1/11 MLW Fusion TV Report: Rich Swann vs. Dragon Lee, Brian Pillman Jr. vs. Tommy Dreamer, Low Ki vs. Fred Lehi, plus Sami Callihan

By Kris Karcher, PWTorch contributor


MLW FUSION – EPISODE 39
JANUARY 11, 2018
TAPED IN MIAMI FLORIDA
AIRED ON BE-IN SPORTS NETWORK
REPORT BY KRIS KARCHER, PWTORCH CORRESPONDENT

Announcers: Tony Schiavone, Rich Bocchini

The show opened with a cameraman following Tom Lawler backstage. Lawler stopped outside of the Promotions Dorado locker room door. Through the door, Selina da La Renta could be heard screaming at someone that he will get paid when he does the work he was hired to do. Schiavone said she was arguing with Sami Callihan and asked if Callihan was trying to collect another bounty. He somehow could decipher the indistinct yelling and translated to us that Salina wanted Callihan to take out Lawler tonight. Schiavone questioned whether Callihan was ready for such a task.

Schiavone and Bocchini ran down tonight’s card, which includes Brian Pillman Jr. taking on Tommy Dreamer in a Singapore cane match, and Rich Swann will go one on one with Dragon Lee.

Low Ki was backstage. He said this year marks the 15th year he’s been undefeated in MLW. (Not as impressive when the company was inactive for almost half those years but still an impressive statistic nonetheless. He said he has beaten all of the world-class athletes MLW has thrown his way. He said he wasn’t going to lose any time soon. He said he was going to ride off into the sunset and return as the greatest MLW World Heavyweight champion, just like he will be at Superfight on February 2nd.

(1) Dragon Lee vs. Rich Swann

Swann didn’t shake hands with anyone in the crowd who stretched out there hand. Swann then blew kisses to the crowd but then slapped his but ass if telling the crowd or possibly Dragon Lee to kiss his behind. So this looks like maybe a heel turn for Swann? Lee reached out to shake hands but Swann blew him off. The two locked up and both men went back and forth chain wrestling. Some nice fast-paced action with plenty of reversals. The commentary pointed out how similar both men’ styles are. The crowd was chanting “Let’s go Dragon”. Swann acted as if he was going for a test of strength but instead toyed with Lee and that lead to a dance-off. Swann then hit a nice running dropkick. Swann then took over on offense chopping Lee’s chest hard in the corner.

Swann was really pandering to the crowd here, who seemed slightly reluctant to boo Swann. Lee hit a dropkick on Swann sending him to the outside. Lee hit the opposite ropes and acted as if he was going to dive to the outside but at the last minute flipped onto his side in a relaxed Naito/Andrade Cien Almos type pose. Swann took advantage of the off-guard Lee by sliding back into the ring and hitting a quick kick to the chest. Swann then pounded away at Lee. Lee rolled to the outside and Swann followed sending Lee hard into some scaffolding. Swann went to backhand Lee who ducked causing Swann’s hand to hit the scaffolding hard. Swann was able to recover and Roll Lee back into the ring. Swann hit a stiff kick to the back of a seated Dragon Lee. Swann pandered to the crowd some more and then picked up Lee and placed him on the top of the turnbuckle. Swann then tried removing the mask from Lee and after a few moments of unsuccessfully trying, Swann decided to drape Lee backward over the corner and the ran from the opposite side of the ring and hit a dropkick on a trapped Dragon Lee. The commentary noted this being a whole new attitude for Swann. Lee hit a nice standing head-scissor takeover. With Swann sitting in the corner, Lee jumped over the ropes to the apron, then back over the ropes and into Swann’s chest in one motion. Dragon Lee hit an over the Knee neckbreaker for a two count. Swann hit a nice summersault leg drop to the back of Lee’s head. Swann followed up with a Frog Splash from the middle rope for a two count. Dragon Lee hit a reverserana on Swann but was hit by a huge superkick by Swann sending both men to the mat.

Both men began exchanging elbows from their knees. They then stood and traded blows then kicks to the face. Lee hit Swann with a knee sending Swann into the corner. Lee then jumped over the rope to the apron and kick the top turnbuckle while holding Swann’s head against it. Lee attempted to climb to the top rope, but Lee hit two jumping kicks to the side of the head then followed that up with a hurricanrana from off the top rope. This was very impressive as Swann jumped from the mat all the way up to Lee’s shoulders. Swann went to the top rope and attempted his Pheonix Splash but Lee was able to avoid the impact and quickly hit Swann with a sit down powerbomb for the win. After the match, Lee extended his hand to Swann and Swann did eventually shake his hand and Swann raised Lee’s hand in victory. So perhaps Swann was just playing heel for one match?

