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The Smark Henry 2017 Midyear Report: Philippine Wrestling


The Smark Henry Midyear Report is a new series where we take a look at the wrestling we watch around the world and assess each show/brand/company's performance in the first six months of 2017.

Call us biased, but 2017 could possibly be the greatest year yet for the Philippine pro wrestling scene as a whole. Not only did the buzz around the Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR) grow hot enough to get WWE scouts to fly in, we saw the birth of two other upstarts in the form of the Manila Wrestling Federation (MWF) and the yet-to-debut Art of War Wrestling (AOW).

Amidst all the chaos of the first half, let's stop and take a mo' to look back and see which stars, moments, and storylines took our breath away, in both good and bad ways

Rookie of the Midyear: Trian Dela Torre (PWR)



Inch for inch, Trian Dela Torre manages to edge out his fellow debuting wrestlers in the first half of 2017. After his surprise first match during Crystal’s Bootcamp Challenge, Dela Torre has proven time and time again that one size does indeed beat all. Be it in-ring or online, the feisty champ of the little people has displayed undeniable skill with his words, something similarly noted from Rederick Mahaba during his own debut.

Already, we are seeing another character emerge from his gimmick, Officer Tutan, joining GrabCamus as Dela Torre enters a new chapter in his career, almost completing a hat trick against The Apocalypse for the All Out War Championship. From beating “kapres," fighting an actual kapre, and now “San ka, pre?”, we find that he is constantly evolving himself, developing new stories, and improving the TDT brand. With just the first half of the year in the books, great things are definitely to be expected from the explosive start of Dela Torre.

Honorable Mention: The KakaiBros (PWR), Gigz Stryker (MWF)

Most Improved: Dax Xaviera (PWR)



Dax Xaviera, one half of Delirium, has taken great strides from where he was at the start of the year. In January, during Bagong Yugto, Xaviera took on the legendary Bombay Suarez. Despite the loss, he took the chance to gain as much experience as he possibly could to further his eventual singles career. To date, he’s managed to put on a two-match win streak since going solo, beating both his own partner Dan Ericson and former PHX Champion Ken Warren.

He was already one of the wrestlers with a better physique to begin with, but lacked the polish needed in his technique. With more singles experience under his belt, as well as more time training, we see that a lot more faith is being put on him. Judging from his social media feed, it looks like he’s set his sights on the PHX title belt, especially after having taken a 'W' from the inaugural champion. He’s got some tough competition, but the Sizzling Sisig of the PWR just may surprise us all.

Honorable Mention: Robynn (PWR), Alexander Belmonte III (PWR)

The Struggle: Crystal (PWR)



When Bagong Yugto happened in January, it set off a great start for Crystal’s year—even reportedly being given the calling card of WWE's Senior VP for Talent Development Canyon Ceman. It seems, though, that that could have been the highlight as far as 2017 was concerned. What followed that was barely any run in the Path of Gold tournament, a lackluster performance in what was supposed to be a historic woman-versus-woman match at Wrevolution X, and a dragging match against Bolt at Resbak.

Crystal is having a hard time matching her red-hot run from last year against Main Maxx and Peter Versoza. At a time when she’s supposed to be the one mentoring the new guys and gals, it seems that she still very much needs a guiding hand. She’s opened the door for a lot of women in the PWR, but she desperately needs to find that strength for herself once again. Apart from her participation in a house show match, she's been absent from PWR, further taking away any momentum she may have gained.

Honorable mention: SANDATA (PWR), Peter Versoza (PWR)

Story of the Midyear: Chino Guinto (PWR)



Truly, the road that Chino Guinto had to endure this year was one of the best stories in the history of PWR. There was so much heartache, joy, and elation, stemming from a seemingly innocent accident during the Path of Gold tournament, when he got his boss James "Idol" Martinez eliminated. What followed was a fairy tale trip to the top of the PHX division, besting three other men, all of whom were worthy of holding the belt.

As with all fairy tales, there must be a degree of sadness and danger. The Network experienced dark times during Chino’s journey, with many fearing that they may break up due to the intense jealousy of Idol. Let us not forget that Ken Warren himself has started to make a move to regain what was once his, and implore the aid of the YOLO Twins. With that, Chino was bereft on both sides from people who he questioned their loyalty to him, and to newfound enemies. His ill-timed ACL tear means we won't be seeing him again until early 2018 at the earliest, but in the meantime, the story he was able to tell was satisfying in itself.

Honorable mention: Ralph Imabayashi's descent into madness (PWR), Fabio Makisig's quest to become the most hated man in Filipino wrestling (MWF)

Wrestler to watch out for: Art of War Wrestling



You may as well call these guys the LaVar Ball of the local pro wrestling scene after their bombastic marketing angle of providing the only legitimate pro wrestling training in the country.

This was a claim that raised eyebrows across the local industry, and pretty much put a target on their backs from day one. The onus is now on Chilly Willy and his crew—all of whom have either helped train the Philippine Wrestling Revolution, been active roster members, or been referees—to hit the incredibly lofty bar they've set for themselves, and prove that theirs is indeed a more "legit" product.

Honorable mention: Ken Warren and the YOLO Twins


WTF Moment of the Midyear: Gus Queens' Multiple Turns In A Single Night (MWF)



As CFO and main investor in the Manila Wrestling Federation, Coach Gus Queens could very well turn out to be one of the most compelling characters in local wrestling. But his ultra-confusing writing (not to mention faulty sound system) made his debut promos and characterization very cryptic for fans in attendance.

From promising a great future for MWF to heeling on company centerpiece Gigz Stryker to seemingly turning face once more to unleashing his goon squad to beat Stryker down to trying to stop the carnage, it was one heck of a facepalming night for the character he was trying to be. Here's a tip for Mr. Queens: First be clear, then be clever. Simplicity is a gift the greatest stories wield.

Honorable mention: Main Maxx gruesomely blowing out his knee during his PWR Championship challenge against John Sebastian (PWR)


OMG Moment of the Midyear: Miguel Rosales' Suicide Spear to Vlad Sinnsyk (PWR)



If anyone questioned Miguel Rosales' unofficial nod as the best-kept secret in PWR, this crazy spear to the madly-underrated Vlad Sinnsyk through a table on the outside at Resbak should be enough to shut the few remaining doubters up.

We've seen tons of crazy high spots in PWR's history that mostly involved a fleet of young boys to cushion the fall, but this was the first one that legitimately put the fear of death in our minds. Both men have balls of steel. Seriously, please don't do this again. Our hearts can't take it.

Honorable mention: Robin Sane pulling off the first 450 splash in the local scene (MWF)


Superstar of the Midyear: Chris Panzer (PWR)



Has anybody ever had a better six-month run than Chris Panzer did in the first half of 2017? From beating archrival Ken Warren at Bagong Yugto to winning the Path of Gold match to upending two-time PWR Champion Jake De Leon to finally claiming the PWR Championship from John Sebastian to dazzling the Eastwood crowd in a title defense against Billy Suede to delivering what could very well be local MOTY in his eventual title loss to Suede, Chris Panzer was clutch.

Can we all just put the "choke artist" mentions to rest? Panzer didn't just lead the Panzer Army, he led the way for Filipino pro wrestling as a whole.

Honorable mention: Jake De Leon (PWR)


*****

How do you feel about out midyear award choices, mga ka-smarkada? Do you think these guys will hang on until the end of 2017, or will they lose out to some other sleeper candidate? Let us know your own selections in the comments below!

And remember, regardless of company alliances, let's all get together to #SaveFilipinoWrestling.

Photos by "Hairy" Hub Pacheco.

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