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    Wednesday, July 3, 2019

    PWR Live: Pak! Ganern!—The Official Smark Henry Review

    Happy Pride, everyone! It’s ya boy Ricky the Public with another steaming pile of PWR hot takes coming your way. This one’s a little special because it marks my first year as a PWR reviewer. Isn’t that neat? My very first show was last year and 365 days later, here we are again, opening another season of PWR. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is.

    The cool thing about PWR is that it only takes them one year to get bigger than they already were. It’s like every year, they just find new ways to improve their craft and elevate PH wrestling to new heights. And that’s exactly why I enjoy reviewing these shows. So how did PWR Live: Pak! Ganern! do as PWR’s Season 6 premiere? Let’s find out.

    Tier 1: SARAP

    You bet your ass I’m going to use this as my tier for this show. If you haven’t seen the masterpiece that is Tagalog Words with Zayden, go check it out here. You’ll need it to understand this tier system. Since sarap is Zayden Trudeau’s favorite Tagalog word, I’ll also use it to highlight the best moments of PWR Live: Pak! Ganern! You guys ready?

    The Best First Round Championship Chase Yet

    Since they're not planning to give this tournament a proper name yet, I'll go ahead and christen this one the annual Championship Chase Tournament. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Anyway, forget the name because the first round of this tournament was actually lit. The first round and we already have four finals-worthy matches? Now that's how you kick off a tournament.

    Let's start with the best first round match in my book: Jake de Leon vs Jan Evander. I was hyped for this one when Smark Henry first announced it and I'm so glad they delivered. Neither one of these men slept on the competition because they were too busy beating the crap out of each other. Evander pretty much pushed JDL to the limit, even without the assistance of the Endgame. If he had gone over clean, I wouldn't even have complained.

    But no, MYPW's Shaukat had to spoil the fun for JDL, allowing Evander to pick up a huge win and advance to the next round. It's easily one of the best matches of the night, with both JDL and Evander dishing out their best moves to try and stop one another. Also, the supposedly educated Evander should relearn how to count. And holy shit, JDL can now bust out a cartwheel off the top rope. I bet one day we'll see him do a cartwheel on the top rope itself and it'll be the new normal.

    And if I had to pick the second-best first round match, it would be Mike Madrigal and Zayden Trudeau's first one-on-one encounter. From the get-go, these two didn't waste a second destroying each other. At one point, Zayden even gave Madrigal a taste of his own medicine by manhandling him with a suplex of his own. He even dished out his own version of 619 and the Panama Sunrise, much to the delight of everyone.

    But just like his rival Cali Nueva before him, Zayden chose to be flashy over being efficient. The Kupal One took advantage and earned himself a ticket to the next round. What's interesting was that Madrigal showed his high-flying opponent some respect, instead of his usual MO of beating up or insulting the guy he just beat. Is this Madrigal finally showing us his #Puso? I know his first babyface run was a dud, so are they trying to do it right this time? Color me intrigued.

    Mr. Sy wasn't present to berate the crowd, but he pretty much transferred his energy onto MSG's newest signee, Chris Panzer. I have to say, I'm really digging this side of Panzer. He looks the part, he sounds the part, and he definitely wrestles the part. His style has become more aggressive and less flashy, even adopting a new Ripcord Clothesline as a melee finisher. And I bet him turning heel won't affect his stock that much. After all, everyone loves a bad boy.

    Revo Ranger may have lost to the numbers game, but he didn't make it easy for Panzer or MSG. Ranger continued to rock his Ultra Instinct getup and he couldn't look any more cooler. Their match was indeed a battle of the abs in every sense. I get that Panzer had to take this one, but they have to give Ranger a credible victory, possibly as early as the next show. Give Ultra Instinct Revo Ranger a chance to shine. 

    And last but not least, we have Trian dela Torre overcoming the high-flying antics of Cali Nueva in the show's opener. I really thought Cali had this one in the bag when they announced that Ken Warren won't be competing that night. My boy Cali skipping his way to the semis would've been fun, but fine, I guess we have to see him earn it. Too bad he had to face one-half of the Naughty Boys and one of his long-time tormenters, Trian dela Torre.

    It's refreshing to see Trian chasing some singles glory for once. After all, Evan Carleaux did it in the first half of 2019. It's Trian Time, baby! And after exploiting a missed 450 Splash and Cali's bruised ego, the Inch-for-Inch Midget Champion advanced to the next round. I'm not even mad, this is amazing. We tend to forget that Trian can tussle with the best, especially with Evan by his side to advise him not to do outside dives anymore. #RememberTheShoulder

    T-Hawk and Shaukat Put PWR on Notice

    Believe the hype! Wrestle-1, OWE, and AEW star T-Hawk brought the house down with his earth-shattering chops alone. It didn't help that his opponent was the equally hard-hitting Vlad Sinnsyk. And what we got was a monster battle, a slobberknocker, slugfest, or whatever the right term for the violence these two delivered was.

