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    Wednesday, January 23, 2019

    Reviewing Team Sebastian: One Year Later

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    In the world of pro wrestling, stakes and consequences are not often discussed nor explored in detail due to varying factors such as certain time limitations and stories being pushed in favor of others. In some cases, a company won't even bother themselves with much-deserved explanations (case in point: actual stakes in Survivor Series 2016 to 2018).

    That's a damn shame because all too often, there are stories that never get some degree of payoff when they mattered the most, be it from the usual WWE fare or from the international scene. And with how pro wrestling works nowadays, there are stories that deserve to be followed through after a long period of time.

    With PWR's first show of the year, PWR Live: New Year's Wrestle-ution being just a few days away, now is as good a time as any to look back at PWR Vendetta 2017. It was an event that ended with a major course-changing event: when Team Sebastian defeated Team Sy in the first-ever Ubusan ng Lahi Match, which led to John Sebastian securing 50% ownership of the company, and eventually leading to the winning faction that started up their own plan known as OPLAN: SAGIP WRESTLING. While the team surely had its presence felt in Q1 of 2018, as the year went through, fans will notice that there would eventually be no mention of the affiliation that gave one person authoritative power.

    Seeing as though all five men had something to gain from joining the winning team, let's see how all five participants of that team fared one year later, in the order of who benefited the least to the most.

    5. Peter Versoza

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    What happened since then: 2018 would eventually be the year that fans would be treated to a startling revelation about P to the V: that he is a proud flat-Earther and would be deeply involved in the alleged kidnapping and flat-Earth conversion of James "IDOL" Martinez of The Network. This would eventually cause a rift between the two former allies, and Versoza would enter himself in a 6-way All Out War Championship Match at Wrevolution X 2018, a match won by the eventual Warlord, Alexander Belmonte III.

    How did he fare: Besides his All Out War Championship opportunity, the Revo-Nation has not seen nor heard from Versoza since Wrevolution X. It is currently unknown when he is coming back, if at all.

    4. Rederick "Mainstream" Mahaba

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    What happened since then: Being a major force alongside Ralph Imabayashi as part of MTNH, Rederick Mahaba was able to assist his partner as special guest referee to help wrest the PWR Championship from Chris Panzer as PWR Live: Kingdom Come a little over a year ago.

    Since then, he was tremendously instrumental in helping Imabayashi out in his championship defenses, leading to the latter becoming the longest reigning champion of any kind in PWR history (more on him later). As if that wasn't enough, he was able to find further success outside the ring, getting multiple roles in movies, as well as having his own one-man comedy show, catalysts that would lead to his transformation into "Mainstream Mahaba." He notably defeated Zayden Trudeau and Koto Hiro in an impromptu 3-way match during his debut as "Mainstream Mahaba", and even received championship opportunities for the PHX Championship against Ken Warren and the All Out War Championship against AB3. 

    However, in the last months of 2018, troubles began to stir between MTNH, leading to the events of Vendetta 2018, with Ralph Imabayashi attacking Mahaba after the main event, signaling the end of what should have been a tag team championship-caliber pairing.

    How did he fare: For all intents and purposes, he's become quite successful in his own right outside the ring (he didn't call himself "Mainstream" for nothing). However, it can be argued that he was too focused on protecting Ralph and his reign that he wasn't able to capitalize on vintage wins on his own career, even after calling in that favor from John Sebastian for the Ubusan ng Lahi favor for a PHX title bout. As a matter of fact, it was Ralph who would eventually stab him in the back.

    Looking back, the one big mistake Mahaba did was to focus on Ralph too much that it affected his own wins, and perhaps it's the one mistake Mainstream plans to rectify in 2019, whenever he does return.

    3. Jake de Leon

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    What happened since then: When JDL made his return as the surprise member of Team Sebastian at Vendetta 2017, his main gripe has always been how he has felt that he was getting overlooked by former PWR General Manager Mr. Sy, as he moved further and further away from championship opportunities.

