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    Wednesday, March 21, 2018

    Backstage Details Revealed On PWR Expulsion of MWF Founders

    [Editor's note: We realize some of the points raised here can be divisive and controversial, and do not present any supporting evidence beyond one individual's own assertions. We strongly urge readers to use their own discretion and judgment in reading the quotes below.]

    Who's down for some dirt on the local pro wrestling scene?

    With the Manila Wrestling Federation committing themselves to open up about all the past controversies between key members of their promotion and those from the other local feds, their frequently updated MWF Insider Blog has become a must-read resource for fans dying to know about  this sort of chatter.

    We won't spill everything here—you'll have to check out Creative Director William Elvin's piece for that—but here are some of the juiciest nuggets about the fracturing of the original group behind the Philippine Wrestling Revolution, and how he and Commissioner Mike Shannon ended up motivated to form what ended up as MWF.

    Caveat: Elvin is up front that these events happened ages ago, with the reality that all parties involved may be completely different today than they were back in 2014. Also note that these are just one man's recollections of the various events as they unfolded, so consume at your own risk!

    These events happened four years ago. The story I will tell involves younger, inexperienced, naïve and immature versions of ourselves—way different from the characters you now know, love or hate. We’ve all changed since then. We are all different people now from when we first knew each other, for better or for worse.

    Editor's note: All quotes are lightly edited to use kayfabe names instead of the true identity of all parties involved.

    1. The Original Core Was An MWF/PWR/AOWW All-Star Nucleus

    Just about everyone knows by now that PWR was born from a Facebook group, but not everyone knows who the key people involved from the start were. Looking at the names Elvin remembers, what's apparent is how the core of all three current feds were present in that meeting.

    Three of the original group are still affiliated with PWR today—Bombay Suarez, Senior Official Matt Roxas, and Kanto Terror—while Art of War was represented by "Classical" Bryan Leo, and MWF was repped by Elvin and Shannon, along with Frankie Thurteen.

    I’m not sure about a lot of details on the earliest days of PWR’s foundation, and a lot of this article’s segments may be told in the wrong order. All I’m sure of is that it started with a Facebook group of wrestling fans in the Philippines. For reasons I really can’t remember, I was already friends on FB with PWR’s Kanto Terror, who I believe was the one who added me in. 
    I also do not remember much about how I ended up being in the core group of the PWR founders. I remember that we all had a lot of ideas on the group’s name, and finally settled with PWR—Philippine Wrestling Revolution. I recall Frankie Thurteen had a lot to do with this name, along with the contributions of the others in the group. 
    One thing I can remember is that the first guy in the group I met in person was Bombay Suarez. We spent hours talking about wrestling over cigarettes (and coffee, maybe?) over at the open area near the cinemas of the Shangri-La Mall. We then formed a core group of nine members to start building the promotion: myself, Mike Shannon, 'Classical' Bryan Leo, THE Nelson Jr, Kanto Terror, Matt Roxas, Bombay Suarez, Mike Vargas, and another guy ... who dropped out of the group early on.

    2. The Second Wave Is Where The Star Power Started Flooding In

    While the original core group already sounded promising as is, the influx of more personalities in the second wave is where today's current stars jumped into the game, thanks to the publicity earned by their part in helping put together the Joshi+Jam show in January 2014—a flop of an event Elvin claims was produced by a disinterested housewife and her daughter, who didn't seem particularly invested in the show to begin with.

    Regardless, it's a pretty kick-ass list that includes a whole slew of future main-eventers for both PWR and MWF.

    More people were becoming aware of PWR’s existence, and talent started pouring in, including Draven Sloane (a trained wrestler who helped teaching the basics to the early PWR wrestlers), Jake De Leon, Ken Warren, Robin Sane, Rex Lawin, Mr. Lucha, et cetera. Tarek El Tayech also started helping out, and the group just grew bigger and bigger. 
    Perhaps the most notable character to come out of this batch—at least for purposes of this story—was a Fliptop rapper who gave himself the ring name Mayhem Brannigan.

    3. The Politics Were Painful—Even At The Top

    One thing Elvin is candid about is how that young, naive group that got together was so unprepared to deal with leadership and the politics that come with just about any scrappy start-up out there. An early attempt to build a clear authority structure didn't turn out as planned.

