By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Major League Wrestling Never Say Never
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 2300 Arena
Streamed July 8, 2023 live on FITE+
The show opened with a video package that focused on the MLW Heavyweight Championship match… A brief Never Say Never video aired and then some light pyro shot off on the stage. The broadcast team of Joe Dombrowski and Matt Striker checked in from ringside, and Stephen DeAngelis was the ring announcer…
1. Jacob Fatu vs. Calvin Tankman for the MLW National Openweight Championship. Fatu sold a right knee injury early after being dumped to ringside. Tankman dominated the action for the next few minutes and performed a Tankman Driver for a near fall. Fatu stuffed a move and then performed a handspring into the ropes followed by a standing moonsault for a near fall of his own.
Fatu went to the ropes for his finisher, but his knee gave out. Tankman brought Fatu to the ropes for an avalanche version of his finisher, but Fatu performed a huracanrana and followed up with a Swanton for a good near fall. Tankman rallied with a popup into a back elbow. Fatu went to the ropes and performed a twisting cannonball and then scored the clean pin.
Jacob Fatu defeated Calvin Tankman to retain the MLW National Openweight Championship.
Afterward, Fatu called for his music to be cut unless the person in charge wanted to be fired. Fatu played to the crowd and said that he lives on the west coast, but it feels like home “over here.” Fatu called for Tankman to join him in the ring. Fatu told Tankman that he’s the toughest cat he’s faced in a long time. The crowd chanted “Tankman.” Fatu and Tankman hugged…
Powell’s POV: A good opening match between the super heavyweights. Normally, I would have viewed Fatu winning as a slam dunk, but his mess with the charity in Wisconsin left me open to the possibility of a MLW booking a title change to send a message. The Philly fans never brought up that issue with any chants and were hot for Fatu, so everything worked out well in that regard.
The broadcast team hyped the Fans Bring the Weapons match for later in the show. A clip aired of fans placing weapons in trashcans… A video package set up the women’s match…
Ava Everett was interviewed by Sam Laterna in front of an MLW backdrop in the backstage area. Everett heeled on the Philly fans and spoke of taking the MLW Featherweight Championship to Germany… Entrances for the match took place…
Footage aired of Alex Kane, Mr. Thomas, and a group of followers walking. Kane yelled “Bomaye’s for” and then his followers yelled “the people.” They all yelled Bomaye repeatedly…
2. MLW Featherweight Champion Delmi Exo vs. WXW Champion Ava Everett in a title vs. title match. Everett went to ringside and grabbed both title belts and tried to leave, but Exo caught her and tossed her inside the ring. Later, Everett put Exo down with a cutter and got a close near fall. Everett showed frustration over not getting the pin.
Everett tuned up the band, but Exo caught her kick. Exo performed an exploder suplex that left Everett short of the corner. Exo followed up with the Delmi Driver and scored the clean pin,..
MLW Featherweight Champion Delmi Exo defeated WXW Champion Ava Everett to win the WXW Championship.
Powell’s POV: The pre-match promo and Everett trying to walk off with the belts early in the match effectively established her as the heel for unfamiliar fans. I don’t know much about WXW, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean finish and a title change. When there’s more than one promotion involved, my guard is always up for a cheap finish in title vs. title matches. I hope we see more of Everett in MLW. She made the most of her promo time on Fusion and worked nicely with Exo.
A graphic listed the following MLW on FITE+ event dates: Fury Road on Sunday, September 3, Slaughterhouse on Saturday, October 14, Fightland on Saturday, November 18, and One Shot on Thursday December 7…
Powell’s POV: Because the world needs another pro wrestling event during Labor Day weekend. Anyway, the graphic did not list any locations for these events.
3. Timothy Thatcher vs. Tracy Williams. Both entrances were televised. After some back and forth action, Williams leaped from the ropes and put Thatcher down with a DDT. Williams made the cover and Thatcher didn’t kick out, but the referee stopped his count. The broadcast team tried to cover by crediting the referee with seeing either that Thatcher’s shoulder was up or that his toe was just under the bottom rope. The referee checked on Thatcher and called for the bell.
