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PWR: Path of Gold—The Official Smark Henry Review



PWR: Path of Gold continued PWR’s new chapter this 2017, as it sought to crown a new contender for either the PWR or PHX Championship through the Path of Gold match. PWR’s second iteration of the match would be a 20-man extravaganza, meaning that we had the opportunity to see something very, very special, as this would be the largest match the company has had to date.

Smark Henry was set to send its usual crew (Mark De Joya, George Pastor and Lance Tan Ong) to cover and review the show, but a couple of days before that I offered to write the review this time around. Honestly, it’s been a long wait for Lucha Underground to come back on air (damn it, Dario!), and I wanted to look for something to write about again to keep myself sharp. When I heard that the upcoming show would have a Royal Rumble-esque match, I just knew I had to see this.

(Oh, and also the burritos. Everyone from Smark Henry who was at the last show raved about these, so I also wanted to check them out.)


Verdict: They were tranquilo.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what went down last Sunday!


THE PATH OF GOLD

I’m not going to lie—my favorite type of wrestling match is the big multi-man elimination-style matches. Stuff like LU’s Aztec Warfare, NJPW’s New Japan Rumble (this was actually the only match from this year’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 I watched live!) and the WWE’s Royal Rumble are the exact kinds of matches that get me pumped up. It’s always fun seeing a ton of bodies in the ring, and the amount of storytelling and in-ring action this setup allows for is a treat for fans.

What we got was one of the more memorable PWR matches to date, with plenty of action for everyone to see. We saw kupals teaming up with other kupals, some surprise ambushes, and some diving onto everyone out of the ring. Actually, we had a lot of diving, the highlight of which being a series of consecutive dives as if it was an Olympic sport. I’ll admit, it was pretty funny watching a group of guys bunch up, get landed on by someone, and then get up and repeat the whole thing again.




It’s always hard to keep on track of everything that happens in these kinds of matches because there is just a lot going on. We tried anyway, and when you break down the match into these small components you get to see some sense behind the chaos we just watched. In no particular order:

  • The Network once again played to their strength in numbers, accounting for a total of 6 eliminations (30%) of all the competitors. Sure, one of those eliminations was Chino Guinto accidentally eliminating James “Idol” Martinez, but they probably don’t want you to remember that. The chaotic nature of the Path of Gold was the perfect place for their shenanigans to thrive, and they delivered that in spades. Heck, Alexander Belmonte III spent longer in the match than some competitors, and he wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place!



  • Speaking of the Network, how about that Chino Guinto guy? The Golden Boy had a stellar outing here, being the first guy in and making it all the way to the final three. In that span of time he reignited his rivalry with Ramses SANDATA, tried to out-kupal Mike Madrigal (impossible), and scored big eliminations on Jake De Leon and Bombay Suarez. By the time Chris Panzer and Ralph Imabayashi put him away, the crowd was so ready to embrace a Golden Boy win that they even booed the usually favored Imabayashi.

  • The war between the Fighters 4 Hire and Mike Madrigal/Vlad Sinnsyk continued, and they didn’t even need the match to have a reason to fight. Joey Bax was eliminated early when Sinnsyk and Madrigal joined forces, but Miguel Rosales got some payback when he eliminated the Walking Death. That didn’t stop Madrigal from attacking Rosales, and Sinnsyk scored the elimination soon after. Tito Joey then came out and brawled his way to the back with Madrigal, meaning that these guys are far from done with each other. Considering the way their last match ended, we’ll likely see these four back in the ring again.

  • Bombay Suarez made a surprise entry as the 21st man in, having a decent run until Guinto sent him packing. Notably, Bombay tried to keep pinning Jake De Leon, and I counted at least three times wherein he tried to get one over his former student/competitor.


  • Ralph Imabayashi showed off some attitude in this match, notably getting into a heated confrontation with an old rival and ally in Jake De Leon. Then, he seemed to revel at the crowd reaction when he helped eliminate Chino Guinto in the final moments, letting the crowd know that they could suck it. Imabayashi was excellent as usual, even if he had to settle for second place.

  • Some wrestlers had a rougher night than others did. Crystal’s time in the match was brought to a surprise halt as a distraction from Idol allowed Robynn to roll her up for the pin, which surprised a fair amount of people. Kanto Terror staggered into the match, hit his rolling elbow, and then promptly got pinned by the YOLO Twins. Not the best of days for these two.