    Entering 2018, he then felt that everyone else was not on the "JDL Level", a standard he puts in high regard and the reason why he made the surprising jump to Team Sebastian. He felt slighted from the fact that he felt everyone had not stepped up to his level and he made it his mission to push everyone by any means necessary, leading to intense matches against the likes of SANDATA, Dax Xaviera, Zayden Trudeau, and Ken Warren.

    Speaking of which, he eventually defeated Ken Warren for the Philippine Excellence Championship, leading to classics against international wrestlers Tengu and Andruew Tang. Unfortunately, his year ended with him losing the championship at Vendetta 2018 to the man he helped rise to power in the first place, John Sebastian. As if that wasn't enough, he also lost to Mr. Lucha at MWF 6: Noche Buena in a grudge match caused by issues in the past that were supposed to remain buried.

    How did he fare: It depends on who you ask. In the eyes of fans, you cannot talk about 2018 and the continued rise of in-ring quality in the Philippines without even bringing up the rechristened Mr. Philippine Wrestling, whose campaign really did lead to some hotly contested bouts in both PWR and MWF. It certainly helped that he won the PHX Championship without asking for any particular favors from Sebastian after that Ubusan ng Lahi win. For what it's worth, he's the only guy among the five members who actually powered his way through championship success through sheer hatred and intensity, ironically giving him more reason to be beloved by the fans. Let's face it: it's simply too hard to jeer at JDL at this point.

    However, in a twisted sense of irony, at the same event where JDL helped Sebastian secure the 50% ownership a year ago, Sebastian would screw JDL over one year later to win the PHX Championship. In that sense, you really have to wonder: was it really worth it for JDL to help out his on-again, off-again archnemesis, John Sebastian, a year ago, only to be screwed over by the same Wrestling Lord and Savior he knows all too well? Looks like 2019 will be a very interesting time in the PHX Championship scene.

    2. John Sebastian

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    What happened since then: For what it's worth, he certainly made use of his 50% ownership to lead him into his Triple Crown achievement. First, he inserted himself and Crystal (as they officially made their relationship public) into the PWR Tag Team Championship picture and managed to secure the titles and enjoyed a lengthy reign before eventually losing the titles to the Naughty Boys. That tag title loss led to the couple's relationship going up in flames before the eyes of the fans.

    In the midst of the drama, he somehow ended up in a position where he was involved in the complicated PHX Championship picture thanks to Crystal, resulting in the 6-Man Survival Match at Vendetta 2018. By capitalizing on being the last entrant in the match (50% ownership and all that) and a dominating showing by "The Statement" Andruew Tang, Sebastian pulled off the surprising victory over JDL to not only become the new champion but also the first Triple Crown winner in PWR history—a feat in which a wrestler wins three different titles in one promotion.

    How did he fare: Winning two different championships, becoming the first Triple Crown champion in Philippine wrestling, and still having 50% ownership of PWR is certainly another way of saying he had an amazing year. However, the thing to consider is that in the process of his 2018 run, he managed to piss off his (ex?) girlfriend in Crystal and pretty much screwed over the guy that helped him secure his 50% position a year ago in JDL.

    So while there is a reason to celebrate, that does not necessarily mean his 2019 will start great with two different people wanting his head—on top of burning bridges with the likes of JDL and Ken Warren (who is still ranting about his lost one-on-one rematch for the PHX Championship) and all that. Not to mention, his on-the-job stress was shown in different instances, again indicating that he probably bit more than he could chew.

    1. Ralph Imabayashi

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    What happened since then: There is no doubt that 2018 was Imabayashi's year, and as he would tell you himself: he started and ended the year as PWR Champion. After defeating Chris Panzer for the championship at PWR Live: Kingdom Come (thanks to special guest referee Mainstream Mahaba), he managed to not only stack up wins against a murderer's row of contenders in Bombay Suarez, Miguel Rosales, Zayden Trudeau, Koto Hiro, Mike Madrigal, Vlad Sinnsyk, and Mainstream Mahaba, but in the process, he became the longest reigning champion of any kind in Philippine wrestling history, a defining legacy in its own right.

