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    Wednesday, March 20, 2019

    PWR Path of Gold 2019: The Smark Henry Review

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    PWR had the unenviable task of attempting to top last year's Path of Gold event, which was considered to be one of 2018's best shows alongside PWR Live: Homefront. I personally came into the show expecting they could at least achieve the same A+ score from last year, and that would have already been fine and they could have called it a day.

    Instead, we all witnessed what was arguably the greatest show the five-year-old promotion was able to produce from top to bottom. It was the perfect storm: every single performer on the card brought their A-game for this one special show, the crowd was red-hot from start to finish, and from what I have seen, new viewers have been converted into fans in a show that ended up becoming a standing room only event. Short of saying, this has now become the new benchmark as to how big Philippine wrestling shows will be measured.

    But this is still your usual monthly Smark Henry review of a PWR event, and we're still going to look back at the bits and pieces of the show. Considering that the show is literally called Path of Gold, and we had some amazing guests from Japan, it's only appropriate that this show's ranking system be the most Japanese thing possible: based on the 5-star servants of the widely popular and insane money-making mobile game, Fate/Grand Order, because nothing screams Japan in this day and age more than gacha. And I'm already in this gacha hell and this may or may not be a cry for help. Oh, and we're sticking with the North American version, so no Skadi here.

    Tier 1: Merlin

    Quatro o Kahon

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    When you look back at the year leading up to PoG, this seemed to be an inevitable formality. Quatro almost won last year's PoG Match from the #4 spot, only to be distracted by Trabajador Supremo and a rope assisted pin by Jake De Leon. He then almost won the PWR Championship from Ralph Imabayashi at Homefront had it not been for constant interference from Mainstream Mahaba and Artie and a desperate pin attempt by the champion.

    So it wasn't a surprise by any means when Quatro made history at this year's Path of Gold Match by being the first man to win the whole thing from the unfavorable #1 position on the appropriate fourth ever PoG Match. Mike Madrigal was in his usual main event mode, trading strikes and moves against the Light Bringer as they continued their heated rivalry as the last two participants of the match. Fans could feel that the roof was going to blow off the place after every strike and pinfall, seeing as though Quatro had become the master of the 2.9-second kickout that keeps fans on their feet. These two guys are meant to compete for a bigger prize in the future given how well they work together every time they are in the ring.

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    It's only appropriate that Quatro nailed two consecutive Destinos to finally take down King Kups (despite a second consecutive year of a Ralph interference in a PoG Match), and the rematch with the Best Pure Wrestler at this year's Wrevolution X should burn the entire venue down.

    No one is hotter in PWR right now than Quatro, and the stamina beast has continued to impress fans with his surprising charisma and athletic prowess. It's going to be interesting to see how he'll fare in the main event of PWR's biggest show as he'll have a chance to become the first PWR Champion among the next generation of talent that came through its Bootcamp.

    Other quick PoG hits:

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    • It was fun to see MSG interact with Chris Panzer and Ken Warren, both OGs with beef against the turbulent triumvirate of Main Maxx, SANDATA, and Mr. Sy (more on that later on). Seeing two top stars being eliminated via the Pagbasag ng Bayag after the bickering between the two was unexpected but not surprising. However, seeing MSG get eliminated by the KakaiBros thanks to Panzer and Warren was a great form of payback from the Bros from Trinoma after the shenanigans at PWR Live: NICE. Speaking of the KakaiBros...

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    • It's likewise great to see the continuing story of a deteriorating friendship between the Naughty Boys and the KakaiBros after what happened mere hours prior. How this will progress even further as we roll on towards Wrevolution X will be worth keeping an eye on, especially with Jhemherlhynn being caught in the middle of both teams.
    • That Hyperbomb by Quatro on both Kakaibros is insane.
    • Mr. Sy's ang pao shenanigans during the match is such a fun Mr. Sy thing to do, and he may have found his equivalent of Paul Bearer's urn or Jim Cornette's tennis racket.

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    • If you asked me who should be considered the MVP of this year's PoG Match, it would have to be the collective unit of the Endgame. Seeing the trio decimate the field while taking advantage of the No DQ stipulation makes them come off as the most nefarious trio in the company, a statement that should have been made in the beginning. Five major eliminations in a single PoG has got to increase the stock of the faction in the eyes of the fans. Plus points go to Jan Evander, PwD for being not only a machine in the whole match, but also showing off his smarts by avoiding encounters and capitalizing on openings, showing exactly why the PwD gimmick works with the Endgame leader.