Tracy Williams defeated Timothy Thatcher via ref stoppage.
After the match, the broadcast team spoke about how the match had to be stopped because Thatcher was unable to defend himself. The fans applauded when Thatcher sat up while a trainer was checking on him. Thatcher was woozy once he got to ringside. He shrugged off assistance and then walked to the stage and took a bow before heading to the back.
Powell’s POV: That’s a damn shame. The match was going as one would expect from these two when Thatcher was accidentally spiked on his head. I’ve seen enough of Williams over the years to know that he’s a very good worker and this was simply an unfortunate accident. Here’s hoping that Thatcher avoided a serious concussion.
Dombrowski set up the reveal of the first wrestler selected in the open draft. A graphic listed Kevin Blackwood. A few fans were shown chanting Blackwood’s name…
Powell’s POV: I know it’s not the first time they’ve done this, but I don’t get the open draft concept. Who is MLW drafting against? I don’t understand why they don’t just announce these as new signings or new additions.
Sam Adonis made his entrance and delivered some in-ring mic work while the fans chanted “shut the f— up” and then “we don’t care.” Adonis said that he would have been thrilled to be in ECW Arena ten years ago, but he’s sold out baseball stadiums in Mexico since then and now he sees that the arena is just a dump. Adonis turned his focus to heeling on his opponent and then said he would show the fans why he’s a rock star and a hot attraction in all of North America. Mance Warner made his entrance…
4. Mance Warner vs. Sam Adonis in a Country Whipping match. Both wrestlers had small straps. They fought to ringside and traded shots with the straps. Adonis pulled out a bag and slid a couple of door boards inside the ring. Warner launched a chair at Adonis (who appeared to get his hands up).
Back inside the ring, Adonis choked Warner with his strap and then pulled out a screwdriver (AEW’s current weapon of choice) and jabbed Warner with it. Warner bled and quickly had a crimson mask. Adonis used an even bigger screwdriver as a weapon and then placed the door boards in opposite corners of the ring.
Warner battled back and did the flip, flop, and fly before performing a bionic elbow. Warner got a chair and slammed it over the back of Adonis. Warner tried to jump off of a chair to DDT Adonis, who caught him and performed a Death Valley Driver that sent Warner through a door board. Adonis covered Warner for a two count.
Two of Cesar Duran’s masked henchmen ran out and worked over Warner with a chair while Adonis stood by. The heels placed the remaining door board over two chairs that were set up inside the ring. Adonis set up for a move, but Warner fired back with punches on all three men. He was quickly outnumbered by the heels.
1 Called Manders, Matthew Justice, and Microman came out to help Warner. Manders and Justice chased the henchmen to the back. Mircoman slammed a kendo stick over the back of Adonis, who turned around and booted Microman. Warner low-blowed Adonis, put him through the door board, and then hit him with a running knee before scoring the pin.
Mance Warner defeated Sam Adonis in a Country Whipping match.
After the match, Manders and Justice returned to the ring and had beers with Warner and Microman,…
Powell’s POV: The live crowd enjoyed this one more than I did. They worked at a slow pace and it felt like a run of the mill MLW hardcore style match.
Sam Laterna interviewed Mister Saint Laurent on the stage and accused him of stealing money from Microman. MSL said Microman tried to steal his glory and attention. MSL said Microman is over and it is on to the future. MSL said it was Laterna’s birthday and he had a scoop for her. MSL said the open draft was taking place one of the picks is in his new World Titan Federation.
The draft countdown video aired. Matt Cardona was shown smoking a cigar in front of a backyard pool. He said he’s the number one pick and will be at Fury Road…
The Calling made their entrance and had their gas mask wearing henchmen wheel their table out to ringside. Juicy Finau and Lance Anoa’i were out next and had to fight off the gas mask guys. Delirious ran out with a pipe and attacked Anoa’i with it. Jacob Fatu came out and helped SST. Security came out and handcuffed Fatu before escorting him to the back.