WINNER: Dragon Lee

(Karcher’s Analysis: Good match. Not as spot heavy as one would think with these two talents involved. I liked that actully as it was surprising to see this match employ so much psychology. It wasn’t overly complex psychology but Swann was cleary supposed to be the heel in this match and was effective at getting the crowd to not cheer him. Again, it did seem as if he wasn’t getting much audible heat for his antics but they werent cheering him and Swann usually gets a decent baby face reaction from MLW crowds. So while this match didn’t have much of the flashy highlights I was expecting to get, I’m very intrigued by the idea of a heel Rich Swann. I think I’ve been bored of his “charachter” if you can even call it that since he was doing the same schtick on WWE television. Spomething fresh and new for him feels right at this point. WHo knows if this was a real turn or just an attempt to get people to cheer for Lee this one match. Dragon Lee is also a crazy good talent and I hope MLW makes good use of him. I don’t know what his promo skills are as I’ve really only seen him a few times on NJPW shows. Another face to watch I suppose)

Sami Callihan was backstage walking around with a hammer. He ran into Ace Romero and asked Ace if he knew where Lawler was. When Romero said he didn’t know, Callihan asked Romero if had eaten Lawler. (if you’ve never seen Ace Romero… he’s a big boy) He said if Romero does see him, to tell him Callihan is looking for him. He then ran into some random older gentlemen backstage who looked very frightened of Callihan. Callihan asked the man if he has seen Tom around. The man responded meekly saying, Jerry? Callihan said, “I said nothing of Jerry.” Callihan then took the man’s sunglasses off his shirt and said “These are mine now” and left, continuing to yell Tom at the top of his lungs as he searched for Lawler.

They aired a video of Brian Pillman Jr. addressing Dreamer. Pillman tapped his cane against a brick wall and said that was the same sound the cane made when it bounced off Kevin Sullivan’s skull. He said it was the sound of a millennial man putting an old geezer out of his misery. He said he was tired of  Dreamer and the likes, shaking their fist and telling him to get off their yard. He said this is his yard now. He said MLW was his playground. He said he was tired of being politicing and latching on to the old legacies of people like his father. He said he was going to their way was going to be purged from the business. He said he’s not afraid to use a weapon like a Singapore Cane. He said the cane is good for slaying imposters. He called Dreamer a phony and said he wouldn’t just use a Singapore cane tonight, he said he would use old reliable and he spun his walking cane around in front of the camera.

(Karcher’s Analysis: Not a great promo from Pillman. He was kind of all over the place with the clever talk. He cuts WWE style promos in that they are usually too clever by half and do not sound like people talk naturally. Go watch the interviews of UFC fighters who are really talking trash about their opponents. They don’t sound like this. I have big hopes for Pillman because I feel he has a real presence about him, but he is still very green and needs a lot of time still to hone his skills. I’m excited to be along for the journey through.)

A video package aired highlighting the upcoming MLW World Heavyweight Championship between champion Low Ki and challenger Tom Lawler match at Superfight on February 2nd at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.

Lawler was shown backstage cautiously peeking around corners. He told someone backstage that is Callahan comes around, to tell him that Lawler was warming up in the side room by the kitchen.

(2) Brian Pillman Jr. vs. Tommy Dreamer – Singapore Cane Match

Pillman was dressed in multiple sweatshirts, possibly to avoid the pinching nature of the Kenda Stick. Pillman also came out unaccompanied by his Heart Foundation brethren which I thought was a bit odd but simultaneously refreshing and a good chance to see what Pillman can do without the help of his heel friends in his corner, helping him draw heat. Pillman started off aggressive not letting Dreamer into the ringer. Dreamer wisely used his cane to sweep the legs out from under Pillman and then rolled into the ring to start the match. They swung the canes at each other a few times before Pillman rolled to the outside of the ring. Dreamer followed and him Pillman in the gut with the cane and then rolled him into the ring. In the ring, Dreamer hit Pillman in the back with the cane. Pillman shot right up and chopped Dreamer back into the corner. He tugged at his sweatshirts, showing off his plan to use them as protection. Dreamer was able to take over on offense and get in some backhand slaps to the chest himself. Dreamer hit a swinging neckbreaker and then started to remove some of the protective layers of clothing from Pillman. Pillman was stripped down to his button up business shirt and then thrown outside the ring by Dreamer who followed and began taking it to Pillman around the ring. A fan handed Dreamer a beer and Dreamer took a swig, then spit the beer in Pillman’s face. Dreamer was handed two more beers, and after pouring some on Pillman’s head, Stone Cold Steve Austin style poured the remainder all over his own mouth.

