MLW Breaking Barriers
KOJIMA! KOJIMA! KOJIMA! A chant that has been sung throughout two continents and by thousands upon thousands of fans. While in 2002 wrestling was in a state of reinventing itself, MLW decided to take a chance and bring in one of the top talents from the Land of the Rising Sun who was already making waves in his native land. Kojima had recently jumped from New Japan to All Japan with Keiji Mutoh and was making his way to be one of the top heavyweights in the world. But before he held the historical IWGP & Triple Crown championships together for the first time ever, he held the MLW heavyweight title.
On September 26th 2002, Satoshi Kojima not only made his debut in the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City he also debuted for MLW for a shot at their recently vacated heavyweight title belt. He was one of four men in a lottery system that were chosen at random. His opponent, the revolutionary Jerry Lynn. They had a war in front of a raucous crowd who loved every minute of it and appreciated both men for what they were bringing to a sport they loved.
Kojima would ultimately win the most prized belt in the MLW promotion and though he only defended it twice, both matches were heavily acclaimed. But that isn’t what was so special about Kojima in MLW. What was special was the fans reaction to a talent so early on in his career before he would go on to his historical heights. MLW took a chance on a talent who while may not have been able to communicate verbally with the fans outside of a few taunts & phrases, he chose to show the fans what he could do in the ring and ultimately bring MLW to the forefront of wrestling discussion. It was something different, it was something unique that very few promotions had done before in terms of the modern wrestling era and would ultimately try to duplicate in the years to come.
CM Punk in MLW
Before he was the verbal pipe bomb, before he was a multi time WWE champion, CM Punk was a revolution waiting to happen. His exploits have been well documented in several major promotions but for some, they will never forget where they first got to witness the Straight Edge Superstar on national TV.
MLW brought CM Punk to that audience via their Underground series and not only did they bring out Punk in one of his purest forms but they were bringing him against a man who seemed to be is equal but complete opposite as well. Raven at the time was already a legend to some and his out-of-the-ring antics were well known. CM Punk on the other hand was the polar opposite to the wild life style that Raven enjoyed and was condemning many for those choices. It was an obvious choice that these two would lock on to each other at some point and in MLW, they found that path.
At MLW Revolutions Raven would defeat CM Punk, a shot that would start a war between the two that culminated in four brutal matches throughout several major MLW shows. While others would also get involved in this feud it would come to a head at Summer Apocalypse in a Straight Edge Rules match where ultimately everything went and no holds were barred. Both men came in with a singles win over the other and the rubber match had to be something special to finally end this feud.
CM Punk would ultimately gain the upper hand when it came to wins and losses but never from a lack of trying on the part of the accomplished veteran. But this feud would live in in other incarnations among several other top promotions throughout the United States but it was in MLW that brought it out to a nationwide audience to witness and it was never forgotten.