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PWR Vendetta 2019: The Smark Henry Review

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PWR Vendetta 2019 has come and gone, capping off what is arguably the promotion's best year so far. As such, with the last PWR show of the decade comes the last Smark Henry review of the decade! Given the high bar that was set with Homecoming more than a month ago, and with the trajectory of the company since beginning their #NeverMissAShow campaign, did they hit the right notes and end their calendar year with a bang?

Since one of the major angles of this show was the rivalry between Shaukat and Jake de Leon, resulting in Team Malaysia vs. Team Philippines, it's only right that we'll be ranking this show based on the 2019 SEA Games, which was already a disaster before it could even begin. Particularly, we'll be ranking this based on the things that were handled better than this completely avoidable situation. After all, when a government-handled event is compared to the fucking Fyre Festival of all things, we all know something went very wrong.

Tier 1: PWR Vendetta 2019

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If anything, they gave us two amazing inter-region bouts that went off without a hitch.

UNLIMITED DAISUKI WORKS

Credit is given where it is due when it comes to PWR bringing their stories full circle from the beginning of 2019. After all, wrestling has always been at its best when stories are told in a marathon than in a sprint. The long, winding road to the MTNH reunion led to the full-blown banger that was the opening match pitting Rederick Mahaba and IMABAYASHI against the best tag team in the Philippines and the bane of the Intimate One, the YOLO Twins.

Fans already know how good the Yohann-Logan pairing is, and when they bring it in the ring, they bring it better than most tag teams in the country. But this new, reinvigorated MTNH is so fun to watch, especially since IMABAYASHI's adapted a more dynamic and frenzied style that has been well received. It helped that this match also had the benefit of a very inspired Rederick Mahaba, who had not been in any sort of competition since Wrevolution X.

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The result? One of the best openers of any PWR show ever. Seeing MTNH make use of some double team maneuvers, including an assisted gourdbuster splash to their match-ending and back-breaking Sasorigatame-Splash combination, was a fantastic delight. A sign that these four wrestlers did their jobs well is when fans cheered hard before, during, and after the match, very much doing the opening spot of a wrestling show justice.

With 2020 coming real soon, it might be high time for MTNH to go after some tag team gold. However, they might not be the only ones who can have a claim to the PWR Tag Team Championship.

(P.S. - Of course this was going to be the first thing to be discussed in the review. This gave us the best local wrestling theme of 2019, and I already had this hooked in my veins. Seriously, this theme alone should have been Tier S, but this is a wrestling review and not a Theme Song Tuesday column.)

Ubusin! Ubusin! Ubusin!

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With Vendetta being the first show to feature two different Ubusan ng Lahi matches, it was great that these two 5-on-5 showdowns offered two distinct flavors that separated them from each other.

Team Philippines vs. Team Malaysia achieved two goals: to showcase the best wrestlers Southeast Asia has to offer and progress the internal stories being told, as was the case with the animosity between QUATRO and Mike Madrigal from the beginning of the year. Everyone had the opportunity to shine in the match, including the debuting MyPW contingent of Cornelius Low, Harry Ray, Tony Abel, and Serigala.

If you had to pick the MVPs of this match, you really have to give it up to Mh4rckie for giving us the best performance of his career as an underdog, Serigala for being an absolute beast all throughout the match, and Shaukat for being a total destroyer in the face of a handicap situation against the Lightbringer and Boss Mike at the end. Jake de Leon getting pinned at the beginning was a nice touch, given the narrative of JDL's hubris of being able to compete twice in one show being his own downfall. The street smart ways of the KakaiBros were also in full display in this match, and it was fantastic. Case in point: the forced low blow DQ, which actually made me think why no one has ever thought of that before!

 As a sucker for bad endings in year-ender shows, I was hoping for a Team Malaysia win if only to see what kind of cliffhanger ending PWR would do coming into 2020. After all, we saw this in effect with Vendetta 2017 and 2018 being a good hook for the start of the following year's shows. But hey, given a fun year like 2019, sometimes it's just good to end a year like that on a high note. With QUATRO being owed a rematch for the PWR Championship after the screwjob by MSG, the potential Mike Madrigal element after Ubusan ng Lahi, and evil Chris Panzer as champion, the championship picture might be as clear as day.

