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    Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    PWR Live: New Year's Wrestle-ution - The Official Smark Henry Review

    January is an exciting month for wrestling fans. There’s a lot going on, but the main highlight is obviously the Royal Rumble Match. It’s my favorite annual event, with the traditional Survivor Series Elimination Matches being a close second. So imagine my delight when PWR slated their first show of 2019 right before the Royal Rumble PPV, officially kicking off a weekend of nothing but pure wrestling goodness. God, I love wrestling.

    And imagine my surprise when I was once again tapped to write a review for PWR Live: New Year's Wrestle-ution, probably because I’m the best (and also very available). So wouldn’t you know it, PWR’s going to receive the #NitPickRick treatment, whether you hate it or really hate it. Let’s get started with this mofo because we have a lot to unpack.

    Tier 1: “Mag-iipon na talaga ako, pramis.”

    Our tier system should be self-explanatory by now. This new year’s resolution is relatively common and easy to follow through. Besides, it’s a great first step in making 2019 a memorable year. This makes it the perfect resolution to introduce the best highlights of the show.

    Ralph Imabayashi and the Power of Friendship

    Call it poetic justice. Call it karma. I call it great storytelling.

    PWR Champion Ralph Imabayashi opened the show with overflowing confidence after declaring he’ll make history yet again by the end of the night. He even selected an underwhelming partner in the form of Artie 2.0, his former partner’s former assistant, as his way of adding insult to injury, and to pad the main event match, as you do. He then called everyone out for liking dumb shit before ending it with a line so classy, Ron Burgundy suddenly wanted to know his location.

    With one amazing heel promo, Imabayashi both made a bold statement and a grave mistake at the same time. Little did he know that Rederick Mahaba was in fact in attendance after announcing his hiatus weeks ago. He didn’t pull a punch, but he did the next best thing that’s equally as painful—he gave Artie 2.0 a sense of identity. But that’s not the mistake Imabayashi made. His grave mistake was that he underestimated the power of friendship. And it was downhill from there.

    The Naughty Boys are the epitome of “dumb shit” but most people seem to forget how formidable they are. So obviously, someone as prideful as Imabayashi will do the same. There’s a reason why they’re the PWR Tag Team Champions, after all. And unfortunately for the PWR Champion, he learned that the hard way when Evan Carleaux locked him in an inescapable Tech Noir and forced him to submit. The fallen champion, now overwhelmed after his ass got handed back to him by people he deemed as the proprietors of “dumb shit,” had no choice but to accept the challenge of the man who just earned his respect.

    I’m aware that I just retold you the story they were trying to tell, but it’s just too good not to. What else can I say after an already well-executed storyline? I loved everything from Imabayashi’s Ciampa-esque opening promo to the moment he realized he had no choice but to tap out. The match itself was great as well. It wasn't a technical masterpiece but it felt like a hard-fought battle nonetheless. And no over-the-top post-match gimmicks as well! Gotta respect that. Everything landed perfectly in their right places, making this main event a tough act to follow.

    New and Old Faces Invade PWR

    The new year begs for new faces, and PWR’s got them in spades! Let’s start with the debuting bunch who had “future stars” written all over their faces. PWR deservingly hyped the pre-show because they introduced us to the spunky Jaye Sera, the heartthrob “El Guapo” Carlos Zamora, and the much-awaited in-ring debut of everyone’s favorite intern, Jhemherlhynn. Finally, a pre-show scene that’s worth coming early for.

    Jaye Sera and Jhemherlhynn pretty much earned the first huge pop of the show by giving us a good match and a welcome twist. The relatively unknown Sera stole the win from the fan favorite Jhemherlhynn, a great first step for the latter’s underdog story arc. Right after that, El Guapo made his debut opposite the aroused Kapitan PWR and fireworks were lit. The almost ten minutes they were given felt longer because El Guapo’s that damn good.

    And then we have the prodigal children of PWR: Chino Guinto and Robynn. We’ll discuss Robynn later but let me just say how the Punk Rock Maiden didn’t miss a single beat. And to drive the point home, she even delivered a Swanton Bomb outside the ring like it’s the easiest thing to do after a long hiatus. It’s like she never left and I’m glad she’s back. Now let’s turn our attention to the Golden Boy himself, Chino Guinto.

