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    Monday, November 13, 2017

    PWR Vendetta 2017—La Revisión Oficial de Smark Henry

    Now we get it.

    Leading up to its year-end Vendetta show, the Philippine Wrestling Revolution spent weeks burning the line "Remember, remember the 5th of November" into our collective minds, seeding thoughts of an insidious treason within the company. All along we thought it was in reference to John Sebastian's bombshell of a revelation that he was part-owner of the company; all along we thought it was about his plot to get General Manager Mr. Sy fired through the headlining Ubusan Ng Lahi match.

    But now we know that the story of betrayal ran deeper than that.

    November 5 is a date used in pop culture to commemorate the failed traitorhood of Guy Fawkes—often called the biggest turncoat in Western culture. But after the events of Vendetta, the local pro wrestling scene seems to have found its own most unexpected traitor in the form of one of its most beloved founding fathers.

    This was the biggest storyline coming out of the show—and we'll get to it properly in a bit—but apart from this, it was also a legitimate supercard that featured multiple championship matches, iconic spots galore, some first-class international talent, and a surprise invasion collaboration from the unlikeliest source.

    For a show this massive, we've activated a collaboration of our own in the form of La Conseja de Smarkajadores to dissect all the storylines and actions in detail:

    • Smarkajador Patatas, who chooses to be both a prisoner and a potato
    • Smarkajador Aloja, who fights for the right to have pineapple on everything
    • Smarkajador Gemido, whose whimpers and groans elevate every Smark Henry Office meeting into a non-PG gathering
    • Smarkajador Abeja, who believes that in wrestling, bida ang saya

    Hold tight, mga ka-smarkada. This is gonna be one hell of a ride.

    In honor of PWR's inaugural corporate sponsor Yellow Cab Pizza Co., we'll be ranking the matches and arcs by its products we love best. After all, there's #NoStoppingTheHungry.

    Tier 1: Charlie Chan Chicken Pasta

    There's nothing subtle about this one-of-a-kind masterpiece from Yellow Cab. Right away, it wallops you with a Superman Punch of savory Asian-inspired force that overwhelms your tastebuds and leaves you reeling. Ain't nobody says no to this kick-ass mix of shiitake mushrooms, roasted peanuts, spring onion, and grilled chicken combined into fiery pasta goodness.

    Only one match made it to the top tier of our rankings, and for that single, solitary treasure, this Charlie Chan is for you.

    Ubusan Ng Lahi: Team Sebastian (John Sebastian, Peter Versoza, Rederick Mahaba, Ralph Imabayashi & Jake De Leon) vs. Team Sy (Chris Panzer, SANDATA, Miguel Rosales, Joey Bax & Dax Xaviera)

    Smarkajador Patatas: The familiar thrum of guitar strings evoked a disturbance in the Revo-Nation as if a hundred voices suddenly cried out in terror, only to be suddenly drowned out by this basic bitch-ass potato screaming as two-time former PWR Champion "The Senyorito" Jake De Leon came out to snap up Team Sebastian's fifth spot.

    JDL’s sudden turn was a shock for many, but his record in 2017 does present a compelling case. Since losing his title at Suplex Sunday in November 2016, he’s only won three matches—an exhibition match against Billy Suede, a tag match with the Beautiful One at PWRxAPCC Day 3, and the roll-up victory against Sinnsyk at Sugod! that led to his herniated disk.

    Couple this with his motive rant, wherein he said he’d be damned if he lets Mr. Sy run PWR to the ground after he worked his ass off to build it back from bankruptcy, JDL suddenly fits right in with Team Sebastian. Remember that each member has a grudge against Mr. Sy, and these grudges seems to stem from having more losses than wins this year.

    Motive aside, the mean streak JDL’s developed since Resbak was fleshed out in this match by way of nearly breaking Rosales’ elbow by stomping on it and eliminating Bax via prolonged Inasal Lock.

