In 2017, Court Bauer resurrected the wrestling portion of his MLW promotion and acquired some of the best indie talent in the world. Originally beginning in 2002 following the close of WCW and ECW, MLW acquired names such as Shane Douglas, Terry Funk, Mike Awesome, Jerry Lynn, and Steve Corino as top talents for the company. WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes even appeared on the December 20, 2002 MLW episode, losing to Corino in a 3-way match which also included Funk. Despite highly recognized talent competing for the promotion, as well as an alliance with All Japan Pro Wrestling while Satoshi Kojima was champion, the company only lasted two years before folding in 2004.
Several years later, Bauer resurfaced with a different, but effective, business plan. The MLW Radio Network was created, and rapidly became a success with podcasts from Bruce Prichard, Jim Cornette, Konnan, Kevin Sullivan, and MVP, as well as other legendary names. Although Cornette and MVP are no longer affiliated with the network, Tony Schiavone, Eric Bischoff, and Robbie E have joined the network and created very successful podcasts ? What Happened When?, 83 Weeks, and Why It Ended, respectively.
Upon the 2017 relaunch for MLW, a television partnership with beIN Sports commenced. Names such as Low-Ki, Shane Strickland, PCO, Pentagon, Jr., Fenix, John Morrison, Sami Callihan, Matt Riddle, Jack Swagger, and Tom Lawlor, among many others, have helped revitalize the brand, capitalizing on the interest of independent promotions being much stronger than it was 15 years ago. In talking to CBS Sports, Bauer stated that the original plan was to start having television shows within three years. However, because of its popularity, this goal was quickly attained, and MLW was on TV after just four months.
Because of its success, Bauer states that MLW is “the fastest growing American promotion.” Bauer added, “If you look at the last year, we live up to that statement. I can only imagine what 2019 will bring.”
When I interviewed Bauer on the Pancakes and Powerslams Show in November 2017, I mentioned how his wrestling events during WrestleMania weekend has a Shotgun Saturday Night feel to it. He affirmed while chuckling, and shared an interesting story about first meeting Vince McMahon at a SSN episode.
“We go there, and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is wild,’ said Bauer. “There’s no barricade, there’s no typical environment for a WWE show. And I happened to go use the bathroom, and I see Honky Tonk Man leaving the bathroom. I go in the bathroom, [and there’s] Vince McMahon! And I went, ‘this is surreal.’ So, I’m like, I wanna meet this guy, I want to be in wrestling, and I don’t know how to network, this is a weird moment. And lo and behold, I take the quickest bathroom break you could take, and then I kinda stalked him on the way out, and I introduce myself. And he, of course, was running a live show…and moved on. Little did I know, in under five-six years, I’d be working for him and he’d be my boss!”
Bauer’s experience with WWE has led him to have a successful MLW promotion, and MLW: Fusion is frequently one of the most watched shows on the beIN network throughout 2018.
Source: CBS Sports