MLW’s CEO Court Bauer: “We Don’t Try to Play in The Same Sandbox as Everyone Else, We’ve Made Our Own”

Court Bauer initially started MLW in 2002, and ran it for a couple of years, until moving into other jobs, including writing for WWE and working for UFC. He re-started the promotion in July 2017, and it became a bigger player when its weekly television show, MLW Fusion, debuted on beIN Sports on April 2018 in the USA. Aired in 14 countries, on MLW YouTube Channel and Fite TV worldwide, MLW has become the fastest-growing American promotion worldwide.

The MLW roster is impressive, with MLW World Heavyweight Champion Jacob Fatu, Teddy Hart, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Simon Gotch, mixed in with veterans like Austin Aries, Tom Lawlor, Timothy Thatcher, LA PARK, Low Ki and Douglas James, to name a few. Every week, some new talents are given a try on the league because MLW also wants to be a playground for young talents to develop. 

As MLW is holding its first-ever co-branded show in Mexico with The Crash Lucha Libre this Saturday, and 4 weeks before the company’s first-ever PPV, SteelChair Mag was part of a media call with Court Bauer on Monday. In a crowded week in professional wrestling, Bauer took the time to talk about every subject related to his company, such as PPVs, weekly shows, roster, partnerships, roster, upcoming tours. 

On TV Deals, First-Ever Co-Branded Event, and upcoming PPVs

  • MLW and The Crash co-branded event this Saturday: “It’s going to be a historic night for us. We’re delighted to co-promote our first show in Mexico with the Crash. We hope to have possibly as many as 5,000 fans in Tijuana, which would shatter all of our records. I’ve worked with other companies in Mexico, and this one felt like a really good fit for where MLW was today and where we’re going to go tomorrow. Just the amount of talent that we’re going to have on hand, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to have a different feel than the usual MLW show by design, so I’m looking forward to some of the select matches being featured on MLW Fusion.”
  • PPVs in 2020: “We’re exploring a few different options for future pay-per-view events on how to offer them. We might do what we’re doing now. We might do something a little different. We’ve had a lot of demand to live stream our TV tapings as a whole and air those as iPPVs for fans that want to have that access to a live window inside the taping. We’re talking with some potential partners about some interesting collaborations but, bottom line, there will be pay-per-views in 2020. How many? What they look like? We’re deep in the process of zeroing in on what’s going to be next for that.”
  • International TV Deals: “That’s part of the next phase. We’re growing internationally, growing our global footprint, and we’re now at 14 countries and growing. Content is king, and that is a big part of success and fuel that has allowed MLW to be stable property. We’re going to be announcing some more deals soon. We have plans to get this in as many countries as possible, I mean it comes down to any promotion at any point in time to eyeballs and content deals now more than ever, and that’s really the play here.”

On Partnerships and Tours in the USA and around the World

  • On AEW talents under contract with MLW: “Yes, we have the first option [if a show were to take place on the same night as AEW]. That said, we have a healthy relationship with AEW. I think Tony Khan would agree. Sometimes a logistical thing has, and will pop up, and we’ll hop on the phone, and in two minutes, usually, we figure out a mutually beneficial way to solve the issue which for promoters, you never know how that’s going to be. People probably want there to be animosity between our two organisations, as that is kind of the history of wrestling, where you have to go to war and stuff, that there has to be some weird tension, but there isn’t here.
    I want AEW and MLW to succeed. It shows that there is a bigger world beyond our industry that shares the market that is completely valuable.”
  • Touring in the UK: “It’s possible. We’ve got a few people to come to us through companies, come to us looking to do those things. If the deal is right, we’ll do it if it’s not we’re not going to do it. Last week, MLW beat one of WWE’s TV shows for the week, it blew my mind even if it was by maybe a thousand or 2,000, but it’s a win. That’s a huge triumph to me for this company that doesn’t have this massive empire behind it to be able to make that kind of impression and just tells the appetite in the UK in Ireland for pro wrestling. It’s always been there, but now they’re really enjoying having MLW and other companies to select from.”

  • How strategic partnerships with NOAH in Japan or The Crash in Mexico helped the company grow: “It 100% helped us grow, it has grown our profile in Mexico and Japan. Strategically, you want to kind of craft a game plan, to create an inroad for meteorites deals in these countries. These are key countries for us, and they need to become aware of the league from a programming point of view. For MLW, to extend access to NOAH and soon Lucha from The Crash on MLW programming, that’s the new dimension to the league’s presentation, but also for fans and how we showcase our rivalries. We can now have connective tissue, from a matchmaking creative point of view, with different promotions around the world.
    Alex Hammerstone spent a month in Japan and just came back, and we injected a match or two of him from Japan recently on the show and gives it a different complexion. I like that, it feels very global in scope and, then, from the wrestler perspective, it’s benefited them by working in a different system, being showcased in a different positive manner, being able to get that many dates and expanding on their schedule. To be in there with that calibre of talent allows them to level up and be at a different level mechanically as a wrestler. So to be able to offer that to our athletes, it gives them extraordinary appeal or gives us extraordinary appeal.”
  • Talent sharing and touring with NOAH in the USA: “I think at some point, it could happen. The bottom line for me is timing and if I can find a way to mesh that with what I’m doing from a matchmaking point of view. It’s got to complement the game plan for me. We’ll see what happens, and if it makes sense and it’s a good thing, timewise, sure.”

