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The Henries: The 2018 Smark Henry Awards—Philippine Cup


It's here—the only sports entertainment event bigger than the World Cup, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics combined, it's the annual Smark Henry Midyear Awards!

With the Philippine wrestling scene at the most vibrant it's ever been, we think it's finally the right time to debut our first-ever Philippine Cup celebrating the best and brightest talents from your favorite home-grown promotions. From soaring highs to aching lows, all awards were voted upon by an expert panel of local aficionados who have been diligently following the scene since its meteoric revival in 2014, with Smark Henry's Board of Directors passing final judgment on each category winner.

Let's get to it!

Rookie of the Midyear: Jorelle (Manila Wrestling Federation)


Photo credit: Manila Wrestling Federation

She may have wrestled just a single match on one show and appeared for just a few seconds in another, but few debuts have captivated the imagination of fans like that of the Manila Wrestling Federation's resident "White Lady" and designated Alagad ng Kamatayan of the Bahay ng Liwanag, Jorelle.

Jorelle is more than just a gimmick though; in her maiden outing, she showed off some serious skills and polish that already have some fans calling her possibly the best woman wrestler in the Philippines today, and one of the most athletically-gifted talents overall in the scene. We can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for this walking highlight reel and our unanimous choice for best newcomer.


Most Improved of the Midyear: Ninja Ryujin (MWF)


(c) LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Here's what we said about Ninja Ryujin after his debut match against Fabio Makisig a year ago:

We're hungry for some characterisation behind the Ryujin character. Just about the only thing we know is that he's from the streets, he likes Japanese culture, and is a fan of the color green. Sooner or later, a better story needs to be told. He probably put on the weakest performance on the show, which is a shame—we know Ninja Ryujin is capable of a lot more in the ring than what he's shown so far. Let's hope the future is kinder to him.

We're happy to eat crow, because the silent but steady Ryujin has slowly grown into one of the more solid performers on the Manila Wrestling Federation roster. The dude has clearly been getting some serious reps in, with a rapidly-improving physique, rising confidence in the ring, and an overall better grasp of in-ring storytelling to support his flashy Asai DDT finisher. Let the rise continue!

Honorable mentions: Rederick Mahaba, Zayden Trudeau

The Midyear Struggle: Bolt (PWR)


(c) "Hard Level" Hub Pacheco

It seems like ages ago since "The Anime-zing Fighter" Bolt was drawing "Fight forever!" chants during his epic series of matches both with and against Zayden Trudeau. Since then, he's largely been flailing and overlooked in the company, no thanks to his less-than-average physique, a minor injury that kept him sidelined for a month, and ringwork that's been botchy at best.

Can the blue-haired warrior bounce back for the second half of the year? We don't know, but if he doesn't, he risks falling out of PWR's already-stacked roster.

Honorable mentions: Martivo, The YOLO Twins (Yohann & Logan Ollores)

Wrestlers to Watch Out For: The KakaiBros (Mh4rckie & Kh3Ndrick, PWR)


(c) LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

It may have taken them a while to pick up their 1th win in PWR, but the disgusting yet lovable pairing of Mh4rckie and Kh3Ndrick are rapidly picking up some momentum and, yes, hype as we enter the back-end of 2018.

We've said many times how much we love these KakaiBros over here at the Smark Henry Offices, and you can't deny they've been pitch-perfect in their roles showing off the jeje sub-culture of modern Metro Manila. From the tarps they roll out before each match, to their annoyingly hyper-catchy entrance theme, to the flock of fellow hypebeasts that follows them out to each match, these two bros have been hitting all the right beats. Count on them to surprise us all even more in the next few months.

Honorable mention: Zayden Trudeau

Best Show of the Midyear: PWR Path of Gold 2018


(c) TCHuang Productions

So much has been said about this show, not just as the calendar year kick-off for PWR, but as the show that cemented the return of Ken Warren to the top tier of PWR, multiple grade-A championship matches, and some epic booking that made it one of the company's most satisfying shows to date.

Heck, we'll just let our original show review say it all again:

Simply put, without a shadow of a doubt, this was the best show PWR has produced to date. With a well balanced show proper, a consistent narrative, an improved and ready roster that was fully maximized, and pleasant surprises and unexpected twists, PWR has delivered a classic that would be held as its new gold standard. Whereas previous shows have one or two matches that were held in high regard, all of Path of Gold 2018’s matches had a big fight feel, held with significant importance in the grander scheme of things, and made sense. And when stories connect and give you an 'aha' moment, that’s when you know that you are already being rewarded.


