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    Wednesday, December 23, 2015

    PWR Terminus 2015 Review: Wreck-It Ralph

    Last Saturday, December 19, at the iAcademy Auditorium in Makati City, Philippines, the Philippine Wrestling Revolution brought its first full calendar year of existence to a chaotic close with what some people have called the best card of the year, PWR Terminus 2015.

    We came into the show wondering about the many loose ends that we hoped would be tied up in the year-end spectacle. Among them:

    • Would "The Senyorito" Jake De Leon show some new fire after his massive meltdown at PWR Live 2 that saw him skidding to a fourth straight loss?
    • How ready would "Classical" Bryan Leo be to defend his PWR Championship against a red-hot Ralph Imabayashi, who had not only made it to the PHX Tournament Finals just a few months back, but showed some newfound confidence in dispatching the dangerous John Sebastian to become #1 contender for Leo's belt at PWR Live?
    • Would the "Heart and Soul of PWR" Bombay Suarez be showing some ring rust against the Royal Flush after (mostly) missing in action at the previous show?
    • Where the heck was PWR General Manager Mr. Sy, who was conspicuously absent last time around?
    • Could the winless SANDATA re-focus himself after taking a convincing loss against his former tag partner Peter Versoza last November?
    • Could the under-performing Chris Panzer return to a .500 record and defeat the rugged Miguel Rosales of Fighters 4 Hire for the right to represent the Philippines in an inter-promotional match for the MyPW (Malaysia Pro Wrestling) Southeast Asia Championship?
    • Could Mark D. Manalo continue his reinvention from comedic promdi jobber into legitimate main roster talent in PWR against the fearsome Apocalypse?
    • #TamangPanahon na ba for the "Intimate Warrior" Rederick Mahaba to win the heart—or at least a date—with Scarlett, the ravishing but deadly Queen of the Royal Flush?

    All of these questions came to a satisfying climax on a rainy Saturday evening before a rabid crowd of roughly 200 members of the Revo-Nation, and here we are to tell you our thoughts.

    Pre-Show: "The Machine" Mavericc Knight vs. Los Trabajadores

    Let this be said. There is no scarier PWR talent than the hulking Machine. Other super heavyweights on the roster might intimidate their opponents through supernatural gimmicks (hello, Apocalypse!) or through their silent presence (whattup, Main Maxx!), but the 6-plus-footer is a pure force of nature in a league of his own.

    The future of the PWR Championship division? The rest of the roster hopes not.
    It's one thing to see him using his brute force to whip smaller opponents around with his Good Knight spinning sidewalk slam, but we've heard whispers and seen grainy training footage of the humongous Knight dishing out vicious spinning roundhouse kicks and other devastating striking moves. Good luck to whoever gets in his way when he gets called up to the main roster.

    Los Trabajadores put up a spirited fight, as always, and show great chemistry and agility in the ring. Time will tell if there's actually a future for them in PWR beyond curtain-jerking jobbers.

    El Trabajador #2 takes flight with a soaring splash.

    Opening Promo: Stanley Chi Hosts PWR General Manager Mr. Sy on the Suplado Show

    First off, it was awesome seeing Mr. Sy step foot for the first time in the brand-new PWR ring that debuted at PWR Live just last month. Looking beyond his snazzy suits, Sy gives PWR some much-needed gravitas and legitimacy just through his forceful presence. The promotion has grown by leaps and bounds under his command—from sponsorships to the new air-conditioned venue to a thriving talent development program and masterful booking—and when he opens his mouth, it's bound to be a good thing.

    And Mr. Sy didn't disappoint, announcing the details behind the working partnership forged with up-and-coming Malaysia-based MyPW. For those among us who may not be familiar with the promotion, it's an upstart roughly equivalent to where PWR was six months ago—not a lot of flash and polish, but with gritty, passionate, talented workers who look committed to revitalizing the pro wrestling scene in their home country.

