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The Smark Henry Review of PWR Live



Last Saturday, the Philippine Wrestling Revolution held its third show for the year, PWR Live in front of a full crowd at the Makati Square Arena. Once again, the Smark Henry offices were empty as all of us caught the show live, so here's our official review of the show!



PWR Live focused on two main things  — the PHX Championship Tournament, as well as a couple of matches that were set up thanks to the Royal Flush's actions at Wrevolution X. Let's tackle each topic separately.


Hybrid Theory

One of the night’s main attractions was the 8-man tournament to determine the inaugural PHX Champion. As Mr. Sy previously announced, PHX stands for Philippine Hybrid X, a combination of the different wrestling styles that we’ve come to be familiar with here in PWR. PWR’s big boss kicked off the night by unveiling the new PHX Championship belt, showing off a white-and-gold piece of artwork that looks very much worth fighting for.


Speaking of Mr. Sy, major props to him for calling out a certain National Artist’s comments on what it means to be Filipino. It’s the kind of social commentary you wouldn’t expect to hear at a wrestling show, but F. Sionil Jose’s opinion needed rebuttal because quite frankly, it’s hot garbage. Just goes to show you that being honored for lifetime achievements does not always mean that you’re smart enough to comment on social issues. That may sound harsh for a man of Jose’s stature, but seriously, did you read his crap? The Philippines doesn’t need shit like that to move forward.



Fan favorite Mayhem Brannigan kicked off the tournament, squaring off against Miguel Rosales from the Fighters 4 Hire. Right from the tournament’s first match, you understood what Mr. Sy meant as Mayhem’s quick offense clashed with the vicious suplex-based offense that Rosales employed. Rosales controlled Mayhem with a plethora of suplexes and powerslams, taking the masked favorite to Barangay Suplex. Mayhem tried to get the match in his favor multiple times, but it seemed that he always hit a brick wall in Rosales. Things were going well for Rosales until he tried a suicide dive onto the outside, which hit everyone except Mayhem Brannigan. A couple of minutes later and Brannigan picked up the win via referee stoppage, after repeated MMA-style elbows to a fallen Rosales.

This match could have been put together a little better, as the in-ring action felt sloppy at times. Nevertheless, both men were able to entertain the crowd with their unique styles of wrestling. This was an important win for Mayhem Brannigan, as he's back on track following a heartbreaking loss to "Classical" Bryan Leo at the previous show. Rosales, for this part, was able to delight the crowd with his offense. I'm sure a lot of fans walked out of PWR Live looking forward to seeing the next time he takes someone to Barangay Suplex.



Next, Chris Panzer took on the masked SANDATA in another first-time match. Both men went at it before the bell even rang, with SANDATA nailing Panzer with a kick as he was pandering to the crowd. This match started at breakneck pace, with both men trading arm drags and elbows. SANDATA eventually slowed things down with some headlocks, keeping control of the match thanks to some dubious use of his arm straps. In the end, though, Panzer was able to put things away with a well-hit Panzerschreck, becoming the second man to advance in the PHX Tournament.

This was a good, fun match that really showcased the "hybrid" that Mr. Sy promised in this tournament. SANDATA, for example, showed that he was capable of wrestling at a fast pace, but could also slow things down with some submission holds. It's Chris Panzer who advances to the next round, though, where he'll be up against fellow fan favorite Mayhem Brannigan.



From the deep south, we went way up north as the other half of Dual Shock, Peter Versoza, squared off against Ralph Imabayashi. One great thing about the PHX tournament was that it put the spotlight on guys we usually see in tag team matches (Dual Shock and Fighters 4 Hire), fleshing out their characters in front of the audience. Perhaps no one benefited from this as much as Versoza, who showcased a variety of crowd-pleasing moves we rarely saw in previous outings. His taunting of Imabayashi eventually fired up the half-Japanese dynamite, who eventually put things away with a sudden Sonic Crusher after locking Versoza in a sleeper hold.

Several people have called this the match of the night, and we'd have to agree. Both men had their skills at full display here, with Versoza showing a couple of moves we haven't seen before. Nevertheless, Imabayashi picks up the win here and advances to the next round.



