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    Saturday, December 21, 2019

    MWF AksyoNovela TV Episode 8 & 9: Ending on a High Note

    Over the span of the two latest AksyoNovela TV episodes, Manila Wrestling Federation gave us two AWGC Tag Team Championship matches. Plot points also continued to advance, and we got all the promos. All of it. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but it was really a lot.

    This is a long one, so let's dig into it.


    Episode 8 opens with someone talking on the phone. (I think it's Moises, but the scene is dark and I can't be sure.) He talks about some kind of prophecy getting fulfilled, hangs up, and then laughs in a way that only Saturday morning cartoon villains do. That description sounds cheesy AF, but he makes it work. This promo was short and spicy sweet, and at this point it feels like it foreshadows an engaging episode to come! /sarcasm

    Verdict: Like

    Strength Battle

    At first, this seems like an odd pairing. Lucas Buhawi is typically portrayed as the muscle of HSSL, but it's hard to look imposing next to the sheer mass of The Mauler. But as the match progressed, it began to make more sense. While Lucas is too physically outmatched to wrestle like himself, he does get firsthand experience on how a veteran wrestles in his style. On that note, however, the finish came too quickly—he was outmuscled and outwrestled the whole time, then he caught a lucky break, hit a flying elbow, and won out of nowhere. The right person went over, and the match was entertaining enough, but the pacing at the end felt off.

    Verdict: Neutral.

    Tambay Threats

    HSSL then invades the commentary table for a Fabio Makisig promo. The leader of HSSL was angry at how CoCo Gus has suspended him from future title opportunities, and he warns Gus to always keep an eye on him. This promo works—anyone who has stared at the sari-sari store tambay for one second too long knows how it feels for the said tambay to suddenly and angrily threaten you and telling you to watch your back.

    Verdict: Like

    Tagalog Frankie

    The transition of Frankie Thurteen's character away from the tormented emo artiste of the past has been slow, but his promo skills have always lagged behind. This time, he turns things up a notch by switching from English to Tagalog. And surprisingly, it works! With that said, this was a promo that relied on being angry and loud, so you can't help but connect it to Fabio's earlier promo. Frankie's promo tonight was arguably better, but it still felt more of the same when placed next to each other. Also, it's at this point that a viewer would realize and say, "Wait a second, this is the third promo of the day, isn't it?"

    Verdict: This still gets a like, but it would be cool if we get a second match soon instead of...

    A Gus Global Promo

    Okay. So technically, this is the usual CoCo Gus promo. He is an expert at playing the understanding authority figure while actually being self-interested in all things, and he is supposed to be annoying. But that said, this is the fourth promo of a 30 minute wrestling show. So this jumps right over from "I'm supposed to be annoyed, good job" to "I'm here to watch wrestling, damnit."

    Verdict: Dislike

    Shit Gets Real

    And then suddenly, a gutpunch. It's easy to dislike this next segment for being yet another promo, and as the man in the dark returns to continue snitching about the disappearance of Ka Dencio, I groaned at once again having to wait before seeing more action. But as I listened to the man in the dark describe how he abducted Ka Dencio, it began to give me chills. See, in the same week that this episode aired, a video of a woman getting abducted into a white van in Makati was circulating all over the Internet. Once again MWF shows an uncanny ability to mirror current events. It tapped into personal fears of a Metro Manila that is slowly becoming more unsafe, and the segment as a whole made me uncomfortable. But as I mentioned before, ultra-unreal realism is the call of today's fiction, and recognizing the absurdities of our daily lives is exactly the point.

    Verdict: Like

    Not the Favorite Child

    In our sixth promo of the show (groan), Classical Bryan Leo is approached by an MWF employee. Apparently Bryan wanted a match against the suspended Fabio Makisig because of the previous week's interference, and he was informed that CoCo Gus has approved his request. The commissioner, however, was too busy tending to the injured PAC RG to personally talk to Bryan Leo. Clearly, he is not as valued in the Gus Constabulary as he believes himself to be.

    Verdict: Dislike. Guess why.

    Magaling Tumambling

    We're almost there! In a few moments we'll get our second wrestling match of the show, but before that we have to go through a segment where Gigz Stryker asks members of the audience for their favorite wrestlers. This time a kid named Ryu talks about Fabio Makisig's skills in the ring, and a fan named Pepper spices up the upcoming match by rallying for the Philippine tag team. No verdict for this one; it's not our place to "judge" fans.

    The Pride of Youth

    We finally get to the main event of the episode. The emerging story here is that the Youngblxxd, having tasted gold, now have egos that are too big to work together. And while they were able to come out on top, there was a definite animosity between Frankie Thurteen and Morgan Vaughn, which allowed the Bahay ng Liwanag to sneak up on them after the match and create the opportunity to squeeze into the tag team title picture.

