Written by: Arnold Furious
Ever just wake up and want to see something completely different? I’ve been working through various series of shows lately and it’s a nice day, the sun is out and I feel inclined to review something different this afternoon. MLW was briefly hailed as the biggest thing in US Indy wrestling. Formed around the same time as Ring of Honor it crowned its first champion in June 2002. But unlike ROH is had serious financial issues and didn’t really garner the same kind of support as America’s #3 promotion (or TNA, which also started out around the same time but they were actually making money from day one). Major League Wrestling was founded by Court Bauer. While he wasn’t a big name in wrestling Bauer had strong links to Hollywood and believed he could make a success of running a promotion down in Florida. For two years he didn’t do a bad job creating some interesting storylines including the Extreme Horsemen and made the bold decision of putting his main title on a Japanese competitor, Satoshi Kojima, some four and half years before ROH did the same thing with Takeshi Morishima. Of course this had nothing to do with Bauer being employed by All Japan as a liaison at the time. Bauer actually fell on his feet and got hired by the WWE. He’s now one of the people responsible for putting together Smackdown.
20th June 2003. We’re in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Host is Joey Styles.
I’m reminded just how much MLW ripped off ECW by its show opening video. Steven DeAngelis is the ring announcer. He invites out Francine who looks pretty good in a tight white suit. No bra. She poses showing off her tits. “Show your tits” – Ft Lauderdale. Well, she asked for that. She heels on them saying she only cares about herself and “her favourite in MLW” Michael Shane. This would be during the period where everyone thought Michael Shane was going to be huge. Now he’s called Matt Bentley and hasn’t done anything of note in years.
Michael Shane v Homicide
Homicide has a lot less personality in MLW. It seems he got booked all over the place without being told how to act by various promoters. He’s defacto babyface here because of Francine’s heel act pre-match. Crowd suggest she has herpes. “She doesn’t, I’d know” – Shane. For a bush league promotion it’s quite a sizeable crowd. See how starved Florida was of wrestling before TNA moved down there? Lots of stalling as the guys play up to the crowd chanting about Francine’s collection of STD’s. Homicide goes for an early STF but Shane bails out. The audio mix on this is horrible. I can barely hear Joey. Which is weird because at the show before where Kojima won the title it was all fine. Homicide breaks out the strongstyle and washes Shane’s face…with his knee! Shane runs into a belly to belly and bails. This of course if the pre-cursor for the usual sick TOPE CON HILO. “Oh my God” – Joey. Say what you like about Homicide but he always gives it 100% on that tope. While he’s down Francine comes over to kneel on his throat. She’s just lucky there are no ghetto forks in MLW. Back inside Shane focuses on the back bringing the old school approach to counter Homicide’s strongstyle offence. It’s an interesting match up but Shane seems like he’s trying less because of his style. Homicide counters out and hits the Northern Lights bomb. Homicide goes up so Shane pushes the ref into the ropes to bring him back down. That strikes me as a DQ. Francine chokes away behind the ref’s back some more with her thigh. “The smell alone will kill ya” – Joey. Shane hits a German suplex but Homicide staggers up with fighting spirit and hits the lariat. Homicide goes low and hits the Exploder for 2. Business is really picking up. Someone shouts something about New Jack. COP KILLAAAAA! Shane is dead. Francine pulls Homicide off the cover so Shane lives on. Homicide rather stupidly bails to chase Francine, which gets him caught in a lame Downward Spiral off Shane for 2. Glad that wasn’t the finish. Homicide goes for a rana but Shane powerbombs him…for 2. Superkick is blocked into the STF and Francine is up again so the referee misses Shane tapping out. CAN’T HE HEAR THAT? Homicide, like a moron, let’s go of the hold to go after Francine again. Shane rolls him up for 2. Glad that wasn’t the finish as well but this booking is starting to annoy me. Homicide goes up and the referee somehow misses Francine interfering again. Homicide drags her in the ring this time and forces her onto her knees. Oh, she wants to. Homicide uses her as an illegal object by ramming her head repeatedly into Shane’s groin. Now that was funny. Homicide goes to kill Francine some more but Shane superkicks him…for 2. Another false finish? That’s five. How many do you need in the opening match? Shane tries to steal the Cop Killer so Homicide counters it into a weak roll up for the pin at 14.02. A roll up? After those five false finishes? ***1/4. Solid enough opener but the amount of protection for both guys seemed totally unnecessary for an opening match. The right guy went over because everyone still hates Shane but Homicide earned the win. If I was booking the finish then the Cop Killer gets countered into the actual Cop Killer. But there ya go.
