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    Tuesday, February 25, 2020

    PWR Love at First Fight: The Official Smark Henry Review

    Photo from PWR Facebook page

    ‘Tis I, yo boy Ricky, the hypercritical reviewer you all love to hate. I’m back with another one of these bad boys and while this is usually the part where I bore you with my nonsense, allow me to throw all that out of the window and commend PWR for pulling off the best show in their storied history. Sure, it’s not without its flaws, but at this point, I didn’t really care that much.

    PWR Love at First Fight cemented itself as the ultimate benchmark for all PWR shows moving forward. I know I will because up until now, I’ve always used PWR Live: Championship Spirit as the stick to measure the shows I review. Thank you for your service, Riho, but I’ll be passing the torch to Robbie Eagles now. Screw the tier system—let’s just talk about the best parts.

    The Best Invader Main Event Since PWR Live: Homefront

    Until this point, Jake de Leon vs. Tengu was the best invader main event I’ve ever seen in PWR. JDL vs. TJP failed to meet the massive hype it created; Riho vs. Jibzy vs. Crystal vs. Jaye Sera left me wanting more, and I wasn’t able to catch Koto Hiro and Andrew “The Shark” Carter. I would include Jeff Cobb vs. Chris Panzer vs. QUATRO in this list, but they didn’t close the show they were in so I ruled them out. And then there’s Robbie freakin’ Eagles.

    Robbie Eagles is lightning in a bottle. That’s how I would describe the Sniper of the Skies. Despite being the typical indie showstopper everyone expected, Eagles is also a master storyteller. He knew how to get the crowd riled up, he knew what spots would get the loudest pops, and he knew how to kick some major butt. At one point, Eagles took two title headshots and a massive Eagle Splash, only for him to kick out at one. That moment was electric.

    My Google Keep app probably hated me that day because once again, I just stopped taking notes and enjoyed the match like I’m supposed to. And don’t even get me started on the ending. While the crowd didn’t get to see a happy ending, the execution of the heartbreaking finish was so superb that I would still consider it perfect. MSG was the most hated faction by the end of the night and unlike the last show, they actually earned it now. No more itches to scratch.

    Photo by Aaron Silao

    And while I’m talking about Chris Panzer second, it doesn’t mean he’s an afterthought in this main event. Our favorite MSG talent deserves all the nod in the world for going toe-to-toe with Robbie Eagles. Panzer proved to everyone why he’s working at a world-class level above everyone else, joined only by a few people in the PWR roster. Someone unfamiliar with the lore would probably think that both wrestlers are foreign talents and in a way, they both are. 

    Despite losing the main event, Robbie Eagles brought the mood up by a heartfelt speech to the Revo-Nation. He said he’s definitely coming back, y’all! Not only that, he vowed to take the PWR Championship to New Japan Pro Wrestling and represent the Philippines there. It made me want to see someone like Eagles take the top title and defend it elsewhere. Crystal can win titles from other countries, so why not let out titles be defended elsewhere even for a few months?

    The Only Team Building That Actually Worked

    Photo from @whatsageek

    Am I the only one who doesn’t enjoy team buildings? For me, it usually just means hanging out with the people you don’t necessarily like. That’s why the dysfunctional team of Jhemherlhynn and Cali Nueva’s dynamic hits close to home. They are the complete opposites in terms of basically everything, so their pairing instantly writes the story for themselves. Last month, it was relegated to the pre-show. This gem of an angle deserves a main card treatment, baby. 

    Just listening to the pops JMLxCNV get when they’re actually working together just proves how well-developed their characters and their interactions really were. Trian dela Torre acting like a stepfather trying to get his two kids to get along was a nice addition to the already entertaining duo. And when Jhemherlhynn actually scored the pinfall with a beautiful cradle, the place erupted in triumph. That’s how invested everyone was in watching this match unfold. 

