Satoshi Kojima: 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

This week on MLW Anthology, we go back to the roots of the company as we get to see the first ever MLW World Heavyweight Champion, Satoshi Kojima, in action!

I’m not really familiar with Kojima (I’d stopped watching wrestling at that time), so I’m excited to see a new (to me) champion-quality wrestler in action! We’ll get to see a real slice of history with Kojima’s title victory and some of those early title defences too.

So, get yourself ready for some history – let’s go to the ring!

Satoshi Kojima vs. Jerry Lynn (Manhattan Center, New York City, September 2002)

Joey Styles is on commentary here, and it’s always great to hear Joey. For those of us of just remember Joey for screaming “OH MY GOD!” over hardcore blood baths, it’s always thrilling to hear him do play-by-play for matches like this, because his knowledge and his passion for great wrestling is always evident. What with Tony Schivone, Taz and Jim Ross having another lease of life in the commentary box, perhaps it’s time someone made an offer to Joey – I’m sure he’s still got so much to offer.

This match was to crown the first MLW champion. Jerry Lynn is one of those wrestlers who is much respected by those who know, but deserves even more. He was so crisp in his execution and always looked so good. He’ll probably be remembered in future for those ECW matches with RVD, which were great, but he did so much more that people seem to forget about.

Joey mentions how Kojima was trained by Stan Hanson, and you can really tell. A big, thickset, hard hitting gentleman, he seems like the perfect marriage of Hanson and Masato Tanaka: physical and powerful without being one-dimensional.

That said, while this is a good match, it doesn’t seem to really get out of second gear, especially for a championship match. There’s some lovely reversals and counters to start with, but it doesn’t go much further than that. Jerry hits a beautiful German suplex and inverted DDT, but ultimately the Lariat kills him out of nowhere and Kojima is the first MLW Champion!

Not a bad match, but the history is even better!

Satoshi Kojima vs. Vampiro (War Memorial Auditorium, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, December 2002)

We join the match in progress, which is the first time MLW have done this during Anthology series. I can see why that can be tempting for the company to air, as some matches may have damaged or missing footage. It also allows more matches to be aired during the show. However, for me personally, I would prefer to see full matches, as clipped footage can take away from the build or the story of a match, and can sometimes make a match be shorn of context.

This match seems peculiar, in that there’s a lot of background noise from the crowd, but there’s no reactions of any kind to any of the moves, which makes for a strange atmosphere. In fact, I think there’s the faint hit of a “boring” chant as we joint the action. There’s a great moment early on when Kojima whips Vampiro into the rail, only to knock a fan over. In the background you can clearly see a bunch of guys laughing at the fallen fan. It’s the little things, sometimes…

Vampiro hits a dive onto Kojima from scaffolding on the stage, which was cool, but then we jump forward in time to both guys being in the ring, with Kojima working on Vampiro’s leg. Vampiro gets a rope break on a STF, but falls to a Kojima Cutter and a Lariat.

It looked like a good match, but I’d have loved to have seen it in full.

MLW Anthology Satoshi Kojima title card

Satoshi Kojima vs. Johnny Smith (All Japan Pro Wrestling, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan, March 2003)

Johnny Smith is, of course, the cousin of both Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid, and had been an All Japan stalwart since 1989. He was a solid talent, but never seemed to get quite the break his more famous cousins got.

Again, this seemed a good, solid match, but again we miss a chunk of the match as the middle is skipped. A shame, because what we do see is great. All Japan, of course, is famous for that wonderful ‘King’s Road’ style, and the two competitors here go at each other with a real tough, rugged aggression.

Smith has a great moment when he immediately springs up from a Michinoku Driver and hits a Death Valley Driver in response. He then hits a sitout power bomb and a bridging suplex in a beautiful sequence. He also counters Kojima’s lariat with a smooth backslide. But he couldn’t counter a second lariat attempt, and 3 slaps of the mat later, Kojima was victorious.

I’d love to see this match in full, but from what I saw, this looked to be a great match. Smith and Kojima had great chemistry together and the King’s Road style suited them. Definitely worth a watch.

Pulp Fusion

We return to the present once more with Pulp Fusion, MLW’s window on the trials and tribulations of their talent as they continue to feud and compete in the best way they can without a ring.

Out of the different programmes of this type out there currently, MLW perhaps do this the best, keeping it short, sweet and to the point, and always entertaining. The characters still leap from the screen and the feuds keep on bubbling on the boil.

This week we get the Von Erichs grappling by the beach, before Kevin Von Erich hands them fishing rods. Filthy Tom has shaved his head to protect himself, because he’s fed up of Kevin Von Erich stealing his birthday, fans throwing garbage at him, and being poisoned at an Hawaiian BBQ eatery. It’s only a matter of time before he gets his tin foil hat…

Mance Warner said he’d started to build his three-tier cage, but then he’d had a beer. The sons of LA Park give CONTRA a stern warning. Zenshi is flipping around in the trees like a ninja. Richard Holliday had to shave his moustache because the Caribbean women wouldn’t leave him alone. Hammerstone celebrates one year as MLW National Openweight Champion by treating us to a rendition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ on his guitar.

And finally, we get introduced to the newest member of Injustice, Saieve Al Sabah. I’ve not come across him before, but reading up online, it seems he has been wrestling for a few years now and was trained by Bully Ray and D-Von at Team 3D Academy. “The Revolution has arrived”, he tells us. I’m interested to see what his revolution’s like in action.

Final Thoughts

Mance Warner drinking a cold one

This was a solid episode of Anthology that was only let down by some of the editing choices made to the matches. Otherwise, we got to see some great history, with the crowning of the first MLW World Heavyweight Champion, and a great encounter between Kojima and Johnny Smith.

We finally got the big reveal for Injustice’s  new member and Filthy Tom appears to be losing his mind. All in all, not a bad way to pass an hour.

Next week, we get the Lucha Brothers Anthology, which I can only imagine is going to be an absolute barnstormer!

Join me next Sunday for all the best action from MLW Anthology!

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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