5. “Samoan Swat Team” Juicy Finau and Lance Anoa’i vs. “The Calling” Rickey Shane Page and Akira in a Fans Bring the Weapons match for the MLW Tag Team Titles. The SST threw a bunch of weapons inside the ring. Both teams threw trashcans at one another. Akira bled from the forehead early.
Finau used a plunger as a weapon at one point. Anoa’i performed a Samoan Drop onto a cactus. Two henchmen and Delirious ran in to help The Calling. Fatu returned and the broadcast team just assumed that he’d broken out of handcuffs. Fatu performed a dive onto the henchmen at ringside.
Akira performed a meteora from the top rope onto Finau, which drove him through a table on the floor. Page caught Finau on the ropes and hit him with a trashcan lid. Page performed a Raven Effect DDT from the top rope through a table and scored the pin…
“The Calling” Rickey Shane Page and Akira defeated “SST” Juicy Finau and Lance Anoa’i in a Fans Bring the Weapons match to win the MLW Tag Team Titles.
Powell’s POV: Back to back garbage matches? When in Rome, I suppose. MLW continues to go all in with The Calling. The faction still isn’t doing anything for me. By the way, there was no sign of Raven tonight despite him being the leader of The Calling.
Dombrowski said it was time to find out the identity of the Bomaye Fight Club benefactor. Don King was shown seated in his office and told Alex Kane to bring the MLW Heavyweight Championship to him…
Powell’s POV: Don King?!? Something tells me we won’t be seeing the 91 year-old shady promoter showing up at ECW Arena in person, but it’s fun in the moment and truly surprising.
Stephen DeAngelis was handed a series of cue cards for his over the top introduction of B3cca’s singing performance. B3cca came out with four guys in beach attire. B3cca said Doja Cat was supposed to open for her, but she didn’t want to come to Philadelphia. B3cca played to the crowd and got them to chant for her. She sang a song called “Hot Summer Fun” and danced with the men on the stage. Some dude with a mullet who wore angel’s wings joined them on the stage. Security hauled off the “fan” while B3cca and her crew went backstage…
The MLW Championship roll call video aired with photos of the past champions along with the current champion. A tale of the tape was shown. A bunch of people walked onto the stage and yelled Bomaye for Alex Kane’s entrance. Lacy The Great came out and rapped on the stage for Kane.
Alexander Hammerstone made his entrance with shorter hair. Kane’s entourage headed backstage with the exception of Mr. Thomas. Hammerstone teased throwing his t-shirt to the crowd and then dropped it in his corner. A loud “Bomaye” chant broke out. DeAngelis delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Hammerstone was booed…
6. Alexander Hammerstone vs. Alex Kane (w/Mr. Thomas) for the MLW Heavyweight Championship. Frank Gastineau was the referee. Kane jawed at Hammerstone once the bell rang. Hammerstone smirked at him and then they locked up to start the match. Kane picked up an early near fall following a fisherman’s suplex. Hammestone sent Kane to the floor. Hammerstone went to the middle rope and taunted the crowd before going to the floor and dumping Kane on the apron.
Hammerstone ran Kane into the ring post and then returned to the ring and held his arms up. The fans booed. Hammerstone placed Kane on the apron and then worked him over with punches and forearms. Back in the ring, Hammerstone flipped off a fan and then ate a forearm shot from Kane, who went up top and clotheslined Hammerstone on the apron. Kane performed running forearms on Hammerstone and then suplexed him.
Kane put Hammerstone down with a German suplex and covered him for a two count. Kane followed up with another and got the same result. Kane grabbed Hammerstone from behind and then hooked his hands behind his head. Hammerstone’s eyes bugged out and then Kane put him down with a dragon suplex. Kane covered Hammerstone, who kicked out at one. Hammerstone fired up and ran through Kane’s clotheslines before putting him down with one of his own. Hammstone shook the ropes Ultimate Warrior style while the fans booed and then chanted “same old shit.”
Hammerstone powerslammed Kane for a two count. Hammerstone set up for a powerbomb, but Kane flipped him over with a back body drop. Hammerstone came right back with a Burning Hammer and covered Kane for a close near fall. A “Bomaye” chant broke out. Hammerstone made the throat slashing gesture. Kane rolled up Hammerstone for a two count and then hit him with a Flatliner for another near fall.