Dreamer led Pillman even deeper into the crown, and ripped open Pillman’s button up, only to reveal an additional shirt underneath that as well. They went back to ringside and Dreamer missed a backhand, hitting the post instead. This gave Pillman a chance to take over as Pillman lifted Dreamer and dropped him crotch first on the guardrail. As Dreamer winced in pain straddling the rial, Pillman hit a superkick knocking Dreamer off. Pillman slammed Dreamers arm around the ring post. Back inside the ring, Pillman got ahold of a cane and cracked Dreamers hand twice. Pillman then applied a wristlock. Pillman picked up the cane and pinned Dreamer’s hand to the mat with it. Pillman twisted the cane as he applied downward pressure on Dreamers hand. Dreamer fought back, but Pillman hit a spinning back fist to the back and followed that up with a standing dropkick. Pillman grabbed the cane and climbed to the middle rope. Pillman jumped off the ropes and hit Dreamer hard on the head with the cane as he came down. Pillman began to manipulate the fingers of Dreamer on his injured left hand. Dreamer tried to fight back but Pillman hit a scoop slam on Dreamer. Pillman grabbed his walking cane and went to the middle rope again. This time when he came down, Dreamer was ready and hit Pillman with a cane right to the gut. The two stood toe to toe and exchanged blows. Dreamer got the better of the two and ended the exchange with a little Dusty Rhodes American dream motion and elbow to the head. Dreamer hit a side slam for a two count. Dreamer rolled to the outside and went under the ring. Dreamer brought a chair into the ring set it up. He pulled the remaining layers of clothing up over Pillman’s head and laid Pillman over the chair stomach down. He then hit Pillman over the back. Pillman popped up and threw off the rest of his layers in pain. He then awkwardly laid back on the chair and Dreamer tried to hit the ropes and another big cane shot but Pillman applied a drop toe hold and then Dreamer was the one draped over the chair. Pillman got a hold of a cane. Dreamer started to stand but Pillman began nailing him with cane shots to the legs and arms. Pillman went for a head shot but Dreamer ducked and hit a Side Russian Leg Sweep. Dreamer then grabbed a cane and hit Pillman in the exposed gut. Dreamer then hit a cutter for a two count. Dreamer piled all the weapons in the center of the ring and picked up Pillman over his shoulder. Pillman raked the eyes and escaped. Pillman fell to the mat and used a cane to low blow Dreamer. Pillman then hit a spinning neckbreaker for the win.

WINNER: Brian Pillman Jr.

(Karcher’s Analysis: Another good match. Much like the first match, this had more of a story and was less spot heavy then I would have expected. I liked the idea of Pillman attempted to gain an advantage by wearing so many layers of clothing. I love when people do things that make you think, wow that’s so obvious why has no one attempted that before? Perhaps a wrestling fan with more knowledge then me can tell me if this has happened before? Either way, I thought it was clever. This was a bit short, and I wouldn’t have minded an extra 3 or 4 minutes here and maybe they could have thrown in another big spot or two. The only spot that bothered me in this match was when Pillman went back to being draped over the chair after the first shot. It just looked really forced and awkward. He did, however, reverse the next move with a drop toe hold so maybe he was just playing possum? I can live with that. Good match overall.) 

Callihan was backstage still looking for Lawler. He told the camera that if they were going to continue to follow him then they better stay at least five feet away from him at all times. Callihan came across the same man from earlier that Lawler spoke to. Callihan said he’s the man with the hammer so he is going to tell Callihan what he wants to know. He asked him where Lawler was. The man told Callihan what Lawler told him to say and Callihan knocked the box he was carrying out of the man’s hand and told him to get out of here.

(Karcher’s Analysis: I love Callihan addressing the cameraman here. By acknowledging the camera, and saying that one line, he provided a believable narrative to why the cameras were there. They were following him around, so much so that they even got on his nerves. More of this, please.) 

They showed some graphics advertising Mance Warner coming to MLW.

They aired a video package advertising the returning Battle Riot taking place April 5th in New York City.

They showed highlights of the Promociones Dorado attacks on Konnan and Pentagon two weeks ago and showed some clips from the Teddy Hart vs. Pentagon match from last week. They advertised The Lucha Bros taking on The Hart Foundation for the MLW Tag Team Championships at Superfight in Philidelphia.

