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    Wednesday, June 3, 2020

    Homecoming At Home: How PWR's First-Ever PPV Experience Was Like


    Out of everyone in the Smark Henry offices, I'm probably the person least engaged with PWR right now. That isn't to say I've lost interest in the promotion—it's hard for that to happen when you help run a wrestling news site—but I've long resigned myself to missing shows because it clashed with family time or other interests. I'd be content with just supporting them in what small way I could, leaving the reviews to our newer brood of writers. It also helps that I have more trust in our team now to cover it than before, but I digress.

    So when I found out that PWR Special: Homecoming was going to be on the same weekend I booked a hobby-related trip to Bangkok, the reaction was more "Oh, that sucks." rather than intense, gripping FOMO. Sure, I was going to miss seeing guys like Jeff Cobb and TJP, but I also didn't want to rebook any of my plans just for that. I wasn't going to give up some cha yen and pad thai to watch Mr. Athletic toss people around. Besides, surely PWR was going to get more international stars down the line? If I really wanted to, there was going to be a next time, right?

    Everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, of course. That change also impacted PWR, and with no shows in the foreseeable future, that also dashed my hopes of seeing some of these guys back for a show. Fortunately, they announced that Homecoming was going to be available via online streaming, and this was a fix that solved my problem. For P500, I get to watch a show from the comforts of my home, not miss family time, eat home-cooked food, and not stop watching while using the bathroom? Sign me up.


    The one thing I was very curious about was if Homecoming deserved all the hype it got. See, after the show, the comments I got from the Smark Henry crew ranged from "BEST SHOW EVER OMG," to "bro you missed half of your life." We've dished out our fair share of criticism in the past, so hearing such overly positive hyperbole from the team surprised me. They raved about QUATRO getting yeeted into space, about a mighty goliath named Desiderata, and about how wrestling can apparently cure someone catatonic. Fortunately, now I had the chance to find that out.

    Sulit Bayad, Definitely

    The show itself was put together well. The biggest change from your usual live shows was the presence of commentary, provided by guys like Mr. Sy, Rederick Mahaba, PWR GM Poch Estrada, and Billy Suede. 

    Commentary is at its best when they can add to the match without taking the focus off it, and I think they achieved this for the most part. From talking about the physical impact of various moves to things like Chino Guinto having crazy eyes, they helped add a ton of context and entertainment to the wrestling going on in the ring. I also appreciated the use of match cards and vignettes before each match—it's a good way to remind people who the wrestlers are, and their motivations heading into the match. They even mentioned some bits I had forgotten about, such as the fact that Ken Warren's signature Wi-Fi meant "Winning Finish." How many of you actually remembered that from way back?


    One of Homecoming's big draws were the visiting talents, and they delivered on this front. I've been a fan of Jeff Cobb ever since I saw him toss people for fun in Lucha Underground. Seeing him do the same to local talents like MSG and QUATRO was a sight to behold. TJP is also a familiar name to most of us, and it's surreal to watch a former WWE Cruiserweight Champion wrestling a match in Quezon City. The local talent also stepped up and helped deliver an overall solid show, from Evan Carleaux and Kapitan Tutan in the preshow all the way to Jake De Leon in the main event. I'm not going to talk about each match anymore (you can find that in our previous review here), but this was an excellent show to watch overall.

    Does this mean that Homecoming was their best show ever? It's hard for me to say this because my view of the show was limited to my laptop screen. There's a certain charm an online stream doesn't capture compared to a live show. You don't get the energetic singalongs to the wrestlers' themes, or that surge of emotion when the one you're rooting for manages to keep his opponent pinned for the count. I'd still say that some of the live shows I watched were more enjoyable than this, but that's not a fair comparison to make for anyone. This was, top to bottom, an excellent show. Had I been there to see it live, my reaction would probably be different, but that's not something I can change now.

    Online Consumption: The New Normal for Pro Wrestling

    Given that this was their first crack at a new mode of content, I thought that the online experience was smooth and painless. 

    Multiple channels of payment modes were available, and PWR/Stream sent each person who purchased their own passwords for personal viewing. The stream/VOD itself loaded smoothly without much buffering, and that's from someone whose internet isn't the fastest. Timestamps for each match were there, making it easy for you to pick up where you left off and continue watching. For someone like me who struggles to watch anything sitting down for a prolonged period, that's such a convenient feature to have.


    That isn't to say that the stream was perfect, though. Sometimes, the commentary team (except for Rederick Mahaba) got drowned out by the entrance music and crowd reactions. At several points, you could see the wrestlers talking to the ringside camera, but what they said wasn't picked up. None of these problems are backbreaking, and they can definitely be fixed with some fine-tuning here and there.

    Professional wrestling is in a very uncertain place right now thanks to the pandemic, but it looks like PWR has found the answer with this kind of content. I hope they continue to explore this space and that we see more full shows released. As someone who's missed out on several shows, I'd appreciate the opportunity to watch them online. Opening it up for digital consumption allows PWR to reach an even wider audience than it previously did, and that can only be a good thing for the company.

    Final Thoughts

    At one point in the show, Rederick Mahaba reminisces on how PWR has come a long way. That made me reflect on how I've seen them grow and evolve, which is something that comes with covering wrestling for this site. They've gone from starting arguments in Facebook groups because people didn't like that they bladed during a practice show to holding shows in a dingy mall using a borrowed boxing ring. 

    I've heard tales of financial chicanery, of no return flights, and of a show that had to evacuate fire refugees who were using the covered court as shelter. From a point of near ruin that warranted a campaign to save Filipino wrestling, to a visit from the WWE and subsequent tryouts for local wrestlers, to a continuously growing brand that keeps attracting international talent while sending out homegrown ones.


    Homecoming is an exclamation point in that ride. It's both a testament to how far they've come, and how far they can still go. It's a landmark point where you can say that PWR has turned into something great, and years from now, I hope we'll all be looking back at this event as one that really opened things up for the company.

    If you're someone looking to get into and start following PWR, this is a great place to start. If you're someone who's disconnected from the show after not attending some shows, let me tell you from experience that this is where you can reconnect. If you're someone who's fallen out of love with PWR for your own respectable reasons, please try and give them a chance again here. This is what wrestling's going to look like for the foreseeable future, and PWR set themselves up well here. Continued support is critical to any business in these times, and this is absolutely worth supporting. Who knows, maybe PWR already has something in the works for all of us.

    After all, homecomings are supposed to happen every year, right? *wink*

    PWR Special: Homecoming is available online for only P500. Get your e-ticket at Ticket2Me.net.

    Photos taken from Philippine Wrestling Revolution


    *****

    Anthony Cuello is an HR professional who helps run Smark Henry, and writes the occasional piece.  He dreams of a wrestling business with good people management practices, and hopes to help make that happen one day.
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    Item Reviewed: Homecoming At Home: How PWR's First-Ever PPV Experience Was Like Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anthony Cuello
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