I usually don’t like talking about contract issues because those matters are private between the talent and the promoter. However, I was recently reminded, “Kid, that’s the business we’re in.”
Fightful.com reported that AEW president Tony Khan and MJF had a heated conversation stemming from MJF being unhappy with his contract and doing an Ariel Helwani interview without AEW’s permission.
More trouble in paradise was reported on Thursday by Fightful as MJF is still frustrated by his contract and is considering leaving AEW when his contract expires in November 2024.
Grapsody’s Will Washington brought more information to the table on Saturday, stating Tony Khan offered MJF a raise if he signs for more years. MJF refused the deal under those terms. Also, the AEW locker room is reportedly not on his side.
Let’s take a look at the timeline of events.
The formation of All Elite Wrestling was officially announced on January 1, 2019. Eight days later, MJF was revealed as one of the first wrestlers signed by the promotion. Two months after the promotion’s first show (Double or Nothing), AEW announced they signed MJF to a five-year extension.
On January 16, 2020, TNT renewed AEW’s television deal through 2023 with an option for 2024. The prior deal of $45 million a year reportedly increased to between $60 – $65 million a year. In 2021, AEW signed Adam Cole, Bryan Danielson, and CM Punk to big-money contracts.
MJF’s contract extension occurred before AEW’s renewal with TNT, which allowed the promotion to sign Cole, Danielson, and Punk. While MJF was one of the fastest-rising prospects on the independent scene, AEW made him a star.
Some feel MJF has outperformed his current contract, and they are not wrong. He’s arguably the best part of the show consistently, and contract renegotiations happen all the time. With only 3 1/2 years of experience, AEW threw MJF into the deep end early on, and he rode every wave to success.
AEW and Cody Rhodes couldn’t agree on a new contract, which saw the former executive vice president return to WWE at WrestleMania. Everyone is all about Cody Rhodes right now, but remember, for every great thing Cody did in AEW, there were feuds with Anthony Ogogo and QT Marshall that fans rejected.
MJF has no such blemishes on his all elite resume, which should justify his value. However, the sticking point is that MJF wants a raise without adding time to the contract. It’s not an unreasonable request, but in any talent/management relationship, MJF is not getting a pay bump without AEW getting something in return.
If AEW gives MJF a raise now, it will serve as a good-faith down payment that will encourage him to resign in 2024. Perhaps that is what MJF believes he’s giving AEW, an inside track towards a new deal in free agency. Any company, including AEW, will want something tangible instead of a “chance.”
If MJF wants more money now, he will want even more in free agency. If Tony Khan gives in to MJF’s demands, it sets an unfavorably expensive precedent for AEW. What Tony Khan saves in denying MFJ now he saves later when it’s time to resign The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and others.
Some players want to sign a new deal before they hit free agency in the sports world. Others do not want to be tethered to a team and play the market for maximum value. Either MJF has already made up his mind and has his sights set on WWE, or he wants to enter free agency unencumbered.
Those poised to cash in during free agency place a great deal of personal value on the freedom it garners. MJF, more than anyone in the business right now, is in the best position to get a make serious bank in 2024, which is right around the time the 26-year-old will be entering his prime.
The dollar amount that would get MJF to forgo free agency must be high. Then again, a number might not exist. The best of MJF is years away, and if Tony Khan wants that to occur in AEW, he may have to pay up sooner than later.