    This was massive news, and indicates a potential bright future for PWR as the hub of the pro wrestling scene across Southeast Asia, and we thought Mr. Sy's selection of Panzer and Rosales as his choices to compete for the chance to fly the country's colors in Malaysia to be particularly inspired. Panzer had been spinning his wheels as of late after consecutive losses to PHX Champion Ken Warren and the out-of-action Mayhem Brannigan, and badly needed something to rekindle the fire in his belly. Rosales mostly flies under the radar as a tag specialist, but in the rare occasions we've seen him fly solo, he's impressed us greatly with an all-around game to complement his suplex-based attack.

    The Network interrupted the segment, and boy what a gift James "Idol" Martinez is to PWR. His natural charisma and comedic timing have always been apparent from the moment he set foot in the company, but we loved seeing a new layer to the gimmick beyond satirizing the multi-level marketing scams that proliferate in the Philippines.

    James "Idol" Martinez and Bruno Bernardo are more than just slimy network marketers.

    Now we understand the stakes behind keeping The Network down—they're not just out to recruit more downlines for their dubious supplements and power drinks, they want to repossess the PWR Championship and pawn it to the highest bidder. That's a dastardly threat that insta-locked them in the crosshairs of everyone else competing in the Path of Gold match later that evening; nobody wants to see the iconic belt sold out like korniks, like Andre the Giant did to the WWF Championship back in the late 80s—and if there's anyone who deserves to be hated, it's them.

    Of course, a botched attack on Mr. Sy meant Martinez and Bernardo were sent scurrying from the ring with their tails between their legs, so we suppose that for now, the PWR Championship is safe.

    Opening Tag Match: "The Senyorito" Jake De Leon & Bombay Suarez vs. The Royal Flush (Main Maxx & John Sebastian)

    We admit to getting warm, fuzzy feelings in our tummies whenever we see The Senyorito and Bombay in the same ring together, whether as opponents or as partners. The two grapplers are widely seen as among the cornerstone talents of PWR today, and are probably the two faces that would come to mind when asked about professional wrestling in the Philippines.

    If the Undertaker and Kane are the Brothers of Destruction, these two dudes are the Brothers of Foundation—foundation of PWR, that is.

    Having said that, if there's one thing that shone even brighter than JDL and Bombay's chemistry as partners, it's the chemistry and JDL and the Royal Flush's John Sebastian have as opponents. For those of you who may not have been fans of PWR in its early days, The Senyorito was actually the first opponent John Sebastian faced in his career, and their history showed in the way the two men work together to tell a story in the ring.

    Jake De Leon says Main Maxx is just another Hampas-Lupa.
    Main Maxx continues to showcase his talent as one of the secret MVPs of PWR, and the way he and Sebastian can rile up the crowd was masterful. Early on, it looks like the Flush was on its way to sneaking out another underhanded win—remember, JDL and Bombay were a combined 0-7 in their last few matches—after Maxx looked to polish off JDL with his own finishing move, the Alipin Drop. De Leon fought back, and after Maxx missed a flying splash off the top rope (!), the match devolved into chaos.

    Amidst the carnage, De Leon and Suarez regained their composure to land a combination Kick of the Day (KOTD) from Bombay into an Alipin Drop from JDL for the pinfall loss by the Ace of the Royal Flush.

    This was a wildly entertaining match to open up the main show and reward the crowd for braving the torrential rains to make it to the venue. The finishing sequence was a nice callback to Bombay and The Senyorito landing the same combo to pin "Classical" Bryan Leo in the main event of Terminus 2014—maybe it's time to call that move the Flush Killer.

    Both Bombay and JDL demonstrated yet again why they are among the finest wrestlers in the country, but the real star has got to be John Sebastian—the man is too good to be left out of the title mix, and deserves a run with a singles championship in 2016.

    The main question after this match however was this: After the fast pace and in-ring pyrotechnics by all four men involved, how ready would they be for the Path of Gold match later in the evening?

    Grudge Rematch: #WalangForever2—SANDATA vs. Peter Versoza

    The rivalry between the two former partners in Dual Shock is a sentimental favorite among the PWR faithful, igniting such chants as "Walang Forever!" and "Popoy Basha!" the first time they squared off at PWR Live. Versoza came away with a convincing win then after dropping the masked SANDATA with a vicious Petegree, but the post-match tantrum by SANDATA left us with high hopes for the rematch. SANDATA has snapped, we told ourselves, and surely he's going to come back with a vengeance at PWR Terminus.

