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MLW and its Hardcore History: Stipulations of Yesterday

MLW is a rather interesting company when it comes to how it references wrestling's past. MLW only dates back to the early 2000's, and even then the company was gone for about 13 of those years. That being said, they refer to wrestling events from long before they existed. Sure, part of that comes in legacy wrestlers like the Von Erichs and Brian Pillman Jr, but MLW references the 1920's on occasion: when Vince McMahon Sr. was in elementary school. This odd juxtoposition of a young company in love with the past without letting itself get bogged down in it makes for a very unique show. That carries over into the matches themselves, and specifically into stipulations. When it comes to wrestling stipulations I feel like it's safe to say in WWE that the big three are No DQ, Steel Cage, and Ladder. MLW doesn't really rely on these old staples, instead using stipulations with wrinkles to them that have either only been seen on smaller stages, or haven't been seen in some time. I've rounded up five of these more offbeat match types and a history of them to show just what MLW looks to when designing its shows.

strap match

Caribbean Strap Match

This one was fairly recent but a wonderful callback. The Caribbean Strap Match name is tied to Savio Vega who was in this recent match with Richard Holliday, and is most associated with his match with Stone Cold Steve Austin. The match is the first thing that comes to mind when people say mention Savio Vega, and for good reason. The match is wonderful, and the ending of it was replicated in MLW, but with a twist. That's what MLW does so well. They reference classic matches and moments, but add a twist. In the Austin Vega match, Austin is going around the ring, touching all four corners(the only way to win) and is dragging Vega by the neck behind him. After each has hit three corners, Vega springs up and races Austin to the fourth, beating him and winning. Holliday does the same thing in his match, but paid off the ref to block Vega at the fourth corner, letting Holliday spring into the fourth corner. Strap matches have existed in some form or another since the territory days, and is similar, if not identical in some cases, to a Dog Collar match. It's a fun stipulation, and again, it's not just that MLW did one, but the way they did it.

chain ropes

Chain Ropes Match

As of the writing for this article, this match hasn't happened yet, but I'm incredibly used to seeing Chain Ropes matches. The idea is very simple, the ring ropes are replaced with metal chains. These have more give, as they aren't really pulled taut, but that just changes the match. Bouncing off these is basically a no go, as you are just slamming your body into chains. One of the commentators for MLW mentioned when this match was announced that he had never seen anything like it. Well, he's welcome to borrow my IWTV subscription, because ICW No Holds Barred has been doing this since January 2020. Now No Holds Barred didn't invent Chain Rope matches, they've been around in various forms, sometimes tied to Dog Collar matches, and frequently done by Superkick'd Pro Wrestling. The reason I bring up ICW, however, is that Dominic Garrini is a frequent fighter there. As far as I can tell, he's the only one with Chain Rope Match experience, and will likely be taking a lead in planning out the match between the Von Erichs and ACH vs Team Filthy. It's not an incredibly old stipulation, but it's one that's starting to gain traction it seems, and I'm glad Garrini is able to use his past experience in this type of match in MLW.

stairway to hell match

Stairway to Hell Match

The first of two matches types on this list from the Mance Warner/promociones Dorado feud, this one is a doozy. Warner busted out every old no DQ stipulation there is for this feud, turning his top run in MLW into a hardcore history lesson. The Stairway to Hell was most famously used in ECW, in a match that no matter how hard Havoc and Warner fought in MLW, they wouldn't want to imitate. This match in ECW saw Sabu's jaw held in place with duct tape. That has nothing to do with the stipulation, but rather Sabu being Sabu. I'm getting ahead of myself though. A Stairway to Hell match is a ladder match, but climbing the ladder doesn't win the match. Above the ring is a thing of barbed wire that if you get it down you can use it as you see fit. The match was done a couple of times, and the pacing was always interesting. During the famous ECW incarnation, Sabu landed jaw first on a guardrail: shattering it. As I said, his jaw had to be held in place after. Of course, in the era of barbed wire being everywhere, it hanging from the top of a ladder could be seen as dull as a sledgehammer hanging above a ladder. But the match concept still holds up as MLW was able to show. It's a weird hybrid, but one that I enjoy seeing and I hope to see again, with say? Mil Muertes?


Bunkhouse Match

Also from that Warner feud, we have a bunkhouse match. This has seen variations as a battle royal and a singles match, but is basically a cowboy deathmatch. Wrestlers wear blue jeans into the match and have cowboy spurs, haybales, cowbells all around the ring. Of course, being so Southern, it's obvious this comes from NWA and WCW. This match isn't too different from every other blank-city street fight, but I love how strong the theming always is in this match. Maybe it's because it holds such a happy place in wrestling, but the Bunkhouse match always seem to be a fun draw, and I just can't get enough of it. 

prize fight

Prize Fight

These were a staple of the territory days, and showed up a lot into the 1980's. Big John Studd had his body slam challenge, the first ladder match is believed to be for money, and now Simon Gotch had his prize fight and so did Dominic Garrini recently. The idea is simple and is what all boxing matches are based on so why not? It's just a match with money at the end. Sometimes it's just if you beat the guy, sometimes it's if you achieve something like a body slam, and that what makes it so good. Offering someone money to beat you is either incredibly cocky, or a safe bet if you know you're going to cheat. It lets heels of all top benefit from this stipulation, and it's always an enjoyable show. Money is just as powerful a symbol and motivator in 2021 as it was in the 1970's and 80's, which is why this doesn't feel like a legacy stipulation, it feels timeless. 

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