For the first time since July, new MLW content has returned to TV. Now with a new deal with Pro Wrestling TV in hand, tonight's return show focused on Battle Riot IV, taped this past June in New York City at the Melrose Ballroom.
MLW has been missed, so it was nice to see it back. I'm looking forward to seeing where this new streaming deal takes them.
The Battle Riot match itself is a 40-man Royal Rumble-style timed entrance match with eliminations occurring via pinfall, submission or over the top rope with the winner receiving a guaranteed MLW title shot. Previous winners include "Filthy" Tom Lawlor, LA Park and current titleholder Alex Hammerstone.
Throughout the night, we saw some of the roster pick their numbers out of the bingo-style golden roller. Tag Team champions EJ Nduka & Calvin Tankman picked first before The Bomaye Fight Club's Myron Reed & Alex Kane picked theirs later on.
MLW Champion Alex Hammerstone defeated Los Aztecas in a handicap match to retain the title
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Flanked by his lackluster muscle, MLW matchmaker Cesar Duran addressed and insulted the New York crowd before the champion interrupted and got this very short opener underway. A big boot and a Nightmare Pendulum easily put Duran's henchmen away, but the focus of this segment took place in the aftermath.
The champion's friend turned rival Richard Holliday jumped Hammerstone with a steel chair and attacked his ribs, leaving the champion coughing up blood.
We saw the latest vignette for the returning Mads Krugger. This series of vignettes suggested a new look given how we last saw him -- on the losing end of a Weapons of Mass Destruction match against Jacob Fatu earlier this year. But, as we would see later in the night, he returned just as he was before.
Jacob Fatu won the MLW Battle Riot IV match to earn a future title shot
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MLW Tag Team Champions EJ Nduka and Calvin Tankman were out first and second. Rich Bocchini and Joe Dombrowski hyped up Nduka's great performance last year when he eliminated a third of the participants. As Tankman was entering, it was teased that these two would team up to eliminate the field, but instead, they started circling as number three put a stop to that.
Mr. Thomas (3) was out to seemingly step between the champs, but quickly ate a suplex from Nduka. As Nduka eliminated Thomas, he also eliminated Tankman which didn't sit well with "Heavyweight Hustle." As the champs exchanged words, Lince Dorado (4) and Arez (5) double dropkicked Nduka over the top rope to eliminate him too. This was a bit of a shock as Nduka was one of the favorites.
Microman (6) joined in to continue his feud with the Strange Sangre stable as Mini Abismo Negro (7) was on the receiving end of Microman's signature spots.
La Estrella (8) from Dragon Gate was out next and mixed well with the Lucha high-flying athletes in the ring. KC Navarro (9), Kim Chee (10) and Joel Maximo (11) from the SAT came out as the ring started to fill up. Everyone had a shot at locking in a submission on poor Kim Chee who eventually tapped out.
Killer Kross (12) entered at the right time with a lot of targets and eliminated Maximo by pinfall and Arez by press slamming him over the top rope. Kross, of course, is now back in WWE and will be part of Saturday's Crown Jewel event.
Former Impact World Champion Sami Callihan (13) was a surprise entrant, joining the match by taking out everyone with his trademark baseball bat. Callihan got a great ovation from the New York City crowd, but Real1 (14) did not. The former nZo took his time getting to the ring and added to his heat with the crowd as he kicked Microman off the apron after he was heroically holding on for survival. Callihan also eliminated Abismo Negro.
Gangrel (15), Kwang (16) and Budd Heavy (17) brought some nostalgia and brawling to the match. Real1 and Navarro revived their rivalry as Real1 tried to put Navarro out of action again by slamming him into the ring post with an Outsiders Edge. Callihan eliminated Estrella.
Little Guido (18) and Jose Maximo (19) from the SAT were next to get a nice nostalgia ovation from the NYC crowd. Kwang misted Heavy before being thrown over the top rope. Real1 took advantage of Heavy's blurred vision and bundled him out too.
Davey Richards (20) came in as Gangrel was thrown out. Entrants and eliminations were very quick during this part of the match. Lance Anoa'i looked good at entrant 21 while Real1 continued to skirt around the ring and dive in and out, avoiding any real confrontation and taking advantage of everyone's weakened states.
Ken Broadway (22) entered as Kross threw Dorado out. Homicide (23) eliminated Maximo by pinfall, and Richards tapped out Guido.
Ricky Shane Page (24) was another surprise entrant who came in with a trash can filled with weapons. He then set up a table at ringside as Juicy Finau (25) made his way to the ring. Callihan eliminated Broadway, and Anoa'i eliminated Homicide.
