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    Tuesday, January 28, 2020

    PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling: The Official Smark Henry Review

    Mabuhay ang wrestling, indeed. 

    Hey guys, #NitPickRick here. How's your 2020 so far? Yeah, it's not that great, but we did get a fun PWR show to end what has been a chaotic month. PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling is now in the record books and the time has come to put it under a microscope and dissect the show. And yeah, I know you're not glad that I'm the one doing it, but look at the month we've had so far. Is me reviewing a PWR show the worst thing that could happen right now?

    As an olive branch, let me say this right off the bat: PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling is a pacing masterpiece. They took all the lessons they learned from PWR Live: Championship Spirit and perfected the art of producing a high-octane show that doesn't leave the crowd flabbergasted. Every match delivered in one way or another that I'm inclined to cancel the tier system because no one really deserved to be under the second or third tier. 

    I wish I could just go ahead and call this show the best one yet, but you'll soon find out why I can't. So yeah, let's talk about the best PWR show that almost was.

    #MSGAllBelts Happened, But at What Cost?

    PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling ended with a picture-perfect moment of MSG raising their respective belts: Chris Panzer retained his PWR Championship after a chaotic main event; “El Guapo” Carlos Zamora, MSG International representative, retained his DPW Heavyweight Championship in an early MOTY candidate; and SANDATA and Main Maxx just captured the PWR Tag Team Championships after an unbelievably unfair match.

    #MSGAllBelts happening is good and all, but it's a massive storytelling failure. It all started when it was announced that Mr. Sy will be the guest referee for his team's PWR Tag Team Championship match against KakaiBros. How did this happen? Apparently, Mr. Sy went straight to the PWR Board and pulled some strings to tip the advantage to their favor. And there lies the problem: the fact that the PWR Board, the company's highest governing body, sanctioned a problematic championship match under their brand.

    I pointed this out on my preview piece but as always, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. After all, PWR subverted my expectations on numerous occasions. They dug themselves a hole with this one and I trusted they would climb their way out. But come PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling, they didn't correct anything. The match happened as planned and the result was as expected. How can MSG even lose this one? They couldn't, and that's the frustrating part.

    Sure, the KakaiBros found a loophole in the form of constantly challenging the DQ rule. The champs can cheat all they want because it's not like Mr. Sy will disqualify them and prevent his team from winning the titles. But the DQ loophole only allowed the Bros to cheat here and there. In the end, if there's no one to count the pin, the match will never end. MSG was given way too much unchecked power and that's what ruined the match and the final #MSGAllBelts moment for me.

    Wouldn't it have been more satisfying if SANDATA and Main Maxx won the titles by their actual effort? Sure, they could've done it via shenanigans, but at least they would've earned their victory. #MSGAllBelts, despite being framed as a feel-bad moment, would have had more gravitas around it and it would've launched MSG as an actual force to be reckoned with. Instead, the Board basically handed the tag titles to them and allowed MSG to hijack the remaining championship matches in order to force the #MSGAllBelts moment down our throats. 

    By the way, no one did anything to contain the chaos. The Board obviously didn't do anything to prevent their favorite team from losing. The referees didn't do anything and just shrugged their shoulders. The supposed GM Poch sat there and watched as all hell broke loose. You'd think that Poch will ban anyone from interrupting his show's main event after seeing what MSG is capable of. He probably forgot that he had authority to do such a thing, or maybe the Board told him not to interfere. Now that's some good string-pulling. 

    Thanks to Poch's inaction, the main event was a total mess. They were way too loose with the No DQ rule in a three-way that instead of seeing a proper match, we saw a free-for-all brawl that ruined what should've been a solid encounter. The MSG antics got old real fast, especially since we already saw it twice in one night. And when the dust settled, the company-sponsored MSG stood tall with all their gold intact. Great, I guess.