    They were so invested that they forgot about whatever Jake de Leon and QUATRO were arguing about at ringside. Sure, it’s also a storyline worth exploring, but man, that Jhemherlhynn moment was definitely hard to ignore. I can’t even remember the last time the supposed Star of PWR received this big of a rub. With the help of her current involvement with Cali Nueva, Jhemherlhynn can definitely gain back the star power she once had and then some.

    QUATRO and Jake de Leon Definitely Have Beef Now 

    There’s no mistaking it: Jake de Leon and QUATRO are locking heads eventually. After JDL’s music interrupted QUATRO and Jan Evander’s amazing battle of attrition, the writing's on the wall for their apparent friendship. Although it left me wondering who actually played the music. Is someone setting up JDL? Is it JDL himself? We all know he can be a dick when he wants. Or maybe it’s QUATRO himself trying to justify his beef with the Senyorito? 

    QUATRO even returned the favor by interrupting the PWOGs vs. JMLxCNV match. And while their beef at ringside was overshadowed by Jhemherlhynn’s triumph, this rivalry is already an intriguing one thanks to how the storyline was built up. I can see this one blowing up at this year’s Wrevolution X, and they will definitely meet each other during the Path of Gold match next month. Regardless of their beef, this match is going to be epic anyway so count me in.

    Photo from PWR Facebook page

    What we need to commend is Jan Evander’s performance. The way he commanded GM Poch to downgrade his upcoming All Out War match to a regular one was logical and amazing. It wasn’t an act of cowardice, it’s a defiance to the random title defenses the company is throwing his way. Sure, his mic work could use some, er, work, but the way he carried himself out there was good enough. And like clockwork, Poch folds to the will of a determined champion.

    It’s a great decision too because it gave Jan Evander a chance to showcase the grace and precision he’s always claiming he has. Another thing he should mention is that he has the heart and determination a budding babyface has. Some would call that a fault, and I’ll be one of them, but seeing him survive QUATRO’s onslaught over and over is a great sight. It makes you wish he stopped hanging out with the Endgame and actually try his chops as a hero in PWR.

    MSG Setting the Tag Team Division on Fire

    Photo from @whatsageek

    Living the #MSGAllBelts life ain’t easy. Sure, they have most of the gold in PWR, but we all know gold attracts a bunch of hungry scavengers. Chris Panzer will have his hands full with Evan Carleaux and the Naughty Boys, but MSG’s tag team unit has a bigger problem on their hands: Rederick Mahaba, IMABAYASHI, and the power of love.

    But first, can we talk about how sick and twisted that Eh Di Sa Puso Mo Street Fight between MSG and KakaiBros? Watching it made me squirm and gag at the amount of violence. LEGOS?! You sick fucks. Main Maxx probably broke his feet in eight places and he will never walk again. How could you? Joking and overacting aside, this match was one of the more entertaining matches on the card. It’s definitely better than the first iteration of the fight. 

    Photo by @whatsageek

    Even without Mr. Sy backing up his guys, the heat he created before this match was enough to give Main Maxx and SANDATA a much needed god-tier level of heel heat. How did he do that? By cutting yet another scathing promo, going as far as mentioning Kobe Bryant's unfortunate accident. A bit rough and distasteful, but it got the job done. It’s definitely the least creative Mr. Sy promo, thanks to the lack of subtlety. It came out like he's just ticking the boxes of his list of hot button topics. Remember when his diatribes were a lot more structured and nuanced?

    Photo from @whatsageek

    In the end, MSG prevailed and we probably won’t hear from the KakaiBros anytime soon. It sucks that the Bros didn’t even unleash a more vicious side to them given how they were basically robbed last month. I just wish they expressed their frustrations more by being more vicious than they ever were. The ending was a bit anticlimactic as if they had to rush because they went overtime. But other than that, this match was an enjoyable ball of fun.

    After the match, MTNH came out to officially challenge for the tag titles at PWR Path of Gold. The duo, fresh off from beating the Punk Dolls, are the next legitimate contenders right after the Bros. With the winning streak they currently have, it’s hard to ignore these lovebirds. We also got a preview of the verbal smackdown we’re going to get in the coming weeks since two of the best talkers in PWR are finally feuding for realsies. Man, the tag team division is on fire!