They went to Matt Striker in the Superfight control center for the latest info on the card. Superfight takes place February 2nd at the 2300 Arena in Philidelphia PA. Tickets are still available as of this broadcast and can be purchased at MLWGO.com. Here is a look at the card so far.

  • Low Ki (c) vs. Tom Lawler (MLW Heavyweight Championship)
  • The Lucha Bros (c) vs. The Hart Foundation (Tag Team Championship)
  • Simon Gotch vs. Ace Romero
  • Rey Houres vs. Aerostar
  • Mance Warner’s Debut

(3) Fred Yehi vs. Low Ki (w/Salina de La Renta) 

They aired some of last week’s Fred Yehi promo on a small picture in picture screen during Yehi’s entrance. He essentially just called out Low Ki and challenged him to a match. The match started with each wrestler feeling the other out. Yehi backed Low Ki into the corner but Low Ki was able to apply an illegal armbar over the top rope. Yehi hit a nice scoop slam. Yehi worked over Low Ki’s left leg. There was a lot of back and forth grappling until low ki hit a cheap shop in the corner as Yehi was being backed off by the ref. Yehi was able to recover however and sweep Low Ki’s legs out from under him and follow that up with a running double knee to the face. Yehi attempted a gut wrench suplex but Low Ki was able to hold the rope and stop himself from going over. Instead, Yehi threw Low Ki down in the center of the ring and rolled him up for a leverage pin that got a two count. Low Ki stopped another suplex attempt by grabbing the ropes, this time in the corner. Yehi refused to let go as Low Ki climbed the ropes with Yehi holding onto his back. Low Ki hit Yehi with some hard shots and Yehi Dropped to the mat. Low Ki then hit his double stomp on Yehi’s back for the win.

WINNER: Low Ki

(Karcher’s Analysis: It’s good to see Yehi back. He is a good talent. These two had very complimentary styles and I hope we get to see a longer match between these two sometime in the future. This showed some great intensity for such a short match but ultimately felt cut off before it could really get going.)

They went backstage to Callihan still searching for Lawler. (Man that took him a long time to walk right down the hall.) Callihan went into the kitchen and began cautiously looking around. Callihan was startled by some dishes being knocked over but it was just the cameraman. Callihan scolding the cameraman and then made him stand in the corner while he checked in one of the closets. Callihan went inside but the camera stayed outside. Though the door we could hear strange yelling and noises. After a few moments of silence, Tom Lawler emerged from the door holding Callihan’s bloody hammer. Lawler licked the blood off the Hammer and smiled at the camera.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Another good show this week for MLW. We had three decent matches, all three heavy of the story/psychology aspect and maybe a little light on the action. That’s fine by me as I think most weeks on Fusion we get more action than the story so I’m fine with a good mixture every now and then. I liked the interesting direction they might be heading with Rich Swann. I enjoyed Pillman vs. Dreamer immensely and the main event showed some good intensity despite being so short. I also got a kick out of Callihan’s manhunt for Lawler throughout the night. Both men were very good in their roles and it was entertaining to see Callihan interacting with all the people backstage. Callihan is probably MLW’s biggest act in my opinion. I think that Callihan should be in the main event title picture once you get the belt off Low Ki. Speaking of Low Ki, I think they have been doing a very good job of setting up this match at Superfight. On paper, it’s not a match I would naturally be interested in. But the build has been slow and steady for this and the anticipation is certainly growing for this match. The match itself might not be a 4-star classic, but I think the crowd really buys into the roles that both guys are playing right now. Low Ki has major heat, and Lawler is surprisingly over. If I had to take an early prediction on the winner I would go with Lawler. I think Low Ki has done a good job of raising the status of the championship during his reign, and I think now would be a good time to pass some of that goodwill onto Lawler who, let’s face it, lacks some credibility at this point in his career. MLW has done a good job at building him up and if your only wrestling experience was MLW, then Lawler might seem like a credible contender to you. If you have been watching wrestling for a long time, however, and if your familiar with Low Ki and his accomplishments you might not place Lawler on his level at this point in Lawler’s career. Either way, I think MLW has a pretty hot title match on their hands and they deserve credit for some pretty solid long term booking here. Well, that’s it for tonight’s episode of MLW Fusion on BeIn Sports. They have not, as far as I can recall, announced any matches ahead of time for next week. Regardless, you can check back here every week and read my report exclusively here on PWTorch.com. Thank’s again to everyone reading and I’ll see you right here next week.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 1/4 MLW Fusion TV Report: Teddy Hart vs. Pentagon Jr., Gringo Loco vs. LA Park

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