    I could say a lot more, but I didn't want to prolong my rant. Instead, I'll just reveal the can of worms that PWR opened by giving MSG this unchecked power and involving the PWR Board into the mix. It may not be obvious, but it affects the overall logic of PWR lore.
    • Where does the pull-stringing stop? PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling made it canon that the highest authority of PWR can be bought by Mr. Sy or literally anyone else, as long as they pull the right strings. Mr. Sy can just ask more favors in the future and the Board will grant them, knowing that it was successful the first time he tried it. So where will it stop? Will it ever stop?
    • Is the PWR Board an actual character now? You can't really call them neutral because they were directly responsible for helping MSG win the PWR Tag Team Championships. If they somehow stopped giving favors to MSG, it wouldn't change the fact that they are known to side with whoever can pull the right strings. So can we expect an appearance from them or at least a representative to try and explain their decision?
    • What will happen to Poch as GM? Clearly, he's not suited to wield such power. All he ever does whenever something chaotic happens is to instruct the bell guy to ring the bell, hoping that the sound of it will urge the chaos to stop. Should we just get rid of him and let him stick to announcing instead? People reject his replacements anyway, or they just call them Poch [insert number or distinct characteristic here]. 
    • Who booked Robbie Eagles? The Board obviously didn't book it since they already established that the Board heavily favors MSG. Why would they book Robbie Eagles to face the MSG headpiece, Chris Panzer? Are they sadistic or something? GM Poch certainly didn't book him given how incompetent he is in dealing with common GM duties. So who made this happen?

    Obviously, the way to fix this is to run a power struggle storyline where the talent, led by the babyface GM or Jake de Leon, threatens to walk out of PWR to try and correct the power imbalance. But based on the Robbie Eagles announcement, I’m pretty sure they’re expecting us to forget about it. Yeah, business as usual I guess. When did they ever listen to reviewers, amirite? Sorry for wasting your time, people. Hey look, Robbie Eagles is coming to PWR!

    A Night of Too Many Champions

    Moving on from another #NitPickRick rant, let’s discuss all the good things that happened on the show. Mainly, all the title matches that made everyone jump from out of their seats. Let’s start with an early MOTY candidate: “El Guapo” Carlos Zamora vs. Mike Madrigal for the DPW Heavyweight Championship. How can I describe this match? Seeing this match live is like taking two stones and banging them against each other to see which one will break first.

    It probably isn’t the stiffest match in PWR history—that crown still belongs to T-Hawk vs. Vlad Sinnsyk at PWR Live: Pak! Ganern!—but it was pretty damn close. Remember the fantastic matches El Guapo put out in under five minutes last year? Who knew he could deliver an instant classic when you give him more in-ring minutes? And he found the perfect dance partner in Mike Madrigal, who is tough enough to take all the hits head-on. It was a hard-hitting affair, and this match would’ve been perfect had it not been for the MSG shenanigans. Hey, we can’t have it all. 

    Speaking of hard-hitting, the PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling opener also brought the hard hits as Vlad Sinnsyk and Chino Guinto battled it out for the PHX Championship in a Matira Matibay match. And hey, we have a ladder now! So long, baking pans! A steel ladder is where it’s at. It added a new layer of danger to an already physical encounter. They made good use of the ladder by teasing that someone would go through it by the end of the match. No one did, but the uneasy atmosphere was successfully created. Hard-hitting as well, great match overall. 

    The only thing that took me away from this match was the unnecessary count-out rule. Instead of holding your breath as both men try to set up their next heart-stopping spot outside the ring, you get distracted by the referee counting them out. And I love how a mere three-way match got more chaotic than a supposed Last Man Standing match, which is expected to be more chaotic. Why add the count-out rule to a No DQ stipulation match? Just let them fight, goddamnit!

    In the end, Chino Guinto failed to regain his PHX Championship against the ruthless champion. A couple of Muscle Busters later, Vlad Sinnsyk would pick up the win and continue to beat down Chino until the Network made the save. Eventually, the one who ended up standing tall was none other than Sam Baltazar. Great moment for the rookie, but does this mean he'll be next in line for a title shot? It doesn't seem like he deserve it, but title shots are a dime a dozen in PWR anyway.  