    He wasn’t the only one to show off, as Rosales and Imabayashi maintained a relentless offense against each other when they were left alone in the end. Their lung-blowing strikes, suplex exchange, and Rosales countering Imabayashi’s attempted One Winged Angel with a jackhammer powerbomb in particular were absolutely heart-pounding.

    It’s a wonder whenever a match approaches the half-hour mark and still feels like it has more to give, and Team Sy and Team Sebastian were able to maintain this feeling to the end. The match’s organic pacing helped maintain the energy of the crowd, made the eliminations even more surprising, and earned the crowd’s chant of “Sulit bayad.”

    Imabayashi hitting a vicious jumping Senketsu after Team Sebastian immobilized a returning Team Sy for the win drew mixed reactions from the crowd, fitting the bittersweet nature of the win. Sure, it was a great end to a match that made great use of every minute it was given, but Sebastian and his cabal of dickheads winning plunges PWR into grave uncertainty.

    The scars will fade, but the memory will always remain. Damn you, Jake De Leon.

    And long live John Sebastian.

    Winner: Team Sebastian via Jumping Senketsu on Miguel Rosales; Ralph Imabayashi is the sole survivor

    Spot of the match: Mr. Sy believing he can fly, because (a) it’s Mr. Sy; and (b) It’s Mr. Sy jumping off the top turnbuckle to splash both friend and foe alike. Also, this inaccurately captioned GIF.

    Chant of the Match: "Sulit bayad!" is the new "This is awesome."

    Star of the Match: Nobody got more shine in this match than Miguel Rosales and Ralph Imabayashi, who each scored two monster eliminations for their respective teams, with Rosales wiping out two former PWR Champions in Sebastian and De Leon, and Imabayashi stunning the reigning Kampeon ng Pilipinas Chris Panzer to sew up the final pin for his team.

    The Biggest Question for 2018: What will John Sebastian's reign of terror over PWR look like, now that he no longer has to deal with the check-and-balance of Mr. Sy?

    Tier 2: New York's Finest Pizza

    What do you do when you can't decide what to have on your pizza? Have everything! This glorious hodge-podge of premium meats, olives, onions, and green peppers on a gooey bed of fresh mozzarella  and chewy New York-style crust could quite possibly be the most satisfying pizza experience you'll ever have—and you can't teach that.

    The only reason we're assigning it to the second tier of matches? Because it lacks that one magical ingredient that takes all pizzas over the top: pine-fucking-apples.

    PHX Championship Match: Zayden Trudeau vs. Bolt vs. Mike Madrigal (c)

    Smarkajador Abeja: Mike Madrigal’s title defense was a solid match with some very nice multi-man spots, which is exactly the kind of chaos you’d expect out of a Triple Threat. Zayden Trudeau and Bolt continue to impress in their first year in the company, and kept the champion on his toes with a variety of offense. Bolt, in particular, has settled quite well into the role of the scrappy underdog, using that fire to keep up with Trudeau’s athleticism and the Walking Death’s technical skill. They even worked in a nice throwback to that King of the Ring spot from 2001, where Madrigal tapped out to both a Trudeau Sharpshooter (how Canadian!) and a crossface from Bolt.

    That wasn’t enough to end the match for the referee, though, and Madrigal capitalized on the decision by pulling out the victory in an ending sequence that was the only hiccup in an otherwise fine match.

    One thing that stood out in this match was just how good Mike Madrigal is at getting a reaction from the crowd. From leaving the ring to go read a newspaper so his opponents can beat each other up, to inserting himself into that superhero stand-off after Trudeau and Bolt had an intense exchange, he’s so great at the little things that just drive who his character is. He’s that guy in your high school class that keeps finding ways to make papansin, and you hate him every time he does it. Thus, it doesn’t take much for the crowd to start shouting “kupal!” his way—he just keeps giving you a reason to do so. The Walking Death’s in-ring skill has long been evident, but it’s this understanding of how to draw a reaction with his character that makes him one of the more complete wrestlers on the roster today.