In the last tournament match of the night, Ken Warren took on Joey Bax from the Fighters 4 Hire. Like his partner Rosales earlier in the night, the smaller Bax proved he could go toe to toe with Warren as he had the Social Media Sinister on retreat for most of the early goings. The smaller Bax got some nice hits in on Warren, including a very nice sling blade. In the end, a ref distraction allowed the Social Media Sinister to put Bax away with a superkick, snapping his losing streak and advancing into the semifinals of the tournament.

It was great to see someone as popular as Warren regain credibility in the ring. This was pretty much the Ken Warren we've come to know and love, with the loudmotuth constantly reacting to the fans' chants throughout the match. The win means that Warren is the fourth and final man to join the PHX Championship tournament semifinals, with a match against Ralph Imabayashi up next.



After Warren's win, the remaining competitors came down to the ring for a heated exchange, until Mr. Sy prevented things from escalating. The PHX Championship belt was shown once again, as each of the four men looked on at the prize that awaited one of them. This was a good way to build up the belt — by showing that each wrestler wanted it, the title was built up as something worth going after.

There were two great things going for the PHX Championship tournament. First, it gave certain wrestlers the chance to flesh themselves out in front of the fans. This was a much-needed opportunity for SANDATA, Peter Versoza, Joey Bax and Miguel Rosales to establish an identity, and we all left PWR Live feeling that we knew more about these guys than before. Second, PWR definitely delivered the “hybrid” it promised to bring. We saw a variety of styles clash in these 4 matches, and it was good to see first-time matchups take place. The in-ring action was far from perfect, but overall I thought it was okay. There’s definitely a case to be made for any of the four remaining men to win, and it should be interesting to see who advances to the finals at the next show.


*****

‘Cause Baby Now We’ve Got Bad Blood

Aside from the PHX Championship Tournament, PWR Live was also the venue for bad blood. Lots of it, actually.



Let’s break it down: first, John Sebastian took on Bombay Suarez in a heated feud that began to take shape at Wrevolution X. The two have been trading barbs on social media since then, and were raring to go at each other’s throat in this match. John Sebastian has stepped it up ever since joining the Royal Flush, and he held his own against the heart and soul of PWR here. He even found the time to include John Cena’s moves of doom sequence, garnering much heat from the crowd. Still, the Bitch Killer actually had Sebastian pinned after a KOTD, which the referee was unable to see due to interference by the Royal Flush. In the end, some unexpected powder allowed Sebastian to hit Bombay with the Killshot and pick up the win, which is a huge victory for the young star.

After the match, Sebastian picked up the microphone and seemed to praise the crowd, but like Bryan Leo at the previous show, turned around and trashed them instead. Sebastian’s whiny voice makes him very effective as a heel. He’s a great example of a guy everyone loves to hate, and he plays that role very well. Meanwhile, Bombay Suarez picked up his second loss after racking up some wins in previous shows. The backyard legend's momentum seems to have come to a halt, as this was the second straight show where Sebastian has thwarted him.  He may need to go back to the drawing board to find a way to beat the Royal Flush, but I don't think we've seen the last of this feud just yet.



While Sebastian and Suarez had bad blood to start with, the Apocalypse began on a path of destruction here at PWR Live. First, he interrupted Mark D. Manalo Bootcamp Open Challenge, resulting in an impromptu match where he defeated  the win against the Batangas native. He wasn’t done yet, though, as he assaulted both Manalo and Kanto Terror after the match, laying out both members of Beer Promdi with Death Bells. The attack was so severe that fan favorite Kanto Terror may be out for quite some time, while Manalo was seen hobbling after the show.

That’s a lot of bad blood brewed by the Apocalypse, and that made me think that they’re setting up Manalo vs. the Apocalypse for the next show. Manalo seems to be in for a tough time, especially now that his buddy Kanto Terror is on the shelf. Of course, by the end of the night that was no longer my guess, but we’ll get to that in a bit.