Kane put Hammerstone in a choke hold. Hammerstone reached the ropes to break it. Kane got the crowd to chant “Bomaye” again, but Hammerstone came right back with a chokeslam for a near fall. Kane returned fire with an Olympic Slam for a near fall. Hammerstone avoided a charging Kane, who went through the ropes and into the ring post.
Hammerstone teased setting up for his finisher and instead placed Kane on the top turnbuckle and eventually superplexed him. Hammerstone stood up to go for another move, but Kane countered into a suplex of his own. Kane grabbed Hammerstone, who put him down with his Nightmare Pendulum finisher. Hammerstone wanted to go for the pin, but Kane rolled to the floor to avoid him.
Hammerstone went to ringside and rolled Kane back inside the ring. When Hammerstone tried to return, Kane kicked the middle rope into this groin. Kane ran Hammerstone into ring post. Kane lowered the straps of his singlet and then went to the ropes and performed a gut-wrench suplex from the ropes. Kane covered Hammerstone for a near fall. Kane showed frustration followed by anger while Hammerstone was on his knees in the corner.
Kane approached Hammerstone, who slid behind him and executed a German suplex. Hammerstone followed up with a powerbomb. Hammerstone set up for his finisher, but he let Kane go when Mr. Thomas climbed onto the apron. Kane grabbed Hammerstone from behind, but Hammerstone shook him off and Kane ended up bumping Thomas off the apron accidentally. Hammerstone dropkicked Kane and then set up for his finisher, but Kane countered into an inside cradle. Kane caught Hammerstone in a rear naked choke. Striker said that Hammerstone would be in trouble if he fell to the mat and then he did before tapping out.
Alex Kane defeated Alexander Hammerstone to win the MLW Heavyweight Championship.
After the match, Mr. Thomas and O’Shay Edwards entered the ring and celebrated with the new champion. Striker went into D-bag mode while laying it on way too thick and coming off like he was trying to make it more about his call than anything else.
Kane’s entourage joined him in the ring. “Bomaye is for…” Kane said. The fans finished off with “the people.” He said “the championship is for…” and the fans filled in “the people.” Kane told the fans they’ve watched him grow from being a young prospect and he’s become a better man and a better performer. Kane recalled the fans booing him heavily, but now they are behind him and he said it happened organically. A fan yelled “Bomaye Belt.” Kane liked it and said he might have Don King change the belt’s colors. Kane told the fans he’s not leaving them behind. He called for his music to play and then the MLW logo was shown to end the event…
Powell’s POV: A quality main event with a crowd pleasing title change. This match may not have been on par with top championship matches in other promotions, but both men worked really hard and to the best of their abilities, which is all that one can ask for. The crowd was a big factor given how hot they were for Kane. I could make a case for keeping Kane in chase mode by leaving the belt on Hammerstone now that he feels fresh as a heel, but I think the right call was made.
I enjoyed the opening match, the main event, and the women’s match. The two hardcore matches didn’t do much for me. It’s a shame that Thatcher was injured. Selfishly, I was really looking forward to watching him have a full match with Williams. Of course, the only thing that truly matters is that he’s okay. MLW handled it well by calling off the match despite some initial confusion. While it’s possible that I missed something due to having a laptop in front of me, I didn’t notice any of the unprotected chair shots to the head that ruined the go-home show. Here’s hoping that Court Bauer and his crew have put a stop to that nonsense.
I also appreciate that the event didn’t overstay its welcome. It went roughly two hours and 15 minutes. It may have gone longer had it not been for the Thatcher injury, but I’m all for taking a less is more approach that leaves fans wanting more rather than looking at their watches. With this event streaming on FITE+ for part of a $7.99 per month bundle, MLW should feel no pressure to deliver three-hour shows like they would be if they were running traditional pay-per-view events. They kept things moving at a good pace and the crowd was fully engaged despite presumably sitting through a Fusion taping before they went live.