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    Wednesday, October 4, 2017

    The Smark Henry Hip Toast: Bolt

    Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to 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 an intimate look at the wrestlers who are helping build this wonderful sport and turn it into something really special in this country.

    For this installment, we will be looking at the Animazing Fighter of PWR and a rookie sensation in his own right, Bolt.


    There is an old saying when it comes to the best personas in pro wrestling: they tend to be who they are in real life, turned up to 11.

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    Look no further for an example of this than at PWR Live: Mainit's pre-show several months back. Picture this: an agile newcomer ran out to the ring like a ninja from Naruto, likewise to a familiar tune from the popular franchise, effectively surprising and delighting fans at the same time. This newcomer, appropriately named Bolt, took on relative newcomer Evan Carleaux in his debut match, impressing fans with his athleticism and underdog charm. While the Animazing Fighter would fall to the future co-number one contender to the tag team titles via submission, he left quite a mark in the eyes of the audience.

    Since then, Bolt's in-ring career has been quite akin to the story of main characters from various anime such as Naruto and My Hero Academia: an underdog that's slowly scratching and clawing his way into the top of the mountain while having to deal with successes and failures along the way. The audience became witnesses to the growth of this rookie, who has slowly come to his own as a performer. As time went on, Bolt eventually got the support of the fans. And while there is certainly much to learn in time, everything has gone swimmingly well for a young star that has less than a year of experience as a pro.

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    Interestingly enough, his love for pro wrestling would take a while to grow to where it is today.

    "I wasn't really a fan as a kid," Bolt recalled, "the reason I had to watch wrestling is because my grandfather was watching and I had no other choice."

    Bolt would eventually find his in-ring heroes that would eventually trigger his love for the business. In anything, his heroes are right up his alley. "I became a fan when I saw the works of Jeff Hardy, especially when I saw him hit a Whisper In The Wind from the top of the cage against Umaga, and the 30-foot Swanton Bomb against Orton. As such, my biggest influences in the ring would be Jeff Hardy and Evan Bourne."

    These vital moments in wrestling history helped kickstart his love for the business, but as luck would have it, a set of wonderful coincidences would eventually lead him to bigger and better opportunities later in life. If anything, his other inspiration in deciding to become a pro wrestler was closer than you might think, as well as proof of the power of advertising.

    "I just saw their sponsored ads in Facebook, and then I tried watching their videos," Bolt fondly remembered during our interview. "I haven't really watched their shows live, but I got hooked when I saw the poster, as well as clips from Peter Versoza vs Crystal, and when Ralph won the PWR title. A few months later, I saw yet again another sponsored ad that says their boot camp is having an opening. So at that point, I might as well try it out."

    As luck and persistence would have it, Bolt would eventually make it into that year's boot camp class, joining the ranks of Evan Carleaux, Trian dela Torre, and the KakaiBros. With such hungry and athletically gifted competitors joining the batch, the future of PWR was brighter than ever. And thankfully for Bolt, he managed to learn the in's and out's of the business thanks to some experienced minds within the system, as he would point out:

    "JDL was the one who taught me everything, from the basics to the moves you do in-ring. Rederick Mahaba was the one who helped us in promos and characterization. And last but not the least, it was Crystal who helped me polish everything (hence, the reason why I call her Kuristaru Sensei)."

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    Much like other stars who went through bootcamp, it was during this time that Bolt was beginning to find his identity, and who he wants to become as a performer. And as for the character and origins of Bolt as a character, while he was inspired by the likes of popular high-flyers like the aforementioned Hardy and Bourne, he was also supported by quite a surprising source.

    Surprisingly revealed by Bolt himself, "It was AB3 who helped me come up with the idea of Bolt since my preferred style is a lot of fast-paced moves and a little bit of high flying. Since we see a lot of flippity floppity floo when we see anime fights, that pretty much how it came to be."

    Bolt may have the physical goods to exhibit his high flying prowess, what sets him apart from most wrestlers is how he is able to embrace Japanese culture and otaku fandom into the ball of energy we see in the ring at every PWR show. And this is where the "turned up to 11" part comes in, as Bolt explained about his other huge passion in life:

    "I grew up watching anime. All I ever did as a kid was to watch anime in the afternoon on free TV as soon as I get home from school. As for favorite characters, they have to be Gaara and Itachi from Naruto, although Hanamichi Sakuragi (from Slam Dunk) would be a close runner up since the series has a special place in my heart."

