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    Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    Peter Versoza: Dud or Stud?

    It must suck to be Peter Versoza.

    Here he is, a young, good-looking guy who also happens to be the Philippine Wrestling Revolution's PHX Champion with a headlining match at this Sunday's Wrevolution X. Once upon a time, he used to draw regular chants of "Holy shit!" from the Revo-Nation, and was hand-picked to be the Jack of the once-dominant Royal Flush. And yet, the buzz is that he's underwhelmed so far in his championship reign, with crowds failing to get behind him the way they did for his predecessors.

    But with the cocky Versoza being who he is, his immediate reaction isn't about accountability. It's about pointing fingers.

    "My reign hasn't been electric because [PWR management] keeps giving me random opponents with no build whatsoever," he confided in a private sit-down with Smark Henry. "How can you get behind that? Those marks don't know any better."

    But there's a bigger concern he wants to point out. He isn't just a victim of bad booking, but a conspiracy led by PWR General Manager Mr. Sy himself.

    Case in point: his upcoming PHX Championship defense this weekend, where not only will he be squaring off against the red-hot SANDATA, but a mystery challenger to boot.

    This is going to be a sticky situation for the high-flying PHX Champion.

    He's obviously going to be worried about SANDATA, his former brother in the much-lamented DualShock tag team. But he's also got to worry about two more men: either "Golden Boy" Chino Guinto or former PWR Champion Ralph Imabayashi, who will be locking horns earlier in the card to determine who gets a crack at the iconic white-and-gold belt.

    Versoza has every right to be upset. His narrow escape over The Apocalypse at PWR Live: Mainit showed how dangerous being a champion in PWR can be. He's a marked man, and we're pretty sure that after his attitude change in the past few months, he's got almost no friends left in the locker room.

    "I don't think SANDATA deserves a shot," scoffed PWR's resident Bulacan Babe Magnet. "He didn't even beat Ralph clean at Mainit. I'm also wondering what Chino did to be inserted into the contendership match. He was missing in action, then all of a sudden [PWR General Manager] Stan [Sy] suddenly gives him an opportunity? Why? Can somebody explain this picture?," he asks, referring to an infamous photo that circulated on social media last year showing Sy and Guinto dining together in private.

    Versoza clearly feels he's PWR's most underappreciated champion to date, with the deck being tipped against him from the get-go. "I don't see Stan stacking contenders for the PWR Championship," he continues, "and none of you noticed that."

    More than a match to retain his gold, it's obviously a battle for respect—particularly that of management.

    "I'm getting tired of Mr. Sy's antics," he finishes, his voice now raised. "Just because he's the boss doesn't mean I can't fight him."

    We'll be frank. Versoza probably needs this win more than anyone else in the match. His reign as PHX Champion has been a dud at this point—a sad story for the man who used to electrify the crowd regularly with his energy and dazzling aerial repertoire. In the locker room, there are whispers over the change in his work ethic and dedication since becoming champ. "I'm not lazy, I'm efficient," he rebuts, comparing himself to the skidding Ralph Imabayashi, who also happens to be one of his harshest haters. "Maybe he should try doing it my way to end his losing streak." Ouch.

    Love him or hate him, lazy or efficient, Peter Versoza has a massive chip on his shoulder heading into this weekend's show, and the PWR community had better be ready for a blockbuster showing.

    "I'll make Mr. Sy, the PWR board, and everyone on the roster pay after I defend my PHX Championship on the 30th."

    He's not getting any sympathy from Mr. Sy however. "Peter Versoza doesn't seem to understand what he signed up for in this business," said PWR's head honcho in an official statement. "When you're the champion, you've got a target on your back. Of course people will come after you. They want your title! They want the right to prove that they're the best. Now, if Mr. Versoza has a problem with being champion, he can take his title and surrender it to me in my office. I'll be waiting."

    Mic dropped.

    But moving on to the roster of challengers, how gratifying would a win at PWR's show of shows be for the Pinoy Tecnico, SANDATA?

    After rising from the ashes of Versoza's betrayal—not to mention his historic career-opening 0-7 losing streak—he's been on the cusp of completing the promotion's greatest Cinderella comeback once before. At last year's Renaissance, he outlasted the scrappy Guinto in a #1 Contender's match for the PHX Championship in what some have called his signature victory.

    "Noong natalo ko si Chino, napatunayan ko sa buong mundo—at higit sa lahat, sa sarili ko—na ang kamalasan ay hindi pang-habangbuhay," the masked warrior told us in the middle of a secluded forest, where he was completing his training for Wrevolution X. "Husay ang nagtatagumpay sa lahat. Kaya ng kahit sino ang magwagi."

    While he may be waxing philosophical at this point, that doesn't mean he isn't angry. He didn't quite have what it took to defeat then-PHX Champion Main Maxx for his one shot at glory, falling to a thunderous top-rope powerbomb in his only career title shot thus far. Does it eat at him knowing that Peter Versoza accomplished what he couldn't in claiming the gold from the 280-pound beast to end his historic PHX reign?

