF had earned it, all the while that could fire a rage inside the devil that would make all infernos of hell blaze with righteous fury. He finally had someone, only for them to be as fickle as the sun on a cloudy day and as thin as water. Twisting an already dangerous and wounded force would only breed more destruction, both externally and internally.
Of course, this could also go the route of that which is expected – MJF could be taking everything from Cole as we speak, turning him against his friends and loved ones until Cole learns his lesson that you don’t lie in bed with snakes. In the immortal words of 3OH!3, ‘don’t trust a hoe, never trust a hoe’.
But what if none of that happens? What if MJF follows through on his promise to Cole about the title, the better man wins, and they either stick together or split amicably? Either way, loads of storyline potential lies in wait for whichever branching path is the one to be waked upon.
We fans will lap it up too, like thirsty dogs who’ve just found a puddle on the pavement filled with rain born of grey skies and long precipitation.
Because they’ve gotten us to care. We know there will be hurt in this story; some of the most memorable of tragedies are ones audiences see coming. We want to see them succeed, we want them to keep hanging out, and we want this ride to continue, pitfalls and all.
To capture friendship in storytelling in a believable manner is not an easy feat for most to accomplish, but with Adam Cole and MJF, it’s been easy to buy into. You know that feeling when you make friends with someone and you feel like you’ve known them your whole life, no matter where they came from? That’s this story.
And sometimes the best stories are the friends we’ve made along the way.