It’s been 193 days since MLW Fusion last aired a new broadcast, but tonight Major League Wrestling begins its “restart” and with two big title matches.
It was all the way back in March when COVID-19 took over our lives and subsequently turned the world upside-down, but if you happen to follow MLW, you know its world never stops and CEO Court Bauer along with COO Jared St. Laurent made sure to keep their content kicking while they kept their talent and staff safe. Alternate shows such as MLW Anthology and soon after, re-airings of 2002’s Underground kept the company in the mix of water-cooler squared circle conversation while they waited to see how other sports leagues and combat sports handled the pandemic. MLW took notes and assessed the lay of their own land and they couldn’t be more happier with the decision.
St. Laurent, perhaps better known as MSL, spoke with WrestleZone’s Dominic DeAngelo about getting matters rolling once more for MLW and how dealing with such a project was unlike anything he’s ever been involved with.
“I’ve been promoting wrestling for 22 years and by far this is the biggest undertaking I have been a part of because you had so many things. You had number one, the fact that you don’t have a crowd and so, how do you set up the venue and the ambiance and all these different things to try and get the look and feel right and the different environment and then you’re filming matches over a long period of time and you want to make sure all the athletes are safe and you have all these COVID protocols and just a lot of things that you normally wouldn’t have to worry about.
“I’m glad we took our time heading into The Restart,” St. Laurent continued. “We weren’t the first league to come back, right? We said at the beginning, we weren’t going to be the first ones back, we wanted to get it right, we wanted safety and health to be the number one priority, but everything worked out great.
“We tried to look at everybody. We tried to look at other combat sports organizations, we tried to look at major team sports. What worked, what didn’t work, what’s realistic for our situation? What’s the nice balance of what the wrestlers will be comfortable with and yeah, so everything turned out great. There’s no way to do anything perfectly and obviously, when you’re dealing with a pandemic not everything is at your control. All you can do is take the best precautions that you can we were just lucky that everything worked out as well as it did.”
Were there plans to start earlier, later or was it just touch-and-go with how the pandemic affected the United States?
“You had to look at the virus numbers, you had to look at what was legal in different areas in terms of what they would allow for gatherings and this and that. I think pretty early on, we settled on the fact that it would be tough to have a full crowd,” he said, but there were some lucky few.
“We had some suites upstairs so we had some socially distanced like VIP boxes for the high-rollers so it was nice to get a few fans in there but generally speaking you could have a proper crowd, but I think that was the safest way to come back so that’s what we did,” MSL said, adding that the timing of The Restart seemed like an appropriate window due to the unseen schedules that other sports and combat leagues were partaking in.
“I’m a huge sports fan so it wasn’t that long ago that I’m watching NBA, MLB, NFL, college football, Major League Soccer. Almost every night I’m having to watch like two games to keep up with all my teams and now out of nowhere everything slowed. Major League Soccer regular season is over, NBA and MLB post-season are over and so there is this lull now. I was used to getting these sports now all at once so I think the timing is great for MLW to be back. Even just me as a fan, I’m excited to watch it every week. I went from having all these sports to watch, now other than football on the weekends the calendar is a little bare.”
Episode one of The Restart certainly has a stacked card in store for returning and new viewers as they’ll be able to see Fusion on Fubo TV, DAZN, YouTube and beIN Sports.
“I feel like it’s one of the biggest episodes we’ve ever had: two world title fights,” MSL states. “Davey Boy Smith Jr. challenging Jacob Fatu for the Heavyweight Championship of the World and Brian Pillman Jr. challenging Myron Reed for the Middleweight Championship of the World. In terms of one action-packed hour, you just can’t get much more stacked than that.”
MSL wasn’t abashed to say the one talent you should keep your eyes on is the one at the very top of the MLW tower.
“It’s always going to start with the Heavyweight Champ of the World, right? You got Jacob Fatu – the latest in a long line of great Samoan wrestlers and the family lineage that he has and he’s not just the latest, he is the greatest. Legit. He’s the best Samoan wrestler of all time, bar none and that’s very high praise and no disrespect at all to his family. He’s just that incredible, but he’s also one of the best heavyweights in the world right now, period.
“Lock anybody in the world in a room, put a padlock on it, lock him in a room with Fatu. Fatu’s the one’s that’s walking out with both his eyes in his head. The other guy’s not, right? So that to me is one of the things that MLW is about,” but someone major also has his sights on that MLW World Title: Alexander Hammerstone, The National Openweight Champion.
“I mean, they’re neck and neck. 1A and 1B may be right so to me it’s a point of pride for MLW trying to be a very sports-focused wrestling league that we’ve got the two best heavyweights and we’re very fortunate to have them.”
The stars are not the only aspect that you should keep your eyes on as the production and style of the program has been altered with a “Raging Bull” type vibe. Smoke-filled arenas and the growing amount of fight teams boiling up in the league lends itself to a very sports-focused feel.
“It’s good for there to be variety and for fans whatever they enjoy, you’ve got an option out there. If you’re like me and you like old-school punch you in the face pro wrestling, MLW is the league for you and you like next-generation, cutting edge, gravity-defying, aerial excellence that you’d never even think that is humanly possible, that’s MLW too. So it’s like we’re trying to be everything that we can be all in one except for one thing: we do not want to be a variety show. We do not want to be the circus, this is not like a comedy sketch show so if that’s what you’re looking for, we’re probably not the league for you.”