MLW Underground Review – July 25th

I have to be honest; in a weekend that is chock full of New Japan Pro Wrestling, as well as Joey Janela defeating DDT Champion Yoshihiko, I have struggled to get excited about Underground this evening. If it was Fusion, I would feel differently. Yes, Underground is quaint and it’s fun to see a reimagining of ECW, but I still have Ibushi, Shingo, and Hiromu on the brain. In all reality, it has to do with the main event of today’s episode. The three-way between Rhodes, Corino and Funk is something I have seen before. Hopefully, the undercard is able to deliver and we get some story progression for the upcoming Orlando show that Joey Styles promotes every time he opens his mouth.

In Fusion news, there are talks of an MLW Fight Island! Yes, please! PLEASE! I absolutely cannot wait to see this roster back in action. With the addition of guys like Calvin Tankman and Gino Medina, MLW looks to march into this new era and show everyone just what they are made of. Striking a deal with DAZN, MLW is expecting to turn some heads throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

At the top of the program, we get another excellent promo from Steve Corino. He absolutely shreds Terry Funk to the point where I actually start to feel a little bit bad for Funk! To my previous point, we are not yet at the Orlando show Joey Styles has been relentlessly promoting. In which case, I have absolutely no idea what this episode has in store.

Jimmy Yang & Mike Sanders vs. PJ Friedman and Steve Williams

This is the inaugural bout in the Global Tag Team Tournament. This match is intelligently constructed from the beginning, working around the limitations of both Friedman and Williams. To be fair, neither of them are bad wrestlers: one is just green and the other is just old. Jimmy Yang is definitely the standout performer. Billed as a martial arts expert, he uses his speed and agility to get the upper hand on both Williams and Friedman.

While Dr. Death Steve Williams didn’t have the size and speed he once did, he certainly maintained his strength. He doesn’t do a whole lot throughout this match, but he does enough to remind people of the aura he once had. That is all you really need when running a protégé angle – remind people of the reasons Friedman would actually listen to what Steve has to say. Sanders is taking most of the devastating offence, but Yang is the man who makes the biggest mistake, attempting finesse against the Man-Gorilla Dr. Death. Yang gets slammed by Williams and takes the pin.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this match. Williams and Friedman look like the beefy boys they’re supposed to, Yang looks like a pretty devastating cruiserweight that simply can’t hang with two beefy boys at once, and Sanders looks competent. I think Sanders should have taken the pin in this one, but what are you going to do?

Once again, Joey Styles is promoting the upcoming show in Orlando (go figure), but he takes time out of the normal promo to absolutely bash CM Punk, who will be making his MLW Underground debut. Joey makes it a point to bring up how detestable Punk is on a human level. I THINK the Orlando show is finally happening next week. PLEASE!

The Koji Count

We get a short Kojima promo where he specifically states that he is no sports entertainer: he is a professional wrestler. Calling out the likes of Mike Awesome, Vampiro and anyone else that wants a shot at the belt, Kojima is not afraid of any challenger that may come his way.

Koji Count: The score stands at 1-0

After the promo, we get a graphic on-screen entitled the “Koji Count” which is currently 1-0, followed by a graphic entitled “Japan Title Defense #1 – Satoshi Kojima vs. Mitsuya Nagai”. A highlight package of the match follows. This is an absolutely brilliant idea. More often than not, title defences outside of the country were not recognized by the home promotion. Territories did not want their continuity broken by a match that ultimately has no effect on what was going on within the territory. In an age when the territory system was dead and buried, it makes all the sense in the world to simply inform your audience that these matches in Japan were taking place. Kojima doesn’t even need to be in the United States to bump up the “Koji Count”. I’m a fan of this system. Tangentially, I find it interesting that All Japan Pro Wrestling was totally on board with this. With Misawa and Kobashi leaving AJPW to create NOAH, AJPW needed something else for potential western audiences. Kojima travelling the world was a good way to go. Koji Count: 2-0

CW Anderson & Simon Diamond (Extreme Horsemen) vs Los Maximos

This match was after the initial formation of The Extreme Horsemen, although we have yet to see the official formation on MLW television. The timeline of events is slightly convoluted in the first few weeks due to the schedule of the initial tapings. Nonetheless, Anderson and Diamond are all over Los Maximos from the get-go.

