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    Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    MWF 1: Kasaysayan—The Official Smark Henry Review

    When you name your show Kasaysayan, you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself to deliver. You're making a promise to yourself and to fans that you're going to put on a remarkable show—one that'll go down in your history as a show to remember.

    In many ways, that was a challenge that the Manila Wrestling Federation needed to take on. Their maiden year felt so-so for the most part, with some raw potential hidden amidst wrestling shows with struggling attendance and tepid responses. They needed to make a statement to show everyone that they've learned and improved, and had to do it immediately. Their first full show of 2018 was the place to do it, with new management promising a vastly improved product compared to last year.

    So, did they make it or break it? Let's take a look at what happened in MWF 1: Kasaysayan.

    Five Spotlights

    Lights, Camera, Action!

    It’s weird that we’re placing what wasn’t an actual wrestling match as one of the night’s highlights, but it was definitely one of the most memorable things to happen that night.

    Everything about this segment was entertaining. From the typical action star story to the in-ring conclusion of the film, to the surprise appearance by celebrity guest Maria Ozawa, this was a segment that set out to entertain people. It’s the great kind of cheesy, which was appropriate for the kind of entertainment MWF promised to their audience. I was sports entertained from start to finish, and based from the crowd reaction, everyone else in the room was as well. Okay, maybe not RG, since his thesis was destroyed in the process—that sucks, man.

    More importantly, this whole segment is a representation of MWF’s biggest improvement compared to last year: the production level was top-notch. Everything from the lights, to the wrestlers’ entrances, to the crisp videos played, were all a step up from last year’s shows. Gone are the projector screen setups and garbled sound systems, replaced with actual video screens and an audio system that carried everything MWF had to say very well. It’s the impact of MWF management’s close relationship with the theater and production communities, and is a partnership they’d do well to continue in future shows. This made it feel not just like a wrestling show, but a full-blown production number as well—everything seemed rehearsed and polished.

    I’d love to see more of these kinds of segments in future shows, especially since it plays so well into Gigz Stryker’s gimmick as a Pinoy action hero. It doesn’t have to be every show—we’d still prefer Gigz being in actual wrestling matches, of course—but something like this every now and then would make for an entertaining break from the in-ring action.

    Four Spotlights

    Bae-Wolf Gets It Done

    News flash, everyone: Aldrin Richards is pretty damn good at this wrestling thing.

    The Bae City Bruiser has been repeatedly talked about as one of MWF's best wrestlers, and that was in full display in their tag team match at Kasaysayan. Richards teamed up with Hanzhello Shilva to take on the team of Ashura and Bolt Kyle Sison. Bae-wolf showed good chemistry working together as a team, keeping Mr. Lucha's students at bay with some great offense. This was basically a showcase for the two young talents, with both Richards and Shilva getting their time to shine. Ashura and Kyle Sison had some nice tandem offense of their own, including a series of double team kicks, but they were outclassed by their much better opponents. This was still a fun match to watch, largely because of Aldrin and Hanzhello's offense. Take a look at this vicious knee strike, for example:

    Where all these talents go from here should be interesting. Aldrin Richards does have something to settle with fellow young gun Morgan Vaughn (more on him later)—they were initially supposed to team up in this match, but some disagreements resulted in Commissioner Mike Shannon switching Vaughn for Hanzhello Shilva. With Richards winning, and Vaughn losing, it's obvious who ended up better in that exchange. Shilva, for his part, has yet to be involved in any significant storyline since MWF's relaunch this year, and I hope to see MWF do more with him sooner rather than later.

    And finally, what of Mr. Lucha's students, Ashura and Kyle Sison? Ashura has this sort of charisma to her that draws the audience in—she's got that shroud of mystery that fits her brooding character well. Sison, plays the role of the much-maligned hypebeast well. From the Big Gulp drink, to the way he carries himself around the ring, there's some potential here for what could be a gimmick us fans can easily find annoying—not unlike PWR's Kakaibros, for example. Actually, come to think of it, they'd make a fine trio.

    International Showcase

    Kasaysayan’s main event was a showcase of both local and international talent, and set up some intriguing possibilities for two of MWF’s biggest names moving forward.

    If you were at MWF: Noche Buena last December, then you already knew this: Ho Ho Lun is really, really good at professional wrestling. He has that air of being too good for those around him, but is more than capable of backing it up when he’s in the ring. Lun’s cocky, better-than-thou approach was a nice contrast to Robin Sane’s high energy babyface style, despite the chemistry not being there at first. In contrast to the duo, we saw a more united front from Mr. Lucha and the Eurasian Dragon, and that worked to their advantage in the match. Lucha and Dragon worked as a tag team, whereas Sane and Lun struggled to, and that was a nice story to tell throughout the match.