    ECX, Chino, and Kupal Overlooked No More

    Photo by @8123shane

    I really don’t get why Evan Carleaux, Chino Guinto, and Mike Madrigal were branded as the overlooked ones, but let’s run with it for the sake of my subheading. This fantastic three-way kicked off the main show and what an early main event we got. They even threw in a PWR Championship opportunity to make the deal even sweeter. Now that they have something tangible to fight for, it made the action more competitive than it already is on paper. 

    And I challenge the notion that these three men are overlooked—the chant-off that started this match certainly begged to differ. I would even argue that they are three of the most over stars PWR has to offer. And if you can get everyone cheering and laughing at strategic moments of your match, you know you’re doing something special. Evan Carleaux eventually won, closing off an incredible match that served as the pay-off of their individual character arcs. 

    Literally any one of them could've won and no one will complain, but I'm curious as to where PWR will go from here. Evan Carleaux was in the same position last year when he valiantly faced IMABAYASHI at PWR Live: NICE. While it made sense that he lost that one, I'm not sure if it'll make sense the second time around. And at the same time, I don't want to see Chris Panzer's reign end just yet. This is a nice little dilemma that I can't wait to see resolved at the next show.

    Playtime is Not Over for Vlad Sinnsyk

    Yet another surprising hit was the handicap match between Vlad Sinnsyk and The Network. Or is it better to say a semi-handicap match? Because Sam Baltazar did most of the legwork while Playtime Idol was busy playing his melodica, much to the delight of the Revo-nation. And Vlad is Vlad, so there's that. Sam Baltazar definitely made good use of the spotlight he was given by going toe-to-toe with the PHX Champion. And to be fair, Idol helped too, even for a bit. 

    Meanwhile, Vlad Sinnsyk also did a great job heeling it up against the plucky warrior from Baguio City. Hopefully, they don't squander this by turning him face after a few months, just because. Is Vlad PWR's Big Show now? And the finish was perfect because it gave the Network the win while Vlad Sinnsyk still came out as an absolute beast. To put the cherry on top, Sam Baltazar nailed Vlad with another Swanton Bomb for the second time in a row.

    It didn't stop there, either. Playtime Idol stole the belt and handed it to a kid in the crowd. This absolute star of a kid then threw the title on the ground in defiance to the dastardly heel. It probably broke the title a little, but that was one special moment you can't replicate. And yes, sign that freakin' kid already. Jeez.

    The Beginning of the End for GM Poch

    I've said this before but in case you forgot and you've already painted me as some sort of a hater, let me repeat myself: I love GM Poch's body of work as an announcer. To me, he's the voice of PWR, no matter how many announcers they try to put in place of him. But he clearly sucks as an authority figure, and you all saw the straw that broke my back at PWR Mabuhay ang Wrestling when he basically allowed MSG to wreak havoc on the show he's in charge of. 

    And while the ambiguity of the PWR Board's true alliance with anyone wasn't addressed, they did the next best thing: addressing GM Poch's lack of cajonés in being a leader. Yes, Poch standing up to MSG was a great moment, but he didn't even extend the MSG ban to the main event. I thought he's tired of all the MSG shenanigans? He also let Jan Evander step all over him by changing the match he supposedly booked. Whether Evander has a point or not, why would an authority figure easily bow to someone's wishes? Damnit, Poch!

    Yes, things aren't looking good for our favorite announcer, but that's exactly one way to establish some order in the PWR lore. While the PWR Board may never be truly neutral again, at least we can see they're actively running the show now. After the Jaye Sera/Nina brawl, he was apparently called backstage by the Board to fix the back-to-back mishaps under his watch. 

    What if this was the Board's way of throwing Poch under the bus, allowing them to install a controversial personality as the new GM? Kudos to PWR for actually addressing this minor mistake from a lowly reviewer like myself. I feel heard.

