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Tankman Takes Fatu the Champ to the Limit

MLW Never Say Never Review

The night has finally arrived! After weeks of build-up, we’ve finally reached Never Say Never, MLW’s special edition of Fusion that promises some of the company’s biggest grudge matches will be fought out on the card. MLW World Heavyweight Champion Jacob Fatu will defend his title against challenger Calvin Tankman, a man who has had Fatu’s number lately in a way no one else in MLW ever quite has.

With two supporting matches as well, featuring big grudge matches between members of InJustice and CONTRA Unit, this promises to be an exciting evening of wrestling action.

There’s no time to waste, so let’s take it to the ring.

Simon Gotch vs. Jordan Oliver

The heat between InJustice and CONTRA unit has been ongoing for months now, going all the way back to last summer when InJustice member Kotto Brazil was put on the shelf by a CONTRA attack, and when InJustice helped to take CONTRA out of MLW HQ, which they had commandeered in an attempt at a hostile takeover.

Oliver recently made a great impression pushing Jacob Fatu further than many thought he would, so Gotch must have been taking him seriously here, I would imagine. Gotch does have a recent win over Oliver though, so I’m sure he was confident also.

Gotch took it straight to the mat, a place where Gotch has the advantage, working the leg of Oliver and tying him up whilst headbutting him as well. Oliver attempted a flourish of offence but a springboard elbow was countered in simple, brutal terms: Gotch racked him with a fist right in the back of the head. From there, Gotch continued to pound and ground Oliver, even choking him with Oliver’s own bandana and giving him a kicking on the floor.

Back in the ring, Gotch continued to pound Oliver with some stiff blows that made me wince. Oliver, though, was able to make some space with a DDT and a flying forearm. Gotch cracked him in return with some brutal forearms but Oliver went for the springboard cutter to go for the kill. Gotch caught him with a sleeper but Oliver was able to reverse it into a roll-up and took the eventual win by finally nailing the springboard cutter for the 1-2-3.

A strong opening match, with Gotch, in particular, looking strong—so strong in fact that Oliver’s win looked a little out of the blue. However, the right man won on the night. Good stuff.

The Gate Has Been Opened

Not content with Forbidden Doors being opened, wrestling now see a gate opened too as a video package announced that the partnership between MLW and Japan’s Dragon Gate—a partnership that was put on hold due to the pandemic—is finally back on track and that we need to keep our eyes open over the next several weeks and months for news on upcoming projects.

This is an exciting development. It’s clear MLW has lost some talent during the pandemic and there have been times during Fusion where that absence has been painfully obvious. Not only will Dragon Gate help to fill that hole, but it also opens the door (gate) to all sorts of tournaments, leagues, competitions and all those kind of good things that I enjoy in cross-promotional wrestling.

I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one for sure.

Daivari vs. Myron Reed

Before the match, we got a Josef Samuel video promo where he criticised InJustice for claiming this to be a revolution when it’s really a war. He also claimed he had been training CONTRA “on the killing fields of Cambodia”, which made me laugh. Try getting over there during a pandemic!

Both men came out swinging to start this one, with Reed following up with a big dive to the outside. Daivari returned fire by throwing Reed into the soundboard before working the back by throwing Reed into the corner with an Irish whip and stepping on his back with all his weight.

Back on the outside, Reed countered a pile driver attempt with a backdrop before landing a big crossbody from the speaker by the stage. Reed missed a crossbody on the inside, though, and tweaked his knee, giving Daivari an opening to lock on a figure four. Reed reached the ropes and came back with a jawbreaker. He used his speed to overwhelm Daivari but the CONTRA man came back with a power slam. Daivari stripped Reed of his chest protector and put it on himself but his subsequent frog splash found nothing but mat. A springboard cutter followed and a 450 splash was enough to put Daivari away finally.

Another solid match that saw the InJustice boys go two-up against CONTRA. But would they able to land the big one in the main event?

Pulp Fusion

In all the news from this week’s promos:

  • Alexander Hammerstone told Mil Muertes that he would send him back to whatever grave he crawled out of.
  • Alicia Atout chaired a chat between Richard Holiday and Gino Medina (who called Alicia a “thrift store Barbie” and Holiday a “knock-off Ken”). Holiday returned fire by telling Medina he was un-dynastic and that his sunglasses were fake. Alicia then revealed the two would wrestle soon for Richard Holiday’s Caribbean title, much to Holiday’s chagrin.
  • Bu Ku Dao will be on TV again in two week’s time to update everyone on his condition after the attack by TJP.

MLW World Heavyweight Champion Jacob Fatu vs. Calvin Tankman

There really was a big fight feel to this one as both challenger and champion made their way to the ring. Fatu was accompanied by Daivari, which indicated this wouldn’t be a clean match. But for the most part, Daivari kept out of the way and let the combatants fight.

Tankman started off by shoulder blocking Fatu out of the ring, much to the champ’s fury. Fatu came back with some hard chops but Tankman showed off his amazing agility, flipping off Fatu as he charged into the corner before hitting a springboard arm drag and a leaping kick that sent the champ all the way back into the corner.

Fatu took control with a headbutt and a beautiful springboard clothesline (followed by a “Hail CONTRA!” for good measure). Fatu continued to bully Tankman, nailing him with a cannon ball in the corner, a Samoan drop and some beasty clotheslines. The champ put a word of hurt on the challenger but Tankman wouldn’t give in.

Tankman fired back with a diving shoulder block, a suicide dive to the outside and a standing shooting star press, which was a sight to behold! Fatu immediately came back from a cutter with a kick to the head and a springboard moonsault, but Tankman was on fire now, nailing the champion with a spinning back elbow, a backbreaker and a clothesline that turned Fatu inside out for a near-fall.

At this point, Daivari stepped into the ring but Tankman dropped him with a big fist. As the ref checked on Daivari, Fatu grabbed the CONTRA flag and cracked Tankman with the flagpole, covering him for the tainted 1-2-3.

I say tainted, but in reality, this was a great main event. I liked that Tankman was allowed to look good without it making Fatu look completely overmatched. Indeed, Fatu controlled a large part of the middle of the match. But the fact Daivari had to get involved puts Tankman over as someone CONTRA sees as a genuine threat. Clever booking.

As for Tankman, he looked very good in defeat. He went blow-for-blow with Fatu and showed amazing agility. As the man himself told us recently, “I want to have an influence on what people think a guy my size can do.” After that match, I hope many people are changing the way they look at Tankman.

Final Thoughts

This was possibly the best show since the relaunch back in November last year. It didn’t feel like there was lots of padding, as it has felt a bit previously, the matches themselves were good quality, and in the case of the main event, very exciting and entertaining to boot.

MLW definitely has a star on their hands in Tankman, while Fatu looked fearsome here. I know ultimately that the idea is that Hammerstone will be the one to dethrone Fatu, and I don’t mind that at all. I’m all for it, in fact. But after this, I would love to see Tankman get another shot at Fatu. It’s just two big horses going at each other and dropping bombs, but they can also move like a lightweight and make it count—what’s not to like?

If Fusion can continue in the vein of this show, I will be a very happy fan indeed.

Until next time, MLW fans, I’ll see you down the road.

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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