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    Monday, April 24, 2017

    Jake De Leon: Venturing Into Unknown Territory

    He's been known by many names:

    The Senyorito.

    The Tractor-Riding, Helicopter-Flying, Payrolling, Alipin-Dropping Son of a Haciendero.

    Bacolod Bred, Inasal Fed.

    A PWR Original.

    The only other two-time PWR Champion in History.

    And besides Bombay Suarez, he may very well be known today as the face of Philippine Wrestling Revolution.

    There is simply no one in Philippine wrestling today much like Jake De Leon, who is not only one of the most athletic wrestling machines the country has ever seen, but also a star so beloved, you would be hard-pressed to see a man who wouldn't raise his hand in the air in appreciation every time he enters the ring. There is a good reason why he been in the most main events in PWR history, after all.

    But as we are nearing the third annual Wrevolution X at the Bayanihan Center, the biggest show in PWR's calendar year and the yearly extravaganza that saw JDL win the PWR Championship twice, he is coming into the show in two unusual positions previously unheard of from the Senyorito:

    The Attraction and the Boss.

    While JDL will not be competing for the PWR Championship this year (or any championship for that matter), he will be involved in a potentially show-stealing encounter against former ECCW Heavyweight Champion and NWA Canadian Jr. Heavyweight Champion, Filipino-Canadian "Beautiful" Billy Suede in a match that is surely going to blow the roof off the Bayanihan Center if their athletic prowess is of any indication.

    It is surely an honor for JDL to be given the opportunity to take on such a well-traveled veteran on PWR's biggest stage, a culmination of years of hard work and service for the company since the very beginning. At the same time, it is also a sign that PWR is finally in a good position as far as talent goes. You have John Sebastian and Chris Panzer competing in the main event for the PWR Championship, a three-team bout to determine the first-ever PWR Tag Team Champions, and the first ever women's match in PWR history between Crystal and Robynn, a promise that has been delayed for almost a year.

    We also have diverse and deserving stars in the PHX title scene in SANDATA, Peter Versoza, former PWR Champion Ralph Imabayashi, and Chino Guinto. And that's not even counting the rich undercard filled by many hungry and talented wrestlers in the company, a thought even the hardcore fans would never have imagined since PWR's debut show, Renaissance 2014.

    Looking at the card, it is evident why JDL was situated in the card the way he was put in. He has slowly built himself in the position where he can easily boost the card of any wrestling show without the need to put him in championship matches. In effect, by the mere fact that JDL is in the undercard, PWR is helping enrich the undercard scene, boosting deserving stars in the process.

    Of course, that won't happen necessarily and easily since he has a dream match set with Billy Suede, but the fact that he can comfortably be put in any position of the card means that PWR can effectively develop stars to reach their potential. And if there is anything that PWR needs right now, it's top-tier stars that can become attractions in their own right, as Sebastian and Panzer can now attest to as headliners who have been waiting for their breakout moments. When JDL was asked how he feels about being a bonafide attraction after years in the company and being described alongside Bombay Suarez as being the face of the promotion, he had nothing but words of humility.

    "I honestly didn't know I have reached Bombay's level. But it's an amazing feeling nonetheless," says the Senyorito. "I'm glad that some people see me as an attraction in PWR and that's a goal every performer in PWR actually has. At the end of the day, it's all about making the fans go home happy and it makes me happy knowing I can do that for them."

    As we know, pro wrestling will always be a dance between two partners, if you will. And thankfully, there are those guys in the company that are able to bring out the best in him. In fact, JDL has nothing but respect for two guys who fans love to see inside the ring. "I'd have to say Bombay [Suarez] and Ralph [Imabayashi]," he points out. "Not to blow smoke up my own ass, but the task of bringing out the best in someone usually falls on me. But those two are different. Bombay trained me so I had to bring my A-game when I was [going] against him. Ralph, on the other hand, is someone that works tirelessly to get better and to prove a point. If you're not ready for Ralph, you're definitely in trouble, which is why I think we always churn out great matches against each other, whether on a show or in training."

