Saturday featured the official televised return of MLW with Battle Riot III, their annual 40-man no DQ battle royal with unique rules (eliminations are over the top, pin or submission, 60 second entries) that crowns the no. 1 contender for the World title.
The show was taped in Philadelphia, PA, on July 10th.
The debut of Cesar Duran
We opened with the "El Jefe" of Azteca Underground, Cesar Duran, who got a great response from the Philadelphia crowd. Chants of "lucha" rang around the 2300 Arena as he made his way to the ring. He tried to turn on the crowd, but they were having none of it and just cheered him on. He said he will be promoting fights in MLW under his Azteca Underground banner and is now the official MLW matchmaker at the behest of Court Bauer.
Jordan Oliver and Middleweight Champion Myron Reed from Injustice interrupted him, who asked Reed "Who the f*ck are you?" as they tried to swipe the mic out of his hands. Reed and Oliver said they want a shot at the Tag Team titles currently held by LA Park and El Hijo de LA Park. Before they got an answer, they were interrupted by the MLW Draft countdown clock which led to Konnan and the debut of the new LAX: Slice Boogie, Rivera (Danny Limelight) and Dr. Julius Smokes.
Konnan went face to face with Duran, introduced his team, and also challenged Los Parks for the tag titles. Injustice badmouthed Konnan which started a brawl between the two teams. LAX got the upper hand but Reed took everyone on the outside out with a swanton plancha.
-- We had the old fashioned Royal Rumble tumbler for the wrestlers to draw their numbers from with varying degrees of success. EJ Nduka, Kevin Ku and Tom Lawlor nearly came to blows but decided to leave it to the ring. A CONTRA Unit propaganda clip interrupted one of the segments.
-- A new mini-series call MLW Fusion: Alpha was announced to begin in August 2021.
Alex Hammerstone won the Battle Riot match to earn a World title match at any time of his choosing
Davey Richards and Tom Lawlor started us off at numbers 1 and 2 and were quickly joined by TJP as they began exchanging submissions. Lee Moriarty came in like a house of fire and had Lawlor in a Fujiwara armbar before nearly clashing with Richards before Kit Osbourne of Team Filthy came out to save his pal.
Team Filthy's King Mo was out next and dumped Moriarty right on top of his head. There was a 4-on-2 beatdown as the heels teamed up, but Calvin Tankman was out next and he helped even the sides.
Making his debut at no. 8 was Arez who began a string of high-flying entrants coming in for their shot to shine for 60 seconds. Arez landed four superkicks before Gringo Loco came in and had a nice lucha exchange with Arez, squashing TJP with a middle rope moonsault. Zenshi was out next and was thrown from the ring by Tankman, but landed on the timekeeper's table to stay alive.
Aramis, also making his MLW debut, was out next and had a great display of hurricanranas, flips and armdrags. Loco and Zenshi also took to the sky before Alex Kane made his MLW debut. He was announced as the latest member of American Top Team as he suplexed the field on his arrival.
The ring was busy as there were still no eliminations as no. Reed entered at no. 13 and hit a few of his trademark cutters. Zenshi was thrown from the ring again but his feet rested against the railings to keep him alive.
Savio Vega brought a singapore cane with him and whacked everyone in sight as Zenshi walked on his hands to get back to the ring. Oliver was out next and he caught his Injustice partner Reed as he came over the top rope, carrying him back to the ring.
A surprise debutant -- The Beastman -- was no. 16 as we still had no eliminations. He exchanged right hands with the equally huge Tankman before Rivera and Slice Boogie both entered at the same time with a shopping cart full of weapons.
Boogie slammed Reed and Oliver through a wooden board in the corner of the ring as Matt Cross made his return to MLW. We had our first elimination as Vega was pinned by Boogie and Rivera of LAX.
Zenshi flew coast-to-coast with a dropkick before hitting a 630 splash. Bu Ku Dao was no. 20 as we hit the halfway mark with only one elimination thus far. Dao and TJP brawled around the ring to continue their feud as Lawlor became the second elimination as he flew over the top rope.
Marshall Von Erich was out next and eliminated Kit Osbourne. Slice Boogie threw Aramis out too. EJ Nduka came out and eliminated Beastman, Loco, Kane and Mo before dumping the next surprise entrant (Kimchee) as well. Arez was next to be thrown from the ring by Nduka as the ring began to clear.
