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[TV Recap] ‘MLW Fusion 88’ – Opera Cup Begins, ACH Debuts

COMMENTATORS: Rich Bocchini & AJ Kirsch

The 2019 Opera Cup kicks off this week on Fusion as Brian Pillman Jr. takes on TJP and ACH makes his debut after a…tumultuous exit from WWE. I might be understating that last one.

CHAMPIONS

  • MLW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Jacob Fatu
  • MLW NATIONAL OPENWEIGHT CHAMPION: Alexander Hammerstone
  • MLW WORLD MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION: Myron Reed
  • MLW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: The Von Erich Brothers (Ross & Marshall Von Erich)

LINEUP

  • King Mo & ACH vs. Injustice (**)
  • 2019 Opera Cup – Opening Round: Timothy Thatcher vs. Richard Holliday (***¼)
  • 2019 Opera Cup – Opening Round: Brian Pillman Jr. vs. TJP (***½)

*****

Injustice (Myron Reed, Kotto Brazil, & Jordan Oliver) open the show already in the ring, refusing to leave due to being left out of the Opera Cup tournament (they’re alternates apparently, but they don’t count that and I don’t blame them). Out comes MMA fighter/former TNA roster member King Mo to break things up. He was scheduled to compete in the opening match until Injustice came out to hijack things. Mo’s trainer Dan Lambert joins commentary. Mo is ready to fight them on his own but out comes ACH to back him up. Injustice bails to the floor to talk shop, ring announcer says this is now a tag team match.


King Mo & ACH vs. Injustice (Kotto Brazil & Jordan Oliver) [w/ Myron Reed]

Injustice attack from behind, ACH sends both members into one another and chops Brazil down in the corner. ACH flips out of an Irish whip and connects with a dropkick. Oliver runs in, ACH trips him and connects with a basement dropkick, clearing the ring. Mo tags in and take Brazil out of the corner with a double hip toss. Mo brings Brazil to the mat and applies a leglock, Brazil immediately bails to the ropes to force a break. ACH tags in and stomps a mudhole in Brazil. ACH charges, Brazil takes him to the mat with a headscissors takeover, then kips up and connects with a dropkick. Brazil trash talks Mo, Oliver and Reed pulls ACH out to the floor and send him into the guardrail.

Injustice work ACH over, Oliver chops him and he gets slapped right in the face. Brazil and Oliver double team ACH to prevent a follow-up. Lambert puts over Mo’s MMA credentials as well as his own MMA camp’s credentials, and oh my god I don’t care. ACH blocks a snapmare, Brazil chops him and brings him to the mat and Injustice keeps the offense going with quick tags while isolating ACH in their corner. Brazil clears Mo off the apron and applies a front chancery on ACH. Brazil releases the hold and applies a Sharpshooter. The Sharpshooter is a wear-down move now, wrestling is crazy. Oliver connects with a trio of chops, ACH clears Brazil off the apron and turns Oliver inside out with a lariat. Mo gets the hot tag for some MMA throws and an awkward inverted atomic drop. Brazil sends Mo into the ropes, Oliver lands a kick and tags in. Mo ducks a double clothesline and hits a double spear.

ACH tags in and punks out both Injustice members relatively easily. ACH sweeps the legs of Brazil followed by a dropkick and nip-up. Mo and ACH with a splash/kick combo, Mo tags and hits a gut wrench power bomb into an ankle lock-style submission for the win.

King Mo & ACH defeated Injustice via submission (10:40)

  • I did not expect to see King Mo again after his do-nothing TNA/Impact run but here we are. Pairing him with the red-hot ACH, fresh off his WWE release, was a smart move as it gave him a much better partner to carry the load of the match. I was under the impression Mo had more wrestling training than he showed in this contest but maybe I was wrong judging by the awkwardness of all of his offense. I’m hoping he’ll get better this go around if he actually, you know, STICKS to pro wrestling this time. ACH making his big MLW debut in a tag team match felt a little like a waste given the talk around him, but he looked good here if a little…unmotivated maybe? Like everything he did looked great but I don’t know it felt passionless. If I had to go through what he did in NXT though I probably would need some time to bounce back from that too. I can’t even begin to understand it from his perspective. (**)

-We get a look at the brackets for the 2019 Opera Cup.

-MOMENTS AGO: Gino Medina is shown speaking backstage with Konnan. I don’t know who Medina is.

-LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND DYNASTIC: Alexander Hammerstone is at a bar with Richard Holliday. They are given coffee instead of alcohol. MJF joins them and gives Holliday his Hanukkah/Christmas present: GIANT AIR PODS. Holliday almost tears up, but can’t hear anything in them because they aren’t connected to his phone. MJF asks what his present is, Holliday brings in a mini-MJF. MFJ is disappointed to say the least and Holliday is embarrassed. Hammerstone kicks the small guy out and that’s that.

-VIDEO: History of the Opera Cup, last won in 1948 by Stu Hart. Davey Boy Smith Jr. has donated the cup to MLW to revive the tournament. That’s cool.


2019 OPERA CUP: OPENING ROUND
Timothy Thatcher vs. Richard Holliday

Holliday takes his Air Pods out for the first time, proving that he means BIDNESS. Thatcher looks excited to tear this man apart. Holliday talks trash, Thatcher cracks him with an enzuigiri and a suplex for a two-count. Thatcher belts Holliday with forearms, Holliday reverses a suplex with a twisting version of his own he calls the “2008”. Nice. Thatcher grabs the ankle, Holliday kicks away and follows up with a back elbow. Thatcher counters a backdrop by sweeping the leg and applying a half-Crab. Holliday rolls through and tries to kick out, Thatcher grabs it and transitions into an ankle lock. Holliday rolls again and sends Thatcher into the corner, then rolls him up for the 1…2…Thatcher kicks out. Holliday connects with a nice dropkick for the 1…2…Thatcher kicks out again. Holliday stomps Thatcher repeatedly and drops an elbow, Thatcher once again kicks out of a lateral press, this time at 1. Thatcher drills Holliday with a trio of European uppercuts followed by a hammer forearm to the sternum. Crowd wants to see another, Thatcher obliges and sends him into the corner. Thatcher clubs Holliday once more, Holliday reverses a whip and drops Thatcher with an elbow for the 1…2…not yet. Holliday connects with a series of strikes and a DDT for the 1…2…Thatcher gets his shoulder up. Thatcher backs Holliday into the corner, Holliday counters a whip with a short-arm elbow. Holliday flips out of a suplex, slaps Thatcher, and hits a double underhook backbreaker followed by a spinebuster for the 1…2…Thatcher still manages to kick out.

Thatcher grabs a leg, Holliday belts him in the back with forearms and hits a back elbow. Thatcher blocks another blow and connects with a HARD SLAP to the face. Thatcher goes for a double underhook, Holliday lifts him up and backdrops him for the 1…2…Thatcher kicks out, hanging onto the double underhook and turning it into a suplex for the 1…2…Holliday kicks out! Action moves onto the buckles, Holliday blocks a superplex by shoving him off. Thatcher immediately climbs back up and tries for a superplex but it gets reversed into a SUPER 2008 for the 1…2…THATCHER KICKS OUT. Holliday trash talks, Thatcher grabs the arm and locks in a Fujiwara Armbar for the quick tapout!

Timothy Thatcher defeated Richard Holliday via submission (10:02)

  • Thatcher moves on in the tournament to face the winner of Pillman Jr./TJP, but it wasn’t an easy victory. I’ve only seen Richard Holliday wrestle in tag team matches before, and not for long stretches of time, but goddamn he’s good! The goofy rich boy gimmick and Air Pods thing have been hiding a helluva wrestler beneath, who knew? Definitely opened my eyes going forward to the overlooked member of The Dynasty, that’s for sure. Thatcher is an acquired taste but his style worked for me this time and he did a good job making Holliday look like a threat to boot. (***¼)

Alicia Atout is backstage with Salina de La Renta. Atout’s attempt at an interview is interrupted when de la Renta sees Gino Medina. She walks off with him, attempting no doubt to sway him over to her side instead of Konnan’s.

-EARLIER TODAY: Mance Warner challenges Jimmy Havoc to a Blindfold Match to make things “even” after poking Havoc’s eyes out before. I know everybody hates this gimmick match but if anybody can make it work it’s Ol’ Mancer.

-MLW returns to “Dallas” (NORTH RICHLAND HILLS) in January.

The Von Erich Brothers talk with their father Kevin Von Erich in Hawaii about Tom Lawlor’s betrayal. Kevin says all Lawlor cares about is money.

-CONTRA UNIT: Josef Samael says they have dispatched Ikuro Kwon to Japan for a special mission, and mentions that soldiers continue to rise all over the world. HAIL CONTRA.

Strong Hearts (CIMA, El Lindaman, & Shigehiro Irie) vow to beat up CONTRA with their Japanese style.


2019 OPERA CUP – OPENING ROUND
Brian Pillman Jr. vs. TJP

This is TJP’s first match in MLW since its original incarnation back in the early-2000s. The NYC crowd give him a very warm welcome. Did Pillman learn the lesson Low-Ki tried to teach him at Saturday Night SuperFight? We shall see!

Some good ol’ chain wrestling to start, TJP taking Pillman to the mat with a headscissors and keeping the hold applied. Pillman gets to his feet and almost turns it into a pin, TJP kicks out and spins to send Pillman to the mat. Pillman rolls through a wristlock, faking a nip up and connecting with a kick to escape. HA. I love it. Headlock takeover by Pillman, TJP escapes by…sliding and hopping on his back? That’s new. TJP with a side headlock, Pillman counters into a headscissors, TJP escapes via headstand. Pillman dodges a kick, TJP rolls through a schoolboy, they block kicks and reset. Fun exchange. Pillman connects with a pair of chops, TJP sends Pillman to the floor with a headscissors. TJP gets the crowd clapping and connects with a springboard dropkick on the apron. TJP rolls him in and connects with a backbreaker for a one-count. They lock knuckles, TJP with quick kicks a la Liu Kang and a Sharpshooter into a Muta Lock. Pillman counters into a chinlock, TJP escapes and ties Pillman up, leading to a chinlock. TJP slides under Pillman’s legs and locks in an Octopus hold, Pillman escapes and counters into a Stretch Muffler. TJP counters into a roll-up for a two-count. Pillman drops down, TJP turns it into an arm breaker and now he’s got a body part to focus on should he choose to accept it.

TJP drills Pillman with a back suplex and rolls through a top-rope splash attempt. Pillman connects with a series of strikes and uses his hurt arm to connect with a chop. This pain distracts him and TJP catches him with a kick, Pillman responds with a power slam into a lateral press for the 1…2…not yet. TJP escapes a DDT-looking attempt and connects with a tornado DDT but both men are too out of it so no pinfall attempt is made. Pillman’s springboard is countered with a superkick. Pillman climbs the apron and belts TJP with a forearm before heading to the top. TJP scales the buckles in an instant and goes for a superplex, Pillman blocks it. TJP hops to the top rope to get the leverage needed and we’ve got a full-on superplex followed by a brainbustaaaaah for the 1…2…Pillman kicks out. TJP lands another move and covers again for the 1…2…Pillman gets his shoulder up and TJP immediately locks in a leg submission. Pillman almost gets to the ropes, TJP grabs the arm and locks in an almost Garga-No Escape. Pillman uses his other arm and finally manages to force a rope break. TJP and Pillman trade strikes, TJP counters a clothesline with a kick, Pillman responds with a superkick. TJP catches a second kick and drops him on his head with a suplex. Pillman belts TJP with a knee to the temple followed by Dire Promises for the 1…2…3!

Brian Pillman Jr. defeated TJP via pinfall (13:20)

  • Great match and main event. TJP is almost too damn fluid in the ring, and I enjoyed watching his various transitions and submission attempts, all the while being called a “high flyer” by Bocchini and Kirsch. He’s a former member of Catch Point y’all, that stuff is mostly behind him. Pillman Jr. held his own as well and this was a tremendous back and forth contest. Son of Flyin Brian just keeps getting better. (***½)

Pillman celebrates as the show concludes. Pillman will meet Thatcher in the semi-finals.

*****

FINAL THOUGHTS: If this week was any indication we are in for a helluva Opera Cup. Both tournament matches delivered, with Richard Holliday surprising the hell out of me. Thatcher/Pillman Jr. should be a good one. I’m not caught up on a lot of the storylines in MLW as I haven’t watched since the PPV, so this episode’s story development had me shrugging, but I’d like to know who this Gino Medina guy is. ACH making his post-WWE TV return in another company was a cool way to start the show as well, though being used to prop up a still not ready almost 6 years later King Mo was a little disappointing. Overall a good hour of action, and a good statement made for the Opera Cup’s first tournament in 70 years.

  • MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Brian Pillman Jr. vs. TJP
  • MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: MJF gifts Richard Holliday a pair of oversized novelty Air Pods.

 

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