    This was a fine main event, though the ending did feel a little confusing to watch live. After Robin Sane hit a tope con hilo to Mr. Lucha on the outside, Eurasian Dragon took advantage of a distracted Ho Ho Lun to pick up the win. Ho Ho Lun seemed to be berating the referee afterwards, and it did seem that there was just something off with the finish. I felt as if it didn't have that impact you usually end matches, which left me surprised that the match had ended despite wanting to see more action. It did seem as if there was something off at the end of this match, particularly as Ho Ho Lun seemed to be upset at the referee throughout the finish of the match. This was still a good, fun main event to watch, even if the ending felt a little off.

    Here’s where it got interesting, though. Ho Ho Lun went berserk after the match, culminating in attacking his tag team partner Robin Sane, leveling MWF’s daredevil with a series of chair shots. The tease of a match between Ho Ho Lun and Mr. Lucha, who came out to Robin Sane’s aid, paints a match with national pride at stake. Mr. Lucha is probably the perfect fit for a match like this as well, being the guy that wears the Philippine flag's colors to the ring. I'm keen on seeing how this match plays out, and how Robin Sane will be involved—he's got a score to settle with Ho Ho Lun, after all.

    There's A C-O-N-spiracy in MWF, According to Gus Queens

    Hey, we finally found someone who isn't a fan of new management!

    Life coach Gus Queens' rant on MWF's new management offers some interesting plot points to work with, though I'm confused as to what his standing is with MWF. If you recall the very first show at Makati Cinema Square last year, Queens was introduced as MWF's CFO. MWF is under new management now, however—does this mean that Queens is no longer CFO? If so, then his talk of management having a vendetta against him makes sense, coming from the former executive stripped of power. Going after MWF Senior Analyst Tarek El Tayech was a bold move, though, and sets up a power struggle that we'll probably see play out in the future.

    The match itself was okay. They told a decent story with Frankie getting the upper hand early on, before being overwhelmed by Lawin en route to a decisive TKO. Frankie's quick, nimble style is fun to watch, especially as he makes excellent use of his biggest advantage—those long legs. Kicks and double stomps are the Grunge Grappler's forte, and Frankie looked good even in defeat. I also like what they've been doing with his character, continuing to expand the Grunge Grappler persona he portrays. Incorporating things like that mysterious painting he carried to the ring builds more of that persona, rather than just being a guy who wore band shirts and came out to rock music.

    Still, Lawin's no-nonsense style prevailed in the end, viciously mauling his opponent throughout the match until a series of elbow shots won him the match. It isn't pretty, but it doesn't need to be—the TKO ending plays well into Lawin's persona as a dangerous man. It lives up to his moniker as "Danger" and establishes him as a destructive force.

    He'll need all that momentum with him, of course, especially now that Gus Queens addressed the challenge they received last December. At MWF: Noche Buena, Queens and his ward were challenged by Australian wrestler "TNT" Greg Bownds, who dared Lawin to face him for his AWF Championship at a future date. It looks like that match will happen, whether it's immediately at MWF's next show or sometime within the next few months. Until then, Lawin will need to continue looking as dangerous as he is in the ring, and his match at Kasaysayan was a step in that direction.

    Three Spotlights

    The Streak Continues for Fabio Makisig

    Kasaysayan kicked off with the brash, cocky Fabio Makisig squaring off against The Chosen One, Jomar Liwanag.

    One of the night’s bigger surprises was just how over Jomar was with those in attendance. The guy we once thought of simply as Moises Liwanag’s replacement (cue the “Bakit niyo pinatay si Moises” jokes) is starting to establish himself more, and it won’t be long before he becomes the number one Liwanag for all of us KapaFEDs. His response to Fabio’s showboating with some own moves of his own got the crowd reacting well. Liwanag’s spinebuster and DDT to send Fabio reeling got nice pops from the crowd, and I’d love to see what he can do more of in his next matches. This was an okay match to kick off the show, with crowd mostly reacting to both men's in-ring antics.

    Fabio, to his part, played the arrogant heel well. He’s still the same demeaning prick we saw from before, being full-on mean from the very start when he poked fun at Robin Sane’s long speech to start the show. They ran a nice story in the match with Fabio attempting to go for the Book of Liwanag at times, taking advantage of a distracted Jomar to pull ahead in the match.

