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    Saturday, December 14, 2019

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/14/19): Revolutionary (QUATRO vs. IMABAYASHI, PWR Wrevolution X 2019)

    Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies, and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2019 produced for us.

    Do you remember the match that opened your eyes to the wonder of pro wrestling? I'm not talking about the first match, the one that made you go "wow, this is cool, I want to watch more of this." I'm talking about the ones that literally made your eyes open wide and drop your jaw, and just takes you away from any self-image of chill or stoicism you were trying to project. The ones that break down any intellectual activity and engage your visceral and instinctive emotional side, and then you find yourself yelling and screaming and booing and holding your breath, your inhibitions left far below you on solid ground.

    For me, it was Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. That match opened my eyes to what wrestling truly is, and what it could be.

    The 2-out-of-3 falls Kampeon ng Pilipinas match between QUATRO and IMABAYASHI at this year's Wrevolution X was the match that match that showed the world what Philippine wrestling is, and what it could truly be.

    Sure, the match had exciting in-ring action—stuff that could keep you on the edge of your seat for 40-plus minutes. It also drew the arc of QUATRO's rise to the pinnacle of Philippine wrestling, the culmination of a journey of grit, inspiration, and sheer athletic talent. It even hinted at a WrestleMania 13-esque double turn: IMABAYASHI breaks his alliance with the dastardly YOLO Twins, and QUATRO fuckin' WATERBOARDS IMABAYASHI in a desperate attempt to claim the win (which justifiably drew boos from the crowd). Quite tastefully, this double turn was only teased and not indulged in, and thus rightfully kept the audience's focus on the match itself.

    These, on their own, already cement the match as one of the best of the year, in any wrestling context. (Yes, Philippine or otherwise.) But, with due respect to my colleagues, I believe that this match is a cut above all others this year because of what the match meant.

    I defer to Tala Wong, a friend of Smark Henry, history teacher, and massive nerd. She recapped the match on an instant classic Twitter thread which captures exactly why:

    Ralph Imabayashi sacrificed a lot to become the longest-reigning PWR champion—his body, his integrity, his friends. At the main event of #Wrevolution X, a 2 out of 3 falls match vs Quatro, he walked out to the ring with two of the promotion's biggest heels, the YOLO Twins.

    The YOLO Twins interfere during the match, and Ralph realizes that he wants to win honorably. He turns on the YOLO Twins and throws them out. But after a while he doesn't think he can win against Quatro the right way, so he walks out of the ring with his belt. Even if he doesn't have anyone left in his corner, at least he'll have his belt.

    As he tries to go backstage, he's stopped, one by one, by each of the people he defeated in the past. Mike Madrigal. Rederick Mahaba. Zayden Trudeau. Vlad. Even. Everyone except Miguel Rosales. Each of them makes their way to the outside of the ring, forcing Ralph to go back in and finish the match with honor. Ralph does, and eats a Senketsu, Alab ng Puso, & Destino.

    Ralph loses, but he does so with dignity, integrity, and perhaps, the respect of his old friends.

    This was all told through physicality, through the beautiful, painful, dramatic art form that is wrestling. Though often derided as a base form of entertainment, it, like th
    e best works of cinema or literature, tells stories of struggle, betrayal, loneliness, and redemption.

    It took 490 days to show how far IMABAYASHI would go gain, defend, and protect what matters the most to him. To see everything—everything—unravel (and come together!) in the span of 40 or so minutes was an experience that left me simultaneously heartbroken and elated—and, ultimately, satisfied. This is wrestling. This is what wrestling can do.

    When in-ring action keeps us on the edge of our seats and elicits a series of reactions (or "pops"), we, as fans, assume that nothing can get better than that. But this match serves as a reminder that powerful, moving, and effective stories—human stories—are the meat on the bones of pro wrestling.  PWR putting on a match of this caliber, without any international superstars or former WWE performers, legitimizes not only the promotion, but the entirety of Philippine Wrestling.

    One could even say it was revolutionary.

    31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2019. Read our previous entries:

    1. The Man Stands Tall at WrestleMania (Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey, WrestleMania 35)
    2. The Game Changes (Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega, AEW Double or Nothing)
    3. Still the Ace (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega, Wrestle Kingdom 13)
    4. #KofiMania (Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania 35)
    5. Starting With A Bang (The Premiere of AEW Dynamite)
    6. Let's Start A War (The Premiere of NXT On The USA Network)
    7. For You And Me! For All Of Us! (Jake De Leon vs. TJP, PWR Homecoming)
    8. It Takes a Bird and a Villain (G1 Climax Finals: Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White)
    9. The Fall of Bray Wyatt and the Rise of the Fiend
    10. Johnny Champion (Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano, NXT TakeOver: New York)
    11. Do You Wanna Yeet a Four-Man? (QUATRO vs. Chris Panzer vs. Jeff Cobb, PWR Homecoming)
    12. From Purveyor Of Violence To Death Rider (Jon Moxley in NJPW)
    13. We Will Rock You! (Crystal vs. Emi Sakura, PWR Path of Gold 2019)
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    Item Reviewed: 31 Days of Wrestling (12/14/19): Revolutionary (QUATRO vs. IMABAYASHI, PWR Wrevolution X 2019) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Mikey Llorin
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