    And speaking of a No DQ match, we have GrabCamus’s first foray into title contention against the All Out War Champion Jan Evander. This was never advertised as an All Out War match, but I’m glad to know that the AOW Championship match automatically means it’s going to be an All Out War match. Now we’re talking. This match also killed by presenting GrabCamus as the plucky underdog, despite being bigger and heavier than the champion.

    The match got a bit clunky at times and some moves were too telegraphed, but the carnage made up for all its flaws. Evander and Camus used the steel ladder more prominently and we did see some painful spots. In the end, Camus failed to capture the gold after multiple dick shots and an Academic Slam from the top rope. Evander is essentially saying that Camus isn’t ruthless enough to deserve the AOW Championship. Great storytelling right there. The crowd ate it all up by cheering for Camus from start to finish. Another great title defense in the books.

    And lastly, we have Crystal vs. Martivo for the MyPW Wrestlecon Championship. In what was probably the friendliest match of the night, Crystal and Martivo equally outsassed each other in terms of personality and actually wrestling skills. It didn’t really feel like the stakes were high and there was no air of drama, which felt refreshing in a show full of heated rivalries. In the end, Crystal bested her beshie and chalked her first victory as the MyPW WrestleCon Champion.

    That's It, Just Give Jaye Sera Everything Now

    Well, there you have it. Jaye Sera grabbed her chance and wrestled the hell out of Mr. Philippine Wrestling himself, Jake de Leon. If it wasn’t for the El Guapo vs. Mike Madrigal match, this one could’ve easily taken the Match of the Night award. So yeah, launch Jaye Sera to the top now. Give her title shots, give her top card rivalries, send her abroad if you have to. Just make her a top star because she freaking deserved it after this performance.

    Jaye Sera entered the ring a semi-heel and she came out a formidable babyface. She defiantly rejected a #PWOG membership and declared to everyone that she doesn’t need to be associated with anyone to make it big in PWR. She ultimately lost to JDL’s vast amount of in-ring experience, but there’s no denying that PWR scored a brand new protagonist in the form of the Angas One. While she’ll probably get stuck dealing with Nina in the coming shows, I hope we’ll see more of Jaye Sera’s rise in 2020.

    Kapitan Tutan Starts the Year with Huge Win

    Another one celebrating the new year with a smug smile on his face is none other than Kapitan Tutan. How can he not be, when his WLAIK antics brought him a victory over OWE’s Sunny Zhai. When he’s not teaching the crowd how to do his chant, Zhai can pose a dangerous threat to his opponents. He’s not as explosive as other foreign talents, but I still enjoyed his performance opposite the equally lethal Tutan.

    I missed the last PWR show of last year so this is my first time seeing Kapitan Tutan in months. I can’t believe his heel heat had grown this much that the moment he came out of the curtain, the boos started to rain in. After two huge losses since breaking bad, Tutan should be working hard if he wants to be taken seriously as a potential threat. His impressive win over Sunny Zhai definitely did the trick.

    Please Come Early and Catch the Freakin' Pre-Show

    Other than the PWR Tag Team Championship match, we got two great tag matches for January. The first of which came during the pre-show so if you arrived late like I did, you missed the real opener: MTNH vs. Cali Nueva and Jhemherlhynn. They were able to pack a lot of story, character development, and innovative spots in one well-timed match and the only travesty is that this was placed in the pre-show. It definitely deserved to be higher in the card. 

    CNV and JML really have to fix a lot of issues, and it ain't gonna be easy given their history. It's really fun to see how PWR still values continuity and applies it seamlessly in every match. And what else can I say about the unbreakable bond of the rejuvenated MTNH? These two teams had great chemistry together. If CNVxJML faced a different team, it probably won't be as entertaining as this match. And of course, it's not a Cali Nueva match without at least one flippy maneuver. 