    PWR Love at First Fight Missed Opportunities

    • Jaye Sera vs. Nina underwhelms. For a match that's framed to be a blood feud, it's not really a great look to start it with a bunch of Irish Whips. The separation brawl may have felt unearned, but it did make the rivalry much more intense than it actually is. It's a small bump to the Jaye's Era, nothing to be worried about. 
    • Revo Ranger unmasked. This should be a bigger deal, right? You can't just reveal a new pretty face to a familiar character and have him lose within seconds? And if being unmasked made Revo Ranger weaker, where did he get the strength to come out and compete? Man, this sucks. #JusticeForRevoDaddy
    • GrabCamus back in the pre-show. I’m starting to think that the booking of the pre-show doesn’t reflect someone’s position in the company and that I shouldn’t think about it that much. I still have the pre-show stigma, I guess. 
    • The blatant lack of Crystal content. I get that not everyone can get booked, but there’s definitely time to insert at least a couple of promos or backstage interviews to hype up the next show. Maybe have Crystal hype up the return of Emi Sakura or better yet, tease a rematch between the two?
    • Still no implosion from the Punk Dolls. Isn’t this the only reason why the supposed heel Robynn is still tagging with Martivo? If she’s not going to do anything, then what’s her deal? Who exactly is Robynn right now? Is she still a heel? Is she now a babyface? Will it matter if they eventually implode? I feel like the ship has sailed a long time ago.
    • A small, small nitpick (sorry I couldn't resist). When GM Poch went to the back after the Nina/Sera brawl, it would've been more dramatic if he answered a call from the Board in the ring before he dashed backstage, instead of just him doing business at ringside.

    Overall Thoughts

    As if I haven't said it enough in my intro, PWR Love at First Fight is the best show in PWR history. They took their mastery of pacing, loaded it with amazing matches, and sprinkled it with superb storytelling, resulting in a show that literally had no down moments whatsoever. Every match had something extra to offer aside from the actual wrestling. 

    From chant-offs and beso-beso-offs to dysfunctional banters and children getting worked like, er, children, PWR Love at First Fight offered the most entertainment value in a single show—Robbie Eagles is just a bonus at this point. And it's just February, people! We still have more canon shows to go through. I don't want to jinx them, so just keep it up and don't ever look back.

    Show Grade: A well-deserved A+. I don't do S grades, sorry. 

    Match of the Night: Robbie Eagles vs. Chris Panzer
    Star of the Night: Jhemherlhynn and Cali Nueva
    Holy Shit! Moment of the Night: Revo Daddy! *clap clap clap clap clap*
    You Sick Fuck! Moment of the Night: Main Maxx landing on legos
    Promo of the Night: MTNH challenging MSG
    Announcement of the Night: Emi Sakura will return at PWR Path of Gold! Also, this year's Path of Gold match will feature 30 competitors!
    Fan Interaction of the Night: Kid throwing the PHX title to the ground

    PWR Love at First Fight Thoughts That Didn’t Make It

    • The new bleachers are amazing! The viewing experience just got ten times better. Aside from the upside that you can now see the action anywhere you sit, the crowd can actually make their voices heard better via dramatic stomps. It definitely helped make the main event that much epic. A possible downside is that the spot where a wrestler throws an opponent to a sea of chairs is no more (probably). It’s definitely the end of an era. 
    • You know a wrestler is a weeb if he announces the move he's about to execute.
    • Apparently, the PHX Championship belt got damaged after the kid threw it on the ground. Pro-tip for PWR: if you don't want your titles damaged, maybe don't hand it out to children who are overly invested in the characters they're watching in the ring. Don't blame them for expressing what you want them to feel, especially if you're a heel. 

    Disclaimer: 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.


    Ricky Publico (@TeetotaleRicky) is Smark Henry's resident SmackDown reviewer... for better or worse. A known lover of wrestling tournaments, he's a sucker for well-executed promos and fast-paced matches. While he enjoys nitpicking shows, he now prefers enjoying wrestling for what it is instead of stressing himself over things he can't control. He just bought an Android phone and he couldn't be more delighted.
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    Item Reviewed: PWR Love at First Fight: The Official Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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