SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Davey Boy Smith Jr. on headlining the MLW return and possibilities regarding his future: ‘A return to WWE is very possible’
Smith takes center stage in Wednesday night’s return of Major League Wrestling, challenging Jacob Fatu for the MLW championship in the main event of a new-look Fusion.
Though Fatu is champion and unbeaten in the promotion since the spring of 2019, it is Smith who in many ways stands as the face of the promotion. He made his MLW debut in 2004, when he was only 18 years old, tagging with Tyson Kidd as the Stampede Bulldogs in a match against Puma and Bobby Quance.
“I remember studying for my chemistry midterm on the airplane,” says Smith, who recalled getting an 80 on the exam. “I’ve been part of MLW for a long time, and I’m excited to be part of the reboot.”
Smith resembles his father, the legendary (British Bulldog) Davey Boy Smith, and works a style that features pieces of Jumbo Tsuruta and even his uncle Bret Hart, delivering a compelling, realistic, hard-hitting style that makes him unique in pro wrestling. His match against Fatu will be a showcase for two heavyweights to ply their trade in a very physical manner.
“It’s going to be a hard-hitting affair,” Smith says. “Fatu is so special of an athlete. I’ve seen the guy do a double-jump moonsault off the top rope. I have a huge amount of respect for him and the entire Anoa’i family.”
MLW Fusion airs at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday on Fubo Sports, in addition to streaming on MLW’s YouTube page, and Smith is eager to provide a different presentation of wrestling than viewers will see later in the evening on NXT or AEW.
“There is a lot of great talent on those shows, but fans are going to get a nice breath of fresh air and be able to see a really good, solid, heavy-hitting heavyweight affair here,” Smith says. “I think it’s something you can compare to the days of Terry (Bam Bam) Gordy and Steve Williams of All Japan. We’ll showcase that special style of hard-hitting, strong-style Japanese wrestling mixed with American style, and I hope everybody enjoys the match.”
The 35-year-old Harry Smith has starred across the globe, touring for WWE, New Japan and All Japan. He learned his wrestling fundamentals from grandfather Stu Hart, receiving a lesson in pro wrestling from a bygone era.
“I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to be stretched by Grandpa Stu,” Smith says. “He wasn’t as active at the time, but even with his bad knees and hips, he’d still come down and offer up some good advice. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be stretched, even if I wasn’t enjoying it so much at the time.”
Stu Hart would demonstrate holds, like the thread-through, body scissors and crooked head scissors, instilling an old-school mentality in his grandson.
“Physically and mentally, he made you tougher,” Smith says. “Withstanding that kind of pain, it made me a better wrestler, a better performer and a better fighter.”
A soon-to-be free agent, Smith confirmed that his current contract with MLW expires in December. He would be a perfect fit in a number of companies, but given his lineage and history with WWE, a return makes the most sense.
“I think it’s definitely a possibility,” says Smith, who was slated to be part of April’s WrestleMania weekend for his father’s WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which was ultimately canceled as the pandemic forced WWE to pare down its usual festivities. “In addition to the WWE Hall of Fame, I was also supposed to be touring regularly with All Japan Pro Wrestling. I had a big opportunity with their Champion Carnival tournament in April, but I couldn’t travel to with the pandemic.
“I have a lot to think about and a lot of options to weigh, but I’m looking forward to seeing what transpires in my future. A return to WWE is very possible.”
Another element that allows Smith to shine is his unrelenting evolution as a performer. He is a power wrestler but added a tremendous amount of MMA and mat-based submissions into his offense. He has tightened his look and brings a widened technique to an already seasoned style, one that differs from what was on display during his successful run teaming with Lance Archer in the Killer Elite Squad.
Smith has continually lived up to the standard of excellence set by his family for generations. Despite high-profile matches also airing later in the evening in AEW and NXT, his goal is to deliver the match of the night in the MLW main event against Fatu.
“The wrestling business has always been in my blood,” Smith says. “There is no magic pill or potion to success in wrestling, it’s just hard work, day in and day out. That’s a work ethic I learned from my grandfather Stu.
“When I came back to MLW, Court Bauer gave me a huge opportunity to show the world what I can do, and I’m always forever grateful for that. Wednesday night is a chance to see a lot of great wrestlers you haven’t seen in a while, and people won’t be disappointed with the hard-hitting, strong style they are going to see in my match against Fatu.”
Georges St-Pierre: ‘I was a fan of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, and then Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. They paved the way for us in MMA.’
MMA icon Georges St-Pierre believes that the history of pro wrestling is vital to the UFC’s current success.
