6 weeks after the official contract signing, and 4 weeks after my first 5 Directions article on the subject, we have finally arrived at the 5th and final Labour of Jericho. From shocking surprises the likes of Nick Gage deathmatches and Juventud Guerrera blasts from the past. To the slightly disappointing match with Wardlow where the only stipulation was that MJF could be at ringside, but he could and did get ejected, completely undermining the stip. But now we’ve arrived at what could be the final chapter in a storyline that began in November of 2019. Will this be the end of this long-standing blood feud or just a stop on our road to a grander finale? That’s for time to tell, and for me to speculate. So sit back and relax as I rundown 5 directions AEW could take Chris Jericho vs MJF.
1. (The Obvious) The Judas on Everyone’s Mind
Followers of this column know that the first spot is typically reserved for the direction I deem the “worst-case scenario”, or the direction I feel would ruffle the most feathers. I wanted to change it up this week. Firstly because adding more options for this first slot will give me more freedom going forward. And second, because the worst-case scenario for this match is super boring.
Of course, Jericho winning in an unremarkable fashion is the worst possible outcome, but there’s nothing more to say about it than that. If the match ends disappointingly, a lot of people will be disappointed. So this time I’m bucking the trend and trying something different.
Like the other Labours of Jericho, the match with MJF will have its own cherry-picked stipulation. Jericho is not allowed to use anything Judas related during this match. He can’t use his Judas Effect spinning back elbow, and he’s not allowed to come out to his theme “Judas” by his band, Fozzy. While this stipulation may rightfully seem disappointing on paper, it sets up a number of fairly obvious things to happen in this match.
It’s clear why they decided to bar Jericho from entering with his current theme. Since the first and only AEW to emanate from the Jericho Cruise the fans have serenaded Jericho to the ring. Singing along to Judas has become a reason to attend AEW shows. So what they’re expecting to happen when they remove the music, is that the fans are still going to sing Judas when Jericho walks to the ring. They even went so far as to post the lyrics on Twitter just to make sure that everyone understands their assignment on Wednesday.
The other reason I believe they’ve implemented this stipulation is to echo another stipulation MJF put in his match with Jon Moxley. All Out 2020, MJF vs Jon Moxley for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship was built around the fact that Jon Moxley was not allowed to use his Paradigm Shift finishing maneuver. This built to a finish where Jon Moxley hit the banned move to get the win. I fully expect Jericho and MJF to call back to this spot at some point in their upcoming match. And if they go as far as Jericho hitting the Judas Effect behind the referee’s back, I could see MJF being the first person to kick out from the heavily protected finisher.
2. Wardlow Costs MJF
Probably the biggest takeaway from last week’s Jericho vs Wardlow match was how disappointing the match was. Wardlow just wasn’t a very exciting fourth labour. After a bloody Nick Gage deathmatch and the odd but welcome surprise of Juventud Guerrera (which I called on this very article, thank you), the fans just expected the last labour before MJF would be the most shocking. What we got instead was the most predictable labour. Ever since debuting in AEW on November 13th, 2019, Wardlow has been MJF’s right hand hired gun. He was the final test for Cody Rhodes before he faced MJF, so it makes sense that he would be the final test for Jericho as well. Just not the big surprise everyone would have liked.
But what it lacked in excitement, it could make up for in significance. After his loss last week, there have been 3 distinct matches where Wardlow has disappointed MJF. The match with Cody, the match with Jericho, and crucially Wardlow was a key factor in MJF’s one and only singles loss against Jon Moxley. They also made a point to set up a backstage segment last week that MJF has taken notice of all of Wardlow’s failures.
It’s clear they have a split between Wardlow and MJF penciled in for some point down the line. If Wardlow costs MJF such an important match against his greatest rival to date, it’ll be a large step towards that split. He doesn’t even really need to cost MJF the match either. In theory, if Wardlow even almost costs him and MJF needs to save himself, that would be enough to fuel MJF’s mistrust in his loyal mercenary to drive a break-up.
3. Something About The Referee
I won’t lie to you loyal readers. I’m not exactly sure what this entry is supposed to be. That being said, this entry has been stuck in my head since I started writing this article. This entry is essentially just predicting that Aubrey Edwards will be the referee in this match. And that may sound like the most basic prediction ever, but what’s interesting is just how much history both MJF and Jericho have with AEW’s senior referee. More-so than any other wrestlers in AEW, it seems like it’s always been Jericho and MJF that have had the most beef with Aubrey.
Early on in AEW’s history, Jericho made sure to establish his mini rivalry with Aubrey Edwards. Getting into many verbal confrontations with her during his matches over the course of the first year. The “rivalry” seemingly reached its peak at the first Stadium Stampede at Double or Nothing, 2020 when they played off the idea that Aubrey gave Jericho a red card for hitting an illegal Judas Effect on the Jaguar’s mascot. The two went into the tent to watch the replay, and many football fans laughed (Probably). But after that their little rivalry fell by the wayside. And since turning face, it’s barely been mentioned, if at all.
MJF has a very similar relationship with Aubrey Edwards, except he turns it up in his own scummy way. Being far more bold, as his character is known to do, to directly insult the referee in a way only he can. Skirting the line of what’s acceptable is what MJF does, but it also doesn’t do him any favors in the ring. Referees are generally supposed to be impartial, but MJF has done such a good job of making himself the most hated man in AEW, not even referee’s have a problem turning a blind eye every once and a while, to allow a babyface to get a bit of revenge on the man. This has harbored a mistrust of refs within MJF that he blames primarily on Aubrey Edwards. To the point where as recently as last week it was Aubrey who ejected MJF from ringside, even though him being there was a stipulation of his choosing.