    And the chops! Sweet mother jabroni, the heart-stopping chops. The chop battle between El Guapo and Kapitan Tutan from PWR Live: NICE got downgraded to a slapfest next to this ungodly exchange of backhanded blow. It's rare to see the Hand of Judgment get manhandled like this, but hey, that's T-Hawk for ya. This was easily the best match of the night. Too bad it didn’t close off the first half of the show.

    Needless to say, Sinnsyk didn’t survive the onslaught T-Hawk brought. The fact that he had enough strength to chase off John Sebastian later in the show just proves how tough Sinnsyk is, so his loss didn’t really lower his stock that much. It’s probably a long shot, but they better bring back T-Hawk for another match one of these days.

    Meanwhile, the much-anticipated arrival of Shaukat to PWR finally happened at PWR Live: Pak! Ganern!. And the brave soul who dared to step in the ring with him? Superhero-in-Training Bolt. Nani?!! I know chanting “Bolt, don’t die!” was fun and all, but PWR’s Animazing Hero actually held his own against the beast from Malaysia. But yeah, Bolt got his ass handed to him. I mean, what did you expect?

    Bolt facing a premiere athlete like Shaukat sounds like a punchline to a joke, but bear with me. You don't need to love My Hero Academia to endear yourself to Bolt and his anime-esque storyline right now. I know it’s just a primer to Shaukat vs. JDL, but please let Bolt’s journey towards greatness continue. Keep the mocking chants coming too, because it will make his first solo victory under JDL’s tutelage ten times sweeter.

    And as for Shaukat, the wait may have been long, but it was worth it. And he doesn’t fuck around either, with him already picking a fight with one of the best wrestlers the country has to offer. Shaukat was probably insulted that he faced a student instead of the master in his PWR debut. And you know what, that’s a believable storyline. I would be insulted too, goddamnit.

    International Stars are headed to PWR

    While other promotions out there are busy bringing back old relics of a forgotten past, PWR is out here bringing in the best talents from all around the world. As if T-Hawk and Shaukat weren't enough, they announced (in a swanky video package, no less) the arrival of more international stars in the near future. They weren't kidding when they said never miss a show.

    Who's coming, you ask? Well, there's the woman who's been tearing it up at AEW lately, the Joshi prodigy, Riho. PWR already scored two AEW talents for their sixth season. Let that sink in for a moment. There's also Shimmer and Impact star Shotzi Blackheart, along with other international names that include Aaron O'Malley, Alex Cuevas, Andrew Carter, Chris Target, Julio, Marco Garcia, Killah, and Tripp Cassidy. Man, that's a lot of names.

    But that list isn’t complete yet. Hold on to your hats because this October, former WWE Cruiserweight Champion and Philippines’ own TJP will compete inside a PWR ring! Good news for fans living in the North because his debut will take place at the ABS-CBN Vertis Tent. Get hyped, Revo-Nation. This is really happening!

    PWR’s Tag Team Division Dials Up the Fun

    The tag team division continues to be the source of unadulterated fun in PWR. Look no further than the current PWR Tag Team Champions, the KakaiBros, for non-stop entertainment. It's been a while since these two worked the mic and what do you know, they still got them tsarisma in spades. Meanwhile, the YOLO Twins came out with Rederick Mahaba, for some reason. If there's any team who can go toe-to-toe with Mahaba's entertainment value, it's the KakaiBros.

    And mind you, the Bros are more than just comedy acts. They amped up their in-ring game as well, especially Mh4rkie. The newly-engaged Bro busted out a few new tricks on his arsenal that will surely make his brother Juswa proud. He pretty much carried Kh3ndrick on his back while the Big Dawg was out there getting his ass kicked. In the end, the Bros picked up the win on their 1th title defense. I'm already hyped to see them succeed in their 2th defense. 

    Let's not forget how bonkers the four-way tag team match ended up being. There were a lot of moving pieces but what I enjoyed most was the interactions between the non-legal men. I zoned out from the action and just started watching The Network, MSG, Dax, and Vintendo share meryenda and water bottles with each other. And how appropriate that Super Vintendo ended up stealing the win from the Network after Sam Baltazar's efforts. I sure hope I paid close attention to the match itself though. Damnit.

