It’s hard to believe that it’ll be two years since Major League Wrestling re-introduced the legendary Opera Cup back into the squared circle fold, but come October, some of wrestling’s greatest will be vying for that prestige once again in Philadelphia.
A true “who’s who” of names will forever be adorned on the side of the cup including the likes of George Hacksenschmidt, Leo Pardello and Stu Hart. It took 71 years before we saw the legend of the Cup return when MLW re-introduced the tournament back to fans in the summer of 2019. The Opera Cup has always been one of the most prized possessions in all of wrestling as talent around the globe has sought to hoist the Cup in their own hands. And rightfully so, as The Opera Cup embraced the ideal of competitive spirit, endurance and the diverse styles of wrestling in their very own unique ways.
That summer of 2019 did sure every legendary name etched on the Cup proud as we had the competition turn from friendly to fierce as it pitted Dynasty member against Dynasty member in the opening round. The two founders of Dynasty had very different mindsets when entering the tournament. First we had MJF, who was all too concerned with his stature in the group, showed great aversion to facing a fellow “Dynasty bro” in the tournament, but then you had Alex Hammerstone. Hammer, who was in the early stages of his historic run as National Openweight Champion, was ever game for the battle. Max aimed for every way possible to weasel out of the bout, but the chips fell and ultimately so did MJF as Hammer soundly secured the victory and to his surprise, had New York City’s Melrose Ballroom displaying a fever pitch of support. This victory was certainly a sign of times to come as Hammerstone continues to show a willingness to compete against any fighter the league (or CONTRA) has thrown at him.
This 2019 tournament also presented a showcase of intensity by Richard Holliday as he turned his tenacity to the next level against a mat scientist in Timothy Thatcher. Holliday put his Air Pods on pause to wrestle a match for the ages and it laid the groundwork for a new gameplan when he returned to the tournament in 2020.
It wasn’t just Dynasty proving their viability in the Opera Cup as we saw Brian Pillman Jr. persevere through several obstacles in his quest to make it to the finals. Pillman, who was a rookie deep in the waters of the tourney had huge odds against him according to the sports books and wrestling pundits. Not only that, but Myron Reed and Jordan Oliver of Injustice felt overlooked as a twosome on the outside looking in as alternates. They saw Pillman as a man undeserving and attempted every way possible in thwarting Brian’s Opera aspirations in an effort to get put in the tournament themselves. This had Reed and Oliver injuring Pillman’s arm and shoulder, but Cincinnati Kid would not be denied his dance with destiny. The grit that his surname is so well-known for helped power him through to the finals against his fellow Foundation member in Davey Boy Smith.
Davey had a harrowing road ahead of him as he had to face Low Ki in the opening round in a first-ever between the two, whose contrasting styles near perfectly epitomize what a term like “fusion” is all about. Being a former MLW World Champion, The Lone Wolf of Brooklyn knew all about high-pressure situations as he took it to DBS in a hard-hitting battle. Smith displayed his ability to endure the offense as he and Ki set the tone for how intense this tournament would get. Davey would keep steadfast in making sure that the Opera Cup remained a family heirloom and powered through all three rounds to ultimately make sure that he became the 2019 winner.
What unexpected competitors and match-ups could we see commence in Philadelphia come October? Who would you like to see fight for history? We’ll let the anticipation build as we next look back at 2020.