    "Siyang tunay na magaling at mahusay si Peter," he chuckled bemusedly, "pero naniniwala ako na sinuwerte lamang siya. Kaya ko pa ring manalo at maging PHX Champion sa Wrevolution X."

    Those sound like the words of a man who sincerely believes that winning the PHX Championship remains to be his golden destiny.

    Of course, Peter Versoza has his own view on that. "SANDATA is never going to match my achievements," he exclaims. "He was the Marty Jannetty of DualShock, always in the shadows."

    That may be so, but how about that Chino Guinto? The arrogant Golden Boy's slow and steady climb through the ranks has him marked as one of PWR's more popular acts over the past few months.

    His stellar showing at Path of Gold cemented him as a legit breakout star, not only by pinning a former PWR Champion in Jake De Leon and a former PHX Champion in Bombay Suarez, but also in ringing up the most eliminations in the match at four. Together with his spectacular victory at the eight-person PHX Gauntlet Match at last year's Wrevolution X, he's legitimately supplanted Ken Warren as the company's true workhorse, and can rightfully claim to being the genuine "iron man" of Filipino wrestling.

    "For me, the PHX Championship represents the working man. A champion who has scratched, clawed, and done everything humanly possible—and more—to be at the top of the food chain," said Guinto to Smark Henry, in a product orientation we attended at Starbucks. "Winning and carrying the distinction of being the PHX Champion will only cement what I have been doing since day one: to prove to everyone that Chino Guinto is one of, if not, the best in the business."

    Of course, his red-hot rise to the top of the card may have come at a cost; we've been observing some friction between the Hotshot Hustler and his boss in The Network, James "Idol" Martinez. Martinez could be getting jealous of Guinto's success, and could actually be rooting for Guinto to fail.

    Guinto refused to address these issues, citing instructions from both the Network's legal counsel and Mel from HR, but was more than happy to invite more wagonhoppers to the party.

    "Hate me or love me, I'm going to continue being me. If you want to join me in my quest to prove that I am as good as everyone else pretends to be, come aboard the Chino bandwagon. I promise it's going to be a heck of a ride."

    When pressed for details regarding his standing with the Network, Guinto left us with this single golden nugget: "Suffice to say that at this point in time, Chino Guinto stands strong. Alone."

    Intriguing stuff indeed.

    But don't count out Ralph Imabayashi. After all his misfortunes in the past year, it's hard sometimes to remember that he's a former PWR Champion. But if there's anything we've learned from the Fil-Japanese Sensation, it's that we should never count him out. He'll be gunning to win two matches at Wrevolution X to redeem himself.

    "The PHX Championship is as prestigious as the PWR Championship," Imabayashi told Smark Henry in an exclusive interview. "They both prove you are the best in PWR. I have to prove to everyone—and more importantly, to myself—that I am the best. And I need it now more than ever because of the terrible year I've had."

    Hardcore fans know that over the past few months, Imabayashi has been reinventing himself as the proponent of the #RespectProWrestling movement, and is hungry to wrest the PHX Championship as the centerpiece of his wrestling-based advocacy.

    "I want people to focus on the 'wrestling' part," he continues. "Too many people want 'entertainers' or 'performers.' I am here to prove to people that wrestling is all you need. Why do people need to talk when they can just prove what they have in the ring? Why do I need to have an image when I already have the skills? That part sits wrong with me. Gusto ninyo ng gimmicks na may konting wrestling? Nood kayo ng Pinoy Wrestling. Oh wait, you can't, because it's dead now, and I think you know why."

    When further pressed, Ralph had even more fighting words for the rest of the field this Sunday. "Chino and SANDATA are all about 'image.' I mean, 'Golden Boy'? 'Huling Mandirigma'? And Peter, dude has been lazy since winning the PHX Championship. That is absolute disrespect to everything I stand for."

    Fighting words indeed from a man who refuses to be a footnote at the biggest show of the year.

    And as for Peter Versoza's grand conspiracy theory against Mr. Sy?

    "The only conspiracy around here is Mr. Sy's choice of shirts," says Chino Guinto.

    "You're the champion," asserts Imabayashi. "Deal with it. Fair or unfair, you gotta keep that thing around your waist."

    Looks like it's put-up-or-shut-up time for the Bulacan Babe Magnet. Can Peter Versoza buckle down and prove that his PHX Championship reign is no dud, or will he sputter out at Wrevolution X? There's only one way to find out.


    Who do you have your money on for this Sunday's epic PHX Championship clash, Revo-Nation? Can Peter Versoza turn around what's been an uninspiring reign thus far, or will SANDATA finally complete his underdog tale? And who do you think will be the third man in the war, Chino Guinto or Ralph Imabayashi? Let us know your thoughts below, and we'll see you this Sunday!


    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.

    All photos by "Helluva" Hub Pacheco.
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