Los Maximos v Samoan Island Tribe
Samu has himself a new partner who is fat and useless. What’s the betting that he’s there as a favour to Afa? Seeing as he trained Court Bauer. Los Maximos blow half of the crap they attempt. The Samoans start fighting each other. This was back when the SAT seemed to get booked everywhere because Rob Feinstein had a, literal, hard on for the team and booked them to be the stars of the ROH tag team division. To avoid embarrassing blown spots they opt for brawling instead, which the crowd actually enjoy because it’s such a contrast to the last match. Incidentally the taping order was different to the order shown because a terrible Jerry Lynn-Kid Romeo match got dumped off the tape. Probably because the botching was littered with occasional occurrences of wrestling. As I type that Los Maximos double roll up the fat guy for the pin at 4.28. DUD. Mana? I think that’s what he’s called. Who cares in the long run? I’d have to question the legality of that pinfall as well. I’m pretty sure it’s not legal for two guys to pin one guy. Not that either team made a single tag in the entire match.
Kenzo Suzuki v Norman Smiley w/GI Ho
Kenzo is here thanks to Court’s blowjob relationship with All Japan. Crowd goes completely nuts for Norman. The valet is a nobody with a bad name. She’s not even pretty just tits & ass. Kenzo is one of those guys that are living proof that not all Japanese wrestlers are good. He launches a few gobfulls of phlegm into the crowd. Crowd retorts by chanting “USA” presumably at the referee because Smiley is English. Kenzo manages to fuck up going over on a snapmare so Norman stops the match for a Big Wiggle. YUS! Kenzo takes over with some ponderous offence and a few chops. I would say “what in the hell did Vince McMahon see in Kenzo Suzuki?” but there’s no point because his muscle structure is pretty much your answer. Let’s see tall, muscular and full head of hair. Yep, he qualifies alright. Norman tries to make this match interesting by varying his offence but he’s soon hit with a shitty high knee. Crowd doesn’t care much for Kenzo who looks like he’s in training for the WWE by looking for cheap heat at every available opportunity. Kenzo starts no selling. Sheesh. Smiley hits him with the wind up slam. BIG WIGGLE~! Kenzo took several ass slaps there as well. You’d better believe he’s not happy about that. Or maybe he is. Hard to tell with some wrestling types. Bat for both teams dontcha know. Coughbillykidmancough. Kenzo takes over with back suplexes Norman before following up with a horrible Shining Wizard for the pin at 8.07. ½*. Some guys just cannot be carried.
POST MATCH Out comes Court Bauer with a briefcase. He has the tag titles, which will be awarded here tonight. Out come the Extreme Horsemen (CW Anderson & Simon Diamond). They have valets too but their valets are actually hot. They won the titles by beating Dr Death & PJ Friedman the previous month. CW sends the ladies to the back. BOO! Steve Williams is out here before the ceremony can go ahead though. Doc cuts a raspy voiced promo saying they didn’t beat him they just beat some kid. So he has a new partner here tonight. The Horsemen beat him down and out comes D’LO BROWN!
Extreme Horsemen v Steve Williams/D’Lo Brown
Well there’s a tag team I never thought I’d see. D’Lo clears the ring out and hits a plancha as well. Doc hits the flying shoulderblock on Simon. Looks like he has a problem. He solves it with the superkick. Doc doesn’t stay down and D’Lo gets the tag. CW in and they engage in a nice series of spots where they shout “stay down, bitch” afterwards. D’Lo with the wobbly headed legdrop for 2. CW picks off Doc and gets his arm. Doc taps out but I’m pretty sure he didn’t intend to. Living in the past there, Doc. He’s isolated and the crowd is REALLY hot for D’Lo. He has a big personality so that works most of the time. The don’t run heat long enough for D’Lo hot tags in. CW runs into a spinebuster for 2. Sky High gets 2. Simon makes the save there. Doc jumps in and that gets messy. His charging looks like the insanity of a crazy old man. CW launches a left hand at D’Lo. He has such a great looking punch. D’Lo slams him and goes up top but the frogsplash misses. CW spinebusters him for the pin at 7.11. ¾*. Just too rushed. The heat should have been at least another three minutes. The finish was messy. They had real potential here and fucked it up by giving it 7 minutes. Sandman teams with Doc next time.
