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#AndNEW: MLW Crowns Their First Two-time MLW World Heavyweight Champion

Satoshi Kojima as MLW World Heavyweight Champion.

Satoshi Kojima made history at Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena again for MLW SuperFight. The first recognized MLW World Heavyweight Champion became the first man to hold the championship twice.

Over eleven years, Kojima won the belt for the first time at MLW’s first Reload event (2002) in New York, defeating Jerry Lynn. At fifty-three years of age, Cozy is also the oldest reigning world champion in MLW history. Previously, Kojima also had the longest-reigning MLW World Champion, with his first reign lasting 267 days before MLW’s revival. Jacob Fatu ripped the record to breadcrumbs in 2019. Fatu accumulated 819 days as champion.

The Road to Kojima’s Second Reign

When the Bread Club Leaders returned to MLW at One-Shot, it seemed like a one-off special attraction match. Gaining victory over “Filthy” Tom Lawlor in what was presented as a battle to determine the greatest MLW World Champion of all time. Kojima returned at the start of 2024 as the number one contender at Kings of Colosseum.

An obstacle was placed in Cozy’s way. Sami Callihan interrupted and challenged Kojima to a match. The Death Machine believed he had been overlooked and deserved the shot instead. This resulted in a match between the pair at Reload.

In a vicious assault, Callihan tore at Cozy with chair shots across the back and paper cuts between the fingers to wear the veteran down. The about itself was physical, with chops and literal spit-flying. Callihan showed Kojima no respect, repeatedly spitting on the veteran. In victory, Kojima was presented as strong-willed, strong-spirited, and undeniable.

The Former Champion, Alex Kane

Alex Kane, the former MLW World Heavyweight Champion and National Openweight Champion, held the championship since Never Say Never last July. The Suplex Assassin bested Alex Hammerstone. Kane, who was the heel going into the match, was cheered on by the crowd throughout his match. Leading and representing the Bomaye Fight Club, Kane has been the promotion’s most popular star. Fans chant “Bomaye” before, during, and after his matches. Shots of ringside show how popular Kane is with fans wearing his Bomaye t-shirts.

Kane’s run with the championship saw him feud with the World Titan Federation (WTF) and accumulate six big title defenses. Kane bested Willie Mack, “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Jacob Fatu, Matt Cardona, and Richard Holliday. Many of these matches ended in submission or TKO.

The Suplex Assassin’s run lasted 210 days. Kane had grown into the role of pillar, carrying the weight of the company in recent months with the likes of previous company carriers Richard Holliday (see my profile with comments from Holliday himself), Alex Hammerstone (see my profile piece) being absent from the promotion for long periods.

After SuperFight, beyond the world championship picture, there are plenty of opportunities for Kane. Although Kane has lost the world championship, his credibility and growth will keep fans supporting him.

Where does Kojima Go from Here?

MLW Intimidation Games is the company’s next PPV on February 29th at Melrose Ballroom in Queens, New York. It has already been announced that Kojima will defend the championship against the Murder Grandpa, Minoru Suzuki.

Suzuki last competed for MLW at Slaughterhouse last October, where Suzuki bested Jacob Fatu. MLW, perhaps even more than AEW, thinks carefully about wins and losses to build challengers over time and justify why fighters get championship shots. Beating Fatu, one of the stalwarts of MLW is a strong justification. It is also another example of MLW relying heavily on their international partners for support to bulk their roster and the lack of star power they currently have.

Analysis: Possible Reasoning for the Title Change

Short-term- Alex Kane

Alex Kane has grown in the ring as a performer and reportedly behind the scenes as a locker room leader. Kane has proven his value as a champion and is in a place where he no longer needs the belt.

Kane and Bomaye Fight Club are two of the most engaging acts of MLW. If Kane faced Sukuzi and then moved on to someone else, there is the risk of things becoming formulaic and stale. In the short term, there needs to be more championship contenders, and beating the few that remain risks devaluing both Kane and them.

Davey Boy Smith Jr would have a legitimate claim for a title shot. Smith beat Kane in a no-ropes match prior to Kane becoming the world champion. However, this would be the WTF’s fourth shot at the championship. WTF has been protected in defeat partly due to clever booking. Inference from Mance War– I mean, Masked Good Brother, Bomaye Fight Club Neutralising Mister Saint Laurent, etc, has made sense. Also, the faction consists of legitimate powerhouses for whom MLW fans have long-term respect, like Lawlor and Holliday, to take a loss.

Considering WTF also failed recently to capture the MLW World Tag Team Championship, another loss would harm the faction’s credibility. It would also feel formulaic for Kane, almost Super Cena-like. A problem that hit the previous champion, Alex Hammerstone, who the crowd had turned on prior to facing Kane.

Besides, with the return of Contra Unit and Mads Kruger, there are other interesting potential feuds for Kane beyond the title picture.

Short-term: MLW Heavyweight Picture

MLW’s roster is thin. Across its divisions, there are few credible title contenders. MLW is in a state of rebuilding and appears to be leaning heavily on its partnerships with other promotions like New Japan and CMLL to compensate for this lack of depth cleverly.

Having Kojima as a world champion has created a historic moment for MLW. For a promotion that initially took inspiration from ECW, Kojima feels Terry Funk’s world championship adjacent reign. It also means that matches like those against Suzuki feel different and can compensate for the homegrown talent deficit.

Elsewhere, Rocky Romero remains the MLW Middleweight Champion and will face Mistico at the Intimidation Games. This is a safe match in terms of both men’s familiarity with each other, in grabbing attention and headlines in comparison to if Ichiban had won the championship. With Azteca Lucha’s approach in May and the return of Cesar Duran, we will likely see more luchadors come to MLW.

It gives time for MLW to rebuild. Build challengers. Get their biggest name value star ready for the world title picture.

Long-term: Matt Riddle Ascends?

Kojima, like Samoa Joe in AEW, could be a transition champion with the ability and credibility to have an interesting short reign. Although MLW has lost talent, they have had a major return in the form of Matt Riddle.

MLW, as a promotion, has proved they are happy, for better and worse (depending on your perspective), to work with talent who have reputations. Previously, Austin Aries, Low Ki, and Teddy Hart have worked for MLW. The latter two are holding MLW championships. Although Riddle comes with baggage, he is objectively MLW’s biggest star, having recently competed for WWE.

Building Riddle for a run with the championship would draw attention to the promotion. Also, not having Kane lose directly to Riddle preserves a potential feud for later down the line. It would also give MLW the time it needs to build more homegrown stars like Josh Bishop to fill the spots left by Jacob Fatu and Alex Hammerstone.

More From LWOS Pro Wrestling

Header photo – MLW – Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. MLW FUSION airs every Thursday on YouTube at 8 PM EST and every Saturday on beIN SPORTS at 10 PM EST. 


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