In the night’s main event, perennial fan favorite Jake De Leon faced off against “Classical” Bryan Leo in a rematch for the PWR Championship. Bryan Leo’s sudden cash-in of his title shot at Wrevolution X rubbed many people the wrong way, as it was an unexpected end to the inaugural title reign of the beloved Senyorito. JDL was firing on all cylinders in this match, trying to put away the champion with his highly entertaining brand of offense. Leo fought back with a couple of great neckbreakers, but it seemed that JDL was headed towards regaining his title. However, a timely interference by John Sebastian allowed the champion to hit JDL with a low blow and lock in the Royal Prison Lock 2, an innovative submission combining a camel clutch, an Anaconda Vice, and a sleeper into one vicious move, making the Senyorito pass out. A post-match beatdown on JDL seemed to end things on a good note for the Royal Flush. However, the night wasn’t over for them just yet.



Once again, the Apocalypse came to spoil the party, taking out Sebastian, Leo and JDL with a series of Death Bells. After his post-match beatdown, Apocalypse picked up the PWR Championship and held it high. It was a strong statement of intent for the masked nightmare, and it looks like he's going to be the next man to challenge Bryan Leo for the title. The Royal Flush is no stranger to this masked enigma, as it was the Apocalypse who put their "Perfect 10" Main Maxx on the shelf after a brutal match at Wrevolution X. It should be interesting to see how the Royal Flush will deal with this seemingly unstoppable monster in the shows to come, if they can even do so in the first place.


Other Things of Note
  • One more about the Apocalypse: while he has his sights set on the Royal Flush and the PWR Championship, let's not forget everyone else who has a reason to go after him. Beer Promdi certainly have a score to settle with the masked nightmare, and even Jake De Leon has reason to go after him after that post-match beatdown. Mr. Sy has announced that the PWR Board will convene to determine what course of action to take in light of the Apocalypse's rampage, and it should be interesting to see how they'll deal with this masked menace.
  • While guys like Ken Warren and John Sebastian are riding high after picking up wins, let's not forget the defeated men who fought a good fight. SANDATA's loss seems to have lit a fire in him, and it should be interesting to see how he'll approach his next match in order to finally break through with a win.
  • It wasn't a good night for Kanto Terror. Not only did he have to be stretchered out of the ring, he also lost a drinking contest to two fans at the PWR Live Preshow. Man, it must suck to lose at one of the few things you claim to be good at.
  • Manalo's Bootcamp Challenge may have not gone according to plan, but we at least got to see two up-and-coming talents square off in the Preshow. Fresh from the PWR Bootcamp, Jimmy Orellana and Vin Tendo debuted in front of the PWR faithful. Orellana was as loud and cocky as they come, but in the end it was the bigger Vin Tendo who walked away with the win. Vin Tendo's got quite the interesting moveset, obviously inspired by the Street Fighter franchise of video games. Definitely a guy I'd love to see more of in the future, especially if he busts out a Zangief-style Atomic Buster!
  • You may have noticed Mr. Sy and a couple of other gentlemen sitting at a ringside table with lots of equipment. That's because PWR Live will be shown online by local channel Sports5, and they've already started uploading the show over at their site! Congratulations to PWR for a huge step forward, and this is definitely a sign that they're picking up more attention than ever. This means that even more people will get to see PWR, which can only do them good.
  • Match of the Night plaudits definitely go to Ralph Imabayashi and Peter Versoza, who put on one hell of an entertaining match. Congratulations to both men!

Overall, PWR Live was a good step forward for PWR as it heads towards Renaissance. Like Wrevolution X, the show was far from perfect, but it seems that PWR is working hard to constantly improve show after show. That's good news for all of us Pinoy marks and smarks, and we here at Smark Henry hope to see you this September at PWR's next show, Renaissance!


All photos taken by the amazingly talented Hub Pacheco.


*****


Anthony Cuello is an HR professional and training designer. When he’s not sleeping or reading the Harvard Business Review, he covers PWR and Lucha Underground for Smark Henry. A psychology nut, he tends to watch wrestling looking for these small nuances of in-ring behavior. He dreams of a wrestling business with good people management practices, and hopes to help make that happen one day.


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