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MLW Underground Review – 22nd August

The previous episode of Underground produced what I would say is the best match in the short history of the program. I am absolutely buzzing going into this week. Even with the buzz, in all honesty, I am a little bit relieved this episode has a run-time of less than thirty minutes. The weekend of August 23rd through the 25th was absolutely ridiculous. I watched SmackDown, considering it was the go-home for Summerslam, and New Japan Strong on Friday. Saturday started with Black Label Pro, GCW, more Black Label Pro, AEW: Dynamite, and NXT: Takeover. Sunday had Beyond, more GCW, and Summerslam. MLW also happened to fall on that Saturday, so I am chock full of professional wrestling. While I would normally be a little bit sad about an abbreviated version of Underground, not so much this week.

Within said abbreviated episode, we have some very intriguing highlights. We will be seeing the MLW debut of the one and only CM Punk, as well as a match between Ikuto Hidaka and Fuega Guerrera, all of whom have impressed in the past, to say the least. With all of the wrestling I have ingested since the previous episode of Underground, I am having a legitimately difficult time remembering exactly what was happening in storylines. If memory serves correct, last week’s main event didn’t seem to have very many storyline implications… maybe that’s why I can’t remember? I am quite literally rambling at this point… CM PUNK! CM PUNK! CM PUNK!

I laughed out loud at the beginning of this episode because we saw the formation of The Extreme Horsemen for the fifth time in six weeks. I suppose it makes logical sense considering a show in its seventh week is bound to be picking up fresh eyeballs day to day. At the same time, I am utterly perplexed. The graphic specifically states “Funk – Corino – Tonight”. However, this was not advertised on the YouTube channel… I feel like I’m losing it

WAIT! OH MY GOD! WE ARE FINALLY HERE!! TABU!!! IN ORLANDO!!!!! THIS IS FINALLY THE SHOW! This is why the episode is only twenty-seven minutes, they have to chop up the event in order to be digested on YouTube. I am so happy right now. We have been building to these episodes for two months and we are on the cusp of the fabled and glorious blow-off.

Fuega Guerrera vs. Ikuto Hidaka

My introduction to Hidaka was the six-man tag from last week’s episode alongside Dick Togo and Christopher Daniels. He looked absolutely incredible in the multi-man, and we’ve already seen Guerrera look phenomenal on multiple occasions. MLW is definitely taking a page out of WCW’s book by opening the show with a high octane cruiserweight banger.

The Japanese junior heavyweight style has more in common with the lucha libre style than one might initially assume. When people think about Japanese wrestling, they generally think of “strong-style”, and while that is specific to Japan, when you watch really talented lucha cruiserweights you begin to see the parallels between the balance of finesse and striking. Not surprising, these guys are going all out for this crowd. Guerrera is tremendous in his use of acrobatics, but Hidaka’s counter defence tends to get the best of Fuega more often than not until Guerrera hits what I can only refer to as a “half Code Red”? Instead of making a full rotation, he flips Hidaka over while Fuega is still upside-down. You just need to see it in order to understand it.

Of course, this match is wild and exciting. Fuega Guerrera (Amazing Red) has been the definition of a standout throughout the run of Underground to this point. Red gets the pin after Zero Gravity, which is a standing shooting star press. It is pretty ridiculous to think the standing shooting star has become a transitional move, but that only serves to illustrate just how outstanding modern competitors are. Trust me, I’m not complaining about athleticism being utilized… but I do complain about Canadian Destroyers being used as a transitional move; Destroyers look significantly more impactful than the majority of finishing maneuvers in all of wrestling. I digress.  While it’s difficult to find time to watch even MORE wrestling, I feel as though I haven’t seen nearly enough of Amazing Red. This needs to be remedied as fast as humanly possible. Easier said than done because I have been making my way through Lucha Underground for the last six months… I’m only three-quarters of the way through season one.

Promo Punks

There are a handful of promo packages in a row that push the Tabu storylines forward – an introduction to CM Punk, Masato Tanaka and the new team of Cristopher Daniels with Jerry Lynn. Daniels has always been an excellent spooky heel, but I’m not too sure how I feel about gravelly voiced Jerry Lynn. To be fair, I have only seen the “work-horse” version of Lynn in action, so I am interested to see where this goes!

Taiyo Kea is another guy that has looked promising in his two outings on Underground and I consistently found myself asking why he wasn’t someone I had heard of before. After the promo packages, Joey Styles reveals that Kea had actually blown out both of his knees while on tour with All Japan. Even in 2020, this would have been a devastating injury, but in 2003 the medical technology was nowhere near as trustworthy when it came to reconstructive knee surgery. It makes you wonder just what could have been. Kea had the look and the size. Without the injury, he seems like a guy Johnny Ace would have LOVED to sign to the WWE.

I’m slightly confused by the final promo by Raven. He is talking directly to Vampiro, who apparently didn’t show up to Orlando. I honestly don’t know if this was a shoot or a work, but Raven talks about how he wrestled CM Punk instead and the show is over. Are we not seeing the rest of the Tabu show? Is this the end of Underground in general?? I ask that question because Raven is interrupted by Josef Samael of Contra! Josef reminds all of MLW and their fans of their takeover of MLW since May 9th (which also happened to be the date of the Orlando show… intriguing).

Normally, I would construct some form of “final thought”, Jerry Springer style, but I have absolutely no idea what to think. What an absolutely strange episode of MLW television. While I would be sad to see the end of Underground, I would be much happier to see the likes of Alexander Hammerstone, Jacob Fatu, Filthy Tom Lawler, and Gino Medina. I’ll tell you this – one way or another, MLW always keeps me coming back.

Written by Andrew Stewart

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