RAW Deal: Going back to Manila

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis

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RAW Deal: Going back to Manila
This week's column addresses WWE's return to Manila, the brand split and Seth Rollins' return

MANILA, Philippines—Even though there are a million other things I could talk about right now with regard to the WWE, I’ll be deeply remiss if I don’t go straight to the heart of it. Yep, it’s the biggest bit of wrestling news to come out this week: WWE is finally coming back to Manila on September 9.

I’ll be honest with you—we here at Rappler knew this for a couple of months now, and it was really hard to keep our mouths shut when all we wanted to do was share the good news with our brothers and sisters. The biggest wrestling company in the world hasn’t been here since 2009, the better half of a decade, and perhaps with good reason; the show was lackluster, a card that screamed “house show” more than its last two iterations.

Although there have been attempts to take over the market since then—ex-WWE midcarders (smartly) coming over as World Wrestling Fan Xperience, the Philippine Wrestling Revolution—it really can’t be denied that the public is clamoring for the real thing. They want WWE, no matter how it looks, no matter who’s there, no matter who’s on top. That WWE drought will be a good enough reason for the show to draw, even though the ordinary Filipino wrestling fan won’t be able to afford great seats at the Mall of Asia arena. Creating this demand might not have been intentional on WWE’s part, but it definitely helps them.

That said, my only hope coming out of all this is that maybe we can support our own local wrestling scene so we don’t have to beg Vince McMahon to keep coming back to our shores. Even though the wrestlers of PWR (and upstart Manila Wrestling Federation) are not as good nor popular as those of the WWE (and how could they be, even the worst WWE wrestler is among the best of the best in the world) fans have to be reminded that the best wrestlers in the world started out learning and sharpening their craft in the indies, too. They went through times working in small arenas, wrestling matches that they’d probably cringe at now. They got to where they are through the support of fans who saw something in them in these early, formative stages. 

I hope we can all be good wrestling fans and do the same for people who are just trying to live their dream, like anyone else would, or maybe even help out in some way.

Return of the Draft

And the other big news to come out this week: SmackDown will start airing live in July, and part of the necessary changes for that move is a brand split. And where there is a brand split, there is a draft.

I will say this: it’s high time this happened again. Sure, the brand extension and the draft evokes nostalgia, but I believe they need it for more practical reasons—the roster is so overbloated that it’s bursting at the seams when pigeonholed in only one brand. There’s an oligarchy at the top, and deserving wrestlers in the midcard toil endlessly without getting the chance they’ve earned until someone above them gets injured. While that’s been happening lately, the replacements end up looking half-baked because they never get that starmaking push until it’s too late.

With a brand split (in a perfect world) there are more opportunities for everyone. There will be double the slots for stories, and time will need to be maximized so that as many wrestlers as possible can benefit from the amount of stories that could be run.

Of course, you’re going to need two writing teams that are absolutely dedicated to creating the best possible pro wrestling show every week. Considering the overall better state of WWE creative writing at the moment, I’d like to come in with an open mind and believe creative can pull it off. Beyond the overly strong booking of Roman Reigns, it seems as though McMahon has decided to no longer meddle and micromanage so much, allowing more characters to flourish and the New Era to start hitting its stride. 

I’m not going to expect that SmackDown will be at the levels of the Paul Heyman Era at the get-go or anything, but it should be a refreshing change. That’s all we need right now, really—promise. One could choose to be highly pessimistic about all this, but at that point you’re just beating yourself up as a fan. Let’s live a little.

Extreme Rules, real quick

Real brief thoughts: it was a good event. It was better than it had a right to be, considering the hardcore stipulations were forced on most of the feuds that didn’t need one. People will complain (and have been complaining) that once again Roman Reigns looks ridiculously strong coming out of the main event, but they’re overreacting. The main event was a good match and both he and AJ Styles have some tremendous chemistry with one another, mostly because they’re the same wrestler—and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all.


The third biggest news to come out this week was the long-awaited return of the Man, the Architect Seth Rollins, who has come back as a heel against the hated Roman Reigns. It’s still a narrative decision that baffles everyone as they hate Reigns and love Rollins, but I have a curious acceptance of it; I’ve never really pictured Rollins as a believable babyface. He’s always been best as a smarmy heel. Money in the Bank is around 3 weeks away, and we’ll see how they work it out.


If you’re reading this on Saturday, May 28, PWR Wrevolution X is today! It’s at the iAcademy Auditorium in Makati, and tickets are P400 each. It’s PWR’s biggest show of the year, so to quote Jay-Z, what the hell are you waiting for?

Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! On this week’s episode, they recap the crazy week of WWE news that was! Listen to it here! – Rappler.com 

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