What has become of the Underground? For the last two months, this entire program has been leading to a special card in Orlando. For the last two months, MLW had me invested in a time that is well worth examining across the entire history of the wrestling industry. While I was initially confused as to how Underground fell through the cracks of most wrestling fan’s memories, these last few episodes have begun to clear that up. I am not the type of fan to constantly engage in cynicism, but if what has aired on YouTube in the previous two weeks is ACTUALLY what they decided to air on television, that was a massive mistake. Perhaps the local syndicated stations wouldn’t allow them to air some of the more violent matches on the card such as La Parka and Sabu; I completely understand that sentiment. Extreme violence in wrestling doesn’t usually sit well with advertisers. However, we have only had two matches in the previous two episodes, and only one of them was good.
Joey Styles immediately admitted that MLW would not be airing the entirety of the Sabu and La Parka match for the reason stated above, but to not show Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka or CM Punk vs. Raven seems like a pretty massive mistake in hindsight. Obviously home video sales were still very important to the wrestling industry in 2003, especially for a company like MLW that could not have possibly justified a full blown pay-per-view. In fact, MLW in its current iteration only recently held their FIRST pay-per-view (I say recently, but I suppose it was well over half a year ago at this point… thanks quarantine for destroying my linear perception of time). Point being, I know it would have been unwise to give away a show such as that for free in 2003, but you should have given television viewers more than a terrible tag team match at the end of an episode filled with generic promos. Also, couldn’t you have thrown us a bone on YouTube? It was almost twenty years ago!
I felt a sense of dread creeping in when I saw the “main event” of this episode was essentially a clip show of Sabu vs. La Parka, BUT less than five minutes into the episode, Los Maximos are making their way down to the ring! Are we getting more than one wrestling match on this wepisode?! I told the black cloud of doom hanging over my head to pull back the reigns… for the time being.
Los Maximos vs. Samoan Island Tribe
In a previous episode, Los Maximos had been savagely jumped from behind by a “mystery team” and were not seen for a few weeks after the fact. Los Maximos come out to the ring in Orlando to challenge their cowardly attackers to a match. It wasn’t exactly a mystery to the avid television viewer because SIT were quite adamant in their view that not being selected for the Global Tag Team Tournament was beyond disrespectful. Why exactly did they choose to beat up Los Maximos? We don’t know, but I can assume it has something to do with the big beefy heels having a desire to work with the fast-paced babyfaces, a dynamic that never seems to fail, even among the most average of workers.
While Los Maximos are initially able to get the SIT off of their feet, it doesn’t last very long before the beefy boys start doing beefy things and begin taking apart Los Maximos in all the ways you would probably imagine. There are two basic stories being told by Styles during this match, one of them I appreciate and the other I don’t. First, Styles is referring to this match as an exercise in futility due to the fact Los Maximos can’t possibly hit their Spanish fly finisher on the Samoans. While Los Maximos are able to get in some big moves, it is never enough to take out the Samoans for an extended period of time. Second, Styles continually refers to the Samoans as powerhouses throughout their days in WWE. Styles rarely talks about a wrestler being BETTER in WWE than they are at present, but that is exactly what he does with the Samoans and I felt as though it took away from the aura MLW in generally able to generate. It felt as though the company was attempting to ride New York’s coattails, and that is NOT what led me to respect what MLW was attempting to do at this time.
The match itself is perfectly serviceable. The big, brutal, beefy boys eventually squash Los Maximos like the little bugs that they are. While nothing about this match was very innovative, it was an enjoyable lower mid-card tag that helped establish a team we hadn’t seen very much of up to this point. Los Maximos are pretty good tag team wrestlers, but they don’t get much time to show that here. That being said, Los Maximos get some of their heat back by jumping the SIT as the victors were cutting a promo after the match. I found it pretty hilarious because normally you would see the young guys come out on top of that exchange, but nope! The Samoans beat them down again.
One aspect of this show I deeply appreciate for being ahead of its time is the MLW World Heavyweight Championship ranking system. MLW constructed a top ten contenders list for Kojima’s title, with Mike Awesome remaining in the top spot. One man that has inexplicably fallen out of the top ten is Vampiro. It seems as though Vampiro may have been going through an injury, or simply decided to no-show events, because he looked to be a pretty significant piece of the MLW roster and two months in he is nowhere to be seen.
One aspect of this show that I do NOT appreciate is my forced apprehension as far as getting excited about the match between Awesome and Kojima. Who knows if we will even get to see it?! So much of what has been built over the previous eight weeks has simply slipped into the ether… and yes, I am aware that I can probably find all of the previously absent matches on YouTube or Dailymotion… but it’s the principle, damn it.
