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LA Park: MLW Anthology

“For nearly twenty years, Major League Wrestling has showcased some of the greatest athletes, legends and classic title fights in our sport. Now MLW looks back at some of those great moments…”

Rich Bocinni

With Fusion apparently on hiatus for the moment whilst we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, MLW has come up with the excellent idea of raiding their archives to bring people the best matches from across their library, showcasing why MLW is such a powerhouse for developing talent.

The reason this is a particularly astute idea is that the Anthology series promises to bring fans hard-to-find matches from their original run from 2002 to 2004, when the company had the benefit of being able to sign up stars lost in the implosions of both WCW and ECW, as well as giving new, fresh talent a platform to shine on, talent who went on to become big stars, like CM Punk. This was an exciting, transitory time for wrestling, with many surprises, and fans are gasping for a glimpse of what the MLW archives have to offer.

We get a quick introduction from Rich Boccini, who explains that Anthology will focus on a different wrestler each week. And what better to start off with than an episode focusing on LA Park? Not only has Park been one of the major stars responsible for MLW’s rebirth, he was there at the start, appearing at MLW’s first ever show all the way back in 2002, and has remained loyal ever since.

So, with all that said, let’s go to the ring!

LA Park vs. Shocker (Manhattan Center, New York, September 2002)

Joey Styles poses against a white background with the MLW Anthology logo and the date and time for the first episode

Joey Styles is on commentary here as the original voice of MLW, and I forgot how much I missed his voice calling the action. There’s quite a few contemporary commentators who could learn a thing or two by listing to ‘the voice of extreme.’

I’ve somehow not come across Shocker before, but according to a little research, he was the top rudo in Mexico in 2002, which means this match would have been a big deal at the time.

This was a really good match, with fast paced action split between aerial offense and high impact power moves. Shocker and Park had really good chemistry together and the crowd were really into it. Shocker hit a lovely springboard dive from the top onto Park on the outside. Park got wise, though, and almost took Shocker’s head off at one point with a lethal chair shot counter to a suicide dive – there’s a reason they call him the chairman!

In the end, Park countered a bronco buster attempt with a boot to the crown jewels and hit a lovely senton for the 3. A great, energetic opener.

“Some Old-School Ass Whooping”

We get a promo from Mance Warner at home, telling us that next week’s Anthology will focus on him. There’s going to be barbed wire. There’s going to be ass kicking. There’s going to be brawling all over a building. So get your light beers in, turn on your TV and get drunk while you savour some old-school ass whooping. Brilliant! I might just take you up on that, Mance. Well, it’d be rude not to…

LA Park vs. Sabu (War Memorial Auditorium, Fort Lauderdale, December 2002)

We start with a little look back at what led to this match; LA Park gave everyone’s favourite whistle-blowing irritant, Bill Alfonso, a kicking, so Sabu and another man whose identity I’m unsure of – 911 maybe? Do you know, readers? – attacked La Park backstage whilst Park was being interviewed. The fight to be crowned ‘King of Extreme’ was on!

This was a brilliant match, there’s no other way to describe it. It partly helped that Sabu was on top form here – even at his peak he could be very hit and miss on the accuracy of his jumps. Here Sabu only made the one noticable mistake: missing his footing as he tried to jump on the second rope. And even then LA Park made it look like it was meant to happen, quickly compensating by giving Sabu a good old jumping kick to the head.

Surprisingly, the match started slow, with Sabu playing against type and taking it to the mat, where the two exchanged some smooth counters and reversals. Things then picked up a little with a jumping DDT and a basement dropkick until Park threw Sabu head first over the guard rail head first into the audience, following it with a chair shot, a whip into the rail and a quite frankly mental top turnbuckle cross body dive over the rail onto Sabu! From here, things would only get crazier.

I quite like how the slow, mat-based start allowed the pair to change up through the gears into the air and from there escalate into the violence. It gave the match a natural build up to the craziness that some of those old-school ECW brawls didn’t have.

And what did the craziness include? Oh, just Sabu stabbing Park in the forehead with SCISSORS! We’re not talking once or twice either, but several times, tearing the top half of Park’s mask off and leaving his face a bloody mess.

MLW LA Park Anthology title card

But the craziest moment has to be LA Park charging Sabu on the apron. Sabu ducks down and kicks LA Park in the legs, flipping him over the top rope to the outside. But I don’t know if Park came at him too fast or what but he flew over the top at scary speed, overshooting the table and just grazing it with his back as he viciously landed on the floor, smashing his feet in particular into the concrete. Ouch! (On a side note, that the table still broke, even after only being lightly touched, sheds a large light on how heavily scored tables are in wrestling).

After a valiant effort by a bloody, exhausted Park, Sabu sealed the deal with that old chestnut, the Arabian face buster. After the match, both men shook hands but the truce would only last so long: Alfonso was caught outside after the match saying they would sign for a rematch because they know Sabu is the better man. Park, taking exception to this, buried our Bill under a load of bins in response…

Meanwhile, In MLW…

The show concludes with a quick montage of MLW stars filming themselves in isolation. We get an angry Myron Reed promising justice for Contra’s attack in Kotta, Tom Lawler in his makeshift garage-gym warning the Von Erichs that they will lost the tag titles to Team Filthy, and the Von Erichs telling Lawlor to shut his ugly mouth.

We get Mance Warner in a face mask driving out to get some light beers, so he can continue to work on his blueprints for the three-tier cage. Richard Holliday has grown a gerbil on his top lip, which Hammerstone says is the most dynastic moustache he’s ever seen, not entirely seriously.

Savio Vega swears revenge against The Dynasty and Colonel Robert Parker likes tap tap tap tap tap, apparently…

And as for LA Park? He’s noticed a camera in his fridge, which he attributes to CONTRA. His message for them: “go **** your mothers!”

Well, they do deserve it…

Final Thoughts

Mance Warner drinking a cold one

This was a really, really entertaining show which kept its focus centrally on the archive footage, while giving enough of a focus to the current roster to keep their feuds in the viewer’s mind.

The success will depend on the wrestler spotlighted and the matches chosen of course, but as a first impression MLW knocked it right out of the park with this edition. They’re able to show longer matches because they don’t need to worry about getting all the angles into the hour, and that will be a boon in terms of being able to choose from a larger range of great matches.

Colour me impressed!

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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