    I expected a successful title defense for Mike Madrigal heading into Vendetta, and that’s exactly what we got. This isn’t a knock on either Zayden or Bolt—they’re good, but the Walking Death is just at a level above them. Nevertheless, this was a strong showing for all three men, and it’ll be interesting to see how they kick off 2018 when PWR comes back. That Aftershock video of Mike Madrigal acknowledging former partner Vlad Sinnsyk’s title win is intriguing, though—maybe all they needed to get along again was some championship gold?

    Winner: Mike Madrigal via Go To Sleep on Trudeau

    Spot of the Match: The Tower of Doom variation that saw Bolt dish out a sit-up German suplex as Madrigal took Trudeau down with a top-rope superplex was brutal.

    Honorable mention goes to the superb timing and athleticism of Mike Madrigal in snatching Zayden Trudeau mid-air into a Coquina Clutch as the Canadian Dragon launched himself for an Air Canada springboard dropkick to Bolt.

    Chant of the Match: We will never get tired of the Revo-Nation serenading Madrigal with cries of "Kuuuuupal! Kuuuuuuupal!"

    Star of the Match: Come on. Soft, botchy ending aside that showed how exhausted all men were after their epic grind of a match, Madrigal was the glue of this match. He's PHX Champion for a damn good reason.

    The Biggest Question for 2018: Can both Bolt and Trudeau find some truly sharp characters to define themselves in PWR apart from "generic plucky underdog?"

    International Tag Team Showcase: The YOLO Twins (Yohann & Logan Ollores) vs. The Regime (Tengu & Dr. Hertz)

    Smarkajador Abeja: Before we talk about the actual match, I’d like to highlight the YOLO Twins and Ken Warren’s Rick and Evil Morty costumes. Vendetta was the week after Halloween, and having these three youngsters put on costumes helps drive their characters of being young, cool and trendy. Also, come on, it’s Rick and Morty. You’d have to be a complete Jerry to not appreciate that.

    I’ll be honest, I didn’t really have high expectations for London Lucha League's The Regime heading into this match.

    Part of it is because there wasn’t a whole lot to go on about them—I had no idea who these guys were, and there isn’t a whole lot online about them. What little expectations I had were blown away by the time these two got into the ring. Tengu and Dr. Hertz put on a show with some very crisp wrestling, and I’d say they were among the best performers throughout the show. They did more than enough to stand out and make themselves memorable to the Filipino audience, with some highlights including Tengu’s frog splash with some impressive airtime, a gorgeous standing Shooting Star Press, and the pair’s electric chair-Codebreaker combination.

    We usually don’t see the YOLO Twins flustered, but that’s exactly what they looked like here.

    Despite the Regime’s phenomenal showing, the Twins still had the X-factor in Rick Sanchez Ken Warren, whose ringside antics led to Tengu eating a sky-high Two Night Stand for the YOLO Twins victory. This international showcase was a great way to cement the Ollores' claim as PWR’s premier tag team—even if they aren't actually its champions at the moment. More than that, it also sends a message to any tag team looking to go up against the twins from Katip: If you want to beat them, you have to find a way to minimize the Social Media Sinister’s impact. Whoever wrote our preview of this match must be smiling right now.

    In a rare show of sportsmanship for the annoying spoiled millennials of PWR, both teams stood tall saluting each other's efforts in a match that thrilled from end-to-end.

    Winners: The YOLO Twins via Two Night Stand on Tengu

    Spot of the Match: Apologies to Chris Panzer, but Tengu's soaring, twisting Frog Splash puts his own Eagle Splash to shame.

    Chant of the Match: "Ten-gu Ichiban! Ten-gu Ichiban!" by an appreciative Revo-Nation to the Regime's resident assassin.

    Star of the Match: This is getting pretty repetitive, but nobody shone brighter than Tengu in this match-up.

    Biggest Question for 2018: With this limit-busting showing against some international-caliber talent, how will the YOLO Twins reassert themselves in PWR's ever-tightening Tag Team Championship scene?

