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3 Things We Learned From The Manila Wrestling Federation's Debut



For almost two years already, the Philippine Wrestling Revolution has carried the banner of Pinoy pro wrestling from the original flagbearers from the 80s, sparking an interest that is slowly turning a cult following into a more mainstream appeal. 

Part of the revolution that PWR has ignited has also brought forward not just fans, but also inspiration and competition, as we see a new crop of wrestlers rising up under the newly-minted promotion Manila Wrestling Federation.


SPW stars Alexis Lee, The Statement Andruew Tang and Eurasian Dragon with MWF Roster

August 25-28, 2016 served as probably the biggest weekend for Philippine pro wrestling, with the stretch of the cities of Pasay and Manila serving as the battlegrounds for the conventions featuring two of the country’s very own pro wrestling promotions. At one end, we had mainstay PWR as the official wrestling partner of the AsiaPop Comicon and at the other end, History Channel’s HistoryCon served as the launching pad for the fresh-off-the-box MWF, to which our resident wrestling beat writer managed to catch.

Now while this is relatively the first show that MWF has come out with, there are some things we learned and stood out about the fledgling promotion has brought to the table during the three days that they showcased their wares.

Here are three things we learned about the debut of Manila Wrestling Federation:


1. A take on Pinoy lucha libre


Mr Lucha (right) takes on The Urban Ninja Ryugin Espiritu

Labelling itself as an alternative sports entertainment federation, MWF has taken a different route with establishing itself as a local lucha promotion as evidenced through their lead wrestler Mr. Lucha donning a colourful mask and a consistent mention of their own brand of Pinoy lucha libre

On top of that, they have also applied “Manila Rules," which was largely based on a British pro wrestling inspired take of their matches with five 3-minute rounds with one minute breaks for singles bouts reminiscent of World of Sport.

At first glance, this already gives the promotion the alternative pro wrestling experience Filipinos could be looking for. Although strangely enough, these two distinct traits seemingly create a larger disconnect in terms of how they want to position themselves effectively in the scene.

A main drawing component of pro wrestling is 1) being able to tell a story in the ring and 2) establishing the characters and motivations, to which both, based on some of the matches, were greatly limited within the confines of 3-minute rounds.

There were hints of establishing a face and heel dynamic during some of the match, but there wasn’t enough time to truly position themselves and get the crowd behind them. And if ever there was, it didn’t really show as evident as it should be, with regards to Fabio’s heel work and Robin Sane’s hero character over the span of the three show dates.


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Match pacing was somehow anti-climactic, especially for those familiar – or unconsciously aware – with the typical match formula of building up to a match climax, as almost each round of every match started with the wrestlers sizing each other and before they are able to get their moves in, the round would be rounding off to the final minute already. Each finish somehow came out of nowhere, without the right build up and led to lackluster finishes.

2. Gimmickry at its finest


Robin Sane cutting a promo against SPW stars Eurasian Dragon and The Statement Andreuw Tang

As of current count, MWF introduced five wrestlers during their weekend show and social media assets:

  1. Mr. Lucha, the self-proclaimed first Pinoy luchador
  2. Ninja Ryugin Espiritu, a mysterious ninja from Mandaluyong
  3. Robin Sane, a traceur highflyer
  4. "Fabulous" Fabio Makisig, a narcissistic brusko
  5. Gigs Stryker, action star hero

Interestingly enough, the gimmicks served as a good mix for the lucha libre tag that MWF is implying. Granted, even the personalities fit into the Pinoy context of relatability. Unfortunately, that is where the connection ends. 

Aside from Mr. Lucha, who is probably considered the face of MWF, as he main-evented all three days against foreign “invaders” with getting significant ring and mic time, and Robin Sane, who was given appropriate time (in a non-Manila Rules match against "The Statement" Andruew Tang) to show off his brash and high-risk personality, the other guys barely made an impact. 


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Of course, this could be attributed to the match limitations, but gimmicks are fun and can only take a wrestler so far, as character is what truly gets them over. The crowd truly gets behind or against a wrestler in which they can invest themselves in fully and it takes both a relatable personality and time to flesh their characters out.

3. Spot fiestas or siestas?


Robin Sane setting up for a Swanton bomb

Lucha libre is mainly known for its fast paced action and high flying spots and MWF has come out with a highlight reel showcasing the athletic prowess of their wrestlers and we’ve seen glimpses of their gaudy moves.

But despite all the flash, these “spots” felt somewhat uninspired. True, these athletic feats were impressive, but something felt lacking. MWF gave witness to standing moonsaults and flips, but for an easy crowd as it were during the HistoryCon, these moves barely got any pops. It could be experience coming into play, as for certain big moves or spots, there should be a build up towards exclamation point of the spot. There was one spot wherein the Ninja did four straight standing moonsaults, which barely got a pop from the crowd.


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Wrestling basics such as good transitioning, cardio and selling were also glaring during the matches. Long stretches of unpolished mat wrestling through drawn out headlocks and lazy kickouts marred the matches. Doesn’t help that most of the guys were gassed out mid-match, which could have attributed to the sloppiness of the movesets. Hell, even the referees kept on slapping the mat for three even when the wrestlers kicked out at two.

*****

This was the inaugural show of MWF and it showed, both in the execution and the looming potential of the brand. And in their grand debut, it was a wise decision to bring in pros from both Singapore Pro Wrestling and Australasian Pro Wrestling to fill out the obvious holes of roster depth and in-ring experience, as the foreigners sought out to make their local competition look good by putting them over both in victory and in defeat.

With a claim to being an original and true blue Pinoy pro wrestling promotion, it is clear that MWF is trying to carve their niche, with inspirations from lucha libre and indy wrestling, but they need to find the identity of what they truly represent and be more than just pretenders. There is a lot of disconnect with how they position and sell (or lack thereof) their brand, wrestlers, and style and they need to find what works and stick to that to truly grow. Ring awareness and match pacing should also be a main point of improvement, as it’s something that they should really work on if they want to put out an entertaining product.

Of course, this is but a small sample size of what we can expect from MWF, as this was their first show after all. With a promised show—hopefully a standalone one—in the horizon and all the pomp and claims that they staked, we are look forward to seeing the rise of MWF’s own authentic brand of wrestling.

*****

MWF Results from HistoryCon


Day 1
  • Robin Sane def. Fabulous Fabio *Manila Rules*
  • The Statement Andruew Tang and Alexis Lee def. The Eurasian Dragon and Thaibarian
  • Mr. Lucha def. Ninja Ryugin Espiritu *Manila Rules*
  • Mr. Lucha def. TNT
Day 2
  • The Statement Andruew Tang and The Eurasian Dragon def. Mr. Lucha and Robin Sane

Day 3
  • Alexis Lee def. Fabulous Fabio
  • Ninja Ryugin Espiritu def. Thaibarian
  • The Statement Andruew Tang def. Robin Sane
  • Mr. Lucha def. The Eurasian Dragon *Manila Rules*


*Pictures and videos are from MWF Facebook page and SH team coverage

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