La Parka v Sabu
Parka has Sinister Minister with him. That doesn’t look like La Parka. He’s unmasking, it’s MIKEY WHIPWRECK! I guess they had booking issues with La Parka seeing as his first match with Sabu was totally awesome.
Sabu v Mikey Whipwreck
“ECW” – crowd. This was one of Mikey’s random returns to wrestling after his retirement in late 2001. I believe this is after his return in ROH when he teamed with his students. He looked terrible in those matches but throughout the opening tie up’s he looks decent. Is that a whistle? Oh, lord, FONZIE is out here. Sabu goes over to high five him and promptly takes control with a camel clutch. Mikey isn’t that worn down though and gets out easily. Fonzie throws a chair in. Mikey isn’t impressed. Sabu throws Mikey into the crowd and goes back inside. TRIPLE JUMP PLANCHAAA! Sabu has a table. Sinister Minister isn’t impressed (that’s Jim Mitchell btw for those who don’t remember ECW). That table gives out so Sabu improvises with a super rana and a slingshot legdrop. Sabu sets the chair again instead of pinning so Mikey trips him up into the chair. This is like watching ECW. It’s uncanny. Without doing it intentionally MLW has done the best job of recreating the atmosphere of that company. Although having the commentator, managers, referee and wrestlers from there helps. Table in the ring and Sabu goes to splash Mikey through it but Mikey dropkicks his chair away in a good spot. Russian legsweep on the chair gets 2. Mikey heels on Sabu a bit with a spot of chair choking. Mitchell has been very heel in his managerial approach. Sabu gets back on top and hits the TRIPLE JUMP MOONSAULT for 2. Camel clutch and now Mikey is in trouble. Sabu doesn’t think he’ll quit though and gives up on it. Mikey recovers very quickly and goes up with Sabu – SUPER WHIPPERSNAPPER. That was weird selling. Mikey takes longer to recover from a move that shouldn’t hurt at all because he delivered it then the one beforehand where he got hit. Screwy selling. That table is still set up so the crowd knows it’s not over. Sabu falls outside to avoid a pin. Mikey gets put on the table and Sabu uses the chair to splash him through it. That gets 2. It was a pretty lame table spot so I’m happy it wasn’t the finish. Sabu with a chair again and the triple jump legdrop sets up another camel clutch. Sabu puts a chair under himself for added pressure and Mikey taps out at 11.50. **1/4. Sabu was doing a fine job of bringing himself to everyone’s attention again during this MLW run. He’d bombed out of ECW three years earlier and hadn’t really caught on anywhere good since (XPW obviously doesn’t count). This was nowhere near as good as the match with La Parka but it was the same sort of level of effort from Sabu. Just a shame the booking was kinda murky where the selling was concerned.
POST MATCH Jerry Lynn and Chris Daniels run in here and beat down Sabu. Fonzie tries to stop them but Lynn chases him off. Mikey did nothing and left with them.
CM Punk v Raven
Gee, I wonder where they got the idea for this match from? Punk comes out to L7’s “Shit List”, which is pretty awesome. He knows entrance music. Loud “Raven” chants as Punk grabs the mic. He does his heel straightedge promo, which upsets the crowd in attendance. Punk talking about Raven going “in and out of rehab” gets a pop. He says it’s no 4:20, it’s Clobberin’ Time. Punk brings the chickenshit heel act and hides in the ropes. The only reason he wasn’t hired by the WWE back in 2003 is because he was just too skinny. The crowd reactions for everything Punk does are immense because he’s such a great personality. His talking alone is good enough for a contract but he’s so much more than that. Punk spends most of the first 2 minutes totally avoiding contact. Raven breaks out a few Russian legsweeps into the rail to keep the crowd entertained. Is that Simply Luscious at ringside? I’ve met her. She’s very nice. I’ve met Raven too. Best moment of my writing career would be walking into a room where Raven was sat. He looks up and goes “ah, Furious”. Brilliant. Punk takes over in this one and hits the slingshot senton. Weird how different his WWE moveset is to the one he was using even in 2005 but back in 2003 it was very different. They work a chair into a few spots. The best of which is Punk slingshotting out to the floor and Raven tapping him on the head with it. Very soft but quite fun. Punk gets a receipt on that guardrail Russian legsweep. That didn’t look too hot. Back inside Punk gets the Cobra Clutch while Joey reels off different names for it. Raven can’t break out of it. He eventually counters out and hits the superkick for the double knockdown. Raven is working this match on a lower scale to the big matches of his career but because he was so energised during 2003 he still looks good. Bulldog gets 2 after a flurry of offence. Raven gets a chair and hits the drop toehold into it for 2. Punk goes low and the Shining Wizard gets 2. SHINING WIZARD WITH A CHAIR! That also gets 2. Cool looking spot though. Raven counters and the Even Flow would finish but Michael Shane is out to pull Raven off the cover. That’s happened too many times tonight. It’s not especially creative. Punk lifts the DDT for the pin at 12.53. ***. Was on course to be better until the run in. That’s why I like ROH so much. There’s a minimal amount of bullshit finishes. And what do Punk & Shane have in common? They could have used someone remotely related to Punk to help him out or turned Luscious. Norman Smiley bizarrely makes the save. And what does he have in common with Raven?
