Tonight marks Major League Wrestling’s second show in its 2017 return with Never Say Never, which takes place in Orlando at the Gilt Nightclub. Matches include Matt Riddle vs. Tom Lawlor, Joey Ryan vs, MJF, and a No DQ tag match between John Hennigan and Shane Strickland vs. Jimmy Havoc and Darby Allin. We caught up with MLW CEO Court Bauer before tonight’s live event, which will be available to watch online 72 hours after the event on MLW.tv.
SI.com: As the Vince McMahon of MLW, how do you spend your night during a show?
Bauer: During the day I am running production/agent meetings, working with talent and walking through their matches, inspecting every aspect of the operation and doing intense quality control to make sure the experience for fans and the eventual viewers at home exceeds expectations. During the show itself, I’m in the war room that is the Gorilla Position, which is our central nervous system. I’m on headset communicating with production, giving talent last-minute instructions, encouragement and getting them ready along with our team. I’m also tracking the timing of the show, informing crew whatever needs we have, telling the next match they’re on deck. It’s really like being in a war room in the middle of a battle.
SI.com: MLW’s One-Shot proved that a wrestling company can provide a multi-layered, diverse show centered on competition in the ring. What are you aiming to accomplish with Never Say Never?
Bauer: One-Shot was in a lot of ways a standalone concept. The goal for Never Say Never is to open the door to 2018 and expand the scope of Major League Wrestling from a creative perspective as well as a production and live event experience. We are establishing our roster with this show and putting in motion the sagas and rivalries for the next several months. The world of MLW as a league starts this Thursday.
SI.com: The array of talent on the Never Say Never card is incredible. What should fans look for in the matches? Can you take us behind the curtain with any particular details?
Bauer: Fans will enjoy what’s been missing in the sport: variety. MLW is as real as it gets with MMA fighters like Matt Riddle, “Filthy” Tom Lawlor and Seth Petruzelli - that’s more MMA star power than some UFC cards this year. Then you have cutting edge athletes like Shane Strickland. You also have super heavyweights like 469-pound Barrington Hughes. Brawlers like Jimmy Havoc as well as high-flying breakout stars like Sammy Guevara and Darby Allin. Plus, familiarity in great talent like John Morrison and MVP. You even get a touch of nostalgia with Tony Schiavone who, along with Rich Bocchini, make up the best wrestling broadcast team of 2017. I am biased but listen to them call the action and you’ll agree.
SI.com: Why should fans invest their time and money into MLW’s Never Say Never?
Bauer: We’re not an indy. Look at who is involved. Connect the dots. It’s so much more. MLW has a pedigree production team featuring Nelson Sweglar (head of WWF TV from the early 1980s - mid 1990s; proceeded by Kevin Dunn). Joining Nelson is the former head of ECW Production, Charlie Bruzzese, who worked on the original MLW. Former WWE creative executive Alex Greenfield serves as a supervising producer, joined by another WWE alum in Robert Karpeles, who is a producer at MLW. MVP and Jimmy Havoc joined MLW behind the scenes as agents. MSL and I work as agents on matches as well.
A lot of companies take an approach where you put together appealing matches and your job is done. It’s basic matchmaking algebra. It works in a myopic sense but that’s it. MLW is larger in scale. There are consequences, we book heat, we have multi-layered conflicts and a sense of a real evolution of our wrestlers and their beliefs. There are subtleties you need to look for during matches and interviews. Wins and losses are the core DNA.