    PWR Tag Team Championship Match: The KakaiBros (Kh3Ndrick & Mh4rckie) vs. Trian Dela Torre & Evan Carleaux vs. The Network (James “Lodi” Martinez & Alexander Belmonte III) (c)

    Smarkajador Gemido: Whereas last month’s Tag Team Championship match had more on the comedic end, the three-way version at Vendetta was a more balanced affair this time around. It had a healthy mix of comedy, such as shenanigans from the surprising KakaiBaes as well as GrabCamus and Officer Tutan. But by the end of the day, the match quality improved, noting how all teams brought their A-game at the last show of the year, wrestling a tighter, more polished match with less filler than before.

    Notably, the KakaiBros are a well-oiled tandem that have steadily improved over time, a great sign for the tag division’s future. One could make the case that any team had a legitimate chance of leaving the match as champs, and the 'Bros in particular deserve props as a great way to warm up the crowd for what was the show's opening match. They nearly had the Revo-Nation thinking they would steal the titles as well after landing their Snapshot assisted DDT finisher.

    We don’t think anyone even expected the MWF appearance to take place at all, but as a fan, this was a very welcome sight. Curiosity always brings a welcome amount of speculation and wonder, and any future collaboration between PWR and MWF is one that fans should be looking forward to as we roll into 2018.

    Winner: The Network with the Pay-In Deluxe

    Spot of the Match: The MWF's Gus Queens, Rex Lawin, and Frankie Thurteen walking out to interrupt the match was a legitimate "Holy Shit!" moment that shattered everything we knew about the local pro wrestling scene.

    Chant of the Match: "Wag sa utong!" after the KakaiBros unleashed their dreaded Purple Nurple on their unsuspecting foes.

    Stars of the Match: Mark our words—some time in 2018, the KakaiBros are taking legit Tag Team Championship gold home to their village billage

    Biggest Question for 2018: The Network has defeated most other teams in the division, but can they bring it against what could be the most dangerous tandem in all of PWR, Ralph Imabayashi and Rederick Mahaba of MTNH?

    All Out War Championship Match: Vlad Sinnsyk vs. The Apocalypse (c)

    Smarkajador Aloja: Yessssssss! the only title change that happened at Vendetta was the one that was badly needed. Apocalypse is a dangerous opponent for anyone, but it seems that he's basically just there to put a face on the title during its debut. He felt like a complementary character in his recent story arcs, this one notwithstanding.

    That being said, the title match that took place was still a fun one. It showed how a clash of two monsters, both sinnister and apocalyptic in their own right, could leave a wake of carnage in their path. Both men took insane damage with no thought of concern for their opponent. And rightfully so, as All Out War matches go. That two-tiered table made out of planks and Monobloc chairs really made the match an extra special one.

    It makes one wonder though, how Vlad Sinnsyk, the new champion, can top that in his inaugural defense. Or how many other wrestlers will go look at this match and say, "I can do it better." The Revo-Nation is sure to be waiting to see how the Hand of Judgment busts his way through the competition after dominating the Pinoy Nightmare in a way no other superstar before him has.

    As an added bonus, it seems that the former tag team of the Deadly Sinns has reconciled. With both men now holding a title, it's a scary yet satisfying thing to see how this plays out when the new year comes.

    Winner AND NEW ALL OUT WAR CHAMPION: Vlad Sinnsyk via Muscle Buster

    Spot of the Match: The absolutely insane ladder powerbomb through the double-stacked plywood that marked the beginning of the end for The Apocalypse's reign.

    Star of the Match: Vlad Sinnsyk obviously takes home the honors after dismantling the entire myth of The Apocalypse in a single match—and for those man-sized unprotected kendo shots to the head he took.

    Big Question for 2018: A monster that can't back up its own bark is in no way a monster to be feared. After this utter dismantling at the hands of Vlad Sinnsyk, how can The Apocalypse reinvent his tired, one-dimensional character into something that's finally fresh and relevant?

    Tier 3: Hot Wings

    If you dig spicy food, you'll more than likely adore these king-sized chicken wings on the Yellow Cab menu. 

