Last night, I attended the first full-capacity professional wrestling event held at the 2300 Arena (i.e., ECW Arena): MLW Battle Riot III. Read on for my thoughts, as well as photos and videos from the event.
I got to the 2300 Arena around 5:45 p.m., which was 15 minutes before the doors opened to the public. I went inside, grabbed my ticket from Will Call, and lined up with everyone else outside. The line wrapped around the entire block. It was insane and a clear sign that live professional wrestling events are back in full force.
Once I got into the venue, I marked my seat, walked around a bit, scoping out the merchandise, and just soaked in the atmosphere of being amongst 2,000 fans for a sold-out show in my hometown arena — an iconic venue that has hosted some of the greatest professional wrestling matches, events, TV shows, pay-per-views, and conventions of all time.
I got to spend the majority of the show in the front row, witnessing the action in the most intimate way possible. There were a few times when some of the guys hit the guardrail right in front of me, including one time when Davey Richards slammed TJP into the steel barrier — which almost resulted in me jumping into the arms of the woman beside me for protection. Ha! Needless to say, the energy and action in the arena was spectacular.
This was my first MLW live event, and I’ve only seen a handful of the promotion’s TV shows. But that didn’t matter to me. I was here to see familiar and fresh faces, including several that I interviewed for my book about the history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, such as Konnan, Savio Vega, and Davey Richards.
Another person who I interviewed for my history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling book who was in attendance, but I didn’t realize until I saw him, was Ronnie Lang — the legendary founder of Atlas Security, best known for keeping the talent safe and getting involved in pull-aparts in ECW and TNA. Ronnie is a super sweet guy, and he was full of great insights and stories when I interviewed him for my book. Getting the chance to finally meet him was an honor and a pleasure.
One of the greatest moments of the night was Davey Richards making his long-awaited return to professional wrestling on a big stage. The fans hit him with a wave of gratitude that brought Davey to tears during his entrance.
Davey’s match with the arrogant but incredibly talented TJP was a sight to behold. These two modern-day technical masters of the craft put on a clinic that the fans adored. During this match, and throughout the night, it was so much fun being part of a wild crowd that said and did anything we wanted. From throwing money into the ring to show luchadores our appreciation, to chanting about how one side of the arena sucked because members of the roster were giving them preferential treatment, to vulgar, but hilarious, cheers and jeers that even got the wrestlers to smile and react — it made me realize what I love about professional wrestling and being part of a live crowd. This is something that all of us took for granted prior to COVID-19, so I’m infinitely more grateful for its return.
As Jacob Fatu came to the ring, a fan behind me, in the second row, was flapping his gums at the champ — all in good fun, of course — but it got a rise out of the gilded warrior. So, as Jacob Fatu got right against the guardrail, yelling back at the fan, I stepped back, just in case things got out of control, as they are wont to do in the fabled ECW Arena.
I bought a $15-dollar ticket for Battle Riot III, and I got more than my money’s worth. This show had zero intermissions and ran for more than four hours! Yes, that’s right, it lasted the amount of time that WrestleMania used to back in the day. I got pay-per-view quality action that lasted just as long as the Show of Shows used to, prior to the two-day iterations, or, even before that, when it ran damn near seven hours long. At more than four hours in length, Battle Riot III was a fantastic first impression for me, as well as many of the other MLW newbies in the crowd.
Alexander Hammerstone, the 30-year old block of granite who is arguably the most over babyface in MLW, won the Battle Riot main event. This 40-man battle royal was a long one, with incredible spots, signature moves, and some surprise entrants, including Kamala’s manager Kim Chee. The crowd went ballistic when Savio Vega came out, cracking everyone in sight over the head with his kendo stick. After, later on, getting eliminated, Savio Vega returned as Kwang, replete with nunchucks and mist. Naturally, the fans, including myself, loved this. In the end, Hammerstone got the win, sending the fans home happy. Decked out in red and yellow, seeing him hulk up and hit signature Hulk Hogan spots and poses was a real crowd-pleaser. I couldn’t have had more fun than I did at Battle Riot III, and I sincerely look forward to attending MLW shows in the future.