A familiar face is headlining MLW’s Never Say Never show on Dec. 7 in Orlando.
Sports Illustrated has learned that John Hennigan is Shane Strickland’s mystery partner and will tag in a hardcore match against Jimmy Havoc and Darby Allin.
Hennigan—whose surnames also include Morrison, Mundo, and Impact-will bring both substance and style from his experience in WWE atop the card in the main event for Court Bauer’s resurgent promotion.
“I’m preparing for this match the same way I prepared for John Cena and Randy Orton, or the same I would prepare to wrestle Kenny Omega or Tetsuya Naito,” said the 38-year-old Hennigan. “I’ve got all this experience and I’ve wrestled for all the major companies in the world, but the way that Strick, Havoc, and Allin think about wrestling is new to me and I’m ready for that challenge.”
For the past-half decade, the state of Florida has reasserted itself as a hotbed for professional wrestling, largely due to the presence of NXT and the WWE Performance Center.
Today, Florida is no longer known solely for NXT, as MLW continues to create a sport-focused product with a unique presentation and brand-new storylines.
“It’s hard to say if the presentation of MLW is better than NXT because wrestling is subjective, but I always prefer the show I’m on,” said Hennigan. “NXT champion Drew McIntyre is one of the best in the world. I learned so much from him in 2008 and 2009 when we fought over the Intercontinental title, and we also wrestled in Scotland for 5-Star Wrestling, so it’s cool to see what he’s doing at NXT.
“But MLW has legs. This isn't a one-off. Court Bauer has a real good mind for the business.”
After the success of its One-Shot show in September, headlined by Ricochet and Strickland, MLW is now developing storyline-driven programs that will build to and culminate at December’s Never Say Never.
The storyline in place originated when Sami Callihan and Strickland were taken out by hooded assailants, who were later revealed to be Darby Allin and Jimmy Havoc.
Allin is known for his high-risk style, like a new age Jeff Hardy or Sabu. His footwork is reminiscent of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and is akin to a luchador moving in reverse.
Havoc is reminiscent of a character out of Silence of the Lambs. Florida is built on talkers, bleeders, and brawlers, and the British-born Havoc is all three.
Strickland is coming off a world-class match against Ricochet and now enters a full-fledged storyline with MLW. The presence of Hennigan enhances the show, and all three of the talents working alongside him are instantly elevated in terms of optics and familiarity.
“People don’t realize it goes both ways when it comes to working with new talent,” explained Hennigan, whose work, especially over the past three years in Lucha Underground, has been dedicated to making his opponent shine. “Part of what makes a good match is knowing when it’s someone else’s time to shine and allowing them to do their thing in those moments.
“Shane Strickland is beyond talented, and I’m excited to tag with him against Havoc and Darby Allin. Then, when it’s my time to shine, I’ll try to shine brighter and steal the show. I truly believe that matches are best when everyone gets their moments instead of hogging the light.”
Hennigan just delivered an incredible match with Ricochet, who main-evented MLW’s prior show against Strickland, during the season three finale of Lucha Underground. Ricochet is one of wrestling’s top stars outside of WWE and rumored to land with the Vince McMahon-owned company in 2018.
“I’m excited to see what happens with Ricochet,” said Hennigan. “He’s talented enough to do whatever he wants, and I’m excited to see what he does. He is one of the pioneers right now and one of the best in the world, but so I am. That’s why I’m so excited to put myself to the test against Strick, Havoc, and Allin.”
MLW also announced that another match on the card will be former UFC phenom Matt Riddle against fellow mixed martial artist-turned-wrestler “Filthy” Tom Lawlor. Unlike the tag main event, Riddle and Lawlor will offer a strong style with a very athletic-driven match, showcasing a world-class technique.
“Orlando is saturated with wrestling, but MLW is creating something new and it’s worth going out of your way to see,” said Hennigan. “And you’re going to see the best in the world, and that’s me.”