La Parka vs. Sabu
“Blood Feud” is a title that is thrown around without much care in the world of wrestling. It is only truly applicable if blood has been drawn or the feud has unnecessarily involved family members. You can make the argument that the build to this match has hit on both of those inherent attributes. Both of these men have made each other bleed, La Parka has also made Bill Alfonso bleed, whom one could argue has an almost familial connection to Sabu,2edrs considering how much they have worked together throughout the years. Fortunately, ol’ Bill will not be around for this one… I really hate that whistle.
There are twenty minutes remaining in this episode, so I am hoping that we will get more than just a few clips of the two men hitting each other with chairs. Joey Styles has a very transparent explanation as to why they may be cutting chunks out of the match: “The network just won’t allow it!” We all understand Joey, you don’t want to blow the entire wad on free television, blood is for video… it’s ok.
WAIT! WHY IS BILL HERE?! Joey Styles said in a previous episode that there was no way he would be at this match because of another random beat down by La Parka! I am genuinely disappointed. As I have said before, I write these reviews as I watch the shows live… I feel real sadness in this moment… join me, won’t you?
The first moment of this match that really jumped out at me is probably not one you would expect. Sabu takes a dive into the crowd and lands on a couple of people. Sabu, the homicidal, suicidal, genocidal maniac very genuinely apologizes to the gentleman and his partner. I found it adorable. The second spot that stood out was when La Parka went so fast outside of the ring to a table on the outside that he basically cleared it. The table didn’t break… he just made a dent… The match started slower than I expected it would, but it actually begins to build in a fairly genius way. Each man continually attempts to level-up in regard to generalized insanity, and pretty soon La Parka is bleeding buckets.
I didn’t get to see much of either La Parka or Sabu in their prime, most of what I have seen has been in the last ten years. Neither man is the athlete they were at this point, I have seen Sabu botch more of the spring board chair spots than he has landed. La Parka is obviously much larger now than he was in the past, however, his no disqualification match against Jacob Fatu at the Saturday Night Super-Fight pay-per-view was shockingly fantastic; one of my favorite MLW matches.
Good lord… just when I’m getting legitimately sucked into the drama of a really great match, Sabu is about to start stabbing La Parka with some scissors (!) and the camera cuts away. Silly me, I had assumed that we would just jump ahead in that match so we could see the finish. NOPE! We get a random Sabu vs. La Parka II with seven minutes left in the show instead of seeing how the previous match ended… this is just messy. I WAS going to give that match a glowing review, but since I didn’t get to see it…
La Parka vs. Sabu II
La Parka comes to the ring dressed as an Orc and I am all the way here for it. While I am here for the attire, I am not exactly here for this match. While the crowd is definitely pumped up for it, they didn’t just watch half of a better match only to be robbed of the finish.
While the previous match was an absolutely brutal bloodbath, this one has been all about what the men can actually do on the mat. As I said before, I haven’t seen much of either wrestler in their true prime, so I wasn’t aware of just how good Sabu and La Parka are at WRESTLING. I should be getting more out of my WWE Network subscription than binge watching old episodes of Story Time, so perhaps I will catch up on ECW and WCW in order to learn more about why each of these guys are legitimate legends.
The finish to this was incredibly odd. Sabu’s new manager (also named Alfonso for some reason) tries to get involved while La Parka is prone on a table as Sabu is climbing to the top for a moonsault. La Parka grabs Alfonso, puts him on the table, Sabu hits the move even though he could obviously see La Parka wasn’t there, yet he still looks confused. In the middle of all this, La Parka hits the flipping heel kick and gets the pin on Sabu. What?
I have to admit, this episode was miles away from the previous two MLW had released. However, the company is beginning to show some of the blemishes that weren’t quite as apparent at the beginning of Underground. Yes, the first few episodes were all over the place, but that can be forgiven considering they were putting television programs together from random footage of previous shows. I can get past that, but the way they presented these programs over two months into the promotion’s television run… it is simply strange. I completely understand not showing certain aspects of brutal violence, but you at least need a finish to the “main event” of your program instead of running a haphazard second version in the span of six minutes.
There are aspects of Underground that have been a legitimate joy to learn about over the previous two months. I don’t enjoy the episodes that help to illustrate why the original incarnation was a failure. Maybe I have just been in a bad mood since wrestling hasn’t had a real crowd in six months, but one thing I am excited about is THE RESTART from MLW! (coming this fall according to the teaser trailer)
I don’t know how many more episodes of Underground I will be able to see in the coming weeks and months. I would like to enjoy it as much as I did one month ago before it goes away forever. Wish me luck.