This Saturday MLW returns for only their second round of tapings since the coronavirus pandemic began. Their only set of weekly TV tapings from the pandemic era were filmed back in November 2020 when “The Restart” kicked off a block of episodes that started with a Jacob Fatu vs Davey Boy Smith world title match and culminated in the debut of Dario Cueto (who was later renamed Cesar Duran) and the Azteca Underground faction.
The episodes followed the familiar pattern and feel of Fusion before the pandemic which included some special cinematic style matches but this time there is one major difference: live fans.
A sold-out full house will pack into the famous 2300 arena (former ECW arena) in Philadelphia to watch MLW action for the first time since the MLW vs AAA super series that was filmed in Tijuana, Mexico in March 2020. The Philadelphia fans in attendance will witness one of MLW’s signature matches with the third instalment of The Battle Riot: a 40 man royal rumble style match where weapons are encouraged and eliminations also can take place via pinfall and submission. The winner receives a guaranteed world title shot whenever they choose. Past winners include “Filthy” Tom Lawlor and LA Park.
The major favourite will be Alex Hammerstone, the first and only National Openweight champion and the current longest reigning champion in MLW history. Hammerstone has been ranked #1 since before The Restart and has been on a collision course with Jacob Fatu ever since he slowly turned babyface during the lockdown and challenged Fatu on The Restart episode.
Moments after his challenge, Hammerstone was attacked by Fatu’s fellow CONTRA Unit debutant Mads Krugger who gave Hammerstone a distraction while Fatu picked off ACH, Jordan Oliver and Calvin Tankman in title defences. Another “speed bump” as Hammerstone called them, came in form of Salina de la Renta’s latest acquisition: Mil Muertes. The Man of 1,000 Deaths stole Hammerstone’s title belt after Hammer’ had successfully defended against another of Salina’s men: LA Park, so this again was a welcome distraction that helped Fatu and Hammerstone stay apart and helped their collision slowly build and build with anticipation.
Hammerstone will also be doubly determined to win the Battle Riot as this could be his only storyline opportunity for a chance at the title. Towards the end of the recent block of tapings, CONTRA Unit mouthpiece Josef Samael declined Hammerstone’s challenge and declared that he alone determined Jacob Fatu’s title challengers, not Court Bauer, not MLW, only him. And he got that power after CONTRA stormed the MLW headquarters and Samael himself changed Fatu’s contract to give him all the power.
Along with Hammerstone’s foes Krugger and Muertes, other major names announced for the Battle Riot include debuting Davey Richards, “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, TJP, Marshall Von Erich, Middleweight champion Myron Reed and Calvin Tankman. But surprises are guaranteed (as they have been advertised), shocks should be expected, and I wouldn’t put it past them to include some nostalgic ECW veterans to keep the local fans happy. And be prepared for some Dario Cueto and Azteca Underground to flex their muscles and show how much of an influence they will have on MLW going forward.
Speaking of Cueto and his revived and renamed rework of Lucha Underground, his backstory is that Salina de la Renta’s Promociones Dorado stable was purchased by an unknown buyer mid-way through last “season” which led to Salina’s actions and decisions being monitored by a silent advisor who would accompany her at ringside and was always close by backstage. The advisor was working for the buyer who was known as “El Jefe” who had a controlling influence over de la Renta that caused her to stress about all her decisions, and when the defeats for her Promociones Dorado stable piled up, a face-to-face meeting with El Jefe was scheduled. Salina was whisked away blindfolded to a secret location where we finally saw Cueto for the season-closing angle.
Even though she had guided LA Park and Hijo de LA Park to the MLW tag team titles, this has been the only shining light in a season of disappointment for her, her clients and her now-defunct Promociones Dorado.
Cueto said Salina let down his believers after giving her access to the best luchadors on the planet. All he wanted in return was gold and violence. He said he is building a new temple and that it “requires certain sacrifices” before the masked figure from last week dragged the hooded Salina off-screen.
A phone then rang as Cueto said;
“July 10th, Philadelphia, I will see you there.”
More feuds that look like they will be culminating in front of fans will be Gino Medina vs Richard Holliday, and Tom Lawlor and his “Team Filthy” stable against the Von Erich brothers.
Medina and Holliday could not decide if Medina was kicked out of The Dynasty or if he quit. And their petty war of words escalated into action but after Holliday put him away with his Market Crash finisher, Medina later jumped Holliday while he was being interviewed by his on-off flirtatious love interest Alicia Atout and DDT’s him on the entrance ramp. That was the last we saw of Holliday before the season finale so looks for Holliday to be out for revenge in front of the Philly fans.
The eventual culmination of The Von Erichs vs Team Filthy also looks like it will come to a head at the Philadelphia tapings. Ever since Lawlor turned his back on Ross Von Erich and hit him with a steel chair during Ross’ world title shot against Jacob Fatu on Thanksgiving night 2019 we have yet to see a decisive climactic decision between these two waring stables. Lawlor was originally scheduled to be part of a 6-man chained ropes match recently but an “injury” kept him out as it changed to a tag match. The Von Erichs also ruined Lawlor’s own “Filthy Island” episode which was filmed in Von Erich’s backyard of Hawaii. The show-closing moments looked bad for Low Ki (who had just choked out King Mo) as the rest of Team Filthy stalked their outnumbered prey until the heroic Von Erichs crashed the outdoor party and drove their 4×4 to ringside chased off the cowardly villains with their tails between their legs. A Bunkhouse Brawl was advertised for the Battle Riot tapings, but it was recently pulled with possible changes afoot.
What we can guarantee though is that the Von Erichs are not finished with Team Filthy, and Team Filthy is not finished with the Von Erichs. All will be involved in the huge Battle Riot match where there are No Disqualifications so be prepared for some filthy, riotous action this Saturday night in Philadelphia as MLW returns.