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    Tuesday, June 13, 2017

    MWF Republika—The Official Smark Henry Review

    The Manila Wrestling Federation’s second show, MWF Republika, has come and gone, and if you weren’t there, you may be wondering whether the show was any better than their maiden presentation in April. Did MWF deliver on the promise to present “high-flying, hard-hitting, and action-packed excitement the whole family can enjoy”?

    Let’s just put it this way: some of the action was high-flying, some of the action was hard-hitting, and the show was family-friendly. And while there were some enjoyable moments, Republika wasn’t flawless, and there were still some obvious things that need to be worked on. But we’re not leaving you with such a short and succinct review; I, for one, will be individually going through everything I liked, and everything I didn’t.

    What I Liked

    Mike Shannon: The Philippines' Answer To Paul Heyman?

    Although WWE is toning things down as far as heel authority figures go—Shane McMahon, Daniel Bryan, and Kurt Angle are babyface bosses—it’s still the heelish likes of Vince and Stephanie McMahon and Triple H who still stand out for many as the quintessential authority figures.

    On that note, MWF Commissioner Mike Shannon has the potential to be a Paul Heyman-type man in charge, albeit as a virtuous and enthusiastic babyface, instead of someone who may very well be in league with the devil. With a little work on his promo skills, he could be something special a few shows down the line.

    Liwanag Sa Dilim

    I’m calling it as early as now: The charismatic preacher Moises Liwanag has the potential to become MWF’s biggest heel.

    His tall, burly frame calls to mind Kevin Fertig, who, as you may know, bombed in his WWE debut as Mordecai. But unlike Mordecai, this is one religious gimmick I happen to like, because it’s something we all can identify with here in the Philippines. Here's hoping his career trajectory is more akin to Bray Wyatt's than to Mordecai's.

    Liwanag and “Brother Jomar” praying over three volunteers (including Network mainstays James “Idol” Martinez and Alexander Belmonte III from their friendly company rival, the Philippine Wrestling Revolution) was one of the highlights of the afternoon. And I loved how he read a Bible verse while pinning Frankie Thurteen for the win after a particularly vicious backbreaker that could either have been inspired by the Pieta or DC Comics' "Knightfall" Batman storyline.

    Personally, I am looking forward to what I hope would be an intense “Bible freak vs. sinful grunge rocker” feud going forward.

    Ang Pambansang Bae vs. Ang Pambansang Ulol

    If he’s booked properly, newcomer Aldrin Richards (seriously, that is his ring name) could be MWF’s answer to the 1-2-3 Kid—a scrappy underdog/ostensible jobber rising to stardom via an unlikely upset. Bet you weren’t expecting that ring name from someone who entered to Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell,” right?

    That said, the last thing we want for this youngster is that he becomes MWF’s James Ellsworth. Because you know how that turned out.

    His opponent Fabio Makisig, on the other hand, has a character that makes you want to hate him, and I say that as a compliment. If Moises Liwanag wasn’t so entertaining, I’d have named Fabio the best heel of the afternoon. He’s just so good at grating on the fans, with his words and in-ring actions alike sure to piss someone off at some point or another. And if you don’t appreciate what this self-proclaimed (and legitimately) elite athlete brings to the table, he’s got one word for you: “ulol.”

    The match between the two was as entertaining as you'd expect a squash match to be, with Makisig squeezing out a convincing win.

    Turning Japanese

    The afternoon’s penultimate match featuring Ninja Ryujin against MWF’s first female competitor Ashura (did I spell that right?) was a fun match, if flawed at some points I will be discussing below.

    In an event where the wrestling was generally slow-paced (and don’t worry, we will get to that) the fast-paced moves exchanged by Ryujin and Ashura were a nice departure from the usual.

    At Iba Pa

    The post-match brawl starring the entire roster was random AF and reminiscent of ‘80s wrestling booking, where heels were pals with their fellow heels and vice versa, but it somehow worked for me. This is a point I make repeatedly in this review: MWF has a small roster, so it’s not like we should be expecting evil CFO Gus Queens to have his own full heel stable to complement his main attack dog Rex Lawin.

    In terms of in-ring talent, I have no complaint whatsoever with the likes of Robin Sane, Gigz Stryker, Mr. Lucha, and Hanzello Shilva. Generally speaking, I am optimistic about most of the wrestlers MWF has at the present. It’s all a matter of improving over time and being consistent about it, just like PWR’s talents have proven in the past two-plus years or so.

    After all, it's hard to complain when you have the honor of sitting front row for Sane's always-gorgeous 450 splash.

    What I Didn’t Like

    Manila Time

    I arrived 15 minutes late for the event, but when I got there, I was apparently in the middle of a 30-minute segment featuring faces Gigz Stryker, Robin Sane, and Mr. Lucha beefing with heels Gus Queens and Rex Lawin. There was just too much pointless conversation, and I was actually wishing I was watching yet another Triple H intro promo as part of Evolution (the OG version) or The Authority.

