RAW Deal: Philippine victories

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis
RAW Deal: Philippine victories
All things considered, WWE Manila wasn’t the best show it could have been, especially with the relative depth of the RAW brand, but they came to play

MANILA, Philippines — It was one hell of a week for wrestling in the Philippines, and Filipino wrestling as a whole. (Two separate things, mind you, with the difference lurking in the semantics.)

First, the biggest elephant standing in the middle of the room: WWE Manila, man. All things considered, it wasn’t the best show it could have been, especially with the relative depth of the RAW brand, but man, they came to play. At the very least, the main eventers proved why they were the ones tasked to main event not just this house show, or the other shows on their tours, but RAW in general.

If you haven’t been convinced yet that the torch has been passed, seeing 3 guys that casual WWE fans in the Philippines likely hadn’t heard of burn the barn down and make believers out of lapsed devotees again should tell you that, yes, a new generation has taken over. (WATCH: Chris Jericho says ‘the Philippines stinks,’ calls himself a ‘gago’)

And the biggest Philippine victory, really, are all of us who came to the show. All of us WWE fans both young and old, current and past, filling up the Mall of Asia Arena really well despite only having a handful of recognizable big-time stars (i.e. John Cena, Big Show, Chris Jericho, Goldust) come here and be the draws for people who haven’t been keeping up with the product for one reason or another.

A strong crowd means a success, regardless of what you may think about WWE right now, and successes create incentives for them to return. (If anything, one of my sources say that after tonight, the WWE will not let another 7 years pass before coming back.) Give yourselves a pat on the back – you deserve it.

The other Philippine victory is something that’s even more important in the bigger picture – TJ Perkins, the Fil-Am Flash himself, won the entire Cruiserweight Classic and became the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion. Although Perkins wasn’t part of the Manila tour (and he definitely should have been) the fact that he begins a new chapter in his storied 18-year career, one that even saw him being homeless, is something more Filipinos should know.

We finally have some honest-to-God representation in the WWE, someone who’s trying to be something way beyond Batista’s mailed-in Filipino-ness. Now that Perkins has won the tournament, it’s become a bigger deal for him and for us, as that means the company now has a more valuable ace up its sleeve for when it comes back. The only sad part about Perkins’ win is that the best wrestling show in the world will be gone for a while; we’ve gotten so used to watching the CWC more than anything.

All of these big deals surrounding wrestling in the Philippines shouldn’t be gone to waste, however; if we’re all real fans who love the sport, whether you’ve been a fan for a long time, hopped back on the bandwagon, or recently converted by one thing or another, we should definitely support our own. WWE isn’t the only the game in town; in fact, it isn’t the game in town. Philippine pro wrestling is on the up-and-up, and aside from the already-established Philippine Wrestling Revolution, another upstart company, the Manila Wrestling Federation, is gearing up to provide an alternative and deepen the blossoming local scene.

These young wrestlers may not be on the same level as your WWE favorites just yet – and that’s understandable, because none of them have yet earned the experience and expertise the foreigners have – but they need all your support. We should all be helping each other if we really love pro wrestling, and want this to grow into something we can proudly call our own.

New SmackDown champs

In other news, SmackDown Live held their very first exclusive brand PPV, Backlash, last Sunday – and it was a very fine exercise in reestablishing single-brand events.

It was a miraculous effort in restraint and investment, to be quite honest. That sounds paradoxical, but hear me out. SmackDown didn’t see the need to go fill up the full  3 hours when it didn’t have to by either trying to go for a lot of ridiculous impromptu matches (it only needed to have one) or stretching out matches for too long. The event ended after only two and a half hours, but as the brand finds its footing, I don’t expect that to continue.

Meanwhile, the investment part lies in 3 new title changes. Two of them were expected, of course, as they came into the event vacant, but WWE pulling the trigger and giving wins to people who need it most is really refreshing.

Becky Lynch didn’t have to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship right away at all, considering that a heel champion like Natalya would make for a better story, but they did it anyway and it feels right. The Usos could’ve won the SmackDown Tag Team Championships just so they can cement their new heel turn, but Creative decided to give the feel-good win to Heath Slater and Rhyno, who are on such a roll right now with Slater’s character. Although there were safe bets, it really does feel good to see hardworking wrestlers, who got over the organic way, getting rewarded for their efforts.

Lastly, it’s a little unbelievable (and believable, at the same time) that SmackDown rolled the dice on AJ Styles winning the WWE Championship. Yes, Dean Ambrose’s run was quietly failing and the main event scene needed a reboot after his reign’s uneven writing, but I expected them to try and keep it for a little while longer in an attempt to repair it. If they can keep Roman Reigns on top for longer than fans want him to be, then this isn’t really an unreasonable expectation. But here we are, and like Lynch and Slyno’s win, it’s a gamble I’m definitely willing to live with. Styles is much more interesting as the Face That Runs The Place, even though fans would prefer to see him as a fighting babyface—at least he’s a better-rounded champion than Ambrose.

 – Rappler.com

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 and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys talk about the insane week for Philippine wrestling!

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