    The other tag match involved the YOLO Twins opposite Dax Xaviera and Gatilyo. This one shocked me because I've never seen them treat Gatilyo as a serious powerhouse until now. He basically manhandled both twins while Dax comically stayed in the sidelines, letting his minion do all the dirty work. Great heel work from Dax and Gatilyo deserves even more praise for showcasing his strengths. I knew there was a reason why you're my favorite PWR wrestler of all time. Gatilyo nambawan!

    The Not So Nice Pre-Show Treatment

    As much as I enjoyed Dax/Gatilyo vs. YOLO Twins match, I would trade them for one of the Naughty Boy matches from the pre-show. It's really weird to see former PWR Champions not be part of the main card, but I guess it's an incentive for the Revo-Nation to arrive early for the show. 

    Take Evan Carleaux vs. John Sebastian for instance. In early 2019, ECX was one pinfall away from capturing the PWR Championship. Fast forward to 2020, he's facing a former PWR Champion in the pre-show. It's an inane complaint, I know, but I find it weird nonetheless. If we add how the Naughty Boys dominated most of 2019, then it's really weird how all of them got relegated to pre-show duty in 2020. I don't know, I'm probably just overthinking nothing.  

    I mean, ECX still picked up a huge win over the only Triple Crown Champion in PWR, John Sebastian, so I guess the Naughty Boys are fine. What isn't fine is Our Lord and Savior's continuing slump. Since losing his co-GM position at PWR Renaissance 2019, Sebastian has yet to make any sort of relevant statement. He wasn't even part of PWR Homecoming. And to make it worse, he lost to the same guy who ended his reign of terror as tag champion.

    John Sebastian is in serious need of a redemption arc, and if this is how it starts, then we're off to a great start. It also helps that Sebastian looks the part. Not to body shame or anything, but the weight gain is certainly hard to ignore. For the first time in years, the character of John Sebastian feels exciting because now, he can be more unhinged than ever. I feel like I've said this before. 2020 should be the year we delve deeper into what makes John Sebastian tick.

    Overall Thoughts

    Aside from the massive plot hole PWR created for themselves, PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling was spectacular. I already said that the pacing of this show was superb, what I haven’t said yet was how great the wrestling was. Not one match bored the crowd, and everyone looked great out there. PWR really started the calendar year right, let’s see if they can keep this up considering how they’re producing three shows next month. That's a lot of shows.

    Also, it's a small request and it probably won't matter in the end, but it wouldn't hurt the product if they improve their attention to detail in crafting storylines. The small caveat of involving the PWR Board in a random tag team match may sound inconsequential, but it opened a lot of plot holes to the internal logic they established. I get that we all come to PWR for the wrestling, but we stay for the compelling stories and characters. Just sayin'. 

    Match of the Night: El Guapo vs. Mike Madrigal
    Star of the Night: Jaye Sera
    Tag Team of the Night: MTNH
    Breakout Star of the Night: Gatilyo
    OMG! Moment of the Night: El Guapo taking a bump on the cement floor
    WTF! Moment of the Night: That horrendous main event
    Surprise Moment of the Night: Robbie Eagles coming to PWR!

    Show Grade: A-

    PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling Thoughts That Didn’t Make It

    • Pro-tip for the sound guys: Maybe don’t play the music of the heel who launched a vicious attack to the babyface? Aside from diminishing the impact of the shock, it makes it seem like the company celebrates unsportsmanship behavior. Sure, the Board actually sanctioned a highway robbery, but still. 
    • The chops from this show always sends me back to a dark, painful past…
    • I love El Guapo and all, but his entrance theme sucks and his entrance video sucks more. Also, not sure if you want to be introduced as someone’s little friend. 
    • The running corner dropkick fake-out into a single stomp got overused in this show for some reason.
    Photos and videos from PWR


    Smark Henry is independently owned and managed by a group of Filipino pro wrestling fans, but it includes members affiliated with the Philippine Wrestling Revolution.
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    Item Reviewed: PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling: The Official Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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