    One thing I’d love to MWF delve into is the fact that Fabio Makisig has yet to be pinned in a match. Barring his early elimination from the battle royal at Level UP, Makisig has run through most of the MWF roster dating back to last year. He’s currently 6-0 in singles matches, with wins over what feels like half of the MWF roster. As much as we can't stand the arrogance, he's got the results to back up his talk. With MWF having yet to introduce a championship (something which they’ve said they’ll take time with), one has to wonder if he’s going to start going after the rest of the roster to cement his superiority over everyone in MWF. He’s still got some big names left to take on—Mr. Lucha, Robin Sane and Frankie Thurteen would all make for interesting matchups I’d love to see. Of course, Fabio could just look for some random people to pick on and goad into an easy match, thus continuing that streak—we’re talking about MWF’s resident bully, after all.

    The post-match shenanigans does bring up some interesting possibilities, largely revolving around the mysterious Book of Liwanag. The appearance of a mysterious lady who seems to be connected to the book gives us a nice plot point to look forward to, especially with how it ties into the Liwanags. Who is the girl? What kind of supernatural powers does the book have? If it does, can it actually revive Moises Liwanag? Okay, maybe we won’t get that last one answered, but it’s interesting to think of nonetheless.

    Wanna See Something Cool?

    Morgan Vaughn's match with Ninja Ryujin (who now knows sign language!) was more fast-paced compared to the rest of the card, which was a nice way to get the fans a little more pumped up before the main event. It's an okay match, with Vaughn taking up most of the vocal attention as he mocked the silent Ryujin. Vaughn's high-pitched taunts reminds me of how annoyed I got when I started watching John Sebastian in PWR, which is certainly a nice comparison for you to find yourself in. We even got to see something cool in this match, like he promised—it just wasn't from him, though. A top rope headscissors followed by an Asai DDT from Ryujin spelled the end for Vaughn, giving the Glitch a rough start to 2018.

    While we're on Vaughn, one thing I'm still waiting for MWF to explore is the whole Glitch persona. As it is, there are two things that stand out about Morgan Vaughn: one, he's a smarmy, annoying guy who'll get on your nerves; and two, he likes asking people if they want to see something cool. It's a little lacking as is, and neither really connect to a moniker like the Glitch. That is something I'd love to see explored more - what, exactly, is the Glitch? Is there something more to it beyond wearing a mask and having some tech-y, glitch-y entrance music? There's a lot of potential with how they can expand the lore surrounding Morgan Vaughn, and I'd love to see MWF explore more of it in the shows to come.

    The TL;DR Review of MWF Kasaysayan

    Moving forward, we'll be introducing a quick review segment at the end of each live show review. It's not as in-depth as what was written above, of course—think of it as a summary of everything I've said so far. Yeah, we didn't tell you this at the start so you wouldn't just skip to the end!

    Wrestling Quality

    Fine, if a little basic. I did notice that most of the matches seemed to rely on your typical chain wrestling to kick things off, which is fine—it's just a little tiring to see match after match do it. Hopefully, we'll see them mix it up more next show. Aldrin Richards and the main event tag team match shone in terms of wrestling, no doubt. 3/5 Stars

    Storyline & Entertainment Value

    Excellent. They put on some very entertaining segments this show, with the crown jewel easily being Gigz Stryker's short film feature. They did well to acknowledge continuity with Rex Lawin accepting Greg Bownds' challenge and the tension between Ho Ho Lun and Robin Sane, and introduced some interesting plot points to work with such as the Book of Liwanag and Frankie Thurteen's painting. 4.5/5 Stars


    MWF's biggest strength so far. Kasaysayan was and felt like a full-on production number just by how professional everything was. The lighting, the sound, the entrance ramp and cameras—they really tapped into their management's experience in theater and similar productions. 5/5 Stars

    Audience Impact

    The crowd reacted well throughout the night, and you can tell that they were having fun.It's worth noting that I noticed a lot of new faces in the crowd compared to previous wrestling shows, so I can understand how some of the typical wrestling chants didn't catch on. That'll come in time. 3.5/5 Stars

    Overall, this was a solid start to MWF's 2018, and one that will go down in their history as the show that became a huge step up from their previous efforts. There are still areas for improvement, of course, but this was much, much better than any of their shows at the Makati Square Arena last year.

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

    Cover photo taken by Vlad Gonzales. Photos taken by Francis Lumahan. GIFs of MWF 1: Kasaysayan taken by Meanne Bruan.
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    Item Reviewed: MWF 1: Kasaysayan—The Official Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anthony Cuello
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