Since its rebirth in April 2018, Major League Wrestling is quickly becoming the best unkept secret amongst wrestling fans.
Its mixture of fast-paced Lucha, wild brawls and hard-hitting strong style matchups makes for a weekly fusion (no pun intended) that more and more fans are latching onto.
While AEW, WWE, and New Japan Pro Wrestling have been grabbing headlines this year, MLW has been quietly plodding along and picking up fans along the way. Their block taped weekly show ‘Fusion’ is the companies flagship and connects the dots between their yearly live specials such as Battle Riot, War Games, Intimidation Games, and Superfight.
Throughout their short reincarnation, they have seen many stars come and go. The current landscape of wrestling has changed drastically in the last 18 months, and MLW has been one of those companies affected by mega-money contracts luring their superstars away. Even after losing superstars such as Shane Strickland, PCO, Rush, and Pentagon Jr., MLW has stayed firm and been able to deliver a strong alternative option after the big leagues.
Despite the ever-evolving roster, MLW has produced some fantastic action and given talent a chance to shine on a global stage. Lucha based stars such as Aerostar, Rey Horus, Air Wolf, and Laredo Kid have taken to the sky and dazzled us with death-defying high flying.
Jacob Fatu, Josef Samael, and Simon Gotch have sparked arena wide brawls with the likes of Filthy Tom Lawlor and the Von Erich brothers: Marshall and Ross.
Other more household names such as MJF, Sami Callihan, Low Ki, LA Park, Jimmy Havoc, Teddy Hart and Davey Boy Smith Jr. have tangled with the newer breed of Brian Pillman Jr., Mance Warner, Alexander Hammerstone, Gringo Loco and Ace Austin bringing a fresh new feel to Fusion each and every week.
As hard as it was picking five must-see matches, I wanted to showcase both great action and the best representation of the brand at the same time. These five have stood out to me and should be a great starting block for any new fan, or any looking to re-visit and see how great MLW can be.
5. 2018 Battle Riot Match – Battle Riot 2018, 19th July 2018
The inaugural Battle Riot was held in Queens, New York in front of an excited crowd, ready to have their first look at this new concept. Held under normal “Royal Rumble” styled timed entrances, the only addition to the rulebook was that eliminations could occur by pinfall, submission as well as traditionally bring thrown over the top rope.
With the winner of the 40 man Battle Riot receiving a future MLW World Heavyweight title shot, the match attracted old and new superstars from all four corners of the world. Retired legends such as Kevin Sullivan, Samu Anoa’i, the Blue Meanie and Konnan returned to try their luck but were unsuccessful in the end. Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix had an unlucky draw starting out at numbers one and two but they did well to set the pace for an hour of non-stop action.
The eventual winner, Filthy Tom Lawlor, came as the fifth entrant and lasted the distance, eliminating opponents left and right via rear-naked choke and eventually toppling the former WWECW and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jake Hager (Swagger) over the top rope.
As well as nice nostalgia pieces with the surprise entrants and “welcome back” pops for returning stars, these matches are a good snapshot of the full-time roster at the time and it gives the winner a huge platform to push on from. Filthy Tom Lawlor did just that as he used his winning privilege to cash in his title shot against then-champion Low Ki to win his first MLW World Heavyweight championship.
4.MLW Tag Team title match: Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix(c) vs Teddy Hart & Davey Boy Smith Jr – Superfight, 3rd February 2019
The amazing athleticism from Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix going up against Teddy Hart’s fearless flips and Davey Boy Smith Jr.’s technical ability and brute strength made this one make the must-see cut.
Taking place at the previously mentioned MLW Superfight where Filthy Tom Lawlor defeated Low Ki for the MLW World Heavyweight title, this MLW Tag Team title match took the plaudits for the match of the night, as well as being a contender for tag team match of the year.
Teddy Hart took to the sky numerous times defying gravity as he moonsaulted and corkscrewed all over the ring. Davey Boy Smith Jr. hit his patented power slam from the top rope as he dominated in the strength department. Pentagon hit numerous Mexican Destroyers including one on Teddy Hart on the apron of the ring.
The finish and title change for the new champions came after a Doomsday Device / Canadian Destroyer combination from the top rope. If that sounds too good to be true, well, your right. With Rey Fenix on Smith Jr.’s shoulders, Teddy Hart jumped from the top rope and flipped Fenix into a Canadian Destroyer to pick up the win and the titles.
This match kicked off the face turn for the Hart Foundation and set the bar for the rest of the tag team division to try to match.