    His love for Japanese culture is merely not limited to Japanese anime, mind you. Over time, he was able to bring another element of his fandom into the world of pro wrestling, one that definitely stands him out among the rest: cosplay. And even today, fans can see this side of Bolt shown in the form of his various costumes and accessories, including his practical My Hero Academia-inspired P.E. uniform that he adorns as his in-ring gear as of late.

    "Yes, I love cosplaying," Bolt happily mentioned to us, "I went on a hiatus during the dark times of the Jeje invasion in the cosplay community, but I'm slowly making my way back. The My Hero Academia P.E. uniform was just supposed to be a one day thing (for the PHX Championship Tournament at APCC), but when I found out how comfortable it is, I decided to use it from now on. It's one the Big 3 in Shounen Jump, so I'm pretty sure it would be easy to figure out."

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    But when it comes right down to it, simplicity is best for Bolt, and sometimes, it's really the costumes that speak louder than the promos.

    "I decided to wear anime-inspired gear so that people would easily get my gimmick and character without even talking on the mic. Pretty much, everything worked as planned."

    Following his time in boot camp, once everything came to fruition, Bolt finally made his debut at PWR Live: Mainit, and since then, everything has been a dream come true for the only anime-wrestling competitive otaku in Philippine wrestling. With all that hard work that was put in boot camp, it was only natural that he had nothing but short and kind words for his experiences, leading up to his first appearance. And while indeed a short statement, it was more than enough to convey everything he wanted to say:

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    "I'm still at a loss for words on how to describe the feeling of accomplishing your childhood dream."

    Since then, he has consistently competed in various matches in PWR show, including intergender matches against Nina and his sensei, Crystal. But it would not be long before he would meet his biggest rival thus far, and a man he would have the most chemistry with in his less-than-a-year career: fellow upstart competitor, "The Canadian Dragon" Zayden Trudeau.

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    Both these guys would eventually tear the roof of the shows they compete in at their only two matches together, one at APCC during the PHX Championship Tournament, and the other during PWR Live: Sugod. Impressive is the fact that not only did they mesh very well despite both of them being rookies, but they also got the only "fight forever" chants on the shows they were in, a shocking testament to their chemistry together as opponents. And much like how fans generally feel about these two competitors fighting against one another, Bolt also had nothing but the utmost praise for his fellow rookie, as well as happiness on his end:

    "Working with him was a huge pleasure. He is so easy to work with, and is always open to ideas. I guess we just have good chemistry and we complement each other's styles. I almost cried when I heard the reviews, and when I was re-watching our match. It just feels so good that you want to cry tears of joy knowing the crowd loved your work... twice."

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    With so much faith towards the improvements of both Bolt and Trudeau, it was only natural that these two would eventually be featured in more high profile bouts, a natural progression of sorts for those who deliver at the biggest stage possible. And in the case of Bolt, he will definitely be in the biggest profile match of his career thus far when he competes against the current PHX Champion (and the first guest of the Smark Henry Hip Toast), Mike Madrigal, at PWR Live: Oktoberplex. While this may be a non-title match, the fact that this match is happening for Bolt so early in his career is an indicator of how much faith PWR has in the Animazing Fighter thus far, and even he could not believe the good things happening in his career at this point. But as usual, he was very humble in everything that happens to him at this point.

    "I was shookt," as Bolt would put it, "I actually thought that I would be staying in the lower card for a bit more (and there's definitely nothing wrong with that). But when I was told that I was gonna have a higher place in the match card, damn, it feels so good. But at the same time, I don't know what to feel. But all in all, I feel thankful for them putting their trust in me with a higher position, and I feel so excited to show everyone that I truly belong here."

    When you look at how Bolt has progressed thus far, it really does feel like watching the slow burn of a popular fighting anime, with the underdog slowly but surely making it to the fairy tale ending he is striving for. He is the main character of his own story, and with the way things are going, PWR is in good hands knowing that Bolt is ready, and that the future is definite bright for Philippine wrestling with the likes of him around.

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    Bolt will be competing against Mike Madrigal at PWR Live: Oktoberplex on Sunday, October 8, 2017, at Circuit City Makati. And while the PHX Championship will not be on the line, a victory by Bolt will definitely put him in major title contention as we approach the final PWR show of the year, Vendetta.


    PWR Live: Oktoberplex is happening on Sunday, October 8, 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 from Bolt's official Facebook page and by Hub Pacheco
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Hip Toast: Bolt Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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