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    Thursday, August 31, 2017

    The Smark Henry Hip Toast: Mike Madrigal

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    Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first installment of Smark Henry's recurring series, a little something we would like to call the Smark Henry Hip Toast—our happy place where we interview various personalities in pro wrestling, shoot from the hip, and raise them a toast. We will be looking at the men behind the personas and giving you all an intimate look at the wrestlers who are helping build this wonderful sport and turn it into something really special in this country.

    For our first installment, who better to feature than the man that recently made history as the new PHX Champion, "The Walking Death" Mike Madrigal.


    A testament to how far Philippine Wrestling Revolution has come since its humble beginnings is the quality of fresh talent that debuted for more than a year already. Aptly promoted back at PWR Live: The ShawDown as The New Breed, it was the beginning of a new era, as fans were introduced to a plethora of stars that would step into the PWR ring for the first time. Among them are the sadistic (yet talented) Vlad Synnsyk, and the energetic crowd-pleaser that is Martivo.

    One particular wrestler would likewise debut at that very same show, who would not only impress in his first showing but would also leave a lasting impression with one word that would define his character to the very core:

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    It's who Mike Madrigal is: a brash, cocky douchebag from Death Valle Verde who throws middle fingers to every Tom, Dick, and Harry at ringside while swearing non-stop. He is not above dropping spoilers related to your favorite shows on social media, and does everything possible to piss people off.

    Despite all these qualities, he is one hell of competitor who loves dishing out a vicious array of strikes and technical grapple moves, most evident with his Go To Sleep finisher, as well as his alternate coup de grâce known as the Near Death Experience.

    And just recently, he became the first man among the New Breed that debuted on that fateful show to win a singles title, as he defeated both SANDATA and Dax Xaviera to become the new PHX Champion during PWR's APCC weekend.

    For a guy that debuted just around a year ago, that's not bad at all.

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    We were lucky enough to have the new champ shoot from the hip with Smark Henry on his pro wrestling and PWR journey. And true enough, behind the brash kupal fans see every PWR show is a wrestling fan that worked his ass off to make it to where he is today.

    In the same way that great things come from small beginnings, it's always the wrestling fan in them that becomes the inspiration to who he would be today. Same goes with the new champ.

    Madrigal recalled, "I was staying at a cousin's house and I joined them to watch WrestleMania XIV on TV. Right off the bat, seeing LOD 2000 come out with the spikes and the bad ass helmet, I was hooked."

    And like many of today's wrestlers, he would look up to some of his favorite wrestlers as his heroes.

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    "The obvious one would be Stone Cold, hence the (flipping) birds," he told us, "but the less obvious ones would be Davey Richards (Pre-BITW phase), back when he was a snarky heel with the No Remorse Corps (Roderick Strong and Rocky Romero). Another one would be Kevin Steen. The guy is twisted AF, with great in-ring talent. But at the same time, he can show his comedic side."

    As a wrestling fan, there is no greater chance to show their appreciation to the sport they love than to have the opportunity to become a wrestler. And it seems that in the case of Madrigal, luck and a certain Philippine wrestling icon played quite the part in him eventually getting into PWR.

    "Joining PWR was by complete accident, to be honest," chuckles PWR's First Kupal. "I was applying for a job after graduating from culinary school, and as some may know, Bombay Suarez is also a chef who happened to be looking for applicants for an event they were catering. So I see his ad, click on his profile and see his DP where he was doing a dropkick. I was more excited seeing that than seeing the job opening! So I messaged Bombay about the job but at the same time brought up that I was a fan of pro wrestling and was interested in training with them."

    "Two weeks before the first Renaissance, I went over to the Bombay Suarez Performance Center to learn the basics," continues Madrigal. "Take note that there wasn't even a bootcamp at that time, so we had a lot of time. I was doing suplexes and body slams first day in. Eventually, I trained with the guys from Batch 2 of bootcamp, and the rest was history."

    In an environment with like-minded and enthusiastic wrestlers trying to make an impact in the local scene, everyone had to help each other in order to excel in this blossoming industry. And along the way, Madrigal would credit some guys who made it easier for him to learn what it takes to be a star.

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    "People who helped me out most were Bombay for the basics, and JD (Jake De Leon) polished the rest," Mike noted. "Joey Bax helped me with how I work 'cause there was a time na every single week, siya ka-practice match ko so 'pag may nakita ako na gusto kong gawin na sequences, siya taga-take. Also, in a way, Red (Rederick Mahaba) helped me character-wise and in terms of doing promos."

    During this time, the character of Mike Madrigal would slowly take shape, and as it turned out, the creative process of developing the final product is just as intriguing as his pro wrestling journey. And it seemed as though his kupal attitude came from one of his inspirations.

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    "Here's a bit of useless information: Mike Madrigal was supposed to be part of the Fighters 4 Hire," points out the MMA-trained warrior. "But I had to go to the US for a year, so they went ahead without me. So now I had to make a gimmick that was more than just an ass-kicker because we already had that in the form of the F4H," he explained. "So like I said, Davey Richards was the biggest influence on my in-ring style, so chinannel ko yung kakupalan niya, mixed in the blood lust, yung pagkakupal and comedic side of Kevin Steen, and you get Mike Madrigal."

