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    Friday, June 30, 2017

    PWR Renaissance 2017—The Official Smark Henry Review

    It's very appropriate that one of Philippine Wrestling Revolution's biggest annual shows (and what is now considered both their anniversary marker and new season premiere) is called Renaissance. And for good reason.

    Since its inception, PWR has triggered a revelation: that there is indeed not only a market for wrestling in the local landscape, but that it could also help kick-start a growing wrestling scene in the country. And over time, we've witnessed wrestlers improve into the stars they are today, most of them now having made an impression on the blossoming industry.

    How appropriate it is that their fourth anniversary show would continue an already-impressive string of fantastic showings thus far—a renaissance of sorts for the company, if you will. You could say it was one of the most enjoyable shows they've ever put out, even! And take note, 2017 has already had quite the string of amazing shows, so that in itself is impressive in its own right.

    So how do we review this show this time around? Given that some of the guys within the Smark Henry offices are huge fans of the recently-released Tekken 7 and that the Rev Major is already coming on July 8 and 9 for fighting game aficionados in the country, why not do something different and rank everything that happened in the show based on Tekken 7 characters? After all, by the end of the day, wrestling and fighting games are sort of related with the punching and the violence. So, without any further ado...

    Tier One: Heihachi Mishima

    Abusive father to Kazuya, sure. But you cannot talk about Tekken without talking about one of the franchise players of the long-running series. Everything he's done has impacted the overall story in one way or another, keeping him a major player all throughout. Without giving any spoilers, by the end of Tekken 7, you cannot help but respect the guy.

    Expectations: Exceeded

    Look, we all knew that when you have guys like Jake de Leon, Ralph Imabayashi, and reigning PWR Champion Chris Panzer in a championship main event of a big show, sparks will be flying and fans will be screaming. However, what we witnessed was one of the best championship main events in modern-day PWR. And for that matter, perhaps the best three-way title bout in company history thus far.

    Everything they did felt smooth and coordinated, and everyone got to show their greatest hits throughout the match, resulting in urgency in every move and emotions running wild. It certainly helped that Panzer finally got the mojo needed as champion, allowing him to be the bonafide in-ring general everyone knew he can be. And Ralph no doubt flourished as the aggressive destroyer he turned out to be as part of the new heel MTNH. JDL is JDL, and JDL is the man. What else do we have to say?

    Even the unexpected interference of Rederick Mahaba was a welcome sight (more on that later). It made for a compelling bout, and the red-hot finish of JDL countering Ralph's Sonic Crusher into the Inasal Lock only for both men to get pancaked by Panzer's Eagle Splash was icing on the cake.

    This officially cemented Panzer as "the guy" in PWR, and it's only going to get better as PWR's Season Four rolls along. Good job to everyone!

    Side Suede'd

    It took two months, but finally, Billy Suede and SANDATA met in the ring for the first time, and it was an excellently-done bout between the Beautiful One and the masked veteran of PWR (who did have a stunning resemblance to one John Lloyd Cruz with his Century Tuna bod). Suede will most likely never have a bad match in PWR, but SANDATA managed to complement his style with his own array of athletic maneuvers and natural intensity, making for a fun encounter between two guys wanting to be #1 contender for the PWR Championship.

    And while the match was everything you expected it to be and then some, it was not without some degree of controversy as an angry Mr. Sy, having had enough of Billy's rope-assisted shenanigans, tried to reprimand him.

    However, that got the PWR General Manager accidentally walloped by SANDATA, allowing Suede to transition into the Lance Storm-esque rollover single leg Boston Crab, resulting in a win and a future title opportunity against Chris Panzer.

    This match was a testament to SANDATA's growth as a reliable in-ring performer in PWR and Billy Suede's stock in the company. It will be very interesting to see Billy Suede's future involvement with Mr. Sy as the newest thorn in his side (as if Sebastian and Versoza weren't enough), but for now, eyes are on Panzer vs. Suede in a future PWR show, and it will be amazing.

    All We Are Saying... Is Give Peace A Chance

    While we did not get a PWR Tag Team or PHX Championship match on the show itself, we did get a good glimpse into the future in the form of a six-man tag between The Network and #TeamJacket. And obviously, the focus of the match was whether or not The Network could co-exist despite their ongoing internal struggles.

    And you know what? As faces, The Network was totally believable and highly entertaining. Their internal friction made for fun moments, sure. But looking at the dynamic between the members, you can't help but show support towards them in a tweener kind of way. Alexander Belmonte III was a revelation as he proved once more why he should have been the big man of the faction from the beginning, showing fantastic selling as well as being surprisingly mobile for a guy of his size.

    Idol's jealousy and Chino trying to hold up his end of the match despite the Network's tension made for some great entertainment. KenWa and the Twins showed signs of synergy together as a stable, and were the entertaining bunch you know they were going to be.

    It was the end of the match that will be the biggest talking point, as Chino and AB3 decided to save Idol from a three-on-one beatdown despite the Top of the Pyramid's selfish actions that led to the Network losing via a KenWa low blow. It would seem as though the saga of Idol and his downlines has taken an unexpected twist, becoming a unified front after everything that's happened.