    Unfortunately, not everyone can take the heat, and that's the only reason why we're assigning our Tier 3 matches to this otherwise-amazing treat.

    Beshies No More: Crystal vs. Martivo

    Smarkajador Patatas: Hail to the false queen, Crystal, and the weave-snatching that went on in this match.

    Crystal adopting the Queen of Asia title even when her match at WrestlingCity.Asia ended in a no-contest is already serving her well. It was refreshing to see her new look and attitude emerge after her short hiatus, and though she could do with more physical aggression than verbal abuse, Her Royal Bitchy Highness of PWR is already more fun to watch than Crystal’s previous "fiery underdog" incarnation.

    Seeing her go against a driven Martivo was also a treat. Martivo has come a long way from his debut at PWR Live: The Shawdown and putting him in a one-on-one setting affirmed this more than a tag match could. From nearly snapping Crystal in half by snatching her weave and throwing her against the mat—payback for all the Queen’s hair-pulling—to a solid Grabe ‘Tey to end the match, Martivo’s urgency translated well in the ring.

    One could hope that Robynn will also have this drive when PWR comes back in 2018, as Crystal’s post-match attack to both Punk Dolls members with John Sebastian’s Singapore cane (!!!) after Martivo’s win certainly means that things aren’t done between the former beshies.

    Winner: Martivo via Grabe 'Tey (double underhook atomic bomb)

    Spot of the Night: THE RETURN OF THE BALLSPLEX!

    Star of the Match: It's good to see Crystal finally find a proper character nearly two years after she made her in-ring debut. 

    Big Question for 2018: Crystal may have lost the battle, but we'd love to see how she escalates the war into 2018. Will she finally gain redemption as PWR's true Queen Bee after choking against Robynn in the company's first woman-vs.-woman match?

    Grudge Match: Vintendo vs. McKata

    Smarkajador Gemido: Their rap battle at the last show may have been far from lit, but from start to finish, this was their best match in the series of matches. In fact, this may very well be the most impressive match both men have had at this stage of their respective careers.

    The two immediately went at it at the beginning of the match, as if to prove that even being positioned as the “cooldown match” after the PHX Championship match did not stop them from showing they are ready to graduate beyond the pre-show and are deserving of a spot on the main roster. Vintendo looked great as the frustrated hoss while McKata is finally tapping into his potential.

    Giving Vintendo the win was the absolute right call as it leads us into a renewed 2018 run for PWR's "Raging Gamer," and he’s certainly putting in the work in improving both his ring work and his physique. But watch out for McKata though, as he can definitely bring the goods in a big-time situation.

    Winner: Vintendo with the Level 3 High Score Chokeslam

    Spot of the Match: McKata is no small dude, and the hang-time Vintendo got on the match-ending chokeslam was neat.

    Tier 4: Potato Wedges

    Not everything can be a main course; sometimes you just need a light starter to build up your appetite. That goes for both eating and for wrestling, and that's what Yellow Cab's Potato Wedges do. 

    We don't normally rank pre-show stuff, but too much great stuff was going on to ignore—especially when it's good enough to inspire how we assembled this whole review revisión.

    Pre-Show—The Long, Sad Saga of The Secret Council of Trabajadores: Trabajador Tres vs. Brad Cruz, Trabajador Quatro vs. Kapitan PWR

    Smarkajador Aloja: It used to be that people could rely on the pre-show as a sort of cushion in case they couldn't get to the show on time. It's understandable. Sunday is family day and lunches are often the activity most reserved for such.

    The current Council of Trabajadores story arc changes all of that.

    It was an incredibly engaging take on how one masked wrestler, Quatro, wants to veer away from the monotonous fate of his toils as the Icarus of his bunch—as opposed to the newly-debuting Trabajador Tres, who's been brainwashed by Trabajador Supremo into staying in his lane and literally doing his job. It's something we can all relate to, even if it was done comically. Everything coalesces into the archetypes of those super sentai shows from our childhood. The story of redemption, good versus bad, and friendship above all.

