This week's edition of MLW Fusion was their special 2021 Thanksgiving episode where a new MLW National Openweight champion was crowned and the 2021 Opera Cup finals were set. Rich Bocchini and Joe Dombrowski called the action from Philadelphia.
We opened with a well-produced video package highlighting last week's Contra Unit implosion at the end of the War Chamber match. The storyline is that Josef Samael, Mads Krugger and Jacob Fatu all claimed to be the leader of the heel stable which obviously caused tension between the group and cast doubt if they could trust each other.
Another layer to the story is Samael having contractual control over Fatu's matches. Before the Chamber match, Fatu found out that Samael has yet to arrange a rematch against Alexander Hammerstone for the MLW title and has yet to reveal why he is stalling.
After their War Chamber loss, the group finally imploded and the show ended with Fatu, Krugger and Ikuro Kwon brawling all over the arena with security failing to keep them all apart.
TJP defeated Calvin Tankman to advance to the 2021 Opera Cup finals
Despite the loss, Tankman got a lot here, especially in the first half. Tankman was not 100% storyline-wise as in recent weeks, Alex Kane and King Mo have tried to take him out of the tournament because Kane has been waiting to replace someone as a tournament substitute. TJP was great here and is continuing his great run at the moment.
They played the smaller cocky heel coming up against the bigger powerful babyface well. Tankman showed his dominance early on by throwing him around the ring as TJP tried to find an opening into getting the upper hand. TJP stalled to play some mind games as went to a break.
Back from the commercial break, the action picked up with more power throws from Tankman. He even tried a dive, but TJP dodged it by disappearing under the ring. This break in the action brought out Kane and a new tall, muscular accomplice to the ramp for the distraction. TJP sprayed water in Tankman's eyes behind the referee's back and came off the top with a crossbody to get his advantage.
TJP focused his attacks on Tankman's forehead that had been busted open during the recent attacks from Kane and Mo. Tankman blocked a roll-up attempt by powering TJP up to his shoulders by the head and neck, but TJP turned that into an octopus lock.
Kane and his newest friend (later revealed as "Mr. Thomas") came to ringside and attacked Tankman while TJP distracted the ref in the ring. Back in the ring, TJP scraped his boot across Tankman's face, but he exploded out of the corner and pounced TJP halfway across the ring. He then caught TJP with a backbreaker when he came off the top rope and leveled him with a clothesline.
TJP slipped out of a Tankman driver attempt with a kick to the head, but Tankman followed up with a pop-up back elbow seconds later. TJP kept going, dodged another back elbow and hit a tilt-a-whirl DDT. After some back and forth in the corner, TJP ripped off the middle turnbuckle pad. The referee was distracted by the pad which let Mr. Thomas and Kane interfere again and ram Tankman headfirst into the exposed turnbuckle. TJP then came off the top with a frog splash to pick up the win and his spot in the Opera cup finals against Davey Richards.
Alicia Atout caught up with TJP after the match as he confidently exclaimed that his hard work earned him that win.
-- The announcers hyped up the new open-door policy MLW has introduced for free agents and announced Ho Ho Lun coming to MLW in January at the Dallas tapings.
-- Atout interviewed Warhorse about him being Parts Unknown's most interesting person of 2021. However, his attention was more on his name not being on the plaque in all caps. KC Navarro interrupted and got in Warhorse's face which ended in a backstage brawl that set up a match for next week.
-- Emilio Sparks caught up with an irate Tankman backstage. Sparks asked him if the outcome of his match would have been the same if he joined Kane and Mo when he had the chance. Tankman snapped and held Sparks by his throat, saying, "Alex Kane is f*cked, plain and simple." Tankman said Kane messed up his chance and took money away from him. Myron Reed came in and calmed Tankman down by saying it wasn't the time and he will get his revenge against Kane "eye for an eye." Tankman was good here and showed great emotion.
-- The Von Erichs wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving from Hawaii and announced Marshall's latest addition to his family, his second son, Archie Ross Von Erich. They asked Cesar Duran to give them a Tag Team title shot at the Dallas tapings in January. Later in the night, we heard this was granted. This will be the first title shot in Dallas for a member of the Von Erich family in 40 years.
