Published on July 5th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
MLW’s Court Bauer On The MLW Radio Network’s Organic Success & What He Learned From MMA
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, Sabu, Shane Douglas, and Teddy Hart.
After the company went away, founder Court Bauer went to the WWE, where he served as a chief writer 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 already confirmed to appear at the event.
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.
On whether working with WALE on Walemania led to the relaunch of MLW:
Court Bauer: That was it. There had been a few times that people had come to me looking to do something along the lines of MLW and I just really didn’t have an appetite for it. But it really took MSL, Mister Saint Laurent lighting a fire, giving me that last shot. At that point in time I wouldn’t commit to more than [MLW] One-Shot. “We’ll get it out of their system and then I’ll prove to them that I’m good and that it’s better to not pursue something like this.” I was wrong, they were right and within a few weeks after that we were having our first meetings with TV networks, which was kind of a surprise.
But once I kind of I think saw the interest level, the media how it’s radically changed in their coverage of professional wrestling, and culturally how the business had changed… And and seeing how viable it was, how we did in Orlando our first show, seeing that there was an interest from networks, that was a totally different landscape than when I had last been a promoter. You know when you’re part of different organizations, the different capacities, you have different roles and you’re kind of looking at the business in a different way. So when I was working for Lucha Underground or AAA or Ring Of Honor, I wasn’t even in that headspace. But once I was there and I really wired into what was going on in wrestling and outside of wrestling, the timing couldn’t be better.
On whether wrestling is his full-time career these days, as opposed to producing television projects like he did before:
Court Bauer: MLW became full-time for me probably early 2018, around January of that year. That’s when I went for it on pro-wrestling and just trying to balance on outside stuff. But I am a 24/7 guy, when I commit to something, no, I’m 100 percent in. And so I couldm’y really do the other stuff and vice versa. I couldn’t give my all or my full attention knowing a TV deal was about to be revealed. It wasn’t going to work. So this is my full-time thing. There’s no off-season, there’s no vacation, that’s it — 24/7/365.
On the MLW podcast-related people also working with him within the MLW wrestling company:
Court Bauer: MSL has my right-hand man. He actually is technically the CEO. And so yeah, he’s been involved since day one and has been a regular influence and a critical part of the operation, but a lot of it is interesting… It wasn’t by design… The MLW Radio Network’s success wasn’t like some business plan we put together. We just kind of stumbled into something, and that was why we brought MLW back… It kind of worked out that way, when you look at Alex Greenfield who is involved in the production, and Konnan who is my senior agent, Jim Cornette who is on-air talent for us, Matt Farmer who I do the History In The Making podcast with is an agent for us… Wrestling is a small world but it certainly feels like the MLW Radio Network was kind of the prequel to the league, even though the original MLW was the prequel to the podcast. It’s just funny how it all worked out.
On only being out of wrestling for about five years when it comes to his career:
Court Bauer: Once I left WWE, “Alright you’re in your mid-twenties, let’s see what else the world has to offer. Of course you can maybe circle back and do something in wrestling.” But I really was interested in exploring MMA and was doing something for Showtime… It just felt like a time to kind of go out there and learn something. It’s interesting because all those experiences kind of helped me creatively, and how I want MLW to look today.
On what working in MMA taught him about wrestling:
Court Bauer: Concepts like… So if we had an early stoppage. We’d always have a prelim fight ready to roll out, either filmed earlier in the night or we’ll just put it out there live. We did that recently on a TV episode where Teddy Hart was attacked and we had to fill up the time. We made it feel real enough so it’s spontaneous. I used something from my experience in MMA to make it feel like this is what you do in a real environment. So it’s fun how that helped me.
On being someone who can work with all living generations of wrestling talent:
Court Bauer: I’m just trying to find a way to get to the kitchen and put all these ingredients together and make it, present a menu where there’s a little something for everyone on it and that’s all. I hope as a promoter and in terms of putting on TV shows, you might not love everything, but you really feel strongly in a positive way about one of those things, whether it’s something from the new era or something that’s just a throwback — whatever it is. I want all those qualities in my show, but I don’t want my show to also be kind of schizophrenic and you’re scrambling to see something that doesn’t ring true. So yeah, I think also doing that kind of stuff. It’s trial and error, trying to find a good combination, good mix, a good balance to it .
On being compared to WWE’s NXT since MLW is the first company to put a lot of top indie stars on television:
Court Bauer: I think it’s there’s probably some some connectivity to that. For me, you’ve gotta find guys that are prospects and you also have to find guys like Jacob [Fatu], who is ready to go step up… You hope to always look and find those guys. The reality is you never know what’s going to pan out performance-wise and how someone meshes in a locker room. You just don’t know. But we’ve been very lucky, very fortunate.
Again. it’s just having that balance… But there’s a little bit of familiarity in the product from different corners of the world in the product, and really to me what defines the product is feeling like it is a sport, that these are athletes. But also we take it seriously. That’s really all. There has to be a reason for a camera to be on someone backstage. We book for heat, when you watch my show I don’t want it to feel like our wrestlers are winking at you, that you’re in on the joke. I want you to feel like there’s a suspension of disbelief… The way MJF and [Alexander] Hammerstone and [Richard] Holliday conduct themselves kind of rubs you the wrong way. I want those kind of reactions. So that kind of maybe is a little similar but also a little different from what else is out there.
On his last words for the kids:
Court Bauer: Don’t try this at home. (laughs) You know, I think this is a great time to be in pro-wrestling. I think it’s a great time for fans to watch wrestling because there’s so many different things out there, and all we’re trying to do is be different.