Last week’s episode felt like the beginning of a new era in this period of Underground. While Steve Corino had been in a prominent position on the card alongside his cronies, CW Anderson and Simon Diamond, it was only last week that he became the MLW Heavyweight Champion when he defeated Mike Awesome. Anderson and Diamond round off The Extreme Horsemen and they have been MLW Tag Team Champions for weeks at this point. Corino has been one of the best things on the entire show since its inception; his work on the mic and in the ring is pure professional wrestling. He hasn’t been doing anything that I would necessarily describe as innovative, but he is able to make you care. While we didn’t see his blood soaked blow-off with Terry Funk on Underground, it was definitely the top feud in MLW for a significant period of time.
Now that The Extreme Horsemen are officially running the show, what originally made Underground feel distinctive seems to be making a return. Funny enough, one of MLW’s distinctions at this time was a perpetual ode to ECW— Sabu and Mikey Whipwreck are the main event; if that isn’t a love letter to Extreme Championship Wrestling, I don’t know what is. Beyond that, the opener on this episode is a man named Billy Fives going against Christopher Daniels…this is the type of opener we would have seen in the first four weeks of this series. I had been pretty harsh on this show for an extended period of time, and for good reason, but perhaps the model of the promotion itself seems to be leveling out after a wonky six weeks.
Billy Fives vs. Christopher Daniels
I have no idea who Billy Fives is, but this man is all the way over in Ft. Lauderdale on this particular day. Looking at his Cagematch statistics, it seems as though Billy is essentially the living definition of a journey-man wrestler. I have to assume he was a popular indie star at the time, otherwise I have no clue why the crowd would be so jazzed to see him. Christopher Daniels was starting to achieve cult status at this point in wrestling history, so HIS heat makes a lot more sense on a surface level at least. It also helps Daniels’ heat that he was the one that he turned perennial fan favorite Jerry Lynn to the dark side.
First of all, I would like to commend MLW because, given this is a taped show, we shouldn’t be missing a significant portion of the match throughout a commercial break. That was one of my most significant complaints in previous weeks and I am glad that we will be able to see the flow of this match in the way it was meant to be seen…especially considering I am expecting something less than seven minutes.
Fives looks really solid throughout this match! While Daniels was already a veteran at this point and could probably guide most average talent to a solid match, Fives had some really exciting moments. I am surprised he hasn’t received more buzz over the years because he seemed to show quite a bit of promise. While Daniels went over fairly quickly, as you would hope for Daniels, Fives did look incredibly strong in the process. The fundamentals of “wrasslin” were all there with the fits of athleticism you would expect from opponents of their size. This was a fun energetic opener that would catch any casual fan’s attention.
Beatdowns, Sandman and Title Intrigue
While Joey Styles moves through his usual introductory exposition, we get one of those “touch the earpiece because we are getting information from the back” moments because The Extreme Horsemen are pulling up to the building in the most ostentatious stretch limousine I have ever seen. Exiting the vehicle first are two local “talents” from a nearby “nightclub”…I can’t believe it…wrestling companies objectifying women in the early 2000s? Say it ain’t so. Nonetheless, MLW apparently decides to show us clips from Hybrid Hell, the show main evented by Corino and Funk in a barbed wire match.
While the match was basically over at this point, the crowd pops as hard as I have seen a crowd pop when Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” starts playing over the speakers…if you are reading this article, I can guarantee you know exactly what that means. Sandman takes twenty goddamn minutes to get to the ring because he is partying with a box of Budweiser; meanwhile, poor Terry Funk is literally trapped in barbed wire and bleeding his guts out. Now that I am seeing some of this match back, I’m not too upset about missing it. However, the post-match moment where Funk is leisurely making his way around the ring covered in yards of barbed wire is absolutely hilarious.
The beat-down of Dr. Death Steve Williams by CW Anderson and Simon Diamond was one of the most pathetic beat-downs I have ever seen. I do not want to see any more Dr. Death matches on Underground. It starts around twenty-six minutes into the episode… if you don’t laugh out loud, I don’t know what is wrong with you.
We also get more backstage interaction between wrestlers for the second episode in a row! Unfortunately, it involves a very young CM Punk and Simply Luscious…which is maybe the worst wrestling name of all time. While the backstage segment was not good, it was a backstage segment, and that counts as growth.
Surprisingly, there is a bit of drama and intrigue regarding Steve Corino’s MLW Championship; MLW has constantly posted the top ten contenders for the title at some point during the last month of episodes. Currently, Mike Awesome is the number one contender and Terry Funk is number two. Styles actually proposes a fan vote online so people can choose whether or not they believe Funk deserves a title shot, considering he had beaten Corino on two previous occasions. Very basically, Corino states that Awesome is getting the first shot because Corino admittedly screwed Awesome out of the title.
I appreciate this level of explanation and story surrounding the MLW title because that hasn’t really happened up to this point. While Satoshi Kojima was an inventive choice for the inaugural champion, he was not in the United States enough and he was not able to speak English enough to get over a “pro-wrestling storyline”. What I’m seeing now is a more streamlined television program and that is exactly what I want to see (even if it could still use a bit more wrestling).
Sabu vs. Mikey Whipwreck
Ok, so Mikey comes down to the ring dressed as a Halloween version of La Parka, along with James Mitchell. When Whipwreck revealed himself it got almost no reaction. I don’t know if the crowd knew Mikey was the one that was meant to come out in the first place or if the crowd simply wasn’t well-versed in the short history of Major League Wrestling. Either way, it came off as totally goofy when Whipwreck seems to be going for more of a psychopathic persona. Once the ECW fans realize who is walking down the aisle, there is a handful of them that are VERY excited, but the immediate aftermath of the reveal was closer to apathy.
I’m always taken aback by the physical appearance of Sabu. The scars covering that man’s body make him look like something out of a comic book. If I had watched ECW as a child, he probably would have been my favorite character in any medium of entertainment. Of course, Sabu is more well-known than Mikey Whipwreck, but there is a significant portion of the audience that finally realize just what they are seeing…ECW chants commence.
No… please no… there was a sound in the distance…a whistle…but it immediately disappears. Was it just my imagination? Maybe even a bad dream? Oh god no…he is back…Bill Alfonso is back. Match is ruined.
In all reality, this wasn’t much of a match in the first place; it was an ECW novelty act, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that because it ended up being the backdrop for a fairly intriguing set-up. After Sabu defeats Whipwreck, Christopher Daniels and Jerry Lynn come down to the ring and being beating up Sabu as Underground goes off the air. I don’t care if it is Daniels or Lynn, but I want to see that match with Sabu, so this was a solid closing angle that made me feel as though the preceding match served a legitimate purpose.
This show is truly beginning to feel episodic. My hopes were high for just such an evolution, but I didn’t feel much confidence going into this week that the episodic aura would continue. This is by no means a perfect show, and in some cases in the past it has been an absolute drag. I don’t mind potentially missing the “video specials” if the build to those shows is legitimately entertaining. The issue with MLW in the past was that the “video specials” were the ONLY thing to look forward to. Styles would promote a series of interesting matches for a period of weeks while we are watching wrestling that is completely unrelated to those angles. While we would see the occasional banger, even that seemed to slow down in previous weeks. By no means am I giving this show a gold star, but at least it feels like a show.