    My years of procrastination came to bite me in the ass because I failed to catch Guinto live during the height of his popularity. Damn my lazy bones. But I feel #BLESSED because I got to witness his triumphant return to PWR and listen to the ovation he got the moment his music played. I was so overwhelmed I wasn’t able to make a reaction. I just sat there like a doofus with my food in one hand. I’m such a loser. Now I’m more determined to complete my attendance at all the PWR shows this year because of these exciting new faces.   

    And I almost forgot about the now re-christened Renaissance Man, Cali Nueva. When a wrestler is endorsed by a certain Rederick Mahaba himself, he’s definitely the real deal. Although he didn’t do anything flashy during his main event debut against the Naughty Boys, Nueva still made his mark after leaving Imabayashi to dry, completing his transition as his own damn man. He’s under no one’s shadow anymore, and PWR better get ready.

    The Tag Team Tournament Scene

    I wasn’t really expecting much from the tag team tournament but you know me, I’m always wrong about everything. The first set of triple threat tag matches were awesome, but the first one has to take the cake. MSG vs. KakaiBros vs. Punk Dolls ticked every box on what makes an entertaining wrestling match.

    Let’s start with the pre-match segment. Mr. Sy came out and delivered yet another well-written and well-spoken promo that rivals that of Daniel Bryan’s weekly hippie rants. I even lost it when Mr. Sy paid homage to the man by saying, “I hit a woman once and I’m the bad guy?” before tearing the crowd a new one. Man, this promo was gold. Who knew the former goody-two-shoes PWR General Manager had it in him to be PWR’s top heel manager?

    Then out came KakaiBros with their usual energetic and error-ridden promo. They’re still hilarious and lovable as ever while carefully planting the seeds of a future rivalry with MSG down the line. Completing the match were Martivo and the returning Robynn, who got welcomed with a loud ovation. And then a dance break broke out because reasons?! Main Maxx did The Worm and SANDATA dished out his best Fortnite moves. That’s all I need in my wrestling.

    And as you can expect, it was a turbulent match. At one point, Kh3Ndrick tried to pin Mh4rckie because of course it’s a brilliant move. Every tag team should take note, dammit! In the end, Punk Dolls punched their ticket to the tournament finals, a win that will shape the tag team scene for months. The returning team gets their day in the sun, the losing teams ignited a rivalry among themselves, and the winning teams get to rekindle their storied rivalry.

    The second triple tag match was also good, if not predictable. There’s no doubt that the YOLO Twins were going over, even if the Punk Dolls weren’t. They should be in line for a title shot after beating the Bros in an Eh Di Sa Puso Mo Street Fight anyway. Nonetheless, the three teams dished out some cool tag team moves and the twins made fun of anime for a bit because, well, Bolt. It was still a good match. It’s just that the first one was a lot better. Besides, Punk Dolls vs. The YOLO Twins is a matchup so rich with storyline implications, it’s a guaranteed instant classic.

    My only concern is that Martivo never really got anything out of his impressive string of solo victories. I was actually expecting Robynn to finally turn on Martivo, but after the YOLO Twins won their match, it was clear that they had to be involved for Robynn to explode because continuity. But whatever happens between Martivo and Robynn, I still want Martivo to get something out of his previous winning streak. Perhaps a PHX Championship down the line?

    The Chaotic PHX Championship Scene

    The PHX Championship scene is about to get crowded because Vlad Sinnsyk just staked his claim for it. The re-focused Sinnsyk took his newly acquired arsenal, the Clothesline from Hell, for a spin by taking out Super Vintendo and picking up a win. The Hand of Judgment then grabbed a mic and jumped out of his usual grunting routine to actually utter complete words and sentences. You know shit’s about to go down when the quiet one starts speaking out. Totally loved that segment.

    Vlad Sinnsyk’s mission? To take the PHX Championship away from the treacherous John Sebastian, the same guy who almost lost his title in a grueling match with the equally-driven Jake de Leon. After winning via DQ, JDL’s title chase is far from over. And now that Sinnsyk has found his target and bruised JDL’s ego by saving him from a Chinese Jesus beatdown, expect a more explosive JDL at the next event. A fired up JDL is the best JDL, don’t you agree? But Sebastian’s woes don’t end with these two contenders.

    How about Ken Warren’s undying claim for a one-on-one PHX Championship rematch? Knowing Warren’s track record, he ain’t gonna shut up anytime soon. And lest we forget that the man who never lost the title just came back from an 18-month absence. You can bet your ass the Golden Boy’s ready to claim back his gold. If that’s not enough, Path of Gold’s just around the corner. If the winner of that match wants to join the fray, we’ll get ourselves another chaotic PHX Championship scene and the Revo-Nation ultimately wins in the end.

