On a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast, Wrestling Inc. President Raj Giri sat down with MLW owner Court Bauer to discuss MLW's The Restart that will be headlined by Davey Boy Smith Jr. challenging Jacob Fatu for the MLW World Heavyweight Championship tonight. Bauer discussed the match-up noting that The Restart will be bringing more marquee match-ups like this for free.
"That was one that was slated since December of last year and was supposed to be the main event of our July event. The July event, in one version, was a PPV, and then when the DAZN deal was starting to come together, it was going to be our premiere live event on DAZN in July, which would have also been part of the Battle Riot," Bauer revealed. "And then the pandemic just got more complex. And now I'm like, well, I want to do this fight.
"Davey Boy has definitely earned this with his Opera Cup run, and he's just had a hell of a two years in the company. And they've never fought before. It's a no-brainer, and what better way to kick off the return than to give them a PPV-quality fight. And it's a hell of a fight and [we] give that for free. And that's kind of what this whole chapter is about. We're going to make big fights every week, and we're going to deliver them for free.
"A lot of people right now with the pandemic, times are tough, and we're not going to say, 'Hey, man, why don't you put dollar X down and buy this PPV?' We're saying, 'Hey, every week just tune in and enjoy.' We're not asking for a dime, and we're getting big fights. And Davey Boy and Fatu is a big one."
Bauer also discussed his relationship with Smith Jr. noting that they've known each other for over 20 years. He noted that Smith Jr.'s contract is set to expire at the end of this year and expressed his support for Smith Jr. no matter his decision.
"We go back years, like 20 years maybe. He started at MLW when he was 18 in 2004," Bauer recalled. "We worked a bit together at WWE in the mid-2000s and have stayed close since then. His two-year deal's up with us this December, and we've always had a good relationship. And we're in great terms now, and I said, 'Listen, no one knows what's ahead. If this is the end, go out hot. If it's a cliffhanger and you return, let's see what happens. If you win the World Title, well that creates an interesting TV too.' So we'll have to wait and see what happens next week.
"But Davey's a phenomenal talent, phenomenal guy and freak of an athlete just in terms of his dexterity, in terms of his catch wrestling. It's exceptional. He's a real asset to any company, so I'm honored to have had these two years with him. I'd be honored to have him continue on, and if he elects to go elsewhere, he's gonna get a send-off from me."
When asked how he scouts talents, Bauer said that while the in-ring qualities and traits are important, he said that having a strong character is important as well. He noted talents like Myron Reed and Hammerstone have been good ambassadors to MLW on and off the ring.
"Well, you want the drive, you want the passion [and] you look at all the things, what they do bell the bell, but I also look for, now more than ever I think, the quality of the character is really important," Bauer noted. "When you're starting out a promotion, you really don't have the luxury of necessarily always selecting great talent that has great character because you're just trying to build something and get as much noise around it.
"As you start to mature as a company, you should be getting more selective in finding guys a little bit more in line with what you hope to represent your company. And so that's a real big thing for me now, and I think we've really pivoted in the last year or two, more guys that have an incredible hunger for the business but also have the qualities in their character that make a difference. Guys like Myron Reed [and] Hammerstone, they're great guys, and they represent the company [in] whatever we've asked and whatever they do, whether its outreach in the community.
"They're great guys, and and they are the guys you want representing you. When they do meet you, when they do something with you, those are guys who want. So that's really what it comes down to. It's easy to find guys that do all the crazy stuff. It's the guys that really represent that are important to me, and yes, you want them to go bell to bell for sure, but they got to also bring it away from the ring too."
Bauer called MLW Openweight Champion Hammerstone "one in a million." Bauer praised Hammerstone and also discussed MLW's strategy to re-sign their talent like Hammerstone to make sure they feel valued by the company especially during the pandemic.
"He's one in a million," Bauer remarked. "He's got IT. When I was able to sign him in, I guess it was early 2019, late 2018, I went, 'Man, this guy just checks off all the boxes.' Everything I've heard about him [and] all of my scouting reports were good, and then we got to work. I was like, 'Damn, he's even better than I thought,' and so there's a reason why that guy has never lost a singles match. I knew from day one this guy was special, and within three months, he won his first title.
"And we've been tracking, ever since, on a certain path, and so one of the other things we did during this hibernation of sorts was identify the key guys who have contracts coming up on the horizon and restructure them and add several years so we can invest and continue on our paths without disruptions, without anything and give them what they need and give them more money, give them more opportunity. Especially being able to do that and give them that opportunity during a pandemic was important to me. You want your talent valued.
"You want them to feel like they're getting paid what they deserve, and so we went and we knocked out a lot of new deals for these guys. Some of them actually haven't even been announced yet, just finishing up the paperwork, but guys [Richard] Holliday, like Salina [de la Renta], they're important to us. I'm building a foundation. Never going to keep everyone. Guys go to free agency but you're going to have to be selective, and you want the guys you can get that feel like a good fit for the system and vice versa. They feel it too. It's got to be a two-way thing."
Bauer noted that talents like Hammerstone and Fatu have received interest from WWE. However, WWE passed on them, and Bauer questioned how anyone could pass on them but acknowledged that companies like WWE tend to have a vast amount of talent at their disposal and struggle sometimes to find ways to utilize their talent.
"He's a beast, and it's the same with Fatu too," Bauer pointed out. "He also signed a new deal. 'Why isn't he with WWE? Why isn't there? Why isn't he at this other company?' You know what, he was a free agent once upon a time. They took a look, took a few looks, and they slept on him. I didn't, and I think there's an appreciation.
"The same thing with Hammerstone. He went down, and I believe did the PC thing. It's like, 'How did they not see it?' I see this thing. This guy's one in a million. You don't find another Fatu, who's a freak out there. Hammerstone is just a beast. How do you not see it? Well, you have so much talent, maybe some guys get lost in the shuffle. That's the worst thing for a talent is to have all these qualities and not be able to thrive in a system because some promotions are just over stacking their roster where it's just too much talent.
"You almost need a Google algorithm to figure out how you're going to utilize everyone and optimize their use. So we were very fortunate to have these guys and to lock them in, and they see it. They appreciate it too because they want to be used to their best ability. They want to be optimized. They want to be weaponized to do what they do out there."
"MLW: The Restart" begins tonight, November 18th. For more information visit MLW.com. Court's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.