TJP pinned Dao as Zicky Dice made his MLW debut at no. 24. Nduka kept eliminating men as he threw TJP from the ring. Dice spat out ribbon from his mouth and clotheslined a few competitors with it. Kevin Ku was no. 25 and took out Dice with a brainbuster. Nduka got another elimination when he backdropped Cross out.
KC Navarro and Lance Anoa'i were out next as the field started to clear in quick succession. Tankman eliminated Moriarty before both he and Nduka eliminated each other. Injustice pulled the top rope down to help LAX eliminate themselves before Injustice themselves were knocked over the top rope. Both teams then brawled to the back.
This left no. 1 Richards, Marshall Von Erich, Dice, Anoa'i and Navarro still in play as we thought LA Park was entering as no. 28. However, it turned out to be Lawlor in disguise. Von Erich unmasked him with a claw and clotheslined him over the top rope.
Simon Gotch and Daivari were no. 29 and no. 30 as the first CONTRA Unit members entered. The Blue Meanie was out next as the latest surprise entrant. He ran over everyone with right hands before Davari knocked him down. Another CONTRA member, Ikuro Kwon, made his return from injury and was out next.
Ross Von Erich joined his brother at no. 33 just as Kwon pinned Dice in the ring. Josef Samael and his spike came out next before National Openweight Champion Alex Hammerstone, dressed in Hulk Hogan red and yellow, destroyed the field as he entered and stood tall. Surprisingly, he didn't eliminate anyone upon arrival before two members of the CONTRA Sentai Death Squad entered.
The two were only counted as one official entrant for those still keeping score. CONTRA had a major numbers advantage with six out of the 12 active competitors.
Number 37 was Kwang (aka Vega) who brought his nunchucks with him and took everyone out. Vega, I mean Kwang, squared off with the Meanie as the surprise entrants battled it out.
King Muertes was out next and eliminated Meanie after Kwang sprayed mist into Meanie's eyes. Gino Medina was no. 39 and tried a few eliminations with pinfalls but was unsuccessful.
The final entrant was CONTRA's final member, Mads Krugger. He pointed at Hammerstone and slowly made his way towards his target. Before he got there, he eliminated Anoa'i and Navarro until he and Hammerstone finally began slugging it out.
Muertes eliminated Medina and Kwang before he was thrown over the top by the Von Erich brothers.
We then had a faceoff in the ring as CONTRA circled the Von Erichs and Hammerstone but as the action broke down, the Sentai Death squad members and Samael were thrown over the top rope. Kwon followed after a claw slam on the apron.
The final six were the Von Erichs, Hammerstone, Daivari, Gotch and Krugger.
Krugger eliminated both Von Erichs before Hammerstone double-clotheslined Daivari and Gotch out, leaving just he and Krugger.
The commentary team played up their past meetings where neither had been able to put each other away. Krugger went for the chokeslam but Hammerstone powered out and hit a pump kick but ate a big full nelson slam. Hammerstone also kicked out of a chokeslam before he hulked up, but Krugger floored him again with a big boot.
Krugger brought Samael's spike back into the action but it ended up in Hammerstone's hands before he used it on Krugger's foot, midsection and forehead before clotheslining him over the top rope to win the Battle Riot and a World title shot.
World champion Jacob Fatu came to ringside, but Samael kept him away from his next challenger.
How good is it having live crowds back?
The Battle Riot was a great way to bring MLW back into this new era, debut a whole host of new roster members, create new feuds and set up the major main event they have been building for over a year in Fatu vs. Hammerstone.
We should also be seeing Calvin Tankman vs. EJ Nduka plus Injustice vs LAX based on what we saw on the show.
The Riot itself was plotted out well. We had the exciting high flyers at the onset with the big heavy hitters like Tankman and Nduka mixed in which gave the chosen big men a lot of guys to impressively throw out. The story of the second half of the match was the Von Erichs and Hammerstone vs. CONTRA Unit so be on the lookout for a series of matches between those men before we get to Hammerstone's title shot.
Nduka got a great rub by eliminating so many of the first half entrants so look for him to get a major push in the coming months. Navarro also got hyped up a lot by the commentary team, so there may be big plans for him as well.