After a brief training vignette, Wardlow made his full debut in AEW on the Dynamite episode after Full Gear, on November 13, when he attacked Cody and formed his alliance with MJF. If AEW thought about bringing in Wardlow as a cookie-cutter monster heel, it made a brilliant move by instead putting him into the enforcer/bodyguard role for MJF that he’s played beautifully ever since.
Wardlow has played the part of the mean looking muscle behind MJF’s arrogant visage to perfection. He looks good in a suit and his calm demeanor underlines, and actually accentuates, MJF’s obnoxiousness. When he has stepped in the ring, he has proven his worth, whether squashing jobbers in MJF’s absence or falling to in defeat in his cage match against Cody. With MJF back, the big man has stepped into the background again. But how long will he stay there?
During the number one contender battle royal for Cody’s TNT title last week on Dynamite, MJF hit Wardlow – inadvertently – with his diamond ring. MJF got tossed out by Jungle Boy immediately after the incident, while Wardlow got dumped in a team effort by Jungle Boy and Orange Cassidy. Does this mean there will now be dissension brewing in MJF’s camp?
To be clear, this partnership will eventually need to explode and once it does, it can go one of two ways: either Wardlow can stab MJF in the back (leading to something that, from today’s point of view, sounds awkward: a babyface version of MJF) or MJF can become jealous of Wardlow’s success and/or blame him for his own mistakes. Both scenarios can work and have an impact if set up right, with long-term plans for both to go from there practically writing themselves.
However, it is far too soon for this pairing to split. It is a reminder that Maxwell and Wardlow have only teamed up since last November. While that might seem like a long time in today’s wrestling, it’s next to nothing in terms of storytelling. MJF has only had one big storyline since they formed their unit, against Cody. The point is that the story of MJF and Wardlow has just begun. There are still many twists and turns they need to explore together, many heights they need to ascend. Is anybody really invested yet in their partnership? Would a split really benefit either at this time?
MJF’s star is beginning to rise in AEW. As good as he is, he needs a muscle man like Wardlow at his side, if only for the look and the aura of importance that goes with having a personal bodyguard. On the other hand, Wardlow needs Maxwell to establish himself and help him climb up the ladder as the muscle that a good heel needs. With the arrival of Brian Cage, Wardlow would just be another big man standing next to Cage, Archer, Hager, Luchasaurus and Brodie Lee if he was split off on his own now. If anything, his current role makes him stand out from that group.
Wardlow is still young, and while he has potential, there is no need to rush him into a singles push. What he needs now is time to ripen and climb the ladder of success – by MJF’s side or, more accurately, behind him. The longer he will be in MJF’s shadow and the more abuse he takes, the bigger the support (or heat?) for him will become once he actually does turn against his mentor. The time for Wardlow will come, but it is not now.
Wardlow looks to have all the tools. But the longer AEW is able to sit his split from MJF out, the bigger he can eventually become.