    Now, the green trio has their sights on the Twins' tag titles, and this turf war is far from over.

    The Ballad of John Sebastian and Peter Versoza

    Even without a championship around his waist, John Sebastian wasted no time making an impression throughout the night.

    A promo from Sebastian led to the debut of Brad Cruz, the man who was insulted by Sebastian prior to Wrevolution X a few months back (CONTINUITY!). Everyone was surprised when he came out, but he ended up wowing the Revo-Nation with his everyman charisma and in-ring performance—and against a former PWR Champion no less.

    Heck, this felt like when Vlad Synnsyk made his PWR debut and beat Ralph in his first match as he greatly benefited working with a former champ.

    Despite the loss to the seasoned Sebastian, Cruz has instantly become a man fans will not forget for long as he left a very memorable impression to say the least. And after all, he's got da looks.

    Sebastian went borderline ballistic on everyone after the match, which led to security attempting to restrain the Lord and Savior, which was one hell of a dynamic to introduce. When the main event spotlight was no longer shone on him, what else can a God like him do? Truly, desperate times call for desperate measures.

    (This wouldn't be the last time we'd see Sebastian on the show, however. Stay tuned.)

    Later, it would be "Ruthless" Miguel Rosales of the Fighters 4 Hire taking on former PHX Champion Peter Versoza in what was the latter's most impressive match to date.

    Peter favored more of a ground game and made use of his size advantage. But Rosales' trademark aggression remained a highlight of the match as per usual, resulting to an tightly-contested seesaw battle between the competitors. But it would be the brawl that proceeded caused by an interfering Sebastian that would send everyone into a frenzy, leading to a wild encounter that Versoza gladly joined in. In fact, it was so wild that Versoza even got a few cheap shots in against Mr. Sy, continuing his issues towards the boss on his alleged "bias" in running his ship.

    PWR security had to restrain everyone involved eventually, but the idea of the Flush Remnants vs. the Fighters 4 Hire is good reason enough to get excited for future PWR shows.

    P.S. Shoutout to PWR for their sense of continuity when it came to introducing Brad Cruz! Sometimes guys, it's really the little things.

    Tier 2: Jin Kazama

    Be it as normal Jin Kazama or his Devil Jin transformation, he is not only a common favorite among longtime Tekken players, but more than ever, he has played key roles in the ongoing Mishima family rivalry. He is as every bit the franchise player everyone says he is.

    Trouble in Paradise?

    What started off as a tag team bout for bragging rights and a step closer to tag team title contention between the Punk Dolls and the Deadly Sinns ended with questions for the latter, especially after a costly case of errant communication.

    No doubt, this was a well-constructed tag team bout that focused on Robynn's resiliency against the sinister duo—acting like a well-oiled tandem as usual!—and the fire of Martivo when he finally got the hot tag. It was entertaining and energetic, with a right balance of high spots and high impact all throughout.

    It was interesting to see Mike Madrigal attempt to take the pinfall win for himself following a Sinnsyk Muscle Buster to the Punk Rock Princess, with such selfishness leading to a victory for the fan favorites after a shock roll-up. It would be quite interesting to see what happens if this is the beginning of a break-up for one of PWR's most reviled yet most intriguing tag teams in the Deadly Sinns. It feels like there is so much to explore when it comes to this tandem, and pulling the trigger to a break-up would feel too soon at this point, especially with a growing tag team division.

    Where this would lead us, we can only find out in the next few months. But hopefully, they could at least get a tag title reign on their resume.

    Mahaba Contra Dragon

    Not exactly a secret, but ladies and gentlemen, Rederick Mahaba remains to be one of the top mic magicians in Philippine wrestling today. Case in point: his opening sermon focused on MTNH's deluded sense of love and respect in Philippine wrestling, which was a reminder of how diverse a talker he is. Face or heel, he definitely knows how to hook an audience and effectively set the mood for the rest of the show.

    That being said, his opening match against main show-debuting "Canadian Dragon" Zayden Trudeau was an enjoyable encounter pitting a rookie with tons of upside against a veteran of the game in a David vs. Goliath showdown.

    Mahaba may have been able to secure a victory with a Jaccolade (which maybe doesn't fit given his current alignment as a heel), but save for an accidental trip on a springboard attempt, Zayden certainly looked great in defeat.

    As a matter of fact, he shows some shades of Chris Panzer himself—a guy who certainly has the looks and the skills to become a future top guy if he can maintain his trajectory and keep his feet on the ground. The Dragon's going to have his day for sure (not counting his pre-show debut), but you better keep an eye on this guy.

    Tier 3: Paul Phoenix

    Goofy as his role and personality may have been over the years, Paul Phoenix remains a staple for professional and casual players alike. His vintage power moves are fan favorites, and can be easily picked up by anyone, with much strategic potential as well. One wrong move, and you're going to feel a chunk of your life bar disappear.