So I don’t know what form it will take, but I’m confident we’ll see a prominent spot featuring Aubrey Edwards. MJF being at the top of his heel persona, and Jericho now as a babyface yet to have a satisfying conclusion to his rivalry with the respected ref. Having all three in the ring and not capitalizing on it would be a missed opportunity.
4. A Striking New Rival Puts Jericho Out To Pasture (Contributed by Peter Edge)
Jericho-MJF II is a pick ‘em. I honestly can’t predict with any great certainty who wins. Each man has a great case for winning and for losing this grudge match but when the final bell rings could Judas be in the mind of someone else on the AEW roster.
There is a big elephant in the room regarding the 5th “Labour of Jericho”. Fozzy starts a touring run on the 2nd of September that will span until the end of October and while none of the dates clash with Wednesday nights, Jericho still looks to be suffering from the effects of the injury to his elbow when he was pushed off the Blood and Guts cage by MJF so a break for the first AEW World Champion could be on the cards. The answer is how does Chris Jericho take his break and how will it benefit someone else on the AEW roster
Malakai Black’s dominant victory over Cody Rhodes, his interruption of the subsequent retirement speech of the fallen Cody and the taking of the souvenir of the American Nightmare’s boot established Malakai as a force to be taken seriously in AEW. But what next for Alkmaar’s favourite son.
Let’s take you back to Fyter Fest the week after Malakai’s shocking debut when he attacked Cody and his coach Arn Anderson. Malakai would explain his actions by telling a story of the time when he encountered a man who killed his prized stallion because he looked his beloved horse in the eye and realized that he didn’t have it anymore. Has Malakai looked into Jericho’s eyes and come to a conclusion that “it just isn’t there anymore”?
Furthermore, the week after the brutal victory over his first rival in AEW, Malakai gave warning to the rest of those he wants to appear in front of that he is going to make them feel so desolate and alone that the only one they are going to want to talk to is their shadow and that they had been arguing with God. Malakai is choosing his next victim and the betting is that Malakai is going for a big fish in AEW and maybe on a night where Judas will be the theme of the main event, the man who sees himself as God gets his say in the future of the master of the Judas Effect.
5. Sammy Guevarra Throws in the Towel
It was set up after Sammy interfered in Jericho’s first labour against Shawn Spears, that if any Inner Circle member interfered on his behalf, he’d lose his opportunity to face MJF. But now the match with MJF is here, so there’s nothing barring Inner Circle members from running interference in this match. Sammy has a match with Shawn Spears scheduled for the show. They could run an angle where Sammy does something that prevents Shawn Spears from interfering in the main event. But more likely, no matter the result between Spears and Guevarra, we’ll be seeing both appear in the main event. And while Sammy’s role, should he appear, would be to make sure the match remains a clean one on one match. Him being at ringside could mean a lot more to this storyline.
A storytelling mechanic that doesn’t get brought up a lot when discussing possible match finishes in AEW is throwing in the towel. It’s been used officially twice. Once in a world title match between Brian Cage and Jon Moxley, where Taz threw in the towel to ensure Cage didn’t injure his arm. But more importantly, MJF threw in the towel on behalf of Cody Rhodes in the world championship match against Chris Jericho at Full Gear 2019. At the time it was a decision made to spark the rivalry between Cody and MJF, but unknowingly it also introduced the towel into the story of MJF and Jericho.
The towel would show up again on the December 2nd, 2020 edition of AEW Dynamite titled “Winter is Coming”. Remembered better for the debut of “The Icon” Sting, as well as the title change and heel turn in the main event. But hidden amongst the major story beats, was a minor detail that relates to this possible outcome. On that night, Chris Jericho had a match against fellow ring-veteran Frankie Kazarian. The match was fairly back and forth, but there was never a point where it seemed like Jericho could realistically lose. That made it all the more odd that when Jericho was caught in a submission, MJF (Who at this point was a member of Jericho’s faction, the Inner Circle) pulled out a white towel and threatened to forfeit the match on his behalf. It became clear when Sammy Guevarra muscled the towel out of MJF’s hand, before getting caught red-handed himself when Jericho escaped the hold and spotted his loyal protege with something that could have cost him the match.
That brings us to the match this article is about. With two instances of a towel woven into this storyline. Would Sammy Guevarra throw in the towel for Chris Jericho if he felt he needed to? I would say yes. In Blood and Guts, a landmark match in the feud between Jericho and MJF, It was Sammy who ultimately made the decision to forfeit the match for his team when he felt Jericho’s career was at stake. So there’s a precedent set. Both for MJF’s viciousness as shown in Blood and Guts, and Sammy’s willingness to end a match if he feels it would preserve Jericho’s career.
This match may not be as exciting on paper as a few of the other topics I’ve covered, but one thing's for sure. They have a lot of history to play off of that will be having fans hanging on every moment. And even though Jericho winning may seem like a bad outcome, the storylines that could spin out of it are worth giving it a chance. But at the end of the day, AEW is pretty good at choosing a story and making it work. So no matter what they decide to do, I’m excited to see what direction it goes.
Big thanks to Peter Edge (@PeterEdge7 on Twitter) for contributing this week. Always fun seeing what directions other peop