    Being inexperienced and naïve people we were back then, energies and ideas were all over the place. There was no clear leader, and everyone was just voicing out their opinions and insisting on them. This was when we decided to elect officers within us, in a meeting I sadly wasn’t able to attend. Around this time, I was also in the creative development of Maxie The Musical, a stage adaptation of the film Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, and we had a meeting the night of the PWR election. 
    I was driving home when Mike Vargas called me up, informing me that I had been elected as Vice President to Bryan Leo, who was elected as the group’s leader. I am not sure how true this was, but he told me that I was getting a bit of push to be the president, but reasonably, they opted not to because of my busy schedule. So from there, Leo was President, I was the VP, and Mike Shannon was appointed to be the head booker, with Roxas also working with us creatively. Nelson Jr. was our trusted secretary, Vargas took care of the early legal inquiries, Bombay was in charge of training, and Kanto Terror was put in charge of logistics (if I remember this correctly). In that group, it was myself, Leo, and Shannon who grew the closest. 
    It was only when we were booking Revolution Now (PWR's 2014 test show) when creative differences between Bryan Leo, Mike, and myself became apparent. I won’t go into details, but I was forced into being the middleman between two of my closest friends at that time, and believe me, it really did not feel good at all. I got non-stop calls from CBL about how the guys were complaining about Mike’s booking, and I got Mike to defend his ideas often, causing more stress for all parties. It was very tiring, and contributed to a lot of stress I was already dealing with from my theater career and personal life. Not to mention, I was already thinking seriously about permanently moving to Hong Kong during this period. It was just negativity from all aspects of my life. 
    We were able to overcome all the differences and worked well together in booking Revolution Now, but the friendship between Bryan and Mike was going downhill from there, and me being their third best buddy just made it worse. Apart from all the creative disagreements, I could say that our younger selves also got overwhelmed with the real world responsibilities of actually putting up a company, so our efforts and energies only became more scattered.

    4. A Change Of Heart Marked The Beginning Of The End

    Allegedly, a meeting was set up specifically to humiliate Mike Shannon, and expose him as unfit for his role as booker. Elvin initially went along with the plan, only to flip-flop in the end—a move that didn't sit well with the ringleaders.

    I remember gathering up with Leo, Mayhem, JDL (not sure but I remember him being there), and Tarek (Al Tayech, now Senior Analyst at MWF) at a nearby Family Mart to discuss the afternoon’s proceedings. We were about to put Mike on the spot by asking him to book one whole show right then and there, and compare it to what Leo came up with. This was going to happen in front of the whole roster, seemingly designed to totally embarrass Mike. Unfortunately, I went along with it. 
    But damn, when I saw Mike in that long table at Wendy’s, Glorietta—one of my very few true friends—being in that horrible situation, I had a sudden change of heart. With the help of a few members of the PWR talent pool, including Mr. Lucha, we were able to maneuver the conversation to save Mike’s spot as PWR’s booker for at least one more day, and made Leo and his group more frustrated. Brannigan saw this as us being “spineless,” but in that situation, personally, I was saving Mike from further embarrassment while still trying to hold on to Leo’s friendship.


    For more of the sordid details—again, just Elvin's personal retelling of how he remembers the timeline!—you'll have to hop on over to MWF Insider Blog. You'll see some interesting allegations about the chaotic personality of Mayhem Brannigan, how booking ended up getting hijacked in succeeding PWR shows, and how Elvin, Shannon, and the rest ended up splintering from the group.

    It's important to note, however, that William Elvin takes accountability for his own shortcomings throughout this painful period, and being personally responsible for the initial division of the Philippine pro wrestling scene.

    I was among the ones who riled them up against Bryan Leo—and, in effect, the whole of PWR—which, from what I remember, was the first real division in the Philippine wrestling scene. 
    I own up to that. It could have been dealt with much more peacefully. I could have just walked away and left the whole thing. But I didn’t. I was among the ones who built the dream, and was also among the ones who first fanned the flames, hoping to burn it down. All the negativity just piled up, and exploded into one big ball of anger and more ugly emotions.

    What did you think of this latest tell-all from MWF management, mga ka-smarkada? Are you enjoying the fractured local scene today, or do you think the whole industry needs to move as one? Let us know your thoughts, and we'll see you at the next MWF show, Kasaysayan.


    MWF Kasaysayan is happening on Sunday, April 8, at The Elements at Centris in Diliman, Quezon City. The show starts at 7 PM.

    Disclosure: Smark Henry is owned and managed by a group of independent Philippine pro wrestling fans, but includes members affiliated with the Philippine Wrestling Revolution.

    Photos by "Victory" Vlad Gonzales and "Humiliating" Hub Pacheco.
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