#BestBoutCamus

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You know what, I actually agree with Chino Liao during the recent episode of The Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. GrabCamus not only went full circle with his year-long story arc, but he also pulled off the best performance of career in this Ubusan ng Lahi match.

This match hit all the right notes to make this an engaging bout that had the fans excited, even at the beginning when Cali Nueva officially became the fifth Naughty Boy and once again wowed the audience. It might have been weird at first for Cali to be a part of the team, but then I remembered how he had an issue with Tutan at last year's Vendetta during his old life as Artie 2.0, as well as the Dick Pic Saga of 2019. As random as it was, there was already a precedent to the surprise.

It had the right intensity for a match of this nature, with everyone getting the chance to shine. Bolt, in particular, looked great after channeling his inner Akatsuki as he went ballistic on his opponents. Jhemherlhynn being a crazy ball of Jigglypuff energy against Gatilyo is a new character trait that might be fun to explore as she reaches her first anniversary as an in-ring competitor. And it may have taken a while, but Tutan finally found his voice as the sick, twisted, crazy maniac that emerged from his betrayal a few months ago. Whereas Team Philippines vs. Team Malaysia was all about pride and athletic competition, the Naughty Boys vs. Koponan Tutan was all about the story and the culmination of these arcs, and everyone should be commended for sticking with their guns on the story told for these past years.

While Bolt has certainly benefited from this environment, you cannot deny the fact that the biggest winner of the bout is GrabCamus, who outlasted both John Sebastian and his former partner Kapitan Tutan. The Head of Transportation of the Naughty Boys may have eaten shit (in kayfabe) for the longest time, but I'm glad to see some major character development the same way that Tutan had when he first debuted, all while delivering one hell of an iron man performance. The fact that a kid was inspired by GrabCamus (as told in the same podcast episode) after the match is a reminder that there is simply no storytelling medium quite like professional wrestling. When done right, wrestling can inspire people in a way nothing in this world can.

Shine Bright Like a Crystal

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2019 is the year of Crystal, without a shadow of a doubt. After her matches with the likes of Emi Sakura, AEW Women's World Champion Riho, Jibzy, and Desi Derata, there was no better way to cap off the year with a match against the now-former MyPW Wrestlecon Champion, Nor "Phoenix" Diana. This was a good 11 or so minutes of fantastic wrestling between two of the best female wrestlers in the region, both having that uncanny flexibility and determined spirit that made fans show their appreciation to the two. Kudos to Phoenix who seemingly had a bit of a head stinger after landing what is one of the most beautiful Northern Lights Suplexes I've ever seen in my life. The hype surrounding her (including a ringing endorsement from Mustafa Ali) is very real and justified.

Crystal pulling off the win is a welcome treat, especially for one who has represented the country abroad numerous times. This indicates that PWR and MyPW will continue to have a business relationship in the coming months, which is only going to be great for fans both in and beyond the Philippines. It's a shame that not many fans chanted this in the midst of everyone being shocked by #Crystal2Belts' victory, but please come back, Phoenix.

PLAYTIME

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It was expected that the MSG Championship Celebration would end with some form of match or physical altercation. This was exactly what happened with MSG's open challenge, but I don’t think anyone expected James “Idol” Martinez to show up and accept. What I also did not expect was how fun this match was going to be, and holy shit this match was fun.

If we're going to call a spade a spade, Panzer was always going to have an edge over the man at the top of the pyramid given his championship experience and capabilities. After the PWR Championship match last month, we knew more than ever that Panzer can have a great match with anyone. But in what was a true clash of styles, Idol matched Panzer’s championship pedigree with his wit and opportunistic style. This led to some unbelievable crowd-gasping moments where the fans almost believed he won the big one. Even the part where Idol used someone’s cellphone to call in his army of downlines to fight off MSG was fun as everyone finally remembered that he will always have the advantage of having NPCs to back him up.

An apt way to describe Idol in this match is that he was like NJPW's Toru Yano: a competitor who may be comedic in nature but will always find ways to beat you when you least expect it. “Playtime” might be the word of the day for Idol, and with how complicated the whole Network dynamic is lately (as I’ll get to later in the review), this might have given him new lease in his career.

