Since debuting its second incarnation in July of 2017, Major League Wrestling has become one of the more notable promotions in professional wrestling. There are so many promotions across the globe that MLW tends to get overlooked. With the debut of the company’s most recent show, Fusion: ALPHA, now would be a good time to explain why wrestling fans should be paying attention to MLW.
The Main Eventers
Wrestling organizations need wrestlers talented enough to handle the pressures of being at the top of the card. MLW has three veterans that fill that requirement.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor has served with MLW the longest.
From 2017, Lawlor has become the MLW World Heavyweight Champion after winning the company’s inaugural Battle Riot. In 2020, the former MMA fighter also bested seven other men to claim the Opera Cup. In addition to his time in MLW, he’s making waves on NJPW STRONG as the show’s Openweight Champion. Lawlor is often portrayed as an arrogant and cunning heel, outside of his face turn as MLW Champion. As the leader of Team Filthy, Lawlor has taken his stable of shooters and smashers and franchised it to STRONG and Paradigm Pro Wrestling. While he has not had a match for the World title since MLW’s restart, focusing on his rivalry with Ross and Marshall Von Erich, his stock continues to rise on wrestling’s grander scale.
While Lawlor has accomplished much in past years, Alexander Hammerstone has made his presence known in 2021. In 2019, Hammer became the inaugural and only MLW National Openweight Championship, holding it for over 800 days. A member of the Dynasty faction, once led by MJF, Hammerstone changed from the group’s heavy to coming into his own. While he and fellow Dynasty member Richard Holliday still work together, Hammerstone isn’t the heel he once was. Since the restart, he has made it his mission to become the MLW World Champion. Tall, muscular, and athletic, Hammerstone is the company’s heir apparent as the top guy. With his victory in the 2021 Battle Riot, Hammer will face the MLW World Champion, Jacob Fatu, at Fightland in a Title vs. Title match.
As the reigning and defending MLW World Heavyweight Champion, Jacob Fatu is one of the senior members of the chaotic Contra Unit. Through a mix of Contra’s heel tactics and (mainly) his brutal style in the ring, Fatu has been champ for over 800 days. Fatu is a force of destruction, mixing strength with impressive athleticism. His Moonsault is one of the most effective finishers in the company. With his anger-induced threats matching the violence of his physical actions, it’s obvious why he’s called the Samoan Warewolf. Fatu is a heel champion marked by his intensity and aggression. The fact that he’s been the company’s top guy for the past two years speaks volumes.
Unless the work in the wrestling matches is second to none, there is almost no point putting over a wrestling show most people can’t watch. MLW made sure from the beginning of its weekly show, MLW Fusion, that viewers could tune in. Throughout the years, MLW programming has been on beIN Sports, DAZN, the Roku Channel, and Fubo Sports in the United States. MLW also has a YouTube channel with episodes of Fusion, as well as other content. In 2021, MLW secured a broadcast deal with Vice TV. MLW will host Fightland (and presumably other notable events) on the same network as Dark Side of the Ring.
Throughout its revival, Major League Wrestling manage to fill its roster with a list of notable and unique wrestlers. As the Fusion title represents a mix of different wrestling styles (specifically Technical, Lucha Libre, Strong Style, Brawling, and Hybrid) within MLW, it also describes the makeup of the talent who appears.
The company was able to gain several names who were prominent on the Independent Wrestling scene. Names like Jeff Cobb and Matt Riddle would headline MLW’s top shows in early 2017. Shane Strickland came into the company and became the first MLW Champion in its 2017 revival. Low Ki became MLW Champion and maintained a roster spot with the company until earlier this year. Fred Yehi’s time in the company was short, but he served with Team Filthy in a brief period where the group turned face. The standout performer of these indy names was Maxwell Jacob Friedman. As the former leader of the Dynasty, MJF had a platform between All In and AEW Dynamite to show the wrestling world that he was better than them, and they knew it. MJF would stay with MLW while working for AEW until his Loser Leaves MLW Empty Arena match, with Mance Warner, in 2020. Low Ki and MJF aside, none of the indy names lasted too long. Everyone mentioned has since moved on with their careers elsewhere, mainly to AEW or WWE. With the signings of Davey Richards, and Calvin Tankman, among others, MLW continues to look in the upper echelon of the Indies for its roster.
A prevalent source for MLW’s roster over the years is luchadors, affiliated with AAA and the Crash brought into the promotion by Konnan. With stables like Promociones Dorado, Los Parks, and Azteca Underground, the company was able to highlight the talents of Sammy Guevara, Pentagón Jr., Rey Fenix, LA Park, and King Muertres. Other luchadors like Laredo Kid, Séptimo Dragón, and Puma King have wrestled for the company outside of these stables. The presence of luchadors is ingrained in MLW’s programming, down to where the company created a spiritual successor to Lucha Underground, Azteca Underground. Other companies do have luchadors. It’s MLW’s focus on bringing new and rising talent that sets them apart.
In addition to partnerships with AAA and the Crash, MLW has not been shy about establishing partnerships with other promotions. In the past, they have had a working relationship with China’s Oriental Wrestling Entertainment. This partnership saw the company’s president CIMA, T Hawk, El Lindaman, and Shigehiro Irie wrestle for MLW Fusion.
International Wrestling Association from Puerto Rico has one of their championships defended on MLW programming. The IWA Caribbean Heavyweight Championship was brought into MLW by roster member and IWA’s owner Savio Vega. Since its introduction, Richard Holliday and, currently, King Muertes have since won the title. In IWA proper, Holliday is the reigning IWA World Heavyweight Champion.
These partnerships aid in bringing in fresh talent, fresh match-ups, and different wrestling styles into MLW, and the international promotions they’re working bring a global dynamic to the company. Last April, MLW said they’re putting together a Championship Committee with Toru Kido, President of Dragongate, and Revolution Pro Wrestling Founder and Owner, Andy Quildan. The Committee will collaborate and bring big title matches to MLW (and presumably, Dragongate and RevPro). As of this writing, the Championship Committee has not happened yet. Should it move forward, MLW would benefit from a bevy of entertaining matches.
One last promotion MLW has been working with is New Japan Pro Wrestling. While this is not a formal partnership, MLW shares the use of talents. These talents include “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, TJP, and, until his retirement earlier this year, ACH. As mentioned, Lawlor has a Team Filthy stable in both promotions. Rocky Romero had also wrestled for MLW, participating in the 2020 Opera Cup. With New Japan wrestlers appearing on AEW, IMPACT, and several independent promotions recently, any interactions MLW has with them, even briefly, would be a bonus for the company. For instance, former MLW Heavyweight Champion Satoshi Kojima returning to MLW after almost two decades would be a full-circle moment for the company.
For over four years, Major League Wrestling has attempted to establish its legacy in the American pro wrestling hierarchy. Despite being in the middle of a crowded market, MLW’s ability to acquire fresh or underutilized talent while making Fusion accessible to fans has kept them in the conversation. While they don’t have the footprint or the tenure of their contemporaries, the moves made by MLW officials as of late, specifically the Vice TV deal, have strengthened its position. In this crowded wrestling landscape, MLW is worth keeping an eye on.