Jacob Fatu was born and raised in California, but every time he wrestles, he looks like a Philly guy.
That’s because Fatu, the Major League Wrestling heavyweight champion, does everything Philadelphia wrestling fans love.
He’s big and strong, he can fly, he can wrestle and he always makes sure the fans get more than their money’s worth.
It’s that attitude that makes him and the company he represents so popular, especially in Philadelphia.
“If you know Jacob Fatu in Philly, you know I love being out there,” said Fatu, who was trained by his uncle Solofa F. Fatu, better known as Rikishi. “It’s always been one of my favorite spots. I love being out there. Philadelphia has played a very big part of MLW, not only Philadelphia, but the 2300 Arena. It’s got a great vibe.”
The arena in South Philadelphia will be rocking on Oct. 2 when MLW presents Fightland, a massive show that will be televised on Vice TV on Oct. 7.
The main event features Fatu, the heavyweight champion, squaring off against National Openweight Champion Alex Hammerstone in a title-versus-title match. That will be the highlight of the 15-match card at the arena formerly known as the ECW Arena.
According to Fatu, MLW taps into the same passion the original Extreme Championship Wrestling was known for dipping into, and that’s one of the reasons Philadelphia has been so excited about MLW making the 2300 Arena its home. This will be the promotion’s third event in Philly since the pandemic, and it intends to run shows there once a month or so.
But Fightland is a really big one for MLW.
“This show is going to solidify what I’ve accomplished over the past few years,” Fatu said. “It’s a big show. It doesn’t get any bigger. The fans are ready, the wrestlers are ready. It’s going to be something special. Philly fans are the hottest crowds out there. Philly appreciates good wrestling and gives us a great response.”
Like many MLW wrestlers, Fatu comes from a wrestling family. His father was a star in the World Wrestling Federation when he wrestled as the Tonga Kid.
But just because his entire family had roots in the sport didn’t mean Fatu wanted to be a standout wrestler. He was always a fan, but he didn’t see himself as a wrestler until later in life.
“The legacy thing, I can’t speak for other people, but I know I didn’t want to do this growing up,” said Fatu, who wrestles alongside Marshall and Ross Von Erich, members of the illustrious Von Erich wrestling family. “It just happened to me. There’s no telling what I wanted to do at a young age, Jacob Fatu wasn’t Jacob Fatu, I was just roaming the streets. Then I had kids, it brought me down, made me humble and it fell into place.”
On Saturday, the rest of the card is just as exciting as Fatu’s match.
The Opera Cup, a prestigious tournament that was started two years ago after being halted in 1948, will be decided. Tom Lawlor, Davey Richards, AEW wrestler Lee Moriarty, Bobby Fish, Calvin Tankman, Matt Cross, TJP and Alex Shelley will compete for that trophy.
Other matches include a four-way match for the middleweight championship that includes champion Myron Reed taking on Aramis, Arez and former ECW wrestler Tajiri.
MLW returned to the 2300 Arena during the pandemic with no fans, and held Battle Riot over the summer. The outfit is planning monthly visits to the former ECW Arena, but if you haven’t been there since the ECW days, you might not believe it’s the same place.
“The first show ever when I was 22 years old was a show at the old ECW Arena, in 2002, and now I never thought later it would be in 20 contours and growing and battling two billionaires,” said MLW founder Court Bauer, who founded MLW and started it in Philadelphia. “It’s such a cool time. Fans are really excited about it and one of the reasons is because we revamped and upgraded our roster. We have familiar faces, new faces, international faces. Any time a sports team enhances their lineup, you get excitement, and I think fans see that we’ve done that and they’re excited.
“And the arena is great. There’s no bad seat in that place, they revamped it, they now have craft beer, it’s a totally different experience. It’s our home and we want to make it a destination place for MLW fans, so you can go buy MLW merchandise even when we’re not there. It’s changed a lot since it was the ECW Arena. It’s a really nice building now.”
But it still has the gritty feel to it, which makes it one of the best and most recognized arenas for professional wrestling in the world.
“We are putting on a show that will make the fans happy,” Bauer said. “We’re not holding back with this one.”
Neither is the champion
Fatu knows he’s the face of MLW. And while AEW and WWE are going up against each other, MLW is happy to be known for having the best professional wrestling matches. The champion just wants to go out and put on a show for his fans.
“When I got to MLW, it was nothing but young, hungry cats,” Fatu said. “And we all play our role.
“I have six kids and they’re all coming to the Arena. This is something I want them to see.
“That’s how much this match means to me. I don’t know who Hammer has, I’m not worried about that. It’s just more than a wrestling match. I’ve been through a lot, so has Hammer. It’s not another booking, another match, it’s everything we accomplished.”
And after the show, you might see him out and about in the city.
“I know I am excited that Tony Luke’s is just down the street,” Fatu said. “I don’t eat Philly chessesteaks unless it’s a real one. I’m going to be in Philly, I’m getting one. I really got a lot of love for Philly.”
For tickets to the show, visit https://www.2300arena.com/event/mlw-fightland-2021-october-2/.
The website also has information on how to watch MLW shows on TV and online.