Trailblazers: The women of Philippine pro wrestling

Michael Bueza
Trailblazers: The women of Philippine pro wrestling

LeAnne Jazul

6 of the country's fearless female wrestlers talk about living their dreams and making history in the ring

MANILA, Philippines – The professional wrestling industry is now undergoing a “women’s revolution,” and the Philippines has already made significant progress. 

The women in the country’s 3 wrestling promotions bravely face off against grapplers of both genders. In fact, the 4 women wrestlers in the active roster officially made their respective in-ring debuts against men. Meanwhile, 4 other females are waiting in the wings, itching for competition. 

Their entry to the industry also went naturally: they are treated as co-equals, not as eye-candy or special attraction.

They all contribute to the thriving modern Pinoy wrestling scene, despite an absence of a full-fledged women’s division or a women’s championship belt.

Six of these fearless ring warriors talked to Rappler about their journeys to the squared circle, and their plans to make more history. 

[Editor’s Note: Some of the responses here have been edited for brevity and clarity.]

Crystal | Robynn | Starling | Ashura | Queen Rogue | Tala Haliya


Crystal

The self-proclaimed “Queen of Philippine Wrestling” Crystal has accomplished a lot, first as a fan favorite then as an entitled diva in Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR) storylines. Being the first woman to debut in modern Pinoy wrestling, she has been in multiple intergender matches and has challenged for the Philippine Hybrid X (PHX) Championship.

Crystal also competes around Southeast Asia from time to time, joining only a handful of Filipino wrestlers who have done so. In October 2017, she vied for the inaugural Queen of Asia Championship of Singapore Pro Wrestling (SPW). She wrestled in Malaysia for Asia Wrestling Entertainment in January this year, then in Thailand for Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling just this month.

She is the current PWR Tag Team Champion alongside on-screen PWR co-owner and her real-life boyfriend, John Sebastian.

Who or what inspired you to become a wrestler? My grandma loved wrestling. She watched WWE (then known as WWF) all the time and had the biggest crush on Bret Hart. And astig daw si Undertaker. (Undertaker was cool.)

In her last few months, we spent watching WWE in the hospital because she had breast cancer. I would always see her in pain, but whenever she watched wrestling, she’d be happy. That’s why I wanted to be a wrestler. If in some way, I can make someone happy and help them lessen their pains like the way wrestling did for my grandma, I’ll be happy. 

How did you become a part of PWR? A couple of school friends and I loved wrestling. We would talk about WWE during lunch breaks, and try out Figure Four leglocks on each other during PE class.

One of them knew someone from PWR, which said they’re holding a tryout. So we sent in our applications, we all got in. But life, busy schedules, and school [got in their way]. I’m the only one who went through with it.

How is your wrestling journey so far? It’s been a rollercoaster ride. It’s tiring and stressful, but it’s also amazing and heartwarming. I never knew that from just talking in the cafeteria about joining a wrestling company, I would now be wrestling overseas.

What’s your favorite moment in your career so far? The moment Canyon Ceman of the WWE gave me his business card. (This was during a PWR show in January 2017 where some WWE officials were in attendance.)

What do you aim to accomplish in your career? To be the first Filipina to make it to the WWE. 

What does it take to be a wrestler in the local wrestling scene? Guts, thick skin, and creativity.


PATH OF GOLD. Robynn competes