At the end of all the chaos, Chris Panzer punched his ticket to a future championship match after pinning Ralph Imabayashi to become the last man standing. Immediately after the match, Panzer announced that he’ll be cashing in his title shot at Wrevolution X for the PWR Championship, stating that he doesn’t care if John Sebastian or someone else will be holding it by then.


Remember, kids: a setback is a set-up for a comeback.

For all the setbacks Panzer has been dealt in the past, here comes what seems to be his shot at redemption. This is a guy whom we know can go in the ring, but has also lost high-stakes matches against the likes of John Sebastian and the Apocalypse. He’s been on a winning streak as of late, and this Path of Gold victory offers him a way to take that momentum and build it into something memorable. Panzer will want to keep his hot streak going in the meantime, so we’ll have to wait for the upcoming PWR Live: Mainit to see what happens next.


KALDEROS, KENDO STICKS AND KILLSHOTS

The All Out War match between John Sebastian, Jake De Leon and Apocalypse was just as violent as we expected it to be, and was probably the match that had me at at the edge of my seat the entire time. We’re no strangers to the in-ring work of these three, and they really delivered on the brutality last Sunday. It’s a tough to say which was the Match of the Night between this and the Path of Gold match, but I feel like this match for the PWR Championship edges it out.

PWR’s slate of weapons continue to be a highlilght of these hardcore matches just because they seem so harmless, but can actually be used to devastating effects. Classics such as the silver tray and orocan are always fun to see, and there was even a kaldero this time around! Why is there a kaldero under the ring? I don’t know, but it’s hilarious.




Jake De Leon’s intensity throughout the whole match was also on point, because it helped convey just how serious this opportunity was. We knew that Sebastian and Apocalypse would thrive in this kind of match, so the question was how JDL would match these two and position himself as the likely winner. The Senyorito’s typical smile was replaced by a more serious demeanor this time around, and he showed no hesitation in bringing the pain. From that flying bodypress to the orocan cannonball in the corner, JDL showed a sinister side to him that we have barely seen before, and it helped him immensely in this match.

Unfortunately, intensity isn’t enough to win you matches, and John Sebastian successfully defended his championship after a belt-assisted Killshot to knock out the Senyorito. Hate him all you want, but the Wrestling Lord and Savior has proven that he knows how to keep that belt around his waist. This sets Sebastian up for a potential clash with Chris Panzer at Wrevolution X (assuming they get through PWR Live: Mainit unscathed), which should be a challenge he’d love to take on. The last time these two crossed paths, Sebastian (and KC Montero) won which led to the firing of PWR GM Mr. Sy. Mr. Sy has since managed to weasel his way back into the position, and it should be interesting to see what role he’ll play should Panzer and Sebastian cross paths once again.


VERSOZA ON THE FLOOR

The afternoon’s other championship match saw Peter Versoza defend his newly-won PHX Championship against former ally and champion Main Maxx, in a rematch from PWR Live: Bagong Yugto.

I wasn’t able to catch their match last time, so I asked some people what they thought of this second round. My colleagues mentioned that this match was a step up from the first one, which is always good to hear. They had some nice throwbacks to their first match (such as trying to take off each other’s shirts for a painful chop), but it seems as if this still fell a bit flat. The ending sequence also felt a bit off—they started to build up a nice sequence of finishers and near-falls, but the match-winning Petegree from Versoza felt a tad abrupt. The match wasn’t bad, it was okay–and knowing these two, it could’ve been better.



Moving forward, I suppose we’ll see some new faces challenge P to the V now that Maxx already got his rematch. There’s a whole host of names who can step up to the plate, and I’m very interested to see who’s next in line for a shot at the white belt. Perhaps we’ll see a new contender at PWR Live: Mainit.


MAKE LOVE, NOT APOCALYPSE

Rederick Mahaba also had a, uh, mahabang day at PWR: Path of Gold, but the coming nightmare may be even more mahaba.

The Intimate Warrior’s day began with a rematch against Alexander Belmonte III, with a spot in the Path of Gold match at stake. Belmonte got the early jump on Mahaba when he attacked before the bell even rang, and managed to make the most of his short time in control of the match. Mahaba powered his way back into the match before ending things with the Jaccolade, keeping his hunt for a championship alive. Apparently, not even financial stability can protect you from a Jaccolade.



