Major League Wrestling to this day is recognized as one of the most entertaining international brands during what some call second revival of pro wrestling. At a time when two major companies were but distant memories and one of the largest entities was dominating the United States, there were several promotions making waves in the underground that were not only being buzzed about domestically, but internationally as well.
MLW in 2002 was creating a product that was meant for the fans. It wanted to not only turn some heads here in the states but it wanted to make the international scene take notice of American wrestling again and while some other promotions may have been trying to make a statement, it was MLW that shouted the loudest with Satoshi Kojima as its microphone.
An international competitor, Satoshi Kojima was the perfect fighter to carry the banner of MLW and what better way to promote it than to allow him to take the MLW Heavyweight Championship and turn it into the MLW WOrld Title by defending it numerous times in the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan has long been known for it’s stiff competition and wrestlers who by all accounts were more fighters than anything. Kojima won the MLW Heavyweight Championship on September 26, 2002 after an already controversial origin and instantly began defending it after touching down in Japan. Though he had recently jumped to All Japan Pro Wrestling, one of the most prestigious and long running promotions in the world, Satoshi KOjima wanted to defend the MLW Title against all comers.
Less than one month after winning the belt, Satosho Kojima would defend it on October 19, 2002 against Mitsuya Nagai. Nagai who had a background in MMA long before it was popular was a fitting first contender and Satoshi Kojima would retain the MLW World Title after a greuling bout.
December would be no different for the fighting champion as Satoshi Kojima would defend the MLW Title three times. Once on December 12, 2002 against Mr. Gannosuke of the then formed WMF which was the heir apparent to the famed FMW promotion that helped revolutionize the sport by heavily influencing the ECW under Paul Heyman. Mr. Gannosuke is known for his very stiff style and this would not be an easy defense for Kojima. Despite a lack of footage it is said that this was truly a fight and would help bring the MLW Title to World status. The third defense came on December 15, 2002 against Shinjiro Otani in the respected Zero One promotion. Otani was already known for a stint in WCW but Satoshi Kojima was facing a wiser and craftier opponent. Otani’s techincal skill was truly tested in this defense as Satoshi Kojima fought to retain the belt he wanted to help build on the international scene. The third bout occured back in the states as Satoshi Kojima brought the MLW World Title back to defend against Vampiro at MLW King of Kings event.
What would make these title defenses so special was the willingness for Satoshi Kojima to take an American championship across the globe and help build the international brand of MLW to the heights that it is at to this very day. MLW was seen not just nationally in the United States but resonated internationally with fans all over the world. Satoshi Kojima was a big part of that and with these renowned title defenses, it would have been hard pressed for any journalist or wrestling fan to not give MLW the World Title status that it so richly deserved.
At a time where the major promotions no longer felt it necessary to defend their brands on a world wide stage, MLW wanted to bring back prestige to an American championship and the MLW World Title was where that began. While other promotions would follow suite in the years to come and have their titles appear in other countires, MLW set the standard not just outside the ring, but inside of it as well as Satoshi Kojima would later go on to be the first man to combine two long lasting World Titles together for the first time in their history. Satoshi Kojima helped build his legendary status and the prestige of the MLW World Title all at the same time.
After the domestic defense Satoshi Kojima would defend the MLW World Title again in Japan against Johnny Smith on January 3, 2003 and John Tenta on February 8th of the same year. But a huge match that occured in between was Satoshi Kojima versus Kintaro Kanemaru on January 26, 2003 at the legendary Korakuen Hall. This match was said to be a war between the two and to this day is remembered fondly by those who have been lucky enough to see it.
At MLW’s Hybrid Hell event on June 20th, 2003 Satoshi Kojima would lose the belt to Mike Awesome. It was a brutal match that lived up every bit of hyperbole given the two talents stature within the wrestling cosmology. MLW is a brand that to this day brings back memories of excitement and revolutionary feuds to thousands of fans across the globe and was a huge part of the origin of several key main talents in the wrestling world currently and much of that success comes from MLW taking a chance on an international competitor the calibur of Satoshi Kojima and allowing him to take the MLW WOrld Title across the globe to the international audience where it would go on to bring prestige and noteriety to MLW.