Saturday, February 24

Every MJF AEW World Championship Defense, Ranked Worst To Best

The time of MJF as the AEW World Champion has now finally come to an end. After 406 days with the gold around his waist, MJF cemented himself as the number one guy in the company, transitioning seamlessly from the top heel to the top babyface in the company in what proved to be a wonderful journey.


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At Worlds End 2023, Samoa Joe dethroned MJF to become the new AEW World Champion, shocking those in attendance. With the end of this title run, it provides the perfect time to go back and look at the matches he had throughout his reign and to determine which is the best of the best. TheSportster’s rating system will determine which of these matches were of the highest quality. These ratings will be compared to those from cagematch.net and Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

To learn more about how we rank wrestling matches on TheSportster, please check out our match ranking criteria guide here.


11 MJF Vs. Ethan Page (AEW Collision 07/01/2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 6.5/10

Storytelling

1.5/2.5

Technical Ability

1.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

1.5/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: N/A
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 6.59

MJF’s first babyface title defense was an average one. Whilst it was nice seeing Ethan Page get a big match in front of his hometown fans, the predictability and lack of a build affected this. Neither MJF or Ethan Page looked to be giving their all, which was likely due to the time constraints on this pretty short outing. Page still looked sharp and motivated, and his pre-match promo did some work in getting fans more invested. It was the worst defense of MJF’s reign, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad.

10 MJF Vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 6.75/10

Storytelling

1.75/2.5

Technical Ability

1/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 3.25 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 6.35

MJF held this match together. The struggling and aging Tanahashi was not able to keep up here, botching and being unable to move, so MJF helped him through it and managed to fill all potentially awkward gaps with incredible heel work, playing up to the crowd and creating a strong atmosphere for what was an underwhelming in-ring affair. Tanahashi still performed his character work well, but everything from a technical standpoint was a level below what fans have come to expect from an AEW World Championship match.

9 MJF Vs. Daniel Garcia (AEW Dynamite 11/08/2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 7/10

Storytelling

1.5/2.5

Technical Ability

2/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

1.75/2.5

Crowd Reaction

1.75/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: N/A
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 6.73

Daniel Garcia got a chance to prove himself in a top title match, and he rose to the occasion with a decent performance, though it must be said that the bout overall was lacking. The lack of belief of Garcia coming anywhere close to a win was a big issue, and this did suck out some excitement. It was a well wrestled and a simple match, but like many of MJF’s TV defenses, there wasn’t a desire to push things to the next level. In the end, it was fine but no more than that.

8 MJF Vs. Samoa Joe (AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 7.5/10

Storytelling

1.5/2.5

Technical Ability

2/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 7.86

Samoa Joe looked like an absolute monster in this match, beating down MJF who showcased some world class selling throughout. MJF really got the fans behind him, further cementing his babyface turn, but it could be argued that the beating he took was a little over-the-top. It took a lot of cheating and foul play with the help of Adam Cole to beat Joe, only for Joe to then shake MJF’s hand in a completely baffling booking moment. The match was good, but overall the execution could have been far better.

7 MJF Vs. Ricky Starks (AEW Dynamite: Winter Is Coming 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 7.5/10

Storytelling

1.75/2.5

Technical Ability

1.75/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 7.54

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Both the AEW World Title and the Dynamite Diamond Ring were on the line here in a match that was built wonderfully. Even though it was predictable, Starks and MJF did a good job of adding some uncertainty with a strong match. The action did get a little sloppy at times, but it was still mostly well executed. The ending was very lazy though, with MJF simply hitting a low blow and winning the match. It was very underwhelming and left their rivalry feeling unfinished.

6 MJF Vs. Jay White (AEW Full Gear 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 7.75/10

Storytelling

1.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2.25/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 4.81

This match has procured a lot of criticism, mostly due to how much of a mountain MJF was made to climb over as the underdog babyface. The storytelling was a little bit too much, and it did add some difficulty to suspend disbelief at some of the feats he was pulling in the match. When it comes to the in-ring content itself though, this was a great encounter when shedding away all the extra nonsense. MJF and Jay White brought world class psychology, huge moves, and brilliant selling. Some of the spots were stunning, and the crowd was on fire all the way throughout.

5 MJF Vs. Samoa Joe (AEW Worlds End 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

1.75/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: Pending
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 7.14

Whilst this did follow the formula of their previous match, this one at AEW Worlds End had distinctly more of a big fight feel to it. Fans had seen MJF overcome the odds many times, but this time it was all too much, and seeing Joe beat him clean was a shocking finish that worked perfectly. The way the match played out was great, with MJF’s showcasing fire and flurries, but in the end the monster heel was too much to overcome. It wasn’t an incredible match, but it was perfect for what it was.

4 MJF Vs. Jack Perry Vs. Sammy Guevara Vs. Darby Allin (AEW Double Or Nothing 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8.25/10

Storytelling

1.75/2.5

Technical Ability

2.25/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.75 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 8.88

The “Four Pillars” of AEW clashed at Double or Nothing in a fast-paced match jam-packed with action. The match never slowed with the four-way dynamic, ensuring that the crowd were on their feet the entire time. Matches like this sometimes lean into feeling over-choreographed, but this managed to escape feeling forced due to how fluidly they transitioned between moves and performed sequences. There were some convincing near-falls in this match that really added to it too. There was arguably too much silliness from MJF though, with his heel character not taking as seriously as some of his other defenses, which was a little jarring admittedly.

3 MJF Vs. Adam Cole (AEW All In 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8.5/10

Storytelling

2/2.5

Technical Ability

2/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.25/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 8.56

Under a lot of pressure, MJF and Adam Cole delivered a great back and forth main event at All In. The in-ring work was crisp and well done, but the storyline really drove this. The potential of a turn from either man, the unpredictability of the result, and the development of MJF’s character throughout was done perfectly. It could be argued that some teases of a turn were a little overdone, but the crowd ate into all of it. Cole showcased shades of betraying his friend, but in the end lost the match and the pair celebrated in the middle of the ring to send fans home happy.

2 MJF Vs. Kenny Omega (AEW Collision 10/28/2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 8.5/10

Storytelling

1.75/2.5

Technical Ability

2.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.25/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 4.75 Stars
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.17

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The storyline going into this was very minimal. A rushed and small build did certainly affect some of the animosity, intensity, and investment initially, but MJF and Kenny Omega quickly shrugged that off to have a wonderfully technical and hard-hitting title match. This was all about two world class wrestlers going at it in a match where they brought their biggest moves and went to war. Their two styles worked together wonderfully, creating a great match and getting the crowd fully on board.

1 MJF Vs. Bryan Danielson (AEW Revolution 2023)

Overall Rating From TheSportster: 9.75/10

Storytelling

2.25/2.5

Technical Ability

2.5/2.5

Character Work/Psychology

2.5/2.5

Crowd Reaction

2.5/2.5

  • Dave Meltzer Rating: 5.75
  • Cagematch.net Rating: 9.60

This Iron Man match was stunning. MJF and Bryan Danielson wrestled for over an hour in a match that flew by due to how entertaining it was. There was never a dull moment and every second mattered. It was easy to feel the desperation from both as the match went on, with their selling and psychology on a world class level. Every move was perfect, every near-fall was stunning, and the gradual build to Bryan’s comeback, only to be beaten by MJF in the end, was masterfully done. One of AEW’s greatest ever matches and undoubtedly MJF’s best defense from his title reign.

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