-- We will see Taijiri defend the MLW Middleweight title against Atsuki Aoyagi of All Japan Pro Wrestling in two weeks. It will take place in Japan and is the first MLW title match of any kind in AJPW since Kojima's world title defenses in the early 2000s.
Gnarls Garvin defeated Budd Heavy
This was a brief battle of the heavyweights, focused on showcasing Garvin in his promotional debut. Garvin battered Heavy from the opening bell, hitting a dropkick and a crossbody while Heavy was draped across the middle rope. A high angle backdrop driver helped the newcomer pick up the quick win.
Atout caught up with Garvin after the match and he rudely instructed her to get out of his interview time. He asked MLW to line everyone up, proclaiming "Big Beef is here."
-- Atout was earning her wages tonight with another interview, this time with MLW Champion Alex Hammerstone and Richard Holliday after we saw another recap of last week's War Chamber match. Hammerstone and Holliday were presented with $35,000 Rolexes from Duran, but Hammerstone refused them as he called them "bait."
-- Sparks then met with Kane and Mr. Thomas. Kane announced him as the newest addition to his team, "Boombayah fight club, Mr. Thomas." Tankman tried to attack them both, but was held back by security. All the while, Kane was playing it cool and didn't even get up.
-- Duran then had Atout and Sparks in his office and asked why he needed two reporters. They both had the chance to explain the angles they go for, but Sparks played the heel and disrespected Atout's interview style. He called her cute while he is a war reporter. Karlee Perez walked in and said she likes them both. Duran and Perez said they want exclusives, scoops and dirt from the MLW roster. When Atout and Sparks left, Duran's assistant returned the Rolexes from Hammerstone and Holliday which didn't sit well with him.
Alex Kane defeated Alex Shelley, Zenshi, Myron Reed and ACH in a five-way ladder match to win the vacant MLW National Openweight title
With Zenshi, Reed and the returning ACH involved, this was going to be filled with high-flying spots and athletic dives. Kane and his bodyguard Mr. Thomas were a good base for catching the high flyers while Shelley was a good veteran presence to keep the match from going off the rails.
It didn't take long for the ladders to come into play with Zenshi basement dropkicking one into Kane's face. Speaking of Zenshi, the athletic middleweight springboarded from the apron and was able to brush the title belt with his fingertips in an amazing show of leaping ability. His showcase was halted moments later when ACH and Shelley took him out with a ladder.
Reed hit one of his many cutters by springboarding from the middle rope into ACH who was climbing a ladder inside the ring. Another cutter came minutes later when he hit Kane, but a ladder was shoved into the ring mid-jump so Reed landed back first onto it, stopping his momentum in his tracks.
ACH hit a German suplex onto Zenshi while he climbed a resting ladder in the corner of the ring. Kane then threw ACH onto the same ladder and Reed hit a huge dive to the floor onto Kane and Thomas in an action-filled minute.
Reed, ACH, Zenshi and Shelley climbed two ladders side-by-side. Zenshi and Reed touched the belt, but Zenshi was able to balance upside down on their ladder and headscissored Reed to the mat. ACH was knocked out of the ring, so Shelley climbed his ladder again but Kane came in and ragdolled him out of the ring. This left Kane alone to climb the ladder, take hold of the belt and declare himself the new National Openweight champion.
Tankman tried to get his hands on Kane again at the end of the match. Security and referees had to hold him back as Kane celebrated in the ring with his new title belt.
This was a good episode that furthered some storylines and built up future matches. The Tankman vs. Kane feud took a big step after Kane cost him the Opera Cup final spot, followed by Kane winning the title in the main event which gives that future match some extra interest. If last week's episode MVP was Fatu, this week's was Kane. We saw a lot of his cool, chill personality with a few backstage segments and he was kept really strong in the main event title match with the cherry on top being his title win.
There was no CONTRA Unit on the show (other than video recaps) so the real fallout from the War Chamber is still to come. But as mentioned last week, it looks like we could be seeing some babyface Fatu matches shortly while a new direction for Hammerstone looks like a feud with Duran and his Azteca Underground warriors.
- TJP vs. Davey Richards in the Opera Cup finals
- Sea Stars vs. Top Dogs
- Warhorse vs. KC Navarro
In two weeks:
- nZo's MLW debut
- MLW Middleweight Champion Tajiri vs. Atsuki Aoyagi title match