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    • No moment in this year's PoG Match was more deserving of applause than the return of James "IDOL" Martinez, who was welcomed by the Revo-Nation with a resounding ovation after a long absence. The face-off between the Network and the Endgame is an epic moment in and of itself and should be a preview of what's to come soon enough.

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    • Chino Guinto went through the entire bout like he never skipped a beat after more than 18 months off. Chino's presence in the ring is a welcome sight, and with him including the Omega Driver in his arsenal—used to great effect against Jan Evander—we could see a new and improved Chino in the months to come.

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    • Whether or not Brad Cruz channeling his inner Dante Gulapa is going to be a permanent change moving forward or a temporary phase is yet to be known, but after the disaster that was the Cruz/McKata craziness, this is certainly a welcome development. I'm hoping he can make the most out of this new gimmick, both in and out of the ring.

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    • I initially expected this year's PoG Match to have some sort of surprise entrant from another promotion or country, but I'm glad they went with an all-PWR encounter this year. In a special show like this—more special than usual—everyone brought their best and showed off how much growth they had over the past number of years. It'll be great to have some special guests in the future, sure, but on PWR's fifth year, this was more of a statement that the scene has grown to the point that they themselves can become featured stars in another country in the future. And the future is certainly bright for the local scene.

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    • One thing that immediately came to mind was that if they wanted to, they could potentially increase the number of participants from 20 to 30 given the increasing number of wrestlers within the ranks. It would have been great to see the likes of Bolt, Cali Nueva, Kapitan Tutan, and GrabCamus compete in the match and show the fans what they've got, but there's always next year.

    "Yet These Hands Will Never Hold Anything"

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    For a grudge match between two former best friends who used to be able to do anything for each other, this was never meant to be a spectacle of technical expertise, but a straight-up fight from the get-go. And that's exactly what happened even before fans could hum "Daisuki" as the fired-up Mahaba went apeshit on Ralph towards the Gorilla position.

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    It was a personal bout full of callbacks and another instance of Ralph willing to do everything to keep the title, to the point of even wearing the old Basted Club shirt and an impromptu video package straight out of DDT Pro-Wrestling's playbook to emotionally distract the Intimate One. Ultimately, Ralph made the most of his gameplan, sinking to new lows to clutch in the Black City Lock for a KO victory. Mahaba looked great in defeat as he finally popped his singles PWR Championship Match cherry.

    But it was the post-match statement that truly hit the spot and drove the point of Ralph's entire arc since PWR Live: Resbak:

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    "Whoever wins Path of Gold, please choose me. I don't want to be champion anymore."

    It's simple, effective, and downright impactful. When you look back at everything he has gone through, from his whole hatred for Chino Guinto to going down the dark path as part of MTNH, all the way to his historic championship reign, he has ventured through this dark path that led to collateral damage towards the likes of Nina and Rederick Mahaba.

    It's ironic: even if he's the longest reigning PWR champion in history with 11 successful defenses, he has alienated everyone and discarded his morals all in the name of defending his title, turning himself into the kind of monster driven by the championship. In the process of gaining everything, he likewise lost everything, as if a supposed holy grail turned out to be a corruptible element that tainted who he is. That's the wonder of long-term storytelling. If you've come along for the ride from the beginning, and you see all this pay off, that's the greatest reward you can get as a viewer.

    It's poetic, then, that the match that main events Wrevolution X is the Light Bringer vs. The One Who Treads in the Dark.

    One other thing I noticed: for the first time, fans sang along to the theme of Rederick Mahaba. After a long time of chanting along Ralph's theme, this was a welcome change.

    Emi Sa Puso Mo

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    I had such a hard time picking the Match of the Show that I actually had to ask the rest of the Smark Henry crew for help by giving me their thoughts on what should be hailed the best. After much deliberation, the majority had spoken: Emi Sakura vs. Crystal was more than deserving to be the best match on the card.

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    It takes two to tango, and Crystal could not have asked for a better dance partner than a familiar face in Emi Sakura, who the former knows from her visit to Gatoh Move in Thailand. Emi was her usual top-form self, being able to bring out the best in Crystal throughout the match.