POST MATCH Smiley lays out a challenge to Shane & Punk. Punk doesn’t care because he’s already left. “It’s gonna get jiggy up in this bitch” – Smiley. Oh that’s a great quote.
MLW title – Satoshi Kojima (c) v Mike Awesome
The last time a Japanese wrestler held a major North American title it was Masato Tanaka in ECW. And that title run was ended by? Mike Awesome. Streamers for Kojima and a nice chant. Awesome gets soundly booed for fucking over ECW in 2000. Awesome disrespectfully shoves at Kojima who stands his ground. CHOPS~! Awesome is chopping ridiculously hard. Awesome falls outside and he’s supposed to catch Kojima on a pescado but he fucks up and falls over. They brawl around ringside, which is rather uninspired. Especially following a very similar brawl from Raven & Punk in the last match. Awesome breaks out the slingshot shoulderblock going back inside for 2. Kojima takes back over and bows to the crowd, which mirrors what he did after winning the title. Kind of an “I still respect you” showing from the champion. Kojima trips Mike up into the STF. Awesome is just too big and manages to drag Kojima into the ropes quite easily. Awesome boots him down and bails for a chair. He gets a better one off the timekeeper. “YEEEEEAH”. Kojima sees him coming and stops it. They fuck up something else before Awesome uses the chair. At least they’re not repeating the spots where the fuck up’s take place. Just working them into the match. Awesome looks to be half assing this whole bout though. They make a mess of another chair spot before Kojima hits some blatantly protected chair shots. Kojima with a sloppy elbow drop for 2. I guess Kojima is adopting the work ethic of his opponent, which isn’t good news for the rest of this match. They go back to the chopping but Awesome even half asses that this time. Kojima pulls out a German suplex to stop the duelling. Cobra neckbreaker gets 2. Kojima calls for the lariat but runs into a clothesline. Awesomebomb…for 2. Awesome heads up top for the Awesomesplash. That gets 2. He goes for another but Kojima cuts him off on the ropes with a superplex for 2. Kojima with a Shining Wizard for 2. What is this? Night of the Wizards? Kojima has more right to use it what with his mentor being Keiji Mutoh. Awesome blocks the lariat and hits a running Awesomebomb for 2. Awesome bails for a table. That’s bad news for Kojima and his title reign. Ref is bumped. Kojima hits the Koji Cutter and the LARIATOOOO, that he learned from Stan Hansen so you know it’s good, but the ref is still down. BOO! Kojima goes for another but Awesome ducks it and spears him. The ref is coming round. AWESOMEBOMB THROUGH THE TABLE and Kojima is pinned at 13.57. New champion. **1/2. Fuck up’s aside I really enjoyed the match. It had a big match atmosphere about it.
POST MATCH Out comes Steve Corino. Oh boy, my Wrestlemania 9 sense is kicking in. I’d have preferred for the show to finish on Awesome’s win because his music RAWKS. Most of the crowd hate him but there was a definite pop when he won. There’s even an “Awesome” chant contrary to reports from the show (well, LOP reports, we know how useful they are) that the crowd was chanting “bullshit”. Corino congratulates Awesome on his win and says that Awesome said Corino would get the first shot because he beat Vampiro, Sandman and Dusty Rhodes. Awesome agrees but Corino says Awesome would grant him a match whenever he wanted. So Corino nails him with the mic and says that match is right now.
