All Elite Wrestling, which began operations two years ago, has quickly developed into a very serious challenger to the behemoth of the grappling game, World Wrestling Entertainment. A sign AEW means business is it is holding its first-ever New York City card. The location is Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 22.

AEW, which airs Wednesday nights on cable’s TNT, is getting ratings that rival WWE’s two biggest weekly TV extravaganzas, “Raw” on the USA Network, which airs Mondays, and “Smackdown,” on Friday nights on Fox.

While the AEW has imported some well-known WWE performers such as Chris Jericho, Matt Hardy and Paul “Big Show” Wight, as well as TV personality Jim Ross, most of the roster is young wrestlers who were not well-known until coming to AEW. They have won legions of fans with their athleticism and microphone skills. Arguably, the wrestler who has generated the most “heat” (wrestling parlance for a villain fans can’t wait to see) is Maxwell Jacob Friedman, who refers to himself as MJF. For Friedman, the Ashe event is a homecoming as he grew up about 20 miles east of Flushing in Plainview, LI. I spoke with MJF last month.

His character is braggadocio, but he made it clear while he is supremely confident, he’s certainly not evil. For those who haven’t seen him, Friedman is a cross between Duane “The Rock” Johnson and Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase.

When I asked if he was excited about wrestling in Queens, he responded, “I’m not a fan of the five boroughs. I would have preferred to wrestle in the ‘old barn,’ the Nassau Coliseum.” I asked if he’d be coming to New York Comic Con this October, which always draws a lot of wrestlers and their fans. “I’d rather not mingle with the unwashed masses!” he replied.

Friedman broke character when I asked if he had encountered anti-Semitism. “I’m Jewish and so is my character. I’ve gotten slurs from other wrestlers as well as the audience. I’ve been greeted with posters of swastikas at some shows.” He surprised me when he said he first experienced anti-Semitism as the captain of the Plainview-Kennedy High School football team. “There weren’t a lot of Jewish kids playing high school football in Long Island back then.”

Friedman wears a long Burberry scarf into the ring. I jokingly said it looks like a tallis he’d wear in synagogue on the High Holy Days. “I didn’t think of that but you’re right!” he chuckled.

MJF admits he’d love to have a career in the film biz the way The Rock does. “I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind.”

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Good for Mets owner Steve Cohen for calling out the team’s incompetent hitting on Twitter last week. If I were Mets hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum, I wouldn’t be signing any long-term leases.

On Friday night in Los Angeles, Mets third baseman JD Davis came to bat against the Dodgers in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two men out. Mets play-by-play broadcaster Gary Cohen pointed out Davis had been to the plate with the bases full four times this season and struck out on each occasion. Sure enough, Davis made it five times a few minutes later. That kind of sums up the Mets’ 2021 season.

Seth Meyers had some fun with his “Late Night with Seth Meyers” writers, many of whom are Mets fans. During his “Closer Look” segment last Thursday, Meyers told the television audience he needed them to come up with material about the rapid collapse. “I had to clarify I was talking about Afghanistan and not the Mets’ season!” he deadpanned.

It’s hard to separate Topps baseball cards from the national pastime itself but we will soon discover baseball life without the world-famous collectible card company. After 70 years, Major League Baseball has dumped its licensing deal with Topps in favor of an equity deal with a rival card company, Fanatics. As a baby boomer who collected baseball cards back in the day, this feels like a major decline in American civilization.

Detroit Tigers catcher Bill Freehan was the best catcher in the American League when I was collecting Topps cards. I was saddened to learn of his passing last Thursday. He was an 11-time All-Star and yet is not in the Hall of Fame. Someone needs to explain that one to me.

Former New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist announced his retirement last week. He played 15 seasons for the Blueshirts and is considered the best goalie in their history. The Rangers bought out his contract in 2020 since they had a plethora of young replacements for him. He became a free agent and signed a contract with the Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, he never played a game for them because a team medical exam revealed a serious cardiac issue, which resulted in successful open-heart surgery. The Rangers will retire his No. 30 and hang his sweater from the rafters of Madison Square Garden at a ceremony during the 2021-22 season.

I have covered hockey sporadically over the years, but I always found Lundqvist to be patient and pleasant during postgame media scrums regardless of whether the Rangers won or lost. He knew my knowledge of his sport wasn’t vast, but he seemed to appreciate the perspective of someone with limited knowledge who was willing to learn.

The New York Jets pass rush has been nonexistent for years which is why one of their biggest free agent acquisitions for 2021 was former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson. Last Thursday, Lawson ruptured his Achilles tendon during a practice session with the Packers in Green Bay. He will be out for the entire season. New Jets head coach Robert Saleh comes to this job with a reputation for being a defensive expert. His knowledge will be tested in a hurry with a team clearly lacking in talent. At least the bald Saleh doesn’t have to worry about losing his hair watching his team play.


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