    During the aforementioned history-making reign, he had to deal with relationship issues with Nina, as well as internal struggles with Mahaba, which ended with him assaulting the man who helped the self-proclaimed Best Pure Wrestler win the championship in the first place. Mr. Year Ender once again ended the year standing tall, but this time around, all by himself.

    How did he fare: That he became the longest reigning champion of any kind in history is an achievement in and of itself, on top of the fact that he remains champion heading into Sunday. And considering he became a beneficiary of this reign thanks to the Ubusan ng Lahi victory at Vendetta 2017, this makes Ralph the biggest winner of Team Sebastian. Although, it is worth noting that similar to Sebastian's situation, he may have become the longest reigning champion ever, but he did end up alienating friends such as Nina and Mahaba in the process, deciding that he would stand alone. Who knows if this will be the wisest decision for Imabayashi's career come 2019? One thing is for sure, he will not have the numbers advantage that won him the championship a year ago.

    So what have we learned in the span of a year based on the above, give or take?

    1. Team Sebastian is rarely ever brought up these days, but of the five members who comprised the winning team, only Sebastian and Imabayashi directly benefited from the win, with Mahaba and JDL achieving their success through their own efforts.

    2. Being said, only Sebastian and Imabayashi benefited from authority intervention. However, looking back, Imabayashi only benefited from this once: when Mahaba was named special guest referee at Kingdom Come, a decision Mahaba might not be fond of at this point. Sebastian, on the other hand, power-tripped his way into a PWR Tag Team Championship position, and let's not ignore the fact that it was too coincidental that he was the last participant in the PHX 6-Man Survival Match at Vendetta 2018. In other words, when it comes to title situations, authority was certainly involved in the fate of these two.

    3. One can argue that Versoza's alleged kidnapping of IDOL at Path of Gold led to Sebastian and Crystal winning the Tag Team Championships, which means that both he and Mahaba were the only members involved in influencing matches that led to their teammates winning championships.

    4. On the other hand, as previously stated, only JDL went through the year without any kind of help at all, making use of all his hatred and aggression to power through PWR and MWF, for better or for worse. One has to wonder if JDL's decision to support Sebastian back at Vendetta 2017 was a wise thing to do in retrospect, given he did not have any kind of benefit after being the surprise partner.

    5. Interestingly, Mahaba and Sebastian were the only members who got involved in two different championship chases in 2018. Mahaba had his chance with the PHX and PWR Championships, having lost both times. For Sebastian, he won both the PHX and PWR Tag Team Championships. The difference was that Mahaba had zero authoritative influence (save for requesting a PHX Championship match from the boss) while Sebastian did (as previously mentioned).

    Otherwise, all members had championship opportunities during the year—all with varying results.

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    So with that said, it's a mixed bag when it comes to Team Sebastian. With a group that was so focused on ridding the company of Mr. Sy, it turns out that only two guys were the real beneficiaries of that fateful win.

    Mainstream Mahaba and Jake de Leon were not exactly so lucky when you look back, which really makes you wonder if 2019 is the year they finally realize that they were used by Imabayashi and Sebastian all along.

    Or maybe I might be wrong and I'm just overthinking things. But hey, it's always good to look back at the past to understand your present and see what the future will bring, right?

    Photos from "Heavy-Hitter" Hub Pacheco

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

    PWR Live: New Year's Wrestle-ution takes place on Sunday, January 27, 2019, at 2 PM, and will be held at the Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati. 

    Tickets are at PhP 399 each and are also available at PhP 1099 for a barkada bundle of three (3) until Saturday, January 26. Tickets will be at PhP 450 at the door on Sunday.

    For ticket inquiries, visit ticket2me.net or email PWR at pwr.tickets@gmail.com.

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    Item Reviewed: Reviewing Team Sebastian: One Year Later Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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