I really, really wish Awesome could've found a steady gig after WCW. His ONS match with Tanaka was their usual greatness, and that was in 2005. Imagine if he'd been able to get a solid gig in TNA around that point.
He needed a longer TNA run than he got. Being the stand-in for Malice while he was in Japan was such a waste. X division needed a big dude who could fly at the time. No slight to PCO and his awesome but forgotten run.
Yeah. First I heard of him was when he faced Donovan Dijak in Dijak's last indy match and I was like "Who's WALTER!?" and someone told me he was a German wrestler. For some reason, in my head, he was a big old goofy looking fat German ala Otto Wanz.
I'm glad I was old enough to realize how good I had it when I really got into indy wrestling in the mid 2010s. It's insane I got to see talent at this level so close. Never saw Tommy End live until he became Aleister Black though. His only New England indy appearance IIRC was at some Beyond Wrestling/Blitzkrieg Pro joint show in some parking lot on the MA/CT border. I think it literally might have been his last indy match if not close to it.
Been saying for years that WWE fucking up End is one of those unforgivable sins to me. The dude has a legit background, can work a very satisfying style, and carries a "shit is about to get real" presence with him. I can't wait for his contract to be up and see him work Bloodsport.
As someone who really only saw the '00s indies if they were close enough for my parents to be willing to drop me off, I always wondered as a budding smark as to why the original MLW didn't make more of an impression? Did it remind people TOO much of ECW? Did it get all of its thunder stolen by ROH? Did the product just suck and/or was kind of forgettable?
On paper, its roster seemed like it could've been at the very least a strong #3 (ala ECW in the mid-late '90s) and possibly competed with early TNA for #2 but it never seemed like it got that much buzz.
1. Lots of "money mark" mistakes. Bauer was always great in handling the production value of his product, but he was too willing to throw money around and not stringent enough.
2. Shortsightedness. Court made a lot of bad decisions in quick time. Bad TV deal with a Florida-exclusive (unless you had a certain satellite package) TV channel, horrible tape/DVD distribution deal, trying to run the already crowded NY/Philly markets at the same time as CZW, ROH, and even XPW (who had a leg up in tape distribution and notoriety).
3. Simply put, the booking. It was too similar to ECW, but also was booking talents that were being given grander stages elsewhere (CM Punk, Jerry Lynn, Samoa Joe, Homicide, LowKi, etc.) in increasingly annoying ways. There's a great Ki/Cide match from one of the later MLW v1 episodes that demonstrates everything good about what MLW could have been, but also came at a point where ROH and TNA were all the rage with the indie fans, and MLW couldn't compete with the tape distribution or positive word for ROH, and they definitely couldn't match the weekly PPV market penetration that TNA had.
I barely heard a word about them because the buzz was all ROH, TNA, and CZW. The only times I remember them really mentioned were when I followed Corino for a bit and any time they brought legends in. Were my go-to in EWR all the time though.
Yeah, I always played as MLW in EWR too cause they had such a fun, grab bag roster. It's probably best that Court Bauer's now taking a Moneyball approach to running MLW 2.0 rather than the 1999 Tampa Bay Devil Rays approach he used for the first MLW.
Yes and no. I think he has the best mind in terms of overall presentation of a wrestling program, at least in terms of flow and tone, but the talents he's hitched himself to either regularly disappoint in their work (DBS Jr., Lawlor) or are unprofessional assholes (Aries, Ki, Teddy Hart). It's down to his ties to the Fatu/Anoa'i families that he's managed to keep Jacob Fatu on the roster for so long, and it's bound to be because of his relationships with Kevin Sullivan and the late Gary Hart that he's able to keep the Von Erichs around in any capacity (IMO, they're underrated).
Bauer is too cheap to keep the name talent he's tried to build the shows around for any particular time, and he's too reliant on MSL's trainees to fill out the undercard. Kotto Brasil is probably the only true undercard jobber type that seems worth watching, and I'm almost positive he's taken off, too.
If AEW were to want a development system, MLW is who I'd talk to first. If they need policing then they'd have it. The thing is I see room for as much growth as they want but they're rightfully gunshy about a lot of things and people. And yeah, you use guys like Teddy and Aries in 2021 that's using a broken crutch and for me a deterrent. They still seem far more interesting than the NWA, at least.