MLW title – Mike Awesome (c) v Steve Corino
So THAT is where the idea for Money in the Bank came from. Awesome takes over pretty quickly and hurls Corino into the front row. Awesome breaks out the diving chair shot for 2. Awesome looks like he’s quarter assing it by this point. Either that or he’s just totally blown up. Sloppy German suplex on Corino and Awesome bails for another table. It’s the one Sabu broke earlier but it still sits in the corner ok. Awesome calls for the running Awesomebomb through the table but Corino escapes and goes low. Awesome clotheslines him and RUNNING AWESOMEBOMB THROUGH THE TABLE! That should be Awesome’s first successful defence BUT he isn’t done. Which is where he pays because in come the Extreme Horseman and Corino superkicks Awesome for the pin at 4.56. Oh that is such bullshit. ½*. Ok, if they wanted Corino as champion why didn’t they book him against Kojima and make the win mean something? Or if that was already booked and they knew this was Kojima’s last night have him beat Awesome and then have Corino do the same angle, more or less, with Kojima and win the title. Two title changes just sucks the life out of the belt. Its bad booking. Although at least the first title change garnered a pop. This one garners indifference. With the exception of about half a dozen fans the crowd just sit on their hands and it’s because Corino did nothing to deserve the match and nothing to win it. This was just a terrible idea and badly executed to boot. Now we get “bullshit” chants. LOUD ones. Corino would prove to be such a good champion that the company went broke with him as belt holder. And if Corino winning the title wasn’t enough…
No Rope Barbwire match – Steve Corino v Terry Funk
The crowd appears to have shrunk. At least half of it has gone since the title match, which suggests it took them a while to set up the barbwire. Considering they’ve already had two title matches tonight the champion is now in a non-title match to finish the show. Remember how Terry Funk was horribly washed up and useless in the ring during his run in WCW before they closed down? This is three years later. Funk is that little bit more deteriorated. At least they have some straightforward barbwire psychology ready made for this match. Funk breaks out a nice looking Hangman’s noose neckbreaker. I guess when he’s not moving about too much he’s ok. Corino does the movement for him by bailing for a chair. He throws it in and Funk throws it back out hitting Corino in the arm. Corino beats him down and hits a few weak chair shots. Funk gets introduced to the wire first as Corino rams his head into it. Loads of blood from that, obviously. I saw Funk wrestle Dusty Rhodes in this same building and it was pitiful. This is at least better than that. Funk gets whipped into the wire and there’s a certain car wreck element to the match. Corino takes off his shirt, which is a questionable move in a barbwire match but at the moment Terry is hung up in the wire and can’t move anyway. The wire doesn’t look as bad as the kind they had for Funk-Sabu in Born to be Wired. Funk’s arm gets tied up in it and there’s no blood. This is really dragging now at 10 minutes. There’s no wrestling in between the wire spots. Corino gets raked on the wire and a chair is bounced off his head. So now at least they’re both bleeding. Crowd seems to be enjoying this. Corino suddenly starts bleeding far more heavily than before. He pop the aspirin’s pre-match ya think? Funk traps Corino’s head in the wire that is sick. Corino is bleeding from an assortment of puncture wounds but most importantly from his head. Funk is a mess too. He’s wrecked one of his Funk U t-shirts. Funk smacks the referee around and piledrives him. Not sure why. I guess he just didn’t like him. Out comes CW Anderson with wirecutters. He clips Corino free but Funk catches Corino with a DDT anyway. CW has cut one entire side away so Terry bails and wraps barbwire around his head. You sicko! Simon Diamond makes the save with a barbwire bat. This is now 3 on 1. Those odds were enough to take down the enormous Mike Awesome but apparently not a crazy old man. Funk gets the barbwire bat and nails Corino in the arm with it three times. That last one looked fucking sick. Stunner! Corino bounces back up and takes another one for the pin at 16.13. *1/2. Mostly terrible especially the finish but they worked in a whole load of blood.
POST MATCH Dr Death makes the save but runs into a double superkick. The Extreme Horsemen celebrate until THE SANDMAN comes out there. Extreme Horsemen bail out leaving the ring for the three “old timers”.
Final Thoughts: Not a bad show although Corino’s double main event and title win was quite depressing as it’s exactly what the crowd didn’t want to see. Especially after their intended main event was Kojima-Awesome, which although wasn’t too together at least reeked off main event. MLW for all it’s unoriginality was, more often than not, entertaining and this is another fine example of that. Ring of Honor has much better tapes from the same time period featuring Raven-Punk with an actual storyline attached as well as Michael Shane & Homicide in matches that had some kind of back-story. The booking is a bit of a mess but the fun nature of the show makes it a thumbs up. Recommended but realistically you’re better off with an ROH show. If you want something more along ECW lines this is probably for you.