    Unfortunately, the rematch never happened, after a masked man (revealed later on to be Joey Bax of the Fighters 4 Hire) assaulted SANDATA with an arnis baston as he was making his entrance, leaving him ripe for yet another Versoza Petegree.

    This was probably the most exciting no-contest in PWR history, not because of the non-existent in-ring action, but because of the star potential of the cocky Peter Versoza. The man definitely has the right amount of heel attitude to carry a singles career and complement an underdog story with SANDATA. In a recent survey here on Smark Henry, it seems that PWR fans believe that Versoza is ripe for joining the Royal Flush, and he certainly has the star-level charisma to do so.

    Don't forget, PWR fans, with John Sebastian's promotion to Ace of the Royal Flush at PWR Live, the Jack of All Trades post is now open, and P to the V is slowly proving why he deserves that spot.

    Where does SANDATA go from here though? Despite dazzling us with his solid mat-based skills and trademark Pagbasag headscissors, we honestly don't know what the future holds for the warrior from the South. After getting humiliated yet again, we're fearing the worst.

    All Out War: Mask vs. Hair: The Apocalypse vs. Mark D. Manalo

    We haven't seen Mayhem Brannigan in nearly two months thanks to the Fighters 4 Hire, but it looks like we may have found his daredevil replacement in a surprisingly fearless Mark D. Manalo.

    Manalo brings the PLUNDAH!
    Be serious. When you see The Apocalypse coming through the curtains, no sane wrestler would want to stand his ground and fight that masked monster.

    Excuse us, we just soiled our pants.
    But not only did Manalo prove that he's perhaps the bravest (if not stupidest) competitor in all of PWR, he showed that the wisecracking Batangueno shtick he debuted with a year ago may have been a smokescreen to hide a very competent wrestler who can compete at the highest level. Manalo was fighting for revenge for the injuries suffered by his mentor, Kanto Terror, at the hands of Apocalypse back in August and the brutal beatdown he himself incurred at PWR Live last month, and the passion and anger showed.

    The rules of engagement for an All Out War is that there are no rules, and we saw that in this match, with numerous weapons used (including a nice Orocan-powered dropkick by Manalo) and the action literally spilling to every corner of the iAcademy Auditorium.

    Manalo even contributed what is widely acclaimed as the spot of the night—and perhaps the second-most iconic moment in PWR history, next only to Mayhem's second floor dive—a running spear from the VIP stage to send Apocalypse through a table.

    Shades of Edge and Mick Foley at WrestleMania?
    Apocalypse showed why he is an indestructible force in the ring to come back and claim the victory with a skull-crushing Death Bell for the 1-2-3.

    The right man won, and Manalo lost half of his hair both to the Apocalypse and John Sebastian, who came to the ring to help finish the hair-cutting job. But what has us thrilled is the evolution of Manalo from a wrestling joke to a PWR all-star talent. We all remember how he wrestled rings around "Classical" Bryan Leo in a failed attempt to win the PWR Championship at PWR Live last month, and while he may have lost both that match and this one, we will all remember the fourth quarter of 2015 as the coming-out party of the talented Mark D. Manalo as a wrestler to be taken seriously in 2016.

    We wonder what's next for both men. Manalo looks to be gearing up for a feud with Sebastian and the Royal Flush, which intrigues us deeply; both men graduated from the same batch of PWR Boot Camp, and we understand there may be a deep-seated rivalry between the two. This could be a very personal feud coming up, ladies and gentlemen.

    Sebastian goes to town with his kendo stick.

    As for the Apocalypse, who knows where he will go after this solid win. The PWR Championship could be a likely target—remember, he was never actually pinned at Renaissance when he took on "Classical" Bryan Leo and Jake De Leon in a Triple Threat for the title, so he certainly has a claim for contendership. Let's see what happens next.

    Path of Gold: Jake De Leon vs. Bombay Suarez vs. John Sebastian vs. Main Maxx vs. Peter Versoza vs. SANDATA vs. James "Idol" Martinez vs. Rederick Mahaba

    The first-ever 8-man elimination match in PWR history needed to be filled with memorable moments, and the PWR booking committee didn't disappoint. Not only was the match action-packed from top-to-bottom, we loved the inclusion of lots of little sub-threads to add intrigue and depth throughout the actual contest.