    In a way, it became more apparent that everyone on the roster had to work harder than ever since last year's Wrevolution X kept raising the bar for PWR. Thankfully, everyone stepped up despite the rough year that was, including a much-heralded appearance at last year's Asia Pop Comic Con. It was also the very show where JDL worked three consecutive PWR championship main events in three days, another such indication that JDL has become so reliant a star that he himself became the aforementioned attraction in his own right. Those who worked with JDL have elevated their game, including Chris Panzer, whose win over JDL at PWR Live: Mainit finally did away with all labels of him being a choke artist in what was very much the match of the show. Panzer has nothing but good things to say about the PWR standard-bearer in a statement to Smark Henry.

    "JDL will bring out the best in you," says the leader of the Panzer Army. "That's what you get when you go head-to-head with the guy who sets the bar for Philippine wrestling. That match with him helped me hone my craft and prepared me for the last step I'll take on this journey to the PWR Championship. Personally, I took that match as him passing the torch to someone who has the potential to make a name for himself, to one day reach the level of expertise that he has now."

    Through thick and thin, JDL has stuck by the company and helped train bootcampers who can become future stars in their own right. When the company was not in its best shape, he's always been there, ensuring that the #SaveFilipinoWrestling campaign remains stronger than ever.

    In many ways, he is like Hiroshi Tanahashi of New Japan Pro Wrestling. When the going was tough and NJPW was in dire straits, Tanahashi took the mantle to become the face of the company, becoming a top-tier wrestler in his own right and helped save the company that gave him a chance. He became a decorated champion in his own right, and has very much become the main event. And when the time was right, he stepped aside to give rising talents like Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, and Kenny Omega an opportunity to become stars in their own right.

    And let's face it, for all intents and purposes, there is probably no one in the entire Philippine wrestling scene like de Leon, a prominent attraction who can enrich the card without the need of a title program. This can only be good for the long-term future of the wrestlers and the fans.
    Of course, we wouldn't be talking about Wrevolution X and Jake De Leon had things happened very differently.

    Last year's Wrevolution X was meant to be a new beginning of sorts, akin to a new season of any television series. And surely enough, it really was a new beginning of sorts, though in the worst way possible in what may very well have been the worst time in PWR's existence.

    It was revealed for the community to hear in that fateful episode of the Smark Gilas Pilipinas Podcast, a tell-all address from both Jake De Leon and Rederick Mahaba where they laid all the facts out regarding the company's unfavorable financial circumstances. By then, JDL had taken the mantle as PWR's president, and was charged with dealing with the financial problems left by the former management. That also resulted in the cancellation of 2016 year-ender show, Terminus.

    But through it all, with teamwork and their love for the business, JDL and the PWR crew trekked on an uncertain 2016 while delivering the best damn wrestling shows possible (including the previously mentioned APCC shows). There was eventually light at the end of the tunnel as fans showed their love and support through fundraisers and viewing parties, where one would see JDL active in the proceedings (and would even sell tickets in the entrance as a testament to his dedication).

    And then there's the hope that was Bagong Yugto, a show that was attended by WWE VP for Talent Development Canyon Ceman and resulting in PWR effectively becoming a WWE-recognized promotion, the first of its kind in the Philippines. Being a part of a unified team that overcomes adversity like that is a proud moment in and of itself, and a testament to what PWR has become since its original inception. One can say: under this new management of PWR, anyone who works hard and keeps himself or herself dedicated can become a bonafide star.

    It was definitely a great feeling to know that despite the year that was, everyone banded together, and everyone knows how far they have gone, as the boss himself attests in his usual calm and humble demeanor.

    In fact, one can make the argument that PWR is in a better place right now, more than ever. "It's a great feeling, no doubt," he says. "More than being the head at this point in time, though, it feels even better knowing that everyone in PWR banded together to make this happen. We all let our grit, hard work, and passion pull us out of a deep pit and get us to where we are now and that was a beautiful thing to see. I just happened to be the head at the time."

    One thing cannot be denied at this point: the man known as Jake De Leon is not only one of the finest wrestlers in the country today, but for a man of his age, a reliable boss that has led by example. With so much upside to PWR right now, here's to more Wrevolution X's than our fingers and toes can count.


    Wrevolution X is happening on Sunday, April 30, at the Unilab Bayanihan Center on Pioneer Street, Mandaluyong. Gates open at 2 PM. Tickets may be purchased at the door for P400, but can be availed off at various pre-selling discounts by contacting the Philippine Wrestling Revolution directly.

    Click here for the official Wrevolution X Facebook event page.
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    Item Reviewed: Jake De Leon: Venturing Into Unknown Territory Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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