    Tier 2: “Makapag-exercise na nga this year!”

    This one’s good too, but it requires a lot of effort, making it hard to follow through. I bet by the end of July, you’ll be back to your old lazy ways. This resolution perfectly fits the second tier where we delve into the moments that could use a lot more effort to make them better. Second tier is the #NitPickRick tier, so let’s start nitpicking.

    Quatro, Mike Madrigal, and a Wooden Table

    Mike Madrigal vs. Quatro almost bagged the Match of the Night award if only for the confusing finish. This match was a slugfest full of hard-hitting offense and some thrilling nearfalls. It’s like they’re reminding us that Quatro is also a lethal striker as well. He’s more than just flips, people! Also, I learned that there are a million ways to counter the Destino. The highlight of the match was obviously Madrigal sending Quatro through a table. The explosion of splinters made this spot ten times cooler.

    Welcome back to the dark side, Mike! The babyface experiment didn’t really work and I’m glad I can boo him again because cheering him just doesn’t feel right, you know? I just think the dusty finish wasn’t executed properly. All I saw from where I was seated was Madrigal tapping to Quatro’s Modified Armbar. I’m sure it’ll look better once they upload the full match on YouTube. It just didn’t work in a live setting. A simple rollup win would have sent this match home with zero problems, making it a great #NitPickRick-able match.

    Crystal scores a rather empty win

    Crystal vs. Chris Panzer had a lot going against it. For one, they started the match with a screaming match that no one barely understood until Panzer called Crystal a bitch. Then there’s the infamous Poch botch (send me royalties) where he incorrectly declared “10 minutes have passed” when it’s only been five, completely ruining the flow of the match. Lesson learned: You’ll never know how crucial you are until you make the slightest mistake.

    Since this matchup was a bit random, a pre-match promo could’ve justified the booking. I also don’t see any reason why they couldn’t get a microphone and air their grievances for everyone to hear. From where I was seated, I heard that Crystal had a gripe with Panzer not supporting her when she was wrestling overseas. But of course, I could totally be wrong. And just when you thought the match was over, out came Mr. Sy and eyebrows were risen.

    Chris Panzer is desperate now, apparently

    Is it fair to equate Chris Panzer with Mustafa Ali as The Heart of PWR? He’s the last wrestler to appear on the PWR official opening video. That has to mean something, right? That’s why Panzer joining the dark side is an interesting move. A bad one, but interesting nonetheless. I don’t think Panzer shouldn’t be that desperate that he’ll consider the services of a manager who uses dirty tactics to get title shots. Is Panzer’s resolve really that weak?

    Remember, this was the same Panzer who scratched and clawed to overcome every obstacle by winning the Path of Gold match in 2017 and eventually the PWR Championship. His last victory wasn’t that long ago, either. And guess what, MSG is not really that successful as a stable. Still, I’m intrigued where Panzer will go from here. Even with the Mr. Sy Guarantee, Panzer’s still miles away from the crowded PWR or PHX title scenes. So yeah, good luck with that.

    I placed this in the second tier because it’s not entirely a bad storyline. Like I said a while ago, it’s still interesting to say the least. I totally get what they’re trying to do. I’m just saying that we could’ve handled this storyline better with a slow burn. Why should Panzer accept the offer now when he could’ve rejected it and stayed true to his character—at least for now. And if they really want Panzer to join the group, at least pick the right time to do it: when Panzer eats up another embarrassing loss and MSG does something remarkable on the same night.

    If y’all wanna make us boo The Heart of PWR, at least make the moment as dramatic as possible. Sell the desperation by handing Panzer more losses. Improve MSG’s clout by awarding them with impressive, albeit dirty, victories. Then have Panzer succumb to temptation two or three shows later by breaking his moral code and joining a faction that’s actually worth selling your soul for. That way, MSG becomes a more powerful heel stable and Panzer won’t look like a complete idiot. Don’t even get me started about how a slow burn could’ve made SANDATA’s heel turn a lot easier to swallow.

    Tier 3: “Pramis talaga, magdi-diet na ako. Peksman!”

    This one’s a low-class resolution, it’s almost a lie. Only a few can follow through with this resolution because food is life. It’s also a representation of our third tier where we take on the low points of the show. They’re not that bad, but they could use a lot of fixing.

