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Why did MJF betray Cody Rhodes at Full Gear?

Pro Wrestling

Why did MJF betray Cody Rhodes at Full Gear?

An analysis of MJF’s motivations for turning on his friend, and how it could have been an even better moment.

I sincerely enjoyed the MJF plot and his betrayal of Cody at Full Gear. Nevertheless I have a big issue with that particular plot point. For a show that seems so focused on telling good stories and having rich characters, it seemed odd that there was no real motivation for MJF to betray Cody. “But wait!” you may say, “there was an explanation offered up November 13th’s episode of Dynamite.” Maybe this is a fair rationale for MJF’s actions, that MJF’s ego had perceived Cody as overly controlling, but we never really saw that, besides when MJF wore a Star Trek uniform one time.

In fact, when looking at MJF’s past interactions with Cody and others around him, it appears MJF is very much aware that he’s sucking up to Cody. His friendship is extremely disingenuous from the start and it is obvious he was purely sucking up to him. So either MJF is lying about why he betrayed Cody (which is honestly likely) or they wrote his shift from ‘suck up’ to ‘actual friend’ to ‘friend who unjustly felt used’ extremely poorly.

Why did MJF betray Cody Rhodes at Full Gear?
MJF teases Cody’s dog Pharaoh on Being the Elite.

Now, before I go further, let me give my loose theory for why MJF did decide to turn at Full Gear. In this interview (linked when the question starts), MJF says that he is tired of Cody getting opportunities before him, that he wants title shots too. Meanwhile, Cody is putting his ability to challenge for the title on the line; thus it is a great time for MJF to make Cody one less obstacle to the belt. 

This is the most logical rationale for why MJF picked Full Gear to betray Cody. However, I would be surprised if MJF’s answer to this small after show interview was supposed to actually demonstrate his motivation. In fact, my interpretation feels extremely charitable to say the least; however, I do like this theory. It holds up well and plays in nicely with Cody saying if he loses he won’t challenge again for the title. So what would have been my fantasy booking for building up MJF?

First, in order to understand the logic behind my approach to this plot, let’s just get the obvious out of the way: a twist isn’t needed for something to be good. Everyone knew that MJF was going to betray Cody; that doesn’t make his turn bad just because it was predicted. Predictability in stories often means that we as people just understand basic narrative structure, can pick up on foreshadowing, and have the basic understanding of what makes a good story. In fact, a study from UC San Diego has shown that knowing the plot before hand can at times actually increase enjoyment of the story.

However, I do like the idea of the moment being shocking. Something that stands out. It may not be a twist for us the viewer, but it still is a moment of tension, of shock. Just like in the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, the moment it happens we instantly know the motivation for it, and may have even thought ‘I don’t trust this’, but despite that it still needs to be surprising. So we need to make motivation for MJF clear, while insuring his betrayal is still surprising.

Why did MJF betray Cody Rhodes at Full Gear?
What I assume Fantasy Booking means.

Fantasy Booking Time!

In my fantasy booking, MJF is offered up opportunities to betray Cody and each time there is a ‘will he or won’t he’ situation. Each time needs to make you think ‘this will finally be the moment’. That way, by the fourth time he gets around to being given the option, when he finally does betray Cody it is just that more devastating. But more so, it needs a clear motivation for why at this point MJF has chosen to reveal his hand. This happens over the course of three or four months and pushes Cody’s title challenge into early 2020.

  1. Jericho offers MJF some of the bubbly if he joins his side and betrays Cody the next following week. Bubbly, or a place on the Inner Circle, or some other McGuffin. Simply something enough to make viewers wonder if MJF is going to turn. He doesn’t.
  2. Someone screenshots a DM that MJF has sent to someone else which tells them that he’s going to betray Cody tonight. This doesn’t necessarily need motivation since it will be another red herring. MJF will claim it’s fake or out of context. He doesn’t actually betray Cody the following week like the DM says he will.
  3. In order to make Cody trust MJF more, you can have a leaked text between Inner Circle members discussing how else to try to get people over on their side. MJF can then tweet this picture out saying that he’s found out and exposed them, but no one is going to betray Cody.
  4. Cody says something in an interview similar to Shawn Spears and the ‘good hand’ comment about MJF. MJF is also asked about this is an interview and is seemingly annoyed but says he doesn’t mind.
  5. We finally have the betrayal. We make sure to include parts of that interview of MJF I linked earlier in the promo or in some prominent segment, say on AEW Dark. Perhaps have one or two other such interviews lead up to this where he says something similar as well. This, mixed with Cody putting his ability to challenge for the title on the line, demonstrates a clear, obvious motivation for MJF to show his hand but still leaves that little element of surprise there.

In this way we not only have tension throughout the build to MJF’s betrayal but a logical reason for it as well, with the final inciting incident being Cody’s announcement concerning him not challenging for the belt if he loses.

In the end, my dear wrestling buddies, this is a small complaint. AEW has quickly become some of the best wrestling going on currently. However, because of that, it’s a lot easier to nitpick and faults stand out. If AEW is going to have a good wrestling product, they’re set. However, if AEW wants to have an amazing one, they need to ensure that all their character motivations line up, as well as make them explicitly clear.

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Do you love wrestling? Do you have strong opinions on AEW, WWE, NJPW, Impact, ROH, and the independent scene? Do you like to write about wrestling? Then we want you on our team. AIPT is currently recruiting wrestling writers. Apply to write for AIPT today!

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