    Defend The (Play)Land

    None of PWR's New Breed has made more of an impact and first impression than the diminutive Trian Dela Torre, who is very much the most charismatic among the new stars to have recently debuted. One might even say he rivals Rederick Mahaba in the mic and charisma department, and is the master of the social media game (sorry, KenWa).

    And it was the unique dynamic that Trian brought that made his match with the Apocalypse work within the context of the story. We knew that by all accounts, the Death Bell Deliverer has a tremendous physical advantage over the Miniature Boy, but the latter made best use of his size and smarts to attempt to get another one over PWR's resident monster, entertaining the crowd in the process.

    In the end, Trian won on a technicality via DQ after Apoc refused to stop attacking Trian, but the message was sent: Trian is a trickster extraordinaire, and he is not afraid to use his size (or lack thereof) to his advantage. He's now 2-0 against the Pinoy Nightmare, which not a lot of wrestlers can claim. Apocalypse remained entertaining in his monster role, and this new layer of Trian having his number is hopefully a means for the monster to add more layers to his character.

    However, the one criticism when it comes to this rivalry comes in the form of a future All Out War match between the two. It felt like in past months, the significance of All Out War has slowly been diminished due to its frequency. For perspective, we are having a third All Out War match in a span of a few months, when not long ago it used to be the end-all-be-all of an intense rivalry. Sure, All Out War is practically an Apocalypse specialty, but is it really the right time to have another one with a guy whom he only recently had a rivalry with?

    Seriously, Mh4rckie!?

    The KakaiBros finally debuted, and may God have mercy on our souls.

    With that out of the way, the Kakaibros could not have asked for a better opponent to debut against (without getting Huling Bala'd by SANDATA) than the interesting pairing of Dax Xaviera and The Anime-zing Fighter Bolt, who took over Dan Ericson's spot as Dax's tag partner following an assault by the K-Bros weeks prior.

    For a team that just debuted, they did well in holding up their of the bargain against Dax (whose "it" factor makes him the breakout star of Delirium), and Bolt, who is slowly getting comfortable in the ring. Right off the bat, the KakaiBros showed tons of potential as a gimmick, and given how society works these days, this is the kind of gimmick that could easily trigger any Tom, Dick, and Harry that encounters the unruly duo. And that, my friends, is a good thing. Sure, there were kinks that needed to be adjusted, but given that they just debuted, they have all the time in the world to make an impression in the tag team division.

    As for Dax and Bolt, it felt like too much of a random pairing, to be honest, and by the end of the match you wouldn't think they were able to form the right chemistry to resonate with the audience. And that is a shame, considering it felt like that between the two Delirium boys, Dan needed to find himself in the ring while Dax had already found his stride. But if we were to make a judgment call based on their first match, then we're all in for this Ramen-Sisig tandem in the near future.

    P.S. Mh4rckie is a creative name, no argument there, but still, nakakapikon sobra.

    A Much Needed Reboot

    A Vintendo heel turn may very well be the reboot he needed to finally get his stride as a performer and as a character.

    The Fighting Raging Gamer lost to a very game McKata, who likewise showed improvement the same way Vintendo did. But this was a pre-show match designed to finally flesh out the much-needed turn that will hopefully give the video gamer gimmick a new sense of direction. And given how he has slowly improved on varying aspects of the game in recent months, we are more than willing to see where this goes.

    The only negative in the match was the fact that the crowd wasn't as engaged as compared to other matches, but perhaps fleshing out their personas even more could be the solution to this problem. After all, if Ralph Imabayashi can transform himself into a nuanced, fleshed-out heel after his run as a typical plucky underdog hero, surely something can be done for these two performers.

    Tier 4: Eddy Gordo


    Congratulations, no match or segment on the show belonged on the Eddy Gordo level! Awesome job, PWR!


    If there was any sign that PWR is on a roll, this show was a great indicator of its momentum. It won't be long before they return to the Bayanihan Center, but during its short stint outside the venue, they were able to consistently deliver. We wouldn't call Renaissance their magnum opus for 2017 thus far—it did fall short of the greatness of Wrevolution X, and is probably just neck-and-neck with Path of Goldbut it was a well-written, well-performed show to kick off Year Four of the country's top wrestling promotion.

    This show delivered from top to bottom with developments all across the card. We are seriously hoping that their next show continues this amazing run. Solid B/B+ for Renaissance.

    Post-Event Awards

    • Wrestler of the Night: Chris Panzer. The Man is here to stay.
    • Match of the Night: PWR Championship Match. Top-tier wrestling at its finest, and the finish was a sight to behold
    • Promo of the Night: Rederick Mahaba. No matter how warped one's definition of love and respect may be, one's personal justice can drive anyone into a path of self-righteousness, and his promo reflected that

    What do you think about the show overall? What was your favorite match or moment of the show? Are you hyped for Panzer vs. Suede II? Sound off in the comments!


    Photos by "Mrs. Ruthless" Jacky Rosales.
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    Item Reviewed: PWR Renaissance 2017—The Official Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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