    Martivo and Tutan: Basagan ng Upo

    Martivo is the star of this show, but how well did his match with Kapitan Tutan perform? Well, let's just say the Man-Doll exceeded expectations with the second iteration of the All Out Warla match. It sounds appropriate that I'm going to reference SNL's Stefon once again because this match really had everything: good wrestling sequences, creative weapon choices, crotch shots, and thumbtacks. Well, that escalated quickly.

    What made this one better than the first one was that they finally found the right mix of fun and violence. It really feels like a proper hardcore match with a real sense of danger, in comparison to last month's prop galore. They should probably do a better job cleaning up the tacks next time to avoid hurting the next competitors (see: Quatro's wrist during the main event).

    Tier 2: ASTIG

    I know I said no more nitpicking, but c’mon, it’s the second tier. Where else can I nitpick? I can’t really relegate the word astig to the second tier, so let’s all just pretend it makes sense. It’s the second tier, nitpicking time, yadda yadda. Be a friend and roll with it, will ya?

    Quatro Ends Imabayashi’s Main Event Run

    I hate that I have to put another Quatro vs Imabasahi match in the second tier, but here we are. I don’t consider it a terrible match, either. It’s my first time seeing a standard wrestling match without the ropes and I have to say, it looks great. Having no ropes brings an ominous vibe to the entire ordeal. But then they ruined it by adding a Matira Matibay stipulation.

    The rules to the Matira Matibay match are confusing as hell. If it’s patterned according to WWE’s Last Man Standing Match, why is the referee enforcing standard match rules? The point of a Last Man Standing Match is to beat your opponent senseless that he can’t stand up after a ten-count. So, of course, it has to follow an anything-goes type of setup. But in PWR’s iteration, why is the referee counting out Quatro and Imabayashi at ringside?

    The confusing stipulation pretty much ruined the flow of the match, mainly because the referee had to count to ten every five minutes while Quatro and Imabayashi were doing some cool stuff outside the ring and every time one of them hits a big move inside the ring. It didn’t help that the referee’s voice cracked every time he counted to six, completely removing the ominous vibe I was talking about earlier. The crowd may have enjoyed the bit, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what they were going for.

    They could argue that the standard ten-count rule was in place to contain the action in the ring. If that’s the case, why add a stipulation? It could easily just be a standard one-fall match with no ropes. It makes more sense on a storyline perspective. Imabayashi can claim he removed the ropes to ground Quatro. Then we could’ve seen the PWR Champion find more inventive ways to fly, or he can also showcase his MMA background and meet Imabayashi on the mat.

    And wouldn’t it be exciting if the match ended with a decisive pinfall? The fact that Imabayashi was able to stand and bow down to Quatro right after failing to answer the ten count ruined the finish for me. It could’ve been the perfect end to Imabayashi’s main event run (for now) and it could’ve been a great first defense for the newly-minted champion.

    Will the Real Best Champion in PWR Please Stand Up?

    After Quatro successfully defended the PWR Championship, I was excited to see who would step up to challenge him next. Since the Championship Chase Tournament won’t be finished until August, I assumed they’d have someone fight Quatro for next month’s event. I didn’t expect it to be the PHX Champion, Chino Guinto.

    It was such a no-brainer that I was mad I didn’t see it coming. I saw them throwing jabs at each other on their social media feeds recently, but I didn't think much of it. As if Quatro vs. Chino Guinto wasn’t enough, out came the All Out War Champion, Martivo. I love how they're channeling the Vengeance: Night of Champions 2007 poster and I’m all for it. This better be the inspiration for the next event’s poster.

    What I didn’t like about the segment is how they played it out as if all the championships will be on the line. I wasn’t sure if Guinto and Martivo are challenging for the PWR Title or they just want to prove that they are the better champion. They’re out there laying down their titles and all, it made the segment completely directionless. And I hate how they just ended it with a lame one-liner. It could’ve been an epic segment if they scripted it better. Still, next month's main event should be great. 

    Mahabang Usapan with Free Siopao, Pare

    Speaking of PWR not knowing how to end their segments, the Mahabang Usapan segment got off on the right foot with Rederick Mahaba throwing free siopaos to the crowd. Ya boy’s got sponsored by Kowloon House, pare. That's a big deal, pare. And as per standard, Mahaba had everyone laughing along with his antics. Also, it had Quatro cosplaying as Mahaba, entrance and all. That's some good shit, pare.

    And that's pretty much what's enjoyable about this segment. Quatro didn't really say anything we've never heard before during the interview proper, Ralph came out and they had a brawl, and that was the end of it. It's a weird complaint, but Mahaba is way too good on the mic that he ends up overshadowing his guests. I honestly don't know how to fix that. 