Duran's hired henchman (26) was quickly squashed with a samoan drop from Anoa'i and a top rope splash from Finau. Real1 then snuck in and tossed Anoa'i out as he racked up another sneaky elimination.
Dr. Dax (27) had a big man brawl with Finau, and Page eliminated Navarro by power bombing him off the apron through his table at ringside.
Jacob Fatu (28) came in like a house of fire and eliminated Dax. He then went for Real1 who scurried out of the ring and harm's way. Mads Krugger (29) returned after his Weapons of Mass Destruction match with Fatu earlier this year and re-ignited that feud.
Will Maximo (30), the youngest brother in Los Maximos, was in and quickly pinned by Krugger. Warhorse (31) headbanged in the corner, and Myron Reed (32) went after his foe Richards but couldn't get him out of the ring.
Two more of Duran's henchmen (33 and 34) were out to make up the numbers before Matt Cross (35) entered to a nice ovation and hit his handspring cutter on Callihan.
Returning to MLW was fan favorite Mance Warner as entrant 36. This was a big hit with the live audience and he went straight back to where he and Callihan left off the last time they were in MLW together with flying fists, lariats and eye pokes.
Alex Kane (37) entered as Krugger threw Page over the top rope. Savio Vega (38) entered with his kendo stick and made sure to hit Real1 with it to make up for all the time he was running scared from the action.
Entrant 39 was Taya Valkyrie who made history as the first-ever female entrant into the Battle Riot. She took Callihan out with a spear before brawling with Kross.
The last entrant was former WWE NXT and current AEW wrestler Parker Boudreaux who joined the final field of Warner, Krugger, Fatu, Richards, Kross, Real1, Callihan, and Valkyrie.
Boudreaux got a good chance to shine as he tossed out Valkyrie and went toe to toe and got the better of Kross. Real1 scurried back in to bite Richards' fingers to get him to let go of the middle rope and get eliminated from the match. On the ramp, the Bomaye Fight Club attacked Richards as he was leaving ringside.
Krugger knocked Warner off the apron to eliminate him, but Fatu then quickly dumped Krugger too. Warner and Krugger then brawled to the back so I'm sure those two madmen will be booked in a selection of weapon-filled gimmick matches in the coming weeks.
Kross and Callihan then dumped Boudreaux which left them, Fatu and Real 1 as the final four.
Real1 skinned the cat and brought Callihan onto the apron with a head scissors. Fatu then superkicked Callihan off the apron and to the floor, eliminating him.
Kross and Real1 teamed up to try to eliminate Fatu, but the Samoan kept fighting and kicking out as Kross and Real1 bickered over who should try to pin Fatu after each of their double team moves.
Real1 ate a boot from Fatu so Kross had to go it alone in an attempt to eliminate the former MLW champion. Kross tried to eliminate Fatu over the top rope, but the sneaky Real1 then turned his back on his short-term alliance partner. He was only able to dump Kross to the apron and soon learned this was a big mistake -- reminded of how far he had "messed" up by the NYC crowd.
Kross dropped Real1 with a pedigree (and a crotch chop) but had taken his eye off Fatu for long enough to allow him to be blindsided and thrown over the top rope to the floor. This left Fatu and Real1 as the final two and the chance for Fatu to get his hands on his slimy rival.
In homage to Steve Austin in 1997, after Kross distracted the outside refs in a rage and the in-ring ref was knocked down, Real1 was thrown to the floor by Fatu. But, as there were no referees to see the elimination, he snuck back in.
But unlike Austin in '97, he did not go on to get the tainted win. Real1 tried but Fatu held onto the top rope and did not hit the floor. He got himself back in the ring and tossed Real1 as the referee got his bearings together and witnessed the decisive final elimination to give Fatu the Battle Riot IV win. Finau and Anoa'i joined Fatu for a post-match celebration and speech for the crowd.
Very quick entrants meant that no one had the chance to shine before attention was shifted on who was coming out next. Some entrants had just joined the ring as the next ten second countdown was starting.
Despite that, the hour-long match felt like much less in a good way. The action never stalled or was boring and there was always something going on. If a certain style was not your favorite, the quick turnover in talent meant the style evolved and changed over and over again. The talent was spread throughout the match too. A lot of the favorites remained at the end, but there was enough star power throughout to keep interest. And as always, the surprises were nice and it was smart to use a lot of the New York-based nostalgia acts.
This set up a lot of new interesting feuds and stories (Tankman vs. Nduka, Krugger vs. Warner, and of course, another Fatu vs. Hammerstone match) and there are still plenty of ongoing stories still to play out like Richards vs Reed, Fatu vs. Real1, and Hammerstone vs. Duran.