    (Yes, that intro segment actually made me long for Based Haitch’s own marathon promos.)

    The matches were waaaay too long as well. Sure, I can get that MWF may have paid to rent MCS’ facilities for a certain number of hours, and that their roster isn’t as large as that of PWR, hence less matches to show. But if a match is too long, it interferes with the storytelling aspect of pro wrestling.

    Let’s be honest; none of what we saw on Saturday can rank up there with Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII, or Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Those matches had all the ingredients necessary to make a slow build and an extremely long match work, but when most of your matches flirt with, or blatantly go over the 15-minute time limit, they tend to get dragging, especially in the middle.

    Speaking of the time limits, that’s what spoiled what could have been a good main event for me—Robin Sane vs. Gigz Stryker went THIRTY FUCKING MINUTES when it was advertised as being half as long.

    PWR helpfully informs fans of how many minutes are left in the match. MWF, at this point, doesn’t, and would be best advised to improve its “time management” skills going forward.

    And that brings us to the referees. Hearing the fans do the counting while competitors brawled outside the ring is an indictment on the refs. What good are they when they’re not bothering to count wrestlers out in a match that doesn’t have a no-countout stipulation?

    "It's Not A Pipebomb, It's A Magic Wand"

    Sonny, don’t Go into business for yourself. See what I did there? I was still trying to beat Makati traffic on a cloudy afternoon when ring announcer Sonny Go was cutting his introductory promo, but from what I heard, it was hammy, self-indulgent, and pointless.

    It also didn't help that he made his share of screw-ups when announcing the wrestlers, including mistakenly announcing Hanzello Shilva when he was supposed to be announcing Morgan Vaughn. Mistakes like this can be fixed with careful study and arrangement of cue cards, but I am simply not a fan of ring announcers trying to get too much of the spotlight.

    Skill Level: Medium Rare

    There were still some cringe-worthy botches on the part of some of the wrestlers, but as the saying goes, everybody makes mistakes. The important thing is that MWF’s talents learn from them.

    Final Verdict

    When the intro segment was over, fans were actually treated to some solid wrestling and some nice promo segments courtesy of Moises Liwanag and Fabio Makisig, and I, for one, was very hopeful that MWF’s second show would be a big improvement. But then came the second half, and that’s where the matches began to drag, and ultimately fail to live up to expectations. It’s clear that MWF is still going through its share of growing pains, but one should take note that Rome was not built in a day.

    Republika was still an improvement, all things considered, and with MWF having three months to prepare for their next show, here’s hoping everyone involved makes a concerted effort to make the most of that time, take stock of what works and what needs to be fixed, tighten up the screws on both ring work and pacing, and knock it out of the park come September.

    Overall, it’s a C+. Kumbaga, 80 sa report card. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to be ashamed of either.

    Post-Show Awards

    Spot of the Night

    It's easy to rave over Robin Sane and Ninja Ryujin for their aerial pyrotechnics, but let's not forget the agility the 250-pound Mr. Lucha showed off with his top-rope Lucha Drop.

    Star of the Night

    How can you not love a guy who comes out to a Bon Jovi song? Gigz Stryker is the man. He just gets it.

    Promo of the Night

    On a card that went long on promos, there was one bright spot; in fact, you could even say it was maliwanag. Moises Liwanag's blessing of some converts was a great segment that actually helped the show regain the momentum it lost over the course of its lengthy 30-minute talkie segment.

    Honorable mention goes out to Hanzello Shilva for his touching tribute to his late mother. Stay strong, fella.

    Full match results

    • Match #1: Moises Liwanag defeated "Grunge Grappler" Frankie Thurteen via pinfall with a spine-crushing altar backbreaker.
    • Match #2: Fabio Makisig overcame newcomer Aldrin Richards via pinfall after nailing him in the head with Primera Klasika Sipa.
    • Match #3: Hanzello Shilva beat Morgan Vaughn in an emotional match with a Bel-Earth knee strike followed by a three-count.
    • Match #4: Mr. Lucha slipped past Rex Lawin with a diving top-rope Lucha Elbow Drop.
    • Match #5: Ninja Ryujin won against debuting female wrestler Ashura using the Asai DDT.
    • Match #6: Robin Sane outlasts "The Action Star" Gigz Stryker after landing his trademark 450 splash.


    About MWF

    Manila Wrestling Federation is a Manila-based sports entertainment group, specializing in professional wrestling. The MWF offers a colourful cast of wrestlers and exciting, competitive in-ring action the whole family can enjoy!

    For more information, kindly contact:
    Mike Litton
    +63 916 418 9334

    Photos by "The Punisher" Michael Bueza
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    Item Reviewed: MWF Republika—The Official Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Enzo Tanos
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