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Ever since Extreme Championship Wrestling folded back in February 2001, people have been looking for that “next ECW.” A lot of people were putting over Ring of Honor as the next ECW, but considering ROH is and was completely different than ECW, it never happened. Some people assumed that CZW would take the reigns as the next ECW, but CZW was at the time more about blood and gore than interesting characters and storytelling. I could mention XPW, but who the hell wants to remember that?

One promotion that had that ECW feel, the one promotion that made you think extreme wrestling was alive and never going to truly die was Major League Wrestling (MLW). The promotion was ran by Court Bauer, a former WWE writer and based mainly out of Florida, though they had two shows in Philadelphia and New York in the beginning. Since the promotion was around from June 2002 until January 2004, it’s not known to a mainstream audience. Recently, MLW has resurfaced with a podcast.

But before I plug their podcast, let’s look back at the history of MLW. As I mentioned before they held their first show in June 2002 with the show centered on crowning a first MLW Heavyweight Champion. That honor would go to former ECW World Champion Shane Douglas, but he wouldn’t appear on any other MLW shows. So, the second show saw Satoshi Kojima win the championship and would hold the belt from December 2002 until June 2003.

After a brief title run by Mike Awesome, which wouldn’t last a night, Steve Corino would become the MLW World Heavyweight Champion and proceed to have a feud with Terry Funk from June 2003 until the demise of the promotion in January 2004. Their feud would be a blood feud as they would have two barbed wire matches in less than a year. Steve Corino would try to find any possible way to get Funk out of the business as he put a bounty out on his head. Jerry Lawler, who was back with the WWE at this point, would answer the challenge and try to take Funk out, but failed. Funk and Corino would also captain teams for the ever popular War Games in September 2003. Funk’s Army would prevail over the Extreme Horsemen, led by Corino, but Funk wouldn’t dethrone Corino.

Actually, Steve Corino was a rather dominate heel in MLW. Alongside MLW Global Tag Team Champions CW Anderson and Simon Diamond, the Extreme Horsemen were able to run through the MLW roster and were the clear dominate heel faction in the company. Had the promotion continued, it would have been interesting to see a proposed Corino/Raven feud that seemed to be in the works.

Speaking of Raven, after being released by the WWE he would work the independents and MLW was one of the few here he was used in a good way. His primary feud was with the straight edge wrestler CM Punk. You may have heard of him, I think he is the WWE Champion or something. Anyway, Punk was one of the several young talents that MLW was able to insert on their cards.

MLW had some of the most diverse talent and well-rounded rosters in independent wrestling history. You had the ECW legends that included Terry Funk, Sandman, Mike Awesome, Steve Corino, Raven, Sabu, and Jerry Lynn. Young up and coming talent that included CM Punk, Homicide, Paul London, Christopher Daniels, Michael Shane, Teddy Hart, American Dragon (Daniel Bryan in WWE), Low Ki, Chris Hero, Sonjay Dutt, Samoa Joe… are you getting the point yet? There was never a weak spot on the card, talent wise. Hell, they even had Carlito on their September 2003 show, which featured War Games. It just goes to show you that they were able to find top quality talent before the top promotions could.

There are actually a few talents I want to mention that worked for MLW. La Parka, everyone’s favorite WCW talent and if he isn’t, shame on you… and the Samoan Island Tribe. Prior to his MLW run, I had only seen Parka’s work in WCW. I’m not all that capable of watching his overseas stuff. You’re probably remembering Parka as the comedy character who had someone do a voice over for his promos during his late run in WCW. Well, throw that impression out the window. La Parka, at least to me, is greatly underrated as he had some incredible hard hitting, bloody matches with Sabu in MLW. When I first matched their matches I couldn’t believe how well of a match they had. It’s one of the feuds that you would appreciate on the under card.

Secondly, the Samoan Island Tribe was one of the better big man tag teams. After watching several MLW shows, the idea of the Samoan Island Tribe chasing after the Extreme Horsemen tag team titles just screams money to me. Diamond and CW Anderson were unstoppable but having the big Samoans breathing down their necks would have piped by interest a great deal. That’s just my inner fantasy booker talking, though.

So, why should you go out of your way to watch MLW shows from 2002 – 2004? Well, it’s the closest promotion to ever have that “ECW feel” to me. It’s not even close. Being able to watch the top talent today work their butts off to make a name for themselves against some of the top talent in 2002 – 2004 period is always fun to see. MLW literally had everything to offer. ECW legends, top independent talent, Lucha Libre, blood, WAR GAMES, WCW competitors like Norman Smiley and Vampiro, and Joey Styles on commentary with Kevin Kelly taking over very briefly.

I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to check out MLW. Head over to Highspots to purchase some of the shows. They are listed at only $9.99. That’s a deal you simply can’t pass up.

As mentioned earlier, MLW has resurfaced with a podcast. On Monday’s former WCW star and current booker in Mexico, Konnan hosts a show. MLW has another podcast where they interview stars from today and the past. Recently, MLW interviewed MVP, Larry Zbyszko, Carlito, Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Shane Douglas, Dave Meltzer and managed to get a rare interview with the Ultimate Warrior. You can check out their website by clicking www.mlw.com/radio.

I hope anyone reading this will give MLW Wrestling a look. Yeah, their last show was over eight years ago, but it’s a memorable company and you won’t be disappointed.

— Bob Colling is a guest columnist for OWW