    Verdict: Dislike. Something about this match felt sloppy. Now I'm not very good at the technical aspects of wrestling so I can't quite pin down why this didn't work. It wasn't bad, per se—Frankie's Canadian Destroyer towards the end was very impressive, actually. But it felt lackluster for a title match.

    Total Likes: 4
    Total Dislikes: 3

    Episode 8 tl;dr: MWF is a story-driven wrestling promotion, and that's why I like it, but in this episode they overstate story over wrestling. That said, the storylines themselves continue to be intriguing, and sometimes all too real, in a way that really makes you think.

    Mr. Lucha is a Heel Again

    We see a noticeably leaner Mr. Lucha for the first time under the new format, and he is interviewed by William Elvin to start off Episode 9. In 10 minutes he manages to do the following: Blame the fans for rallying under HSSL. Expose himself as an oldie who cannot adapt to change. Lose William Elvin's respect. Bully Kanto Terror for his own shortcomings. Be the controlling kuya, opening up a path for Kanto Terror to take to Luchadonna's heart.

    Verdict: Like. Mr. Lucha is a cookie-cutter babyface from the '80s. His values and traditions come from the previous generation, and on top of that he is now being shown to have a failure to adapt. In the time of the OK boomer, this makes him the perfect heel.

    The Commentators are Tired

    Throughout the episode, it's easy to notice both Sonny Go and William Elvin get tongue-tied, or lose their voice, or speak slower than usual. Much like the wrestlers who are filming several matches on one night, this would be the commentators' fourth consecutive episode, and it is understandable if they are dead tired at this point in the night. But rather than just accept this human limitation, the challenge for MWF would be to find ways to circumvent it. Would it be good to have two batches of commentators, for example?

    Verdict: Dislike

    David Topples Goliath

    It shouldn't be understated that Khayl Sison is a growing boy. He is slowly but steadily growing muscle, and at his young age he still has a lot of time to become even more imposing. With that said, it's not difficult to play the role of the smaller wrestler when matched up with someone like Mighty Mighty. Also, it's quite interesting to see a face wrestler utilize the low blow for the win.

    Verdict: Like

    Bahay ng Liwanag Glints

    In the second AWGC Tag Team championship defense in two episodes, the Youngblxxd fight against their longtime rivals in the Bahay ng Liwanag. Unlike their previous match, however, the animosity between Morgan Vaughn and Frankie Thurteen could not be contained, and their friction costs them their gold. Bahay ng Liwanag dethrones Youngblxxd, and in the aftermath, Frankie attacks Morgan with the belt they just lost.

    Verdict: Like. Unlike the previous episode's match, this one just gelled together. Maybe the familiarity between the competitors helped.

    The Conscience in the Darkness

    The man in the darkness continues his chilling story of abduction, and this time he focuses on the guilt that he feels after he has disposed of the activist. This is an engaging storyline, but as the third promo of this type, it also feels like it should progress sooner rather than later. Who is the man in the darkness? Is this a new character? Is he one of the GusCon goons? If the fourth promo is still like this, it will start to get repetitive.

    Verdict: Like

    Siga vs. Alta

    CoCo Gus and his GusCon goons are on the ring with Bryan Leo at the start of this match. Gus challenges Fabio to come to the ring to settle things, and Fabs for his part was eager to march into the trap with the rest of HSSL (sans Tala). Outnumbered by one, HSSL at first seemed to be on the losing end of things again, but then Rex Lawin shows up, chasing Gus away to even the odds.

    What followed was a hard-hitting wrestling match. Classical Bryan Leo plays his part well, and this is the best match I've seen from him so far. He definitely knows what he's doing. And of course, Fabio has been battling international talent and his skill level continues to grow.

    Verdict: Like. The kids celebrating with HSSL on the ring was a nice touch to end MWF's year on a high note.

    Total Likes: 5
    Total Dislikes: 1

    Episode 9 tl;dr: This episode is the longest one so far, but you wouldn't know it if you came from the last episode. The promos were evenly spaced out, the matches were all good, and the show ends on a high note.

    Photo by Kelvin Concepcion Paje

    Disclaimer: BJ Recio is personal friends with the wrestler who plays the Fabio Makisig character. He is otherwise unaffiliated with the Manila Wrestling Federation in any way, shape, or form.
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    Item Reviewed: MWF AksyoNovela TV Episode 8 & 9: Ending on a High Note Rating: 5 Reviewed By: BJ Recio
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