    And on her part, Crystal not only took the joshi legend's shots like a queen (like that tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and those legendary chops) but also matched her every move, looking every bit an equal. The right woman won the match as she should have, but both women came out looking like the real winners, to the point this may very well be Crystal's best match on local soil to date.

    This is the best women's match in PWR history so far, and Crystal has made a strong case to become the first Women's Champion if it comes to that in the future.

    "What Is This, A Crossover Episode?"

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    Not going to lie, Vlad Synnsyk vs. Masa Takanashi would have been a singles bout fitting for a big show already. Then they made this bout scream "blockbuster" even more with the inclusion of longtime DDT Pro-Wrestling star DJ Nira and Mr. Philippine Wrestling, Jake de Leon, giving us a crazy PWR vs. DDT interpromotional dream tag match you never thought would happen five years ago.

    As a fan of DDT for so long, I'm glad to see Masa show his stuff on Philippine soil for the first time. DJ Nira has always had the knack for the weird throughout his DDT tenure but his surprising appearance is a welcome sight. Both JDL (who was great as usual) and the Hand of Judgment melded well against the DDT duo and churned out an unforgettable bout that left fans gasping for breath early, with the right man in Vlad pinning the right opponent in DJ Nira in the end.

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    If this was Vlad's case to solidify himself as a main event guy, he's emphatically done so in spades. And it's a wonder to see what happens next to JDL and Masa Takanashi (as Shuten Doji is set to disband in April), but we'll be happy to see these guys interact again at some point.

    Tier 2: Zhuge Liang / Waver Velvet

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    With Friends Like These...

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    The YOLO Twins vs. The Naughty Boys was the best way to start off the show, and for good reason.

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    From the frantic start of the match, both teams brought out new and unique ways to hurt each other, from the double enziguri and the electric chair spot to the nice tornado backdrop spot. It's like these two knew that in order to get the crowd going from the beginning, they needed to take a devil-may-care approach, symbolic of the theme of defending and claiming the division. And let's not get started with that new Fireman's Carry variant of the Two Night Stand, which goes to show how willing the Twins are to expand their tag game.

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    The KakaiBros' accidental interference was something some of us anticipated ever since they started forming this mega-group. It's like how after you've watched wrestling for so long, you'd have probably expected something like this to happen at some point, leading to the end of the Naughty Boys' historic championship reign. But if this means we'll get to see some sort of three-way at Wrevolution X for the tag titles, then I'm all in for that.

    Both these teams and the KakaiBros deserve all the credit for helping fire up the fans at the start of their biggest show.

    MSG Is Really, Really Bad For You

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    It seems like this year's Path of Gold was a good night for factions. We saw the reunion of the Network. We witnessed the Endgame finally become the faction they were meant to be. Maybe let's skip what happened to the Naughty Bros. And then we have MSG's continued roll of being thorns on the sides of our beloved PWR favorites. In this case, they got the attention of the Revo-Nation by targeting Chris Panzer and Ken Warren, two of PWR's OGs.

    Image may contain: 2 peopleChris Panzer vs. Eric Walker was a fun sprint between two great and talented stars. While not necessarily a long bout that some of us initially expected, they managed to make full use of the time allotted to them and delivered a satisfying encounter. This was set against the backdrop of Mr. Sy trying to make sure that Panzer gets his after failing to protect the former PWR GM's job on two separate occasions. And that makes what happened next very confusing yet interesting.

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    Ken Warren's one-on-one rematch against John Sebastian was a match I initially came in thinking of as a relatively dragging match compared to the other bouts considering the contrast of styles between the two. But boy, was I wrong.

    Much like the YOLO Twins vs. the Naughty Boys, these two ramped up their game to a higher gear and delivered a satisfying PHX Championship encounter that only proved that they can adapt to the strengths of their opponents. What is intriguing, however, is why Mr. Sy, of all people, would help out the Wrestling Lord and Savior against Warren, who to the best of my knowledge has no particular beef with the trio. It's a great cliffhanger that will hopefully be answered during an Aftershock or at the next show, PWR Live: Destino.


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    There's one thing I've been wondering all this time: how can Robynn get a championship match by slapping the champion instead of contending for the title shot?