    It was tons of fun seeing John Sebastian and Main Maxx draw #1 and #2 for the match, inciting a chant of "This is awkward!" from the crowd at hand. The two Royal Flush stable-mates looked to get down and dirty with each other, only for Sebastian to swerve the crowd and do his own take on the legendary Fingerpoke of Doom to prove to everyone that the Flush, despite taking the 'L' earlier in the evening, would always present a united front.

    Jake De Leon had the misfortune of drawing the #3 spot, and promptly became the object of Sebastian's and Maxx's frustrations over going down in defeat earlier on in the evening.

    JDL is caught between a rock and a hard place.
    The ring quickly filled up with the other participants, and SANDATA had the unfortunate distinction of being the first elimination of the night thanks to the combined efforts of the Royal Flush.

    Rederick Mahaba actually managed to put on a credible showing, dropping fellow newcomer James "Idol" Martinez with a World's Strongest Slam and a unique swinging sambo suplex he likes to call More Slam in the Philippines.

    Size matters!
    We even saw the continuation of the #ScarHab love saga, this time ending in even more indignity for Mahaba than at PWR Live, as the Queen of the Royal Flush tied him up in a cruel cross armbreaker that shows that Scarlett isn't just there for face value—she's a promising hand in the ring as well.

    #SaTamangPanahon, Red. #SaTamangPanahon.

    Miscommunication however led to Mahaba being the second elimination of the night after the emotional beating suffered at Scarlett's hands, as a poorly-locked full nelson on a groggy Martinez led to him being the unintended recipient of Bombay Suarez' KOTD.

    Martinez was quick to capitalize on the miscue, and dropped "The Afrodisiac" with a unique elbow variant of the Eye of the Hurricane to grab the three-count.

    Speaking of Martinez, he was the next elimination at the hands of JDL—payback for showing him up at PWR Live, perhaps?—but his inclusion into the match added so much entertainment value.

    Who could ever forget Bombay Suarez flinging him around like a weapon?

    Or his downlines running into the match on his behalf, only to get dismantled one by one by the PWR roster?

    Idol is genuinely awesome, and seems to connect so richly with the fans. He isn't the most gifted skills-wise, but knows how to put on a show, which is testament to his long-term future as a character.

    Main Maxx had his already terrible night end up even worse, as he was incapacitated and eliminated with a severely strained shoulder after getting whacked in the arm by Bombay Suarez. Let's hope Maxx takes this as a message not to stick his nose in Bombay's business in the future.

    Bombay's path of vengeance got even more Tarantino-like after spraying John Sebastian in the eyes with his mythical green mist to get another elimination.

    But all the efforts of the night finally took its toll on Suarez, who was running on fumes at this point, and swiftly ate a Petegree from Peter Versoza to be eliminated from the match.

    This left Versoza and JDL as the final two, which shows the faith PWR has in Versoza as a major piece moving forward. The crafty veteran skills (and Alipin Drop) of JDL were too much for him, however, but we feel bigger things may be ahead for P to the V.

    Nice knowing you, Peter.
    After a frustrating 2015 for The Senyorito which included having his prized PWR Championship stolen from him by "Classical" Bryan Leo, failing twice to regain it, and swallowing an embarrassing loss at the hands of James Martinez to put him on an overall four-match losing streak, this must have been a satisfying evening for the Heir to Hacienda De Leon, and resets the stage for him as the top contender for the PWR Championship at May's Wrevolution X—his chosen prize for having won the inaugural Path of Gold.

    Big things droppin' for the Senyorito in 2016.

    #1 Contender Match for the MyPW SEA Championship: Chris Panzer vs. Miguel Rosales

    Chris Panzer and Miguel Rosales had the unfortunate distinction of following the high spots and non-stop drama of the Path of Gold, but the two pulled out all the stops in their efforts to be the Philippine representative in Malaysia.

    This was, by far, the most fluid match of the night, mixing the high-octane stylings of Panzer and the ground-and-pound game of Rosales. As expected, Rosales went to town early with his Suplex City-inspired arsenal, leaving the Detroit-bred Panzer breathless and gasping for air.

