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CONTRA Expands Its Dominance Over MLW

MLW Fusion Review – November 18th

Oh my good lord…I am so happy to see Fusion return to grace my screen. MLW had become appointment viewing for me in 2018 and seeing so many of the top talents throughout MLW level up in 2019 and 2020 filled me with genuine glee. While the Anthology series (which feels like a decade ago) was an excellent way to fill television time during the first portion of global lockdown, that was obviously finite. MLW Underground was an almost adequate weekly replacement for a handful of weeks; it was, if nothing else, an interesting look into a forgotten period of wrestling history. However, there is a reason that show didn’t make it past a certain point. I literally had to stop writing about it because I felt I was bringing too much negativity to the website. This is all the past; Hammerstone, Tom Lawler, Brian Pillman, Myron Reed, Von Erichs and Jacob Fatu are our future, a future perhaps dominated by Contra.

What a glorious cold open—it makes a lot of sense that they would remind the audience of what had happened in the main event throughout 2019 because it is plausible that MLW is getting a good handful of new viewers, given the number of new streaming platforms they now find themselves on. They could also be pulling in viewers from the extraordinary work of some of their most prominent performers; Jordan Oliver, Myron Reed, Tom Lawler, Mance Warner, Calvin Tankman, Lio Rush, Violence is Forever and others were knocking it out of the park in GCW, BLP and other various indies. It is strange to have a sense of nostalgia for something that happened less than a year ago, but the cold open made me feel precisely that.

This feels like it is the first ever episode of an episodic MLW show. Every singles champion is being showcased on this episode in one way or another. If you’re not familiar with Alexander Hammerstone, he is potentially the best pure American heavyweight that isn’t signed to one of the largest promotions. The National Openweight Champion has been the ONLY National Openweight Champion in MLW history and shows everyone exactly why in the span of ten seconds. He murders some poor, young man with the Nightmare Pendulum and continues to challenge Jacob Fatu for the MLW Heavyweight Championship, as he has been doing throughout the summer and autumn. I am ALL the way over it with “double champions,” considering the amount we have had since Becky Lynch at Wrestlemania 35, but I am absolutely begging for Hammer to have gold draped over each shoulder. In the words of Dave Bautista, “give me what I want”.

Myron Reed (c) vs. Brian Pillman, Jr. – MLW Middleweight Championship

Reed vs. Pillman is an intriguing match in and of itself. First and foremost, I am relieved that Injustice is no longer being booked as a heel stable. Obviously, the wrestling business has always been the opposite of squeaky clean, but in the realms of kayfabe, I found that to be one of the more questionable booking decisions outside of WWE in recent years. Myron Reed proved that he was an absolute psychopath throughout the summer. There aren’t too many guys that throw their body around with so much disregard for personal safety—or at least he makes it LOOK that way. The biggest noticeable difference for Jordan Oliver this summer? Breakfast…if you know, you know. I can’t say that Pillman has been as explosive as his contemporaries, but I feel as though a lot of that has to do with him working as a white meat babyface in most instances. His style seems to lend itself more toward that of an early 90s heel…which isn’t surprising, considering his lineage.

This match hits a high gear almost immediately. While Pillman is throwing his weight around, Reed is throwing around his slight frame at significantly higher speed. I am loving the camera work—everything is tight on the wrestlers and it feels claustrophobic, but in the best possible way. There is a bit of false crowd noise in the background; between that and the exclusion of the ringside area from the edges of the camera framing, this feels distinctive and gritty. Even though this is a middleweight contest, Pillman is significantly larger than Reed. I appreciate that they say Pillman previously cut weight through the last week to make 205, but he is currently at 220. It is a small detail, but one I appreciated nonetheless.

While the match slows down in the final stretches, it also gains intensity: the movement is much slower, but everything is laid in a bit heavier. After being a bit cheeky and putting his chest protector on the turnbuckle, Pillman runs into it and Reed hits the Captain Crunch and takes the win. These guys wrestled like this match had legitimate stakes, and considering Myron Reed becomes the longest reigning Middleweight Champion thus far, I appreciate the details here. While Injustice look to be the good guys from here on out, they won’t put it past themselves to get what they want my any means necessary.

The match that everyone wants to see is teased by Reed—he puts out a challenge to the Man of the Hour, Lio Rush. If there is a single person that does NOT want to see Rush vs. Reed, you can go ahead and @ me so I can educate you on just how wrong you are…certified banger.

There is a LOT of exposition in the next five minutes, but every bit is well executed. Promos from Contra, LA Park and sons, Konnan, and the goings on of Selina De La Renta; once again, MLW has done a marvelous job introducing potentially new viewers to their product.

Another exciting prospect is the return of the Opera Cup. Not only does the tournament have a really neat lineage, but it has also driven home how much time we have truly spent in the midst of a pandemic. The Opera Cup seems like it was two months ago. The fact that they are already doing a second tournament is blowing my mind. While this year’s lineup is abbreviated compared to last, Tom Lawler, Rocky Romero, Laredo Kid, ACH, Low Ki, Davey Boy Smith, Jr. (reigning Opera Cup Champion), Richard Holliday and TJP makes for an incredible cast of characters.

Jacob Fatu (c) vs. Davey Boy Smith, Jr. – MLW World Heavyweight Championship

DBS is such a god awful promo, but it is almost to the extent that it is endearing, cartoonish even. I have never been a huge fan of Smith as a singles competitor, I am not really a fan of him outside the ring either…let’s just say he un-ironically wears Affliction clothing…I feel as though that paints a picture without being explicit. That being said, when it comes to a heavyweight challenger to Fatu’s MLW title, he is probably a good choice for the restart. Fatu may not be able to show everything he is capable of athletically, but he should be able to tease enough of it to grab a new viewer’s attention. I haven’t seen much of Fatu throughout the summer, but by the looks of it, he has trimmed down and seems to be in peak physical condition.

As goofy as DBS can be, the man has an excellent set of “crazy eyes”. It isn’t that he is bad at his job, he just works a very particular style that I find to be slightly outdated and contrived. I am sure that there are MANY people who would disagree with me on that point and I totally understand why. It is all subjective. Fatu, on the other hand, is everything I love in a 21st century heavyweight.

This starts off as two big beefy boys slapping all types of big beefy man meat. I really enjoyed the initial test of strength considering both men do have a genuinely intense presence. I am not going to lie, after about five minutes, I found myself compulsively scrolling through twitter. Once again, I am sure that there are some people that adore this type of wrestling…it just isn’t for me. Especially when I know that Fatu has had to shift down his athleticism to Davey’s level. It is an old school, heavyweight wrestling match—as a match, not all that entertaining, but as a means of getting Fatu over to a new audience this was probably smart. Whether or not I enjoy DBS doesn’t really matter because he is absolutely massive and was able to overpower Fatu more than most. However, Fatu standing in the ring post match, shouting at the top of his lungs: “is that all you’ve f***ing got?!”…glorious stuff.

As expected, the call to action is answered by National Champion Alexander Hammerstone. While Hammerstone does get the chance to decapitate a member of Contra on the way to the ring, he is then taken out by a NEW member of Contra referred to as “The Black Hand”. MLW goes off the air with a LOT to look forward to. Personally, Hammerstone vs. Fatu is a heavyweight dream match. Both of these guys are so good at being exactly who they should be. Both characters are well established, well-seasoned, and do NOT hold back in the realm of physical intensity. We have officially restarted – Reed vs. Rush, Opera Cup and Hammerstone vs. Fatu are all on the visible horizon…Wednesdays are the best days.

Written by Andrew Stewart

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