    Dax Xaviera gets to keep AOWrora

    Dax Xaviera wore a cool Bird Box-inspired outfit and all, but I can’t help but be underwhelmed by his recent character work. The last time I saw this guy, he was unhinged and obsessed with getting his hands on his AOWrora. Now that his quest is over, it’s unclear what Dax’s deal is. And why is he pandering to the crowd? He pretty much stole the spotlight away from the bleeding AB3. And what’s with the fake bat? Completely took me away from the action. Also, Joey Bax was there. Good, I guess. It’s time for The Warlord to aim higher than the title he previously had.

    What’s the endgame for The End Game?

    Surprisingly, I enjoyed Jan Evander’s match with Ken Warren. With the presence of The Apocalypse and Super Vintendo, Evander had this dangerous vibe around him that made him look more menacing than he is. I actually thought the leader of The End Game would finally score a win for his team and put his little band of misfits on the map. But alas, The End Game has yet to make any significant impact in PWR.

    I honestly wouldn’t mind if Evander picked up a rollup win over Warren. They could still beat him up after the match and it wouldn’t hurt Chino Guinto’s return. I even enjoyed Super Vintendo’s performance opposite Vlad Sinnsyk. He brought out some unique offense that should’ve brought him the win but didn’t. The End Game is a faction full of potential, I just hope Creative utilizes them more efficiently this year.

    Referees are still annoying as hell

    I’ll continue complaining about this until they get it right. It’s annoying how the PWR referees are such pushovers. There was this one instance during the MSG vs. Dolls vs. Bros match where Mr. Sy was mouthing off at the referee and the referee was too meek to answer back. In the WWE, referees have the power to throw unruly ringside managers and valets out of the arena. In PWR, all they could do is beg them to trust their authority.

    And then there were the spots where referees just shrugged at the sight of wrestlers choking each other with foreign objects. Sure, they were No DQ matches, but referees are still obligated to prevent the wrestlers from killing each other. Referees still have to count to five if there are actions like choking, eye-gouging, or hair-pulling involved. Tell the wrestlers off, at least! What, is every No DQ match an All Out War in PWR? Someone can just stab their opponent with a knife and the ref will be like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Smh.

    Overall Thoughts

    Chino Guinto said it best before stomping on Ken Warren’s skull: Happy New Year, Revo-nation! PWR started the year right with a show that promised some new faces and new rivalries that will shape the rest of the year. While there were moments that definitely stuck out like a sore thumb, PWR Live: New Year's Wrestle-ution was still a fun premiere for an exciting week in pro wrestling. I was definitely hyped to watch the Royal Rumble after immersing myself with the best pro-wrestling Southeast Asia has to offer. For now, PWR’s first show of 2019 gets a strong B+.

    Match of the Night: The Naughty Boys conquering Ralph Imabayashi
    Stars of the Night: Instead of giving this to just one wrestler, I’ll hand this award to all the debuting PWR wrestlers. You guys deserve it!
    "Aw Bah Gawd!" Moment: Robynn hits a Swanton Bomb outside the ring like it’s nothing.
    Promo of the Night: “I hit a woman once and I’m the bad guy?” Mr. Sy channels his inner Daniel Bryan.
    Surprise of the Night: Chino Guinto makes his PWR return. 

    The Official PWR Review Cutting Board

    As if this column wasn’t long enough already, here are some some random thoughts that failed to make it to the actual article. This is how we do it on Tuesday nights, people.
    • The PWR official opening video is updated now! New faces are already added while some footage was updated as well. Everyone’s heart completely broke when they saw Ralph Imabayashi and Rederick Mahaba now have their separate spots in the video. And hey, almost everyone got updated entrance videos and music as well. It’s a new year, yes it is. 
    • Speaking of entrance videos, PWR did a great job incorporating entrance videos to hype upcoming matches. Quatro’s fighting game selection intro should be the new norm from now on. Meanwhile, The Naughty Boys win the night by making a subtle parody of Imabayashi’s iconic entrance music. It was definitely naisuki of you boys.
    • I really hope the now-babyface Rederick Mahaba clashes with MSG someday. Imagine the promos between two of PWR’s best talkers.
    Images from Hub Pacheco Photography


    Smark Henry is independently owned and managed by a group of Filipino pro wrestling fans, but includes members affiliated with the Philippine Wrestling Revolution.
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    Item Reviewed: PWR Live: New Year's Wrestle-ution - The Official Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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