Tier 2: REV Major 2019


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Photo from REV Major Philippines

Seriously, when you have a fantastic e-Sports event take place at Solaire, of all places, then you are DEFINITELY doing something right.

"Vlad Sinnsyk Murdered Chino Guinto with Three Consecutive Muscle Busters Inside a PWR Ring"

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One can make the argument that when it comes to intensity and aggression, the impromptu PHX title match between Chino Guinto and Vlad Sinnsyk (after some unexpected but welcome shenanigans from Distinct) was the most intense in the title's history. Every blow and move was made to look with more malicious intent than usual, especially when you have the man with the most vicious chops in Vlad dishing it as much as receiving Chino's best. The match felt like the classic Chino Guinto vs. SANDATA matches from before when they had so much to prove and laid it all in the ring. You can feel that kind of vibe with Chino and Vlad, which gave the PHX Championship more meaning than ever. It was fun to watch Chino in this kind of match after the successful comeback year he's had. Even coming from a loss, he came out looking like the never-say-die champion he says he is as it took a referee stoppage to end the bout. The Golden Boy said that he was being overlooked before the match, which gave further perspective as to what motivated him. It was a simple yet effective way for fans to understand what makes him tick and why he has a chip on his shoulder.

With the year the Hand of Judgment had, having the opportunity to compete against DDT Pro's Masa Takanashi and DJ Nira, and OWE's T-Hawk, Vlad Sinnsyk has proven himself to be the deserving workhorse champion PWR needs, He's also established himself as the most dangerous competitor in the locker room right now if his actions were of any indication. As if that's not enough, he is a PWR Championship or Tag Team Championship win away from becoming the company's second triple crown winner in history, which is a big deal. With the style he brings to the ring, it will be fun to see the potential matches he can have next year. As for Chino, I wouldn't mind seeing him get another chance for the PHX Championship, but with the year he's had, perhaps it is time to spread his wings and aim for the PWR Championship. If anything, he's earned it.

MSG & #PWOG

If you need more proof that there might be a tag team renaissance in PWR happening soon, look no further than the match between the #PWOGs (Jake de Leon and Ken Warren) and MSG’s SANDATA and Main Maxx. If you’ve already seen a #PWOGs match, then I don’t have to tell you how good they are as their work speaks for itself. However, you really must give it to the MSG duo as this match with the OGs showed why they are deserving of a proper reign as PWR Tag Team Champions under #MSGALLBELTS. SANDATA working with MSG has allowed him to show more personality as an arrogant douchebag, an edge that has been missing in his career. And despite Maxx’s debilitating injury in 2017, it looks like he’s finally getting back to his stride as a dynamic monster with that surprising 619. Panzer’s involvement in the match put in the exclamation point that MSG will be making major waves next year, and I’m all for a dominating faction having all the belts for the first time in Philippine wrestling history.

When you look at tag teams such as the #PWOGs, MTNH, MSG, the YOLO Twins, the Naughty Boys, and the Endgame (among others), you have one of the best and well-rounded tag teams in one promotion in a long time. It was the right call for the KakaiBros to steer the tag team ship since Wrevolution X, with all these tag teams making noise. 2020 is going to be a bright year for this division. Don’t be surprised if next year’s match of the year contenders will involve a shitload of tag team wrestling.

Inevitability


If there was one bit of criticism that’s been running in my head for almost a year, it’s how PWR was not able to follow up on the Endgame's dominant performance at Path of Gold 2019. Granted, there was a story that had to be told with the Network, AB3, and the Apocalypse, but it felt like the Endgame was not getting enough momentum for the most part. That was until Jan Evander had the match of his life at Homecoming against Martivo, one that showed he was ready to become a major player. And true enough, as Vintendo would say, the Endgame’s success was inevitable.

AB3 and Revo Ranger had a fun pre-show match that showed great chemistry between the two, with the Protector of Earth ably mixing both his sentai-based shenanigans with a solid offense like the Revo Buster and the armbar to headscissor move. But it was AB3 who finally showed up as a heel after pulling off his opponent's mask, solidifying his alignment after months of uncertainty. It is not certain if this is still part of any long term plans on AB3’s end, but as far as finally pushing the story through, it did its job. And if anything, this may be a sign that it is not over with Revo Ranger and the Endgame.

