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    Thursday, May 28, 2020

    Jake De Leon Looks Back on the Biggest Match of His Career (So Far)

    It feels like it's been forever since we last looked forward to a local wrestling show. Perhaps it's just the three-month lockdown messing with everyone's perception of time lately, but anyway. Around summertime last year, Filipino fans started counting down to PWR's biggest show to date: PWR Special: Homecoming, which took place on Oct. 12,  2019.

    The months leading up to the Homecoming was filled with anticipation, especially with a stacked lineup featuring international talents like  Jeff Cobb, Desi Derata, Billy Suede, and former WWE Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins. I remember PWR also made a social media game to spark a fun discussion among fans on who they think would win. Who would've thought that we'd feel this same excitement as we count down to Homecoming's pay-per-view premiere on May 31?

    We know a lot of you will feel sort of nostalgic as you relive your favorite moments. But if there's one person who has a lot to remember from this night, it's "Mr. Philippine Wrestling" Jake De Leon, who headlined Homecoming against TJP.

    We caught up with JDL to get some insight on how he prepared for one of the biggest matches of his career (so far) and his thoughts while he was in the ring. He also has a few words for fans who'll be watching Homecoming for the first time this weekend.

    How did you feel the very first time you found out that Homecoming was happening and that you were going to face TJP?

    I felt very excited initially just knowing that Homecoming was happening. It was going to be Philippine wrestling's biggest and most ambitious show to date, so I couldn't help but feel excited. However, once I found out that I was chosen to face TJP, I was definitely honored, but then the reality sank in. I was going to be facing a world-class talent and here I was wrestling at best one show a month. I was honored, excited, and nervous at the same time, and I knew I needed to step my game up if I wanted to go toe-to-toe with TJP.

    Did you get to meet or talk to TJP before the Homecoming hype began?

    I didn't. We really just only met each other on the day of the show.

    What did you do to prepare?

    The month leading up to Homecoming, I really made sure to get into the best shape possible before the biggest match of my career. I got in touch with an old college friend, Gab Palanca (@strongerwithgab), who was a personal trainer. He got me setting personal records on my deadlifts, squats, and bench presses so I knew I was definitely in the best shape I could be leading up to the show. In terms of diet, I just made sure to eat clean, lean, with a lot of protein to get even stronger and healthier.

    Mindset-wise, I made sure to never miss a pro-wrestling training day and watched as many TJP matches I could find.

    Did you encounter any challenges while preparing for your match? If there were any, what motivated you to keep going?

    I guess the biggest challenge while preparing would be the discipline. I went to strength and physical training three times a week with [Gab] in the early mornings before work, so that really took a toll on my energy for the rest of the day—and I didn't miss a session. I also had wrestling training on Sundays, so my weeks were pretty packed. My diet was also pretty hard on me because I remember only eating fried food maybe once during the months leading up to Homecoming to make sure I was in the best physical shape.

    So, Homecoming season comes around where both you and TJP release your respective promos on social media. What was your mindset in making your promo?

    The promo that you guys see in the video packages wasn't actually my first take. [Laughs] It was around my third or fourth take.

    When I was told that I would be facing TJP, of course I and everyone else thought it would be a dream match of sorts. TJP represented the Philippines everywhere he wrestled while I was the representative for what we created here in our own country. So initially, when our match was announced, we were very respectful of one another, but then I got to thinking: He's never been to the Philippines. He's never had to go through what we in Philippine wrestling had to go through and I've never gone through what he has either. As much as I wanted to respect him, I needed to psych myself up so that I could believe I could beat him, which is what that third or fourth take of the promo was.

    All those thoughts went into me and I got angry and passionate, and all the emotions just flowed out into that promo everyone saw. Sure, it was a bit mean and fiery, but I think that promo got all the fans talking. Plus, it kind of sparked something in TJP too, which is why we got a lot of hype leading up to Homecoming.

    What was your reaction to the fans' reception to your fiery promo?

    Whether they like me for saying those things or hated me for lashing out at TJP, I was happy they reacted. The passion I put in that promo was no joke to me, so I'm glad the fans accepted and reacted to the passion I conveyed.

    When you got to the venue, did you get pre-show jitters? How'd you overcome it?

    Heck yeah! [Laughs] Going into that venue and you see how big it is compared to all other venues we've wrestled in, that gets you right away. I overcame it by just gradually soaking it all in, I guess. I talked to the guys who've been with me since day one [and those] who worked hard to make this all possible. I just needed to keep talking to them to help me soak in everything that was happening, otherwise my mind wouldn't believe that we were actually here and I probably wouldn't have been at my best. Also, I chewed a lot of gum to keep my anxiety in check.

    What are some of the notable things you picked up from TJP's talk before the show started?

    The thing I remember the most from TJP before Homecoming started wasn't really the talk, but it was more of how cool, calm, and gracious he was. He came into the building and met everyone, shook everyone's hand, and you can just feel the cool and calming aura exude from his body. He told us how happy he was to finally be able to cross this bridge of wrestling in the Philippines, which made me really happy [because] we were able to get Philippine wrestling to this point. It just made me want to go the extra mile to make sure I gave him a good match.

    You mentioned earlier that you only met TJP on the day of the event. Aside from watching his matches for preparation, how did you establish rapport with him and ensure that you conveyed a story without messing up the flow of the match?

    We just talked about the match and that was it. Storywise, we just went with the promos that we felt were natural reactions or replies to whatever we were putting out or saying about one another [before our match].

    What was running through your mind before, during, and after your match?

    Before the match, it was a mixture of "started from the bottom, now we here" level of proud, plus a huge helping of "don't fuck it up" mentality.

    During the match, I was just soaking it in and enjoying the fact that I'm in the ring with a world-class talent and was about to show everyone there what our brand of Philippine wrestling was all about.

    After the match, it was a huge sense of happiness and relief. I didn't fuck it up, the match was great, and we made the fans happy. That's all I could ask for.

    If given the chance, is there anything you'd want to change with your match or the outcome of it?

    As a wrestler, you always look back at your matches and see things where you could have done better or you could have given a bit more. But in terms of what we've done or the outcome, I'm happy with how it is now and we could always do it again. [Wink]

    With Homecoming coming to PPV in a few days, what do you want people, especially those who weren't able to go, to expect when they watch it?

    I honestly don't want them to expect anything. I just want them to enjoy it.

    But if I can ask them for one favor, I want them to watch the show and take a look at how far Philippine wrestling has come and think about how much more it can achieve. Hopefully, more and more people can continue to support Philippine wrestling and help us reach even greater heights very soon.


    PWR Special: Homecoming will be available on-demand starting May 31 via http://streamsessions.live for just P500. While waiting for the full event, you can already stream Crystal vs. Desi Derata on the site for free.

    Photo from Wrestling PH


    Jackie Arias is a writer and former Content Creator for a feminist lifestyle website. Aside from casually catching up on wrestling news, you can find her listening to music and playing video games she can never finish while drinking copious amounts of coffee. Her Twitter and CuriousCat are open for story suggestions and comments—or photos of your cats.
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    Item Reviewed: Jake De Leon Looks Back on the Biggest Match of His Career (So Far) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jackie Arias
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