    Welcome to Suplex City, Philippines. Population: Chris Panzer.
    But if Rosales fashions himself after the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, Panzer fought back with a weapon inspired by one man who did actually beat Brock for the WWE Championship back in 2004: Eddie Guerrero's trademark Frog Splash.

    Getting froggy with Panzer.
    The crowd was obviously drained from the previous match, and it showed in the relatively silence in the hall throughout the match—but perhaps we can also take this as a sign of respect for the two competitors, knowing they were delivering the goods in the match.

    At the end of the gruelling battle, Panzer floored Rosales with a surprise Panzerschreck to knock Rosales out for the gritty win.

    Panzer strikes hard with the Panzerschreck.
    This was a massive and rightful win for Chris Panzer, who deserves to be called Mr. High Energy of Philippine wrestling. We've been very vocal over him being an underachiever in PWR thus far, but this may very well be the signature win of his career. With his crowd-pleasing offense and natural charisma and magnetism, he's the right face for PWR before an international audience, and could potentially win over some Malaysian fans for the Filipino brand of wrestling.

    A great face for Philippine wrestling.
    We're more concerned about Rosales in the meantime. The official PWR Facebook page indicates that he suffered a nasty concussion due to Panzer's trademark kick, and the last time someone suffered a concussion in a PWR ring, we never saw him again. The gifted Rosales is one of the greatest joys to watch in the ring for the heart he puts into his matches, and we hope he recovers well and in full to continue his burgeoning pro wrestling career.

    PWR Championship Match: Ralph Imabayashi vs. "Classical" Bryan Leo (c)

    This was a true clash of the unstoppable force going up against the immovable object. As we detailed in our most recent PWR Power Rankings, "Classical" Bryan Leo was in the midst of a historic five-match winning streak—longest in the PWR record books—while Imabayashi was red-hot after toppling Sebastian the month before and suffering a close loss to Ken Warren in the PHX Finals the month before. Despite labelling him as a massive underdog heading into the match, we knew the match was going to be too close to call.

    "Classical" Bryan Leo cuts a championship figure.
    Mark D. Manalo may very well have laid the blueprint for "How To Beat Bryan Leo 101" at PWR Live, and it looked early on like Imabayashi had been taking notes:

    1. Don't let Bryan Leo dominate the submission game
    2. Don't let the Royal Flush be a factor

    True to plan, the Fil-Japanese sensation kept the champ grounded early on with some hard-nosed submissions, showing the Classical One that perhaps he isn't the only one with a world-class technical game in PWR.

    Imabayashi has the champ *this close* to tapping out.

    Submissions throughout the whole match were fluid and smooth in transition; both men clearly revel in a catch wrestling situation, and you could sense the gears in both wrestler's brains spinning as they tried to outwit and out-grapple each other in a wrestling-cum-chess match.

    Bryan Leo has Imabayashi in near-checkmate with a Sharpshooter.
    Leo fought back hard with a series of Kokeshi diving headbutts, several submissions targeting the lower back, and even successfully planting the Pocket Rocket with his patented Royal Flush Down—a move that's destroyed such top-shelf PWR competitors as Mayhem Brannigan and Jake De Leon in the past.

    But there's a reason why we call Ralph Imabayashi the Ultimate Underdog of the Philippine Wrestling Revolution, and he had the match perfectly strategized; more than just causing carnage, his top-rope dive to the entire Royal Flush outside the ring played a brilliant part in getting the threat of outside interference eliminated, as Scarlett had to be brought backstage for medical evaluation.

    With both parts of his gameplan executed to perfection, the time was ripe for Ralph to strike the finishing blow.

    The Sonic Crusher is one of the most thrilling finishers in PWR today—it comes out of nowhere, and more often than not, it snaps people's necks enough to steal victory for the pint-sized superstar. Terminus was the greatest stage for the move to make its mark, and Imabayashi made sure to grab the brass ring when it presented itself, dropping Leo with a surprise Crusher for the three count, sending the entire iAcademy Auditorium crowd into chaos.