Martivo’s remarkable reign as the All Out War(la) Champion for most of 2019 will be remembered as a success, raising the flag of the LGBTQ community proudly as one of PWR’s best ambassadors. And that’s besides being one of PWR’s premiere singles competitors, mind you. However, this was the perfect time to put the title on a red hot star like Evander, who makes it a point to pull out all the stops every match he’s been in. Granted, while this bout could not live up to their Homecoming match, they still had a great outing that balanced the in-ring action with the All Out War stipulation's brutality. It helped that Evander finally had the Endgame in his corner, effectively influencing the outcome of the match and solidifying their spot as a dominating faction. The positive coming from this is that while Martivo’s star certainly won’t diminish, PWR has strapped a rocket pack on Evander's back, and it has been a long time coming.

For all the good mentioned, we inevitably must balance things out by indicating the things during the show that were not so necessarily good. As such, we have to go through the more critical part of this review and dedicate this tier to these parts. And what else is a more appropriate situation to associate this tier with than with:

Tier 3: SEA Games 2019

Because of course.
  • Wrestlers shifting alignments were all around the place with not much explanation. It’s odd how there was a handshake between MTNH and the YOLO Twins given that Mahaba was kidnapped, brainwashed, and held against his own will. Then there’s Cali Nueva, who suddenly joined the Naughty Boys without much explanation especially considering their history. The same can be said of Vlad Sinnsyk who, while having unfinished business with Chino from his Wrevolution X title match, suddenly turned heel out of nowhere and proceed to murder Chino after months of being a face. You can make the case that AB3 can also be in this discussion, but I’ll keep my opinions until after a few months when the story gets to progress further. The only turn that made sense throughout the road to Vendetta and the show itself was Bolt, who had a legitimate gripe against the Naughty Boys. Hopefully, these things get answered in the coming Aftershock videos.
  • This cannot be stressed enough, but both Ubusan ng Lahi matches took way longer than anyone expected. It felt like the stories could be told in lesser time and in a more efficient manner. Respect to everyone for being wrestling machines during the match, but length can also mean diminishing returns especially if there are pauses at some points for a match of this nature.
  • Something’s up when it comes to the use of finishers or high-powered moves on the show. Particularly, it felt like Chino’s use of the Gold Digger in the beginning and latter half of his match made it look relatively weak. The same can be said with Chris Panzer’s use of the Panzerschreck at the start of the match against Idol, which is usually one of his murder-death-kill moves not named the Eagle Splash or the H.N.A.
  • You gotta give it up to PWR's media team for their fantastic video packages. However, it would help if they could offer video primers for cases like the visiting Malaysian stars, who could definitely benefit from a brief introduction on who they are and where they fit within the confines of MyPW's stories. I was guessing that some of the interaction on Team Malaysia's side was because of existing stories between the members, much like how QUATRO and Mike Madrigal's issues were told during the match.

Final Word

Nonetheless, at the end of the day, the good outweighs the bad for the most part. PWR still delivered a fun year-ender that capped off what is a fantastic 2019. As we enter the next calendar year, there are a lot of unanswered questions that still linger in our heads.

Will QUATRO get his chance for a rematch against Chris Panzer after being screwed by MSG? What kind of mental state is Chino Guinto in after losing his PHX Championship in such brutal fashion? What is next for the Endgame now that Jan Evander is the new All Out War Champion? Which team will be able to topple the seemingly unstoppable and charismatic KakaiBros?

All these and more will likely be answered come next year. Until then, here's to a year to remember, and looking forward to what 2020 has in store for us!

Awards

Match of the Show: Tied between both Ubusan ng Lahi Matches

Star of the Show: Tied between Mh4rckie and GrabCamus

OMG Moment of the Show: SERIGALA HOLY SHIT DUDE

Surprise of the Show: Cali Nueva as the Fifth Man

Grade: B+

*****

What did you think of PWR Vendetta 2019? What were your favorite moments of the show? And what are you looking forward to from PWR in 2020? Sound off in the comments below!

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

Photos and videos from Philippine  Wrestling Revolution, unless stated otherwise.

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