    Other than that, I'm glad that PWR brought back the No DQ violence attached to the namesake of the championship associated with the likes of The Apocalypse and Vlad Synnsyk, showing fans just how tough Robynn is and forging her niche as the resident hardcore maiden of PWR. She took all the blows and even adapted when a Coast To Coast didn't go her way, which is very indicative of her resilience. In fact, this match with Dax Xaviera did more to establish her as a resilient fighter than her previous All Out War Match with Crystal. With PWR's women's division slowly taking form, Robynn has all the makings of being able to go far in her career.

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    But Daddax has finally found himself and who he wants to be as a wrestler. For so long, we have been waiting for final form of Dax Xaviera to show up after his long journey as a singles star, especially with the ceiling we thought he had. Not only has he found a fitting gimmick as a delirious madman that is obsessed with his AOWrora, wrecking people's eardrums, and his slingblades, but he has also been able to translate this into a better foundation for his in-ring offense. It took a few years, but fans can now finally get invested in this Dax Xaviera, a guy deserving of defending the All Out War Championship at Wrevolution X.

    With broken tables and Orocans inside the ring, they helped remind fans what the All Out War Championship is all about, especially considering the unusual phase it had in 2018.

    Tier 3: Gilgamesh

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    A Very NICE Preshow

    You know you really do have a great show going on when even the preshow was required viewing.

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    The smart money was on Jhemherlhynn getting her win back against Jaye Sera after two consecutive losses, but they also had a much better bout than their first match together in the process. Jaye was like an aggressive pitbull, ruthless as ever. Meanwhile, The Intern got to show off some new tricks in her repertoire, including the Jhemherlock DDT and her unique octopus stretch armbar-legbar combination that eventually scored her the win. They definitely made their moments count as they continue to improve, and we cannot wait to see what is in store for the two rookies.

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    Keeping up with the theme of improvements, Kapitan Tutan and Cali Nueva had a better bout from their first encounter as well, back when Nueva was living his former life as Artie 2.0. Kapitan Tutan has this uncanny ability to switch between being a comedy wrestler to becoming a surprisingly good serious wrestler as he proved in his match against Carlos Zamora last month, and this was on display again in this match.

    On the other hand, the Hipster continues to impress since transitioning into his new douchebag asshole hipster self, which funnily enough, has the arrogant shades of Chino Guinto back when he started as a Network downline. And you know how that turned out years later for the Golden Boy.

    Your guess is as good as mine as to where this whole #DickPicSaga will go, but if they play their cards right, it might end up becoming as interesting as the Trajabadores preshow saga from 2017-18.


    This entire show was the perfect storm of enjoyment from top to bottom, with the fans so heavily invested in the stories that went down in the ring, while also being able to enjoy themselves thanks to the efforts of everyone in the company. There was a special kind of energy rushing through this show, and even longtime fans could notice that this year's Path of Gold was unlike any other show in the past.

    When you look at the entire show on a macro level instead of just merely looking at the in-ring intricacies alone, you can see that they were able to evoke so much emotion from within the fans, who then reacted appropriately in kind. And that's how you know you are getting your money's worth, which is really the end goal.

    If last year's show was a testament to the growth of the company and its competitors, then this year's is a sign that being able to deliver excellent shows in the local scene is now the norm, and fans should now know that this scene is here to stay.

    The challenge they now face is how they are going to top this with PWR's biggest show of the year, Wrevolution X, scheduled for this May. While it is indeed a challenge, especially since they went all out with Path of Gold, it is nonetheless a good problem to have.

    Post-Event Awards

    Match of the Night: Emi Sakura vs. Crystal

    Wrestler of the Night: Quatro

    Moment of the Night: Tied between the PWR vs. DDT Pro-Wrestling showdown, and Ralph's chilling words

    Best Dressed: Super Vintendo as Negan

    Showdown We Never Knew We Wanted: The Network vs. The Endgame

    Best Elimination: Quatro's Hyperbomb stack on the KakaiBros

    Best Moment in PoG: The Network Reunion

    Worst Moment in PoG: When the ref stopped Chino from using the chair despite the fact that the match was a no DQ encounter

    Event Grade: S


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

    Photos from Our Photography Lord and Savior, Hub Pacheco
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    Item Reviewed: PWR Path of Gold 2019: The Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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