    "The cursing though came after. I just felt like I was getting reactions and the attention from the crowd whenever I cursed so I stuck with it."

    Speaking of the crowd, his dedication to training and his undeniable work ethic would eventually pay off, leading up to the aforementioned debut at The ShawDown. And right off the bat, fans immediately took the chance to chant "kupal" at the debuting star. Just like that, everything went according to plan in his public wrestling debut.

    He fondly recalled on his first night, "Actually, that was exactly what we were going for. I remember I was asking Red (who was booking at the time) on what I had to do, and he said 'maging kupal ka lang'. Nakakautuwa na na-gets agad ng crowd yung character. I didn't have to do a promo for the viewers to get what the gimmick was. I actually thought the boys had to feed the chant to the crowd. Nung nalaman ko na it was organic, I was more than happy. Sorry, but joke's on you guys. Ya'll got worked."

    His debut went well, but he would have another defining moment in his career when he was paired up with fellow New Breed-er, Vlad Synnsyk to form the tag team known as the Deadly Sinns in an interesting time when the tag team division was at its infancy. Their successful union eventually led to them vying to be the inaugural PWR Tag Team Champions.

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    Mike had nothing but good things to say about his former tag partner. "This was another thing that felt organic. I was hesitant at first kasi I wasn't really a tag guy and neither was Vlad. Add that to the fact that our gimmicks are so far apart. However, the moment we tore shit up at Suplex Sunday, I knew this was gonna be a fun tag team. The fact that Vlad was as crazy as me in terms of the things we would do in the ring and actually being able to pull to them off was an added bonus. By the time we were gonna get split up, I didn't want it to end pero nung nalaman ko makakasali ako sa PHX Tournament, ah puta kanya-kanya na 'toh."

    But before that split, they made one more memorable moment as a tandem. In a way, this was a case of everything coming full circle as the Sinns' rivalry with F4H, which was told over the span of a year, had its finale in the form of the second ever tag team All Out War in PWR history. True enough, their match was arguably the match of the entire show.

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    As Mike would comment in regards to the highly-regarded bout, "I'm honored to be part of it. The chemistry that the F4H and The Deadly Sinns have is amazing because we can have a number of matches and not one of them would end up being the same. But at the same time, I find that none of them ever got boring."

    I'm happy the match entertained the people watching, as that match was the last chapter to our year-long story so we knew we had to make it special. Sayang din kasi yung build-up. Walang-wala yung sakit after the match sa feeling ng tuwa na nakuha ko when I found out how much people liked the match. But what made it more special for me is that I was able to share that with Miguel, Joey, and Vlad."

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    It was a chapter that ended very well for all four. But alas, one door closed and another one opened for Madrigal as he joined the PHX Championship Tournament at the recently-concluded AsiaPOP Comicon. He had to go through Trian dela Torre, his former partner Vlad Synnsyk, and both SANDATA and Dax Xaviera in a 3-way finals match to become new PHX Champion and the first to win a singles championship among the New Breed. It may have been a victory for the newly-relaunched singles star, but in many ways, it was a victory on more than one front.

    In his words, "As kupal as I am, I honestly feel that this one wasn't only for me. It was also a win for the New Breed. This is an acknowledgement of all the hard work that Dax, Vlad, Martivo, Robynn, and Alexander Belmonte III put in. That we're already in that level where we get the honor of fighting for championships. How do I feel? I feel like I'm still dreaming, but at the same time, I feel more inspired to grow and be a better wrestler."

    "I feel like I have to prove every show that I'm worthy of holding the PHX Championship, and I'm looking forward to it," he finishes.

    That would have been all well and good for our inaugural edition of the Smark Henry Hip Toast. But for long-time attendees of PWR shows, we could not help but capitalize the opportunity to finally ask about that one awesome constant seen during the shows: his awesome burritos. And yes, we said his burritos were awesome, and we're proud to blurt that out because it's true.

    "Thank you! Well, it came from a failed attempt at putting up a Mexican concession stand in one of the food parks in Makati. I felt that sayang naman, napa-taste-test ko na and nacosting ko na, so I knew the product was something I can sell. So na-try ko lang sa Bagong Yugto (where sakto, wala masyadong malapit na nagbebenta ng food), and it got a good response so I've been selling them ever since."

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    Mike Madrigal will be defending his newly-won PHX Championship against the Pinoy Tecnico SANDATA as your co-main event for PWR Live: Sugod! this Sunday. And while it will be his first championship defense, this will be something to look out for. Burritos out! Seriously, I really hope those burritos will be sold.


    PWR Live: Sugod! is happening on Sunday, September 3, at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati. Gates open at 2 PM. Tickets will be available at the gate for P400, but you can get early bird discounts by messaging the Philippine Wrestling Revolution directly on their official Facebook page.

    Photos by Hub "Hub Pacheco Driver" Pacheco and Mike Madrigal.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Hip Toast: Mike Madrigal Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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