Though the action in the octagon differs greatly from what takes place in the squared circle, St-Pierre sees a strikingly similar aspect of pro wrestling in the way MMA matchups develop into intense feuds.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pro wrestler,” St-Pierre says. “I was a fan of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, and then Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. They paved the way for us in MMA. Our sport is not so different. The buildups to the fights are very similar. When you see how Conor McGregor and Chael Sonnen promote a fight, I think a lot of that comes from pro wrestling.”
St-Pierre, 39, is currently enjoying retirement from the Octagon, working with O2 Industries to develop a new performance sports respirator for athletes. He last fought in 2017, when he defeated Michael Bisping to win the UFC middleweight championship. If he ever were to return to the Octagon, there exists the potential for a massive money fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov.
A bout pitting St-Pierre against Nurmagomedov would likely be the final fight in both of their careers, though many fighters share that pro wrestling instinct to consider retirement nothing more than a temporary decision. If that fight ever occurs, St-Pierre has a couple of wrestling idols to channel if he decides to unleash some trash talk in the buildup to their bout.
“I liked the bad boys, and my favorites were Hogan and Flair,” St-Pierre says. “I preferred the villain. They’re more charismatic than the good guys.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Drew McIntyre put together two fantastic performances over a four-day stretch, starring on SmackDown in a promo with Roman Reigns—and looking every bit his equal—before regaining the WWE championship in the main event of Raw on Monday. McIntyre, who also brought a big match feel to his SmackDown bout against Jey Uso, faces off against Reigns this Sunday at Survivor Series.
- On the subject of WWE champions, Sasha Banks has entered the Star Wars realm, making her debut as Koska Reeves in The Mandalorian. She spoke with USA Today about the accomplishment, which is a massive moment in her continuing ascent as a star. Having one of its champions included in the Star Wars universe should be a feat that WWE is constantly highlighting.
- It certainly took some time to arrive there, but the Rey Mysterio–Seth Rollins feud ended perfectly Friday on SmackDown.
- Best wishes for a quick recovery to Chelsea Green, who broke her wrist during her debut match on SmackDown. She has a bright future in WWE, one that will not be deterred by a broken bone.
- AEW is strengthened by the return of PAC, who finally returns to in-ring action against the Blade this week on Dynamite. For those of us who see PAC as a future world champ, this match is must-see viewing.
- If presented correctly, the Inner Circle’s trip to Las Vegas has the potential to be some extremely entertaining content.
- In addition to Leon Ruff’s defending his newly won North American championship against Johnny Gargano, NXT has the return of Finn Bálor and a phenomenal matchup pitting Rhea Ripley against Io Shirai.
- Following another successful showing with Talk N’ Shop A Mania 2, the Good Brothers continued their momentum by winning the Impact Wrestling tag titles from the North on Saturday at Turning Point. Personally, I would have had the title change take place at Bound for Glory in October, but I’m still looking forward to seeing what they do with the belts.
- The wrestling community lost a giant in “The Bruiser” RJ Meyer, a Maryland wrestler whose talent was exceeded by only his passion and heart.
Joshua Bishop owns the moment on ‘The Masked Wrestler’
The Masked Wrestler tournament entered the semifinals last week in its fifth episode, as “The Red Assassin” Skid McGraw lost his match against Genkai. Following the submission loss—pursuant to the rules of the show—McGraw was unmasked and revealed to be Joshua Bishop.
The 23-year-old Bishop, who is best known for his work so far in AIW in Cleveland, ripped off his mask on last week’s show and cut an outstanding promo before exiting The Masked Wrestler.
“That was the moment to take advantage of,” Bishop says. “I really wanted to make that moment matter.”
Bishop saw a unique opportunity on The Masked Wrestler, and he certainly added to the show in his two appearances, even if he struggled to work under the cloak of anonymity.
“Wrestling in that additional gear and a mask, for me, it was absolutely terrible,” says Bishop. “My mask was too small for my big head. But I really wanted to be part of it. This is such a different project for pro wrestling.”
A member of the Rip City Shooters, Bishop hopes the appearance on The Masked Wrestler serves as merely the beginning to a long and distinguished career in pro wrestling.
“I’m going to carry this momentum into New Year’s Eve for GCW’s Good Riddance show in Atlantic City, and I can’t wait to do more,” Bishop says. “I’m a lot different than what people see in wrestling. I don’t care about Twitter likes of GIFs. I can do springboard 450s, but I’d rather just go out there and fight.”
Tweet of the Week
If you love Kayfabe News, then look no further.