Once upon a time, Major League Wrestling was a short-lived indie that attempted to be an ECW revival. But, like all good wrestlers, MLW reinvented itself to become the foremost pro wrestling podcast network in the world. Now, the company is promoting wrestling events once again – and they hope to compete with WWE.
— Kyle Ronin (@realKyleRonin) June 9, 2018
Here’s everything you need to know about MLW.
What is MLW?
Major League Wrestling (MLW) was founded by Court Bauer in 2002, and – like many indie promotions at the time – it branded itself as an alternative to “sports entertainment.” Indeed, Bauer described MLW’s product as “the most violent, hard-hitting action mixed with cutting-edge storylines,” and he brought in former ECW host Joey Styles to host MLW’s pre-taped show, “Underground TV.”
However, despite its branding as a desired WWE alternative/ECW revival, MLW ran just 34 episodes of “Underground TV,” and the promotion folded by 2004.
But that wouldn’t be the last of Major League Wrestling.
In 2011, MLW returned with a new business model focusing exclusively on the production of pro wrestling broadcasts and digital content. Today, the MLW Radio Network has grown to become the foremost producer of pro wrestling podcasts in the world and is home to the podcasts of numerous former WCW and WWE names, including Kevin Sullivan, Jim Duggan, MVP, Bruce Prichard, and Eric Bischoff.
Bolstered by the success of the MLW Radio Network, MLW announced in 2017 that it would once again promote pro wrestling events. The events proved so successful that MLW was able to secure a TV deal with beIN Sports United States. The company’s new show, “MLW: Fusion,” debuted on April 20. It airs Fridays at 8 p.m. and will be in direct competition to SmackDown when it moves to Fridays on Fox next year.
Which Ex-WWE Employees Work For MLW?
The first incarnation of MLW hosted many wrestlers who would eventually go on to work for WWE, including CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Roderick Strong, and Chris Hero. And now that MLW is back, its roster features many names who used to work for WWE, including Rich Swann, MVP, Jack Swagger, Sami Callihan, Simon Gotch, and Zeda.
However, perhaps the most notable ex-WWE employees who work for MLW don’t work in the ring.
Bauer tapped legendary pro wrestling and sports broadcaster Tony Schiavone to do commentary for MLW: Fusion. As Schiavone told The Baltimore Sun, he hadn’t wanted to do it – but he owed Bauer a favor:
“To be honest, I didn’t want to do it [at first]. I had walked away from the business,” Schiavone said. “But Court’s MLW, which hosts podcasts, he gave me a start with my podcast and I thought that I’d do it to say thanks for what you’ve done for me.
“Then I got into it, and I realized that there’s some great kids who are trying to get ahead and make a name for themselves and move up in the sport. If I can lend my voice to that to help them enhance their career, why not give it a shot? And I’m really into it now.”
Schiavone also revealed that MLW’s production team is headed up by several former WCW and WWE names:
“[Bauer] has Dan Bynum as his director, Dan worked in WCW for many years,” Schiavone said. “Nelson Sweglar ,who is his director of production, was Vince [McMahon’s] right hand man for many years. Bruce Prichard works behind the scenes as a producer. Bruce is well known in wrestling and in podcasting. Court brought me in and Rich Boccini. He has many people in place that have a great amount of wrestling knowledge.”
If Bauer intends to make MLW a direct competitor with WWE, he’s starting off strong.
Vince once said: stars come and go but if the production is excellent the show will always be the biggest attraction and bring comfort and familiarity. With great production your tool for making stars becomes easier. Doesn’t make it a lock but it helps. https://t.co/wED0MPYd3C
— Court Bauer (@courtbauer) June 10, 2018
Furthermore, fans are responding extremely positively to the product – and MLW might take the show on the road.
Where would you like to see #MLWFusion TV tapings?
— Court Bauer (@courtbauer) June 9, 2018
Certainly, MLW has a long way to go to catch up to WWE, but they’re producing one of the best non-WWE wrestling shows on the market.
Would you go to an MLW Fusion TV taping if they came to a town near you?