On MLW roster 

  • What can MLW offer to young talents: “MLW is a system that has a pretty good track record for being an incubator for young talent to develop and thrive. If you look at myself, my team, and what we’ve done elsewhere, on developing young talent, now we all have different approaches, and it’s a pretty open world to experiment in. We’re obviously a business, but we don’t have that same rigid corporate structure. We like to get the input of the talent and kind of freestyle and develop something and see what works and possibly experiment.”
  • A potential Women’s Division: “We are in the works on that right now. We’re trying to bring the Women’s Division online by the fourth quarter if we can close a few of these deals. As for what to expect, an emphasis on athleticism, and fighting spirit. They are fighting athletes, and to me, it’s really important that they’re positioned as such. Athletes who have transcended their sport inspire me. I think it’s important to showcase the journey of a female athlete, and it’s a distinctly different one from what else is out there. Women from Japan, Mexico, and America have authored some of the most cutting-edge matches. My mission is to show that to the world, to be able to show a new generation of women doing that and to do it through the prism of sport.”
World Champion Jacob Fatu
  • Salina de la Renta: “The first talent I ever signed in MLW was Selina de la Renta. She is a prodigy. You tell her something once you don’t have to tell her again. She has great instinct, a real desire, a real appetite, and she can execute. She has the passion and the talent to back it up. When you realize she is only 22, you realize ‘oh my god like what is she going to be like when she’s 25, 26!’ Behind the scenes, she has a pivotal role in the company, as well as making history as the first Spanish female announcer to call weekly pro wrestling, she does that for MLW en Espanol series on beIN in Espanol every Monday. She does take a very hands-on role, and we do have her involved in the production of her episodes where she’s the executive producer, she does have her touch on those episodes. We like to empower young, ambitious, talented people, and she’s one of many.”
  • The locker room’s atmosphere, between veterans, and young talents: “It’s very collaborative. I think naturally talent love working other guys from and other women from different regions because there’s a different style, so it gets them out of the norm, in terms of how you present a wrestling match. Minoru Tanaka, when he came in early this year, everyone winded up to wrestling because he has a background in shoot boxing and strong style, he can also fly, and it just gives a different dimension to a match.
    I think a lot of people love when wrestling guys drones from out there. Jimmy Havoc from the UK is a wild brawler, but he also can do some pretty sweet stuff, from a scientific point of view, that he doesn’t get the showcase as much as I’d like. When you incorporate international talent; it just gives an opportunity to do something different, from the wrestlers’ point of view, it does something that changes it up a little bit. Adam Brooks, from the UK and aside from Australia, came in to work Austin Aries in Milwaukee, and everyone was thrilled to see him in the locker room. We’re looking forward to having him back, and he’ll be joining us in the spring again. We’re excited to announce that, that’s an exclusive for the call.”
  • The wrestler he would die to bring to MLW: “Steve Austin, he’s just an incredibly dynamic performer and a great brawler. He’s the real deal, and his track record is phenomenal. I think he’d probably be on the top of my wish list, and you can probably run down guys from Japan, guys from different countries and stuff. Nonetheless, Steve is a phenomenal guy, and I’m glad that other generations are getting to see Steve now as he’s been a little bit more with WWE over the last few months.”
The Hart Foundation: Davey Boy Smith Jr, Teddy Hart and Brian Pillman Jr

On the company’s biggest accomplishments and its place in the wrestling landscape

  • The plans to move forward: “As a promoter, you have a lot of tools on your toolbelt for getting attention and awareness out there. You can do something shocking, you can do a big stunt, and you can sign a guy to a ton of money and say it’s a huge deal, you can bring in celebrities. My game plan is really just stability and quality. That’s paramount to me. One of the strategic advantages we have in this very competitive landscape is having a weekly series in English, but another in Spanish. We don’t really try to compete. We just try to do things differently a little bit. We’re trying to find a way to infuse culturally something different into our programming, whether it’s the type of music, the presentation, and I think that’s been speaking to our fans. That’s a different land for us, and that’s how we compete. We don’t try to play in the same sandbox as everyone else. It’s too crowded, so we’ve made our own.”
  • Biggest accomplishment: “I’d say probably closing our first Network TV deal with beIN was
    huge. Without that deal, we probably wouldn’t have ever done more than a few shows in Orlando. We wouldn’t be able to put talents under contract. That was kind of like the big bang for the league to really grow. It’s allowed us, since then, to kind of weather a fairly volatile competitive landscape and along the way hit milestones, like producing live TV and then opening up internationally.
    The other moment was a speech from this past July in the locker room. It was our third consecutive sell-out in Chicago, which has been a blessing. I was thanking the crew, the town, the people behind the scenes for helping make MLW what it is. Sharing the news at that moment that our next stop was the pay-per-view on November 2, morale was already high, but now it was on cloud nine. You just feel like this thing is really growing, and we’re not so little anymore.”

  • MLW in the current wrestling landscape: “Wrestling right now is in a special place because there’s so much to offer. MLW is different. We showcase different styles, and our product fits the realm of combat sport. We spend a lot of time in our wrestling labs experimenting with different creatively fulfilling things. We try to have that heightened sense of reality that doesn’t really try to feel scripted. We don’t have a creative team, and we don’t have writers, we don’t have scripters. We want the talent to be part of that machine that gets their persona across and gets them over the best of their ability. We’re here to facilitate that. We just try to do something a little different and, little by little, just grow that to be a little engine that could, slowly but surely, become a bigger engine. I think the best is yet to come. You’re going to see a lot more of MLW in the years to come.”

For more information on the company, follow MLW on their website and on Twitter.

All pics and videos courtesy of MLW

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