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31 Days of Wrestling (12/29/19): Raising the Glass Ceiling (TAJIRI vs. Fabio Makisig, MWF 8: Halalan Special 2K19)


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies, and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2019 produced for us.

As part of the promotion for MWF 8: Halalan back in May, legendary international wrestler Yoshihiro Tajiri would arrive several days early to do some press tours and interact with Filipino culture. I follow MWF Senior Analyst Tarek El Tayech's socials, so I was more exposed with the latter. There's something endearing about watching foreigners maneuver our food scene, in particular: Tajiri bought street food with the familiarity of a frequent visitor, and he sang praises of Jollibee palabok. But endearing is also normalizing. As he walked the streets of Manila in one of El Tayech's Facebook stories, he felt less like a wrestling legend and more like my uncle-in-law; an older Japanese person with a connection to the Philippines, enjoying his visit. You know, normal.


The TAJIRI that came out for his match with Fabio Makisig was an entirely different person. He stalked the ring with the malicious intent of we've all come to know from the Japanese Buzzsaw, eyes trained on Fabio. His contemptuous gaze spoke volumes about how he felt better than his opponent while still being wary of the young upstart. TAJIRI was huge: while Fabio is one of the is certainly one of the bigger guys of MWF, he looked smaller in comparison to the Buzzsaw. When we watch WWE, the land of the giants, it's easy to misappropriate the size of the cruiserweights. But there's nothing small about TAJIRI, and his legendary aura added even more weight.

Fabio Makisig was in unfamiliar territory. Prior to this match, he enjoyed a mostly undefeated wrestling career. Sure, he lost to Robin Sane in the MWF championship finals, but he was visibly nursing a shoulder injury during that match. He lost to Khayl Sison after that, but then they formed HSSL together, a faction where Fabio is the clear leader. Fabio is undoubtedly one of the top dogs, but against TAJIRI he felt like the underdog. For the first time, we see the Siga ng Batasan try his best to win.

And he still lost.

This was essentially an exhibition match for the visiting TAJIRI, mostly done outside of the main storyline. But it was crucial to Fabio's character, to the alignment of HSSL as a group, and to MWF's main storyline as a whole. Up until this point, Fabio had a character of being naturally athletic, of never needing to go one hundred percent. After this loss, he became a character with something to prove. And as foreigners arrived to show MWF how much higher they have to climb, Fabio and the rest of HSSL transitioned from backyard bullies to local underdogs.

After this match, TAJIRI faced Fabio again in MWF 11: Road to Fate, this time as equals. He saved his protégé Khayl Sison from Ho Ho Lun in the same event, humiliating the Hong Konger in the process. And with Robin Sane retired, it is now up to HSSL to return MWF to Filipino control in the new year. It might be safe to say that Fabio wouldn't get to this point if it weren't for this match.

Disclaimer: BJ Recio is personal friends with the wrestler who plays the Fabio Makisig character. He is otherwise unaffiliated with the Manila Wrestling Federation in any way, shape, or form.


*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2019. Read our previous entries:

1. The Man Stands Tall at WrestleMania (Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey, WrestleMania 35)
2. The Game Changes (Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega, AEW Double or Nothing)
3. Still the Ace (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega, Wrestle Kingdom 13)
4. #KofiMania (Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania 35)
5. Starting With A Bang (The Premiere of AEW Dynamite)
6. Let's Start A War (The Premiere of NXT On The USA Network)
7. For You And Me! For All Of Us! (Jake De Leon vs. TJP, PWR Homecoming)
8. It Takes a Bird and a Villain (G1 Climax Finals: Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White)
9. The Fall of Bray Wyatt and the Rise of the Fiend
10. Johnny Champion (Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano, NXT TakeOver: New York)
11. Do You Wanna Yeet a Four-Man? (QUATRO vs. Chris Panzer vs. Jeff Cobb, PWR Homecoming)
12. From Purveyor Of Violence To Death Rider (Jon Moxley in NJPW)
13. We Will Rock You! (Crystal vs. Emi Sakura, PWR Path of Gold 2019)
14. Revolutionary (QUATRO vs. IMABAYASHI, PWR Wrevolution X 2019)
15. Manila Has Fallen (Ho Ho Lun vs. Robin Sane, MWF 10: Republika)
16. Saudi Na Natuto (WWE Crown Jewel 2019)
17. Hey Now, Hey Now, This Is What Dreams Are Made Of (Elimination Chamber for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship, Elimination Chamber 2019)
18. A Different Evolution (Tessa Blanchard wins #1 Contendership Gauntlet, Impact Wrestling)

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