3. Filthy Tom Lawlor & The Von Erichs (Marshall and Ross) vs CONTRA Unit (Simon Gotch, Josef Samael, and Jacob Fatu) – MLW Fusion #63, 22nd June 2019
This was a throwback to a Mid-South style brawl as the Von Erichs made their in-ring MLW debut. The action was everywhere and was non-stop from the opening bell. The referee literally let things fly in this match as weapons, fists, and dropkicks were raining down from every direction, in and out of the ring.
The Von Erich brothers were given a strong debut by matching CONTRA blow for blow as up until this match Gotch, Fatu and Samael, better known as the “Global Leaders in Violence”, had been running rough shot over the MLW roster. Barrington Hughes, Ace Romero and even Tom Lawlor himself had fallen victim to the CONTRA Unit’s extreme measures in the run-up to this match. But Marshall and Ross, along with Lawlor, matched CONTRA fist for fist as the live crowd ate up every minute of this. Jacob Fatu’s triple jump moonsault is a sight to behold, especially here as he landed it on both brothers.
Marshall picked up the win in their MLW debut, and also gave CONTRA their first pinfall loss at the same time. But the aftermath was just as wild as the match itself. MLW officials were all cannon fodder as these six continued fighting up until Fusion went off the air. As the officials tried to separate the six- a referee went through a table, the ring announcer took a right hand to the face and a producer got choked out with a cable.
The CONTRA vs Von Erich feud continues today so no doubt the amazing brawls are bound to continue.
2. War Games: Kotto Brazil, Shane Strickland, Tommy Dreamer, John Hennigan & Barrington Hughes vs Sami Callihan, Jimmy Havoc, Abyss, Sawyer Fulton and Leon Scott – MLW Fusion #22, 15th September 2018
The opening move of this near 35-minute fight was Kotto Brazil launching himself through the cage door at Sawyer Fulton, sending the big man crashing through a ringside table. That set the tone and the action did not die down from then on. Tables, trash cans and kendo sticks were involved in this weapons filled two ring cage match.
The Sami Callihan led team had the man advantage with the staggered entrances when Callihan attacked Shane Strickland during his entrance, taking him out of the match completely. Callihan and his cronies used the advantage well, beating down their opponents with the plunder that scattered the ring.
ECW legend Tommy Dreamer and the humongous 400+ lbs Barrington Hughes saved their team when it was time for them to enter the melee, but it wasn’t until the final fighter Abyss entered, that “the match beyond started” and the violence was ramped up.
The Monster brought thumb tacks with him- but of course, ended up landing in them himself via the crafty Kotto Brazil. Brazil and Dreamer then wrapped their teammate Barrington Hughes in barbed wire as the Caramel Colossus ran across the ring and splashed Sawyer Fulton before submitting him with the barbed wire wrapped around his head.
It was a bloody encounter with Jimmy Havoc and Sami Callihan bleeding from the forehead. Sawyer Fulton also picked up a nasty gash on his cheek halfway through the match. Kotto Brazil put in the performance of the night but all competitors need plaudits as they all brought their -game and put on a spectacle that the red-hot live audience ate right up.
This match really set the tone for what MLW could bring to the table regarding blood and guts, a match that some say has yet to be outdone to this day.
1. Pentagon Jr. vs Rey Fenix – MLW Fusion # 1, 16th May 2018
The Lucha Brothers clashed in the main event of the debut episode of MLW Fusion and this is a must-watch if you are familiar with these two or not. Within the first three minutes, we had a superkick party that knocked both down and a suicide cannonball dive that knocked the first five rows of fans off their seats.
Fenix was up to his usual tricks- walking the ropes with an alternating jump between top and middle- before adding a little back bump ONTO the top rope and arm dragging his brother across the ring.
Pentagon Jr. and Fenix ended up winning the MLW Tag Team titles together later in their MLW careers, but here in episode one they were bitter enemies and they did not let their family ties hold them back while they chopped each other within an inch of their lives. They also made the most of not having a guard rail at ringside as Fenix hit a huricanrana Pentagon right into the laps of the front row.
If I were to list all the amazing athleticism on display to describe how terrific this was I would be here all night. Just be reassured they left nothing in the ring, Fenix had plenty of springboards emanating from everywhere inside the ring and Pentagon certainly had his superkick boots on this evening.
Pentagon Jr. picked up the win and a future title shot at then-champion Shane Strickland after a Mexican destroyer, a powerbomb backbreaker and his Penta-Driver.
So there you have it. Five matches that should tick lots of boxes across the professional wrestling spectrum, all brought to you by Major League Wrestling; Lucha Libre with the finest Mexican talent, riot inducing brawls, tag classics and death-defying high flying.
As with any opinion list, there is always room for arguments: Who made the cut? Who didn’t? Why did match a. b. or c. not make the list? Believe me, if we had a directors cut edition we would see many many more great matches included in this list.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @oli_iai. Thanks for reading!