    And your NEWWWW PWR Champion, Ralph Imabayashi!!! #PWRTerminus
    Posted by Philippine Wrestling Revolution on Saturday, 19 December 2015

    A title change was the last thing we saw coming, especially after Jake De Leon had won the right to challenge for the PWR Championship just moments earlier, and this was easily the shocker of the year. The entire locker room came out to celebrate with Imabayashi, perhaps showing us the frustration and resentment that's been building up over "Classical" Bryan Leo's six-month reign of terror.

    Group hug for the new champion!
    If the theme of Terminus was to book-end storylines and arcs, then it's perfectly apt that on the biggest stage of Imabayashi's life, he defeated "Classical" Bryan Leo for the PWR Championship. If you'll recall, when Imabayashi first debuted in PWR a year ago, he was matched up against John Sebastian, who would eventually join Leo's Royal Flush, and has time and again belittled the Fil-Jap sensation, calling him "Half" Imabayashi, "The Hobbit," or a mongrel. It's a simple but beautifully-written alpha and omega to the growing legend of Imabayashi.

    And let's be honest here; if you were going to select your prototypical PWR Champion, Ralph Imabayashi would be one of the last names you'd pick—he's not particularly imposing, well-built, good-looking, or a wizard on the mic. You probably wouldn't slap him in the pages of magazines like Men's Fitness or FHM the way men like Panzer, Leo, or Warren have been.

    But perhaps that's precisely why Imabayashi is going to make such a great champion for PWR heading into 2016—everything was earned, nothing was given. This is one wrestler who's had to scrap since Day 1, continually being overlooked, never being predicted to amount to anything much. The Smark Henry offices have been guilty of this as well in the past, but we're happy to eat crow.

    Hello, Ralph Imabayashi. Welcome to the top of the Philippine Wrestling Revolution. You wrestled the match of your life, and you are now the one word that every other athlete on the PWR roster is salivating to be: champion.


    Taken in totality, Terminus 2015 was one of the most satisfying shows in the young history of PWR; as one fan noted on their Facebook page, walang basurang match, the comedy was well-managed, we got the right amount of satisfying comeuppance for babyface favorites, and new talents were made to look like potent threats for the future.

    We're also left with several new threads heading into 2016 which have the Revo-Nation salivating.

    • Will "Classical" Bryan Leo be invoking his rematch clause, or will he bide his time waiting for a vulnerable moment to strike? He knows Jake De Leon is in line for a championship shot, and knows as well that he has the capability to beat JDL—a feat he's managed four times in the past fifteen months. Does he think he has a better shot of reclaiming the gold against JDL than against Imabayashi?
    • Will the continued emergence of Mark D. Manalo as an upper-card talent continue as he slots into a potential feud with John Sebastian?
    • What will become of the Royal Flush? Six months ago, this stable was lording it over the rest of PWR; in one night, everything has come crumbling down around the loud-talking crew. After losing a decisive tag match against JDL and Bombay, falling short in the Path of Gold, and watching the PWR Championship slip away in a single swift Sonic Crusher, could this be the end of the Flush? Do they need to finally fill in the empty Jack of All Trades slot? With Main Maxx injured for the second time, does Bryan Leo need to reconsider the depth and reliability of his bench?
    • SANDATA got robbed yet again of the chance to show his game against Peter Versoza. What's the deal with the Joey Bax sneak attack? We know the Fighters 4 Hire never act without some measure of financial gain in store; are they in Versoza's pocket, and if so, what does this portend for their current alliance with PHX Champion Ken Warren?
    • Where does the Apocalypse go from here? When will we see the return to action of Kanto Terror, the man whose eye he nearly put out?
    • When are we seeing the fearsome Mavericc Knight make his main roster debut? After three straight wins on the pre-show against developmental talents, we can only imagine how this man-beast must be raring for some prime competition.
    • Kailan kaya magkaka-date si Rederick Mahaba kay Scarlett? 

    So much to track, but we're going to have a blast living through every twist and turn in 2016, Revo-Nation. What was your favorite moment? Do you think Ralph Imabayashi has what it takes to be the face of PWR, or is he just a transitional champion in the meantime? Let us know your thoughts below.

    Overall show grade: B+


    All photos are by the amazing Hub Pacheco.
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