    Tier 3: PUSA

    Pusa is not necessarily a bad word, but it is the lamest pun in Zayden’s Tagalog dictionary. And since we’ve now reached the third tier, let’s talk about the parts of the show that were less than satisfactory. They’re not necessarily bad, but c’mon, they can’t all be winners.

    Chino Guinto Fends Off John Sebastian For Now

    How do you follow a match like T-Hawk vs. Vlad Sinnsyk? The answer is you don't. Or if you really want to follow such a tough act instead of letting the crowd catch their breath with an intermission, you better exceed or at least match the intensity of the previous one. Otherwise, you'll just end up sucking the remaining energy the last match already took. That's basically the reason why the PHX Championship match is in the third tier. 

    Endlessly referencing the chops from the T-Hawk match was fun and all, but it couldn't make up for the slow pace and crowd's general lack of interest, except maybe for a few people. Why not place it in the second half, right before the All Out Warla match? It would've made more sense to have the three championship matches back-to-back since the endgame is to have the three champions face off at the next event. Not a great look for the PHX Champion, Chino Guinto.

    The Naughty Boys are Fine

    For a storyline with heavy storyline implications, I didn't understand why they had to bury it in the pre-show. What's more mind-boggling was how the match went down. I understood what they were going for. Both teams possessed a dysfunction of their own. Robynn and Jaye Sera weren't really the best of friends, while GrabCamus was busy acting like an excited puppy instead of helping out his tag partner Jhemherlhynn. Naughty Boys about to implode. Yes, I'm all for it.

    But did it really have to be this bland of a match? You can't just start a match and end it right before it starts to pick up. And if we're running an angle where Jhemherlhynn gets injured because of GrabCamus' buffoonery, isn't it better to set up a scenario where Camus is directly responsible for Jhemherlhynn's injury? Instead, Camus is getting the heat from his employers for something that's completely excusable. On the plus side, this shot is pretty iconic. 

    Overall Thoughts

    PWR Live: Pak! Ganern! has to be one of the most hard-hitting shows in PWR history. It's also one of the most exhausting, not because it dragged, but because they packed way too much in their Season 6 premiere. It's not necessarily a bad thing, I'll always prefer having more than enough. I just feel like we didn't need to see some segments and matches right here, right now.

    Maybe have the Mahabang Usapan guest the KakaiBros and run a segment with all the tag teams? That would've eliminated two matches from the card, giving the rest of the show enough time for matches and intermissions. But other than that, PWR Live: Pak! Ganern! achieved its goal in setting up the tone for the rest of the season. 

    But how did it fare with last year's season premiere, PWR Live: Re5peto? While Re5peto had the superior main event, Pak! Ganern! had way too many tricks up its sleeves that it had to be the overall winner. PWR wants everyone to know that they are Philippine Wrestling at its finest. And after what they delivered last Sunday, it's hard to argue otherwise.

    Event Grade: A

    Match of the Night: T-Hawk vs. Vlad Sinnsyk
    Star of the Night: Martivo
    OMG Moment: Zayden hitting a momentous Panama Sunrise
    Promo of the Night: 
    Aaaahhhh walang syota!” - Mh4rkie to Blue YOLO
    Surprise of the Night: TJP and a slew of world-class indie stars coming to PWR! 

    Pak! Ganern! CutDown

    • Why is The Endgame so lenient to AB3? The guy’s openly screwing his new team over! Why is the Endgame still keeping him around? And it’s not like they’re abusing him or anything. This wrinkle into the Endgame/Network rivalry doesn’t track at all.
    • Props to PWR for stepping up their video production quality. The announcement videos were so well done and the updated OBB had a more action-packed feel thanks to the fast-paced edits. Perhaps the winner of them all was MSG's brand new entrance video, showcasing the group in slow-mo glamour B-rolls. I can't hype this one enough because their pre-match video package was sharply written, well-executed, and completely on brand with MSG's righteous type of villainy. I expect this video to air on every cinema across the country. Screw them real estate and the "Pare, pulis ako!" ads.
    • They better not be teasing me with this Rederick Mahaba's existential crisis mini-storyline. It was so random to see him side with the YOLO Twins and his presence in that match was super fun, pare. Please don't make this a one-night thing.
    • Can we please not mock people who recently died, kayfabe or real life? I know Randy Orton did it with Eddie Guerrero that one time, but that doesn't make it cool. The grandma comment didn't even get the desired nuclear heat. It's just plain distasteful.


    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: Pak! Ganern!—The Official Smark Henry Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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