Honorable mention: MWF 1—Kasaysayan

Match of the Midyear: Jake De Leon vs. Zayden Trudeau (PWR Wrevolution X 2018)


(c) LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

If there's one Wrevolution X tradition we like better than PWR Senior Official Matt Roxas getting kicked in the mush, it's "The Senyorito" Jake De Leon going up against Canadian wrestlers.

Following up the epic JDL-Billy Suede outing from 2017, De Leon issued a challenge to the fast-rising "Canadian Dragon" Zayden Trudeau to see if he was on "The JDL Level." We're pretty sure he regrets that now after falling prey to the awesome airborne offense of the most daredevil high-flyer PWR has ever seen. Check out the full match below if you haven't yet!


Promo of the Midyear: The Sagot Kita: Gigz Stryker Series (MWF)



(c) LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

"Maria? Menudo? Maria? Menudo?"

We can't hide what huge marks we are for Gigz Stryker here at the Smark Henry Offices, and this wonderfully unique Sagot Kita series showing off the seedy side of the Manilaverse has been absolutely fantastic in showing off the natural charisma and action star credentials of the best leading man in the local sports entertainment scene. We don't think we've heard a pop as loud as when Japanese film legend Maria Ozawa entered Elements at Centris at MWF 1: Kasaysayan to continue her role as Stryker's romantic interest in the series.

If there are areas where MWF stands head-and-shoulders above every other promotion in the local scene today, it's their storytelling and production values, and this series proves that in spades. Now how do we get it onto Netflix?



Best Male Wrestler of the Midyear: Ralph Imabayashi (PWR)


(c) "Hard Level" Hub Pacheco

Complete domination. That's been two-time PWR Champion Ralph Imabayashi's signature calling card throughout the entire first half of 2018. He's been on a stellar roll since defeating fellow two-time Kampeon ng Pilipinas Chris Panzer at January's PWR Live: Kingdom Come, and has fearlessly dispatched every single challenger who's come his way since then, including PWR legend Bombay Suarez, the always-dangerous Trudeau, and the sorely-missed Miguel Rosales, who he forced into retirement at Wrevolution X.

The boy has truly become The Man in PWR—a far-cry from his raw, fresh-faced first title run of 2015-2016. Bravo, Ralph Imabayashi. If he hasn't earned your #RESPECT by now, you need to catch the Best Pure Wrestler in PWR in action soon.

(c) "Hard Level" Hub Pacheco

Best Female Wrestler of the Midyear: Crystal (PWR)


(c) TCHuang Productions

We sorely wanted to recognize the hard work and hustle of Robynn for all the fantastic work she's put in after getting into even better shape for 2018 and pulling off some of the grittiest work we've seen from any local wrestler—male or female—in her historic All Out War match against Crystal.

But it's impossible to overlook the credentials of a woman who not only became the first female competitor to strike gold in this generation of Philippine wrestling, but has continued to get booked as the country's top female representative in multiple shows across Southeast Asia. Just for now, the Queen of Philippine Wrestling hangs on to her throne.

Honorable mention: Robynn

Story of the Midyear: Quatro vs. The Secret Council of Trabajadores (PWR)



We know; technically, what happens in PWR's pre-shows aren't supposed to be canon, but how can we overlook a narrative that just took over the supposed warm-up portion of the show, transformed it into some of the most compelling stuff on the scene, and introduced a sleeper star to the PWR faithful? We can't, and that's why the long, fascinating drama of Quatro overcoming the shadow (SHADOW!) of the Secret Council of Trabajadores to complete his rise to the light takes the win for best story for the first half of 2018.

Nearly everyone who's been touched by the mantle of the Trabajadores has gone on to be a massive star, but our money is on Quatro to bust on through to a new level and show himself off as the company's untouchable Icarus in the future.

(c) TCHUANG Productions


OMG Moment of the Midyear: GrabCamus Debuts, Completes The Naughty Boys (PWR)



The boyhood dream has come true! After years of toiling in PWR Boot Camp, an underappreciated role as PWR's resident Young Boy Handler (sounds creepy, we know), and a forgotten stint as ring announcer, long-time henchman GrabCamus finally made his official wrestling debut at PWR Live: RE5PETO to one of the most heartfelt ovations of the night.


GC has long-endeared himself to the Revo-Nation, so frankly, we aren't surprised about the reaction he got. Now it's up to him and the rest of the Naughty Boys to take this momentum and ride it all the way into the rest of 2018.

*****

Do you agree with all the winners of our Philippine Cup Henries? Think someone got unfairly overlooked? Drop us a note in the comments section, and we hope to see you all in future Philippine pro wrestling shows!

*****

Disclosure: Smark Henry is independently run and managed by a group of Filipino pro wrestling fans, but includes members affiliated with the Philippine Wrestling Revolution.

Cover photo by Noel Tanjeco.

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