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MLW Underground video & results: Christopher Daniels vs. Vampiro

Let me take you back to pro wrestling in the spring of 2003 for a minute.

WWE was two years removed from winning the Great Wrestling War and buying WCW, a a year removed from changing its name from WWF, ECW was a few months removed from having its assets purchased by WWE in bankruptcy court, Ring of Honor was a year old, while another group -- Major League Wrestling -- was coming up on its first birthday.

The vision of former WWF writer Court Bauer, MLW was his effort at filling the void with a mix of the familiar, the indie, and the future. (Sound familiar, AEW fans?)

Their first effort at a TV show was MLW Underground, a one hour program that ran on Florida's Sunshine Network from April 2003 through February 2004, a span of 34 episodes. With the pandemic thwarting efforts at live shows and having run through all of their recently taped content, Bauer and company launched a seven episode Anthology series featuring old footage and now, they have revived Underground for the first time since it originally ran.

Here's a look at this week's debut of sorts, a show that proves we are very spoiled in today's era with how smoothly production is made to look.

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An unexpected bonus: original music. That means viewers get to hear Powerman 5000's "When Worlds Collide" in the intro every week, a nod to a style of the alternative music of the era. They were pushing themselves of "hybrid wrestling" and that all styles would be represented, hammered home by the lone voice on the show, Joey Styles. He was also sure to mention that this wasn't sports entertainment, but rather pro wrestling, several times.

Styles and the fact the first taping was done at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia gave this a real ECW feel. Fans of that era like myself will get nostalgic when they see the entrance and especially the familiar camera shots.

Unfortunately, the taping, or at least these matches, were marred by a bad audio track. While you could hear chops and certain moves, the crowd noise was a consistent murmur with no pops for big moves. At first, I thought it was a crowd unfamiliar with the talent but especially in the show's featured match, fans would pop for highspots and the crowd level never changed which took away from the show.

Jerry Lynn defeated La Parka

La Parka was really playing up his love of chairs pre-match but the LWO-adorned chair he brought to the ring never got involved. For those who never saw Lynn, he was a great wrestler and a standout as a lighter weight wrestler. If he had his prime in this era, I have no doubt he would be one of the most coveted guys in the game. Perhaps he wouldn't be "the" guy but he'd be in the mix for sure.

Overall, this match was fine with nothing too standout. Fans of the current era used to seeing a ton of highspots and high risk moves in every match will likely think matches like this are a bit boring given the big spots were a Lynn top rope dive to the outside and a Parka running twisting dive over the top. The aforementioned audio didn't help matters either.

A missed corkscrew dive by Parka led to a Lynn DDT and sudden finish. Also, apparently this was a tournament match of some sort but that was never explained -- odd considering this was their kickoff TV show.

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- A hype video for "new MLW World Champion Satoshi Kojima" aired with "the encore heard round the world" that apparently was an in-ring English promo he did after a match at New York's Manhattan Centre. This finished with "Kojimamania est. 2003 USA". I'm glad they are running these episodes again, but there's some out of context stuff like this that make me wonder what someone is thinking stumbling onto the show.

- We had another case of production lapses as we got the first of some quick promos but with no namebars. Our first which I had to look up was Fuego Guerrero (aka The Amazing Red) who was talking about how that once he hit Zero Gravity, it was over...and something about someone needing to watch out on May 9th. The next was Taiyo Kea who said he was coming to kick someone's ass.

- We then transitioned to "Chapter 1: The Rise of the Horsemen" which was footage from a show where the Extreme Horsemen (Steve Corino, Simon Diamond and CW Anderson) attacked Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk, and a referee. I'm not sure what the context was or the significance of this.

- We then jumped to the current day for a Richard Holliday ad for Dynastic Coffee coffee cups and a plug for the MLW podcast network.

- Back to action, Styles explained that over the next month, they would crown the first MLW Global Tag Team Champions. Teams involved include the Samoan Island Tribe, "Dr. Death" Steve Williams and PJ Friedman (future WWE developmental talent J. Bronson), Nosawa and Masada, The Blue Chippers, Diamond and Anderson and Los Maximos (aka the Spanish Announce Team).

That led into a strange Maximos promo where they were acting like they didn't know what to say and were having issues with their lines. It ended with them asking, "That good, Court?" to Bauer off camera.

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Taiyo Kea defeated Jerry "Malice" Tuite

Kea spent the majority of his career with All Japan and was with MLW for about a year while Tuite was best known as The Wall in WCW, passing away from a heart attack in December 2003.

In a big difference from today's wrestling, Tuite flipped off the crowd and there was a giant red X blocking it.

Again, the strange crowd audio hurt this even though you could hear the chops. This was a fairly straightforward face/heel match with Tuite hitting a slew of power moves including a superplex and a second rope leg drop. The end came when Kea hit a northern lights suplex with a bridge to get the pin.

In doing some Wikipedia searching, these singles matches are apparently from the 2002 MLW World title tournament which is odd considering Kojima was featured in a video earlier saying he was the champion. There's a reason for all this which we'll get to in later recaps.

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- After an MLW shop ad, we had another promo with two large men that I assume is the aforementioned Samoan Island Tribe because they mentioned Polynesian people and that one of their names is Mana. Again, no namebar so I wasn't sure who they were.

- We got a Steve Corino promo talking about King of Kings (a past event) and beating both Rhodes and Funk in the same night. He directed the majority of the promo at Funk and challenged him to a match. 

- After a very ECW-style cut to Styles, we learned that in two weeks, the tag team tournament would begin with brackets released next week.

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Vampiro defeated Christoper Daniels

The night's featured match had two WCW alums in Vampiro (with no paint, no dreadlocks, and doing a lot of MMA/"shootfighting" training) and Daniels who Styles said is "a sadistic master of manipulation" was was apparently a very despised heel. That he's still working at a high level 17 years later in AEW is pretty remarkable.

The crowd noise issue really hurt this match, especially at the end. The first half was a lot of grappling and various body locks with both men including a nice looking roll through into a kneebar attempt by Vampiro. Later, Vampiro would go to the outside, grab the hammer for the ringside bell, and hit Daniels between the legs but didn't get DQ'd which Style said was due to the ref being lenient.

After the methodical pace, things really picked up after the commercial break and especially at the end. Daniels hit the BME (to no reaction0 and when he went for it again, Vampiro sprung up and hit an overhead throw that saw his opponent sail 3/4 of the way across the ring. After a chop battle, Vampiro hit the rock bottom (called a sambo suplex) for the pin and win.

Styles says he advances in "the tourney" and we transition to a clip of Raven lighting a picture of Vampiro on fire. Unlike in the Anthology series, there was no inclusion of Pulp Fusion.

Final Thoughts:

For someone like me, this was a fun nostalgia watch that was marred by the audio issues and not understanding a lot about the state of MLW in 2003. I'm looking forward to future episodes though because, you know, wrestling.