It isn’t until we skip ahead a bit that we finally get some offence from Los Maximos. It is a match of bruisers versus cruiserweight luchadores. As this is also a Tag Team Tournament matchup, given the importance of the Horsemen in the canon of MLW during the Underground era, I am sure we can all assume correctly which team is going to come out on top. There is some good, high paced action between the four. Los Maximos were obviously young, but it looks like they had what it takes to be a significant part of the MLW tag division. It is always smart to have some cruiserweight babyfaces in the mid-card.

Anderson gets the pin after a nasty spine-buster (I see what you did there), so we are officially getting Williams and Friedman going against The Extreme Horsemen in the finals of the Global Tag Team Tournament. Hopefully, those four guys are able to lay it in.

Steve Corino vs. Terry Funk vs. Dusty Rhodes

As far as being in the context of Underground, this match had already happened weeks in the past. Even in my personal timeline, this match happened weeks in the past. Airing on the Extreme Horsemen episode of MLW: Anthology, this three-way served as the platform for Steve Corino to form The Extreme Horsemen. I feel as though it would be rather silly to write a second review for the same match; my feelings are no different now than they were at the time of original viewing. Therefore, I am posting my original thoughts below:

For a casual wrestling fan that may be falling into a YouTube hole, this match is immediately going to jump out at you given the names involved. Yes, Dusty Rhodes and Terry Funk are well beyond their “prime”, but who really cares? It’s Terry Funk and Dusty Rhodes! The match is a three-way Bunkhouse Brawl, which isn’t surprising if you know anything about Terry and Dusty’s later years.

The match begins by playing off of the history between Corino and Dusty, with Funk (apparently) on the side of Corino. We see some old-school Dusty elbows, a Funkadelic trash can, etc. Like I said, if you are looking for seven stars in the Tokyo Dome, this isn’t it, brother. If you want to see Dusty whip out Terry Funk’s old man butt, stay glued to your seat! Admittedly, the best moment of the “butt spot” is Dusty smelling his hand and promptly losing his sense of balance from doing so… because Funk’s butt is… Funky. Wrestling.

All three men are bleeding immediately. The match is just as brutal as it is silly. However, it doesn’t last very long before Simon Diamond and C.W Anderson crash the ring in order to take out Dusty Rhodes. The crowd were all the way behind this match from the beginning due to the legends involved. The people in attendance were NOT happy to see this new trio take advantage of their heroes.

As far as being a mechanism for a new heel stable to get over, this worked like a charm. Corino and his goons are immediately despised after what transpired. Corino, Anderson, and Diamond stand tall, thus The Extreme Horsemen are born.

What we did NOT get on the episode of Anthology but did here on Underground was a Dusty Rhodes promo, and good lord, could that man speak. The way he calls Steve Corino a “young punkin head” brought a Cheshire cat-grin to my face on this rainy day in Houston.

Final Thoughts

Joey Styles gives his thoughts in front of the MLW banner

I was far too harsh on this episode of Underground from the start. MLW really was attempting to do something totally different and should be praised. Specifically, those who are finding their way into the main event of MLW are absolute legends in the canon of 2020. Jerry Lynn, Vampiro, Raven, Satoshi Kojima, Mike Awesome, and more. The Orlando show that is being promoted cannot come fast enough. There are a number of matchups that I am absolutely aching to see, and much of that desire comes from the way MLW has been building these stories throughout Underground. I would be excited either way, but there are some legitimately intriguing storylines that I want to see paid off.

Written by Andrew Stewart

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