    We saw in this arc what the Trabajadores consider to be the most unforgivable sin: to thirst for victory, which is exactly what Quatro achieved for the first time in the Council's long and storied history after blasting Kapitan PWR with a resounding Destino that had the crowd on its feet.

    With the inclusion of Kapitan PWR (we hope he's not dead yet again) and Revo-Ranger into the Trabajadores narrative, it has become something that we simply can't miss anymore.

    The question then becomes, should this storyline be on the main card now? It has fans readily clamoring for the next show, the next social media post—anything to see how the story is moving forward. All signs point toward yes.

    Winners: Brad Cruz via Dawn Zulueta Flapjack, Trabajador Quatro via Destino

    Full Show Awards & Highlights

    Star of the Night: Triple Trouble

    It's impossible to break the tie between three worthy nominees, so we'll let them all in.

    Ralph Imabayashi was excellent as the workhorse of Team Sebastian, not only pinning the reigning PWR Champion Chris Panzer, but single-handedly (and single-pan-dedly, if you get our drift) ending Mr. Sy's tenure as the company's top authority figure.

    Miguel Rosales got the same star-making treatment Chino Guinto got at Path of Gold earlier this year by pinning two former PWR Champions cleanly.

    And Mike Madrigal just keeps riding possibly the most-engaging all-around personality in PWR into a PHX Championship reign that's likely to end up as one of the two best reigns we've seen.

    Congratulations, gentlemen. Now go get some goddamn rest over the holidays.

    Match of the Night: Ubusan Ng Lahi

    Is there really any other choice but the Ubusan Ng Lahi main event?

    This was one of those rare matches that gave each viewer a sense of the historic—the formal start of the John Sebastian Era, and the biggest betrayal in PWR history with JDL's shock reveal as Team Sebastian's fifth member.

    It was a star-making match filled with beautiful wrestling and high spots galore.

    Apologies to the PHX Championship combatants, but on this night, the ten men involved in the main event were absolutely untouchable.

    Chant of the Night: Why, JDL, Why??

    It never actually caught on as a crowd chant, but that one lone fan whose plaintive, pleading cries of "JDL, bakit???" throughout the main event captured the question all of us felt in our heart of hearts:

    How could the man who's been PWR's biggest white knight to date crush our souls just like that?

    Shock of the Night: The MWF Invades

    JDL's traitorous turn was something absolutely nobody saw coming, but all things considered, it was a plausible scenario that could have been mapped out by any astute PWR fan given the circumstances leading up to the show.

    What nobody could have seen coming was the stunning emergence of the Manila Wrestling Federation to disrupt the Tag Team Championship match and save the reign of The Network. Whether this "collaboration" actually flows through into a storyline is a different conversation altogether, but for now, we'll live with this as the one moment that turned the whole Filipino wrestling scene on its collective heads. Bravo to everyone involved. 

    Now if only Coach Gus and company had some mic time to properly introduce themselves.

    Conclusion: Not Just Great, But Historic

    This was an excellent show that was well-written, solidly-paced, and excellently-performed. There were few, if any, lulls in the action, and only two matches were anywhere near being duds—which is more than we can say for some previous shows chockfull of obvious filler.

    We gave Wrevolution X 2017 the highest rating of any PWR show a few months back, and we're happy to do the same for this masterpiece of a show.

    Solid B+ to the Philippine Wrestling Revolution boys and girls, with a little bit of spillover credit to the Manila Wrestling Federation.


    What did you think of Vendetta, mga ka-smarkada? How do you think John Sebastian's ownership era is going to play out in 2018? Will anyone step up to fill the power vacuum left by Mr. Sy's firing, or are the forces of good doomed for the time being? Let us know your thoughts, and we'll see you all again next year!

    Until then, stay hungry!


    Photos by "Hula Hoopin'" Hub Pacheco.
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    Item Reviewed: PWR Vendetta 2017—La Revisión Oficial de Smark Henry Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Smark Henry
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