Afterwards, Mahaba then cut a promo talking about where he wants to go next—he set his sights on the Path of Gold match and a potential championship match were he to win. For someone who has spent the majority of his career fighting the Network, it was great to see Mahaba move forward. He’s one of the few guys who can easily rally the crowd behind him, and I’m sure some fans would love to see him for contending for a championship soon.

Unfortunately, those dreams might have to be put on hold, as an attack from the Apocalypse during the Path of Gold match means that Mahaba might have a new problem to deal with. Not only does this pose an intriguing big guy matchup, but it’s also a nice clash of themes between two opposites. How will Mahaba’s love overcome Apocalypse’s hatred? What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Will the Jaccolade have any affect on Apocalypse, considering that he’s already seen what hell looks like? We’re about to get some answers soon.


DELIRIUM: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC

Delirium also had an eventful Sunday at PWR: Path of Gold. Dax Xaviera and Dan Ericson voiced their frustration at not being in the Path of Gold match, so Mr. Sy (via roaming!) gave them a unique opportunity—win a match, get into the Path of Gold. Easy enough, right?

Oh, and to make it even more unique, that match pit them against each other. Well played, Mr. Sy



For a team that hasn’t really been featured too often, Delirium managed to put on a good showing here. Xaviera and Ericson put on high-paced match that left fans wanting to see more. Both men flew all over the ring as they sought the opportunity, with Xaviera’s top-rope dropkick and Ericson’s flying elbow being the standout moments. Dax Xaviera won after rolling up Ericson in response to an O’Connor roll, getting the spot in the Path of Gold match. The camaraderie they showed afterwards was a nice touch, as it paints them as a solid duo who won’t be easily swayed.

One key takeaway I had from this match is that PWR is ripe for a tag team championship. Delirium are just one of the many interesting duos in the company has right now, all of which can put on a fair showing competing for some tag belts. Delirium can stand beside teams like Mike Madrigal and Vlad Sinnsyk, Fighters 4 Hire and the YOLO Twins to form a solid foundation of a tag team division, and there’s enough talent in PWR for a couple more teams to join in on the fun.


QUICK HITS FROM THE PRE-SHOW:



Those of us early enough to catch the pre-show saw a quartet of faces marking their first appearance. First up, Evan Carleaux made his debut against the hippin’ and hoppin’ McKata. Carleaux has those pretty boy looks and an in-ring wit to match, and he picked up the win via the Tech Noir after a quick ref distraction. McKata wore some Golden State Warriors-themed gear, but thankfully he didn’t have their tendency to choke. He even rallied the crowd and got them pumped up a little, which is always a good skill to have. I hope we see more of these two in the near future

Also, this match was memorable because someone yelled “JaVale!” at McKata, which made me crack a smile. JaVale McGee is the best player on that NBA team, seriously, and it’s nice to see him recognized for once.



The second pre-show match was PWR’s advertised special attraction match pitting Super Saiyan SANDATA Blackzilla against “Beautiful” Billy Suede. Unfortunately, an untimely groin pull early on meant that we wouldn’t exactly be watching a classic here, and Suede picked up the win soon enough. I was left wanting to see more since this was one of the matches that piqued my interest, but there’s really nothing we can do about it. It’s a relief that Blackzilla is on track for a nice recovery, and I hope that we do see this match somewhere down the line.


Overall, PWR: Path of Gold was a solid show with a couple of great matches. Both the All Out War for the PWR Championship and the actual Path of Gold match were solid bouts that set how things will line up moving forward, while advancing some ongoing feuds and teasing some new matchups. With Chris Panzer set to receive his championship match at Wrevolution X, we’ll have to look at the next stop in PWR Live: Mainit (I hope they’re not referring to the Bayanihan Center when they say “mainit”, though) to see where everyone else is headed. Solid B/B+.


What did you guys think of PWR: Path of Gold? What were your favorite moments and matches? Are you excited for PWR Live: Mainit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!


Photos taken from Philippine Wrestling Revolution.


*****


Anthony Cuello is an HR professional and training designer. When he’s not sleeping or reading the Harvard Business Review, he covers 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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