Exclusive: MLW's Court Bauer on Chicago's "Kings Of Colosseum" & discovering talent
Major League Wrestling, or MLW for short, was a notable independent wrestling promotion of the early 2000s. Among the high-profile talent that came through MLW were CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Raven, Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk, and Teddy Hart.
After the company went away, its founder Court Bauer went to the WWE, where he served as one of the chief writers for RAW and Smackdown. After leaving the WWE, Bauer started up the MLW Radio podcast in 2011, which would ultimately turn into the flagship show of the still-thriving MLW Radio Network.
The MLW wrestling promotion relaunched in 2017 with the MLW One-Shot event. The success of that one-off led to more MLW live events being booked, and before you knew it, the MLW reboot had a television show to run the MLW: Fusion weekly program on the beIN Sports United States network.
The next MLW live event will be its Kings Of Colosseum event in Chicago on July 6th. Following the Chicago event will be a July 25th TV taping of the weekly MLW: Fusion series at New York City's Melrose Ballroom. A September 7th event in North Richland Hills, Texas has already been announced with The Von Erichs, Salina De La Renta, MJF, World Tag Team Champions the Hart Foundation, and World Heavyweight Champion “Filthy” Tom Lawlor all announced for the card.
I had the pleasure of speaking with MLW's Court Bauer by phone on July 3, 2019, and below are highlights from the chat. More on Bauer and MLW can be found online at www.mlw.com.
You're coming to Chicago with MLW this weekend. What do you think it is that makes Chicago such a great town for wrestling?
Court Bauer: You know, it's just been part of the city's culture for over 100 years, I think... [Karl] Gotch shattered all box office records 100 years ago and ever since then it seems like it's been arguably the capital of professional wrestling in America. New York would probably give a run for its money, but the proof is in the pudding. If you look at WWE, it had a historic run of sell-outs of box offices over a several year periods [in Chicago] in the 90s. This has been a huge market for professional wrestling. So a hundred years of tradition, it's a big sports town. Just something about the mixture it's always been there has been like that.
When it comes to your weekly program, people will notice that it's taped in different cities all the time. Do you view a particular city as the home-base of MLW?
Court Bauer: I guess it's a question that I wonder about. I think it's more like we are developing our hubs that we go to a few times a year Since we tape TV typically once a month, we might have a rotation that includes Chicago, New York, Dallas and maybe like a Philadelphia, and that might be kind of our hubs. They probably get the lion's share of events every year and maybe three to four events a year until we expand our schedule. Again, all traditionally historically-great wrestling markets, and so far very receptive to MLW. But Chicago right now, we have events booked through 2020 at Cicero Stadium. For our long-term or immediate future, Chicago's a priority.
When it comes to your weekly show, it is definitely its own animal when it comes to weekly television. It's a hybrid of styles... But is it the same audience that watched the original MLW? Or do you find that it's really a new audience?
Court Bauer: I think it's a whole new audience. Wrestling changes... I don't really think there's some of the same DNA, but I think also just fans they come and go and they find other things or they discover pro wrestling. So for me, it's just trying to be here in the here and now, not trying to look to the past but look towards the future. And that's how I kind of define where we go with this creatively and in terms of presentation.
Now I don't know how much of a music guy you are... But I would look at you in a way like Rick Rubin when you look at how he worked with Andrew "Dice" Clay and Slayer and Run-DMC. Different genres he discovered talent in. So if I was going to look at all the world champions that came out of MLW and then all the talent that is rumoured to be wanted to be signed by WWE and other companies that you were fostered in the new MLW incarnation, people could look at Court Bauer as one heck of an A&R guy for the wrestling world. I'm curious how it is that you find new talent usually.
Court Bauer: I'm always kind of playing that Moneyball game and it's finding undiscovered, underutilized talent and giving them a platform, developing them and then putting them in the game. And so part of that is just kind of continually looking where everyone else isn't looking. Case in point: Zenshi, who we just signed who has been predominately out of Chile, Peru, and a little bit in Mexico over the last two, three years... You see this kind of "follow the leader." "If something happens then we'll follow." That's always been the way it is in pro-wrestling. For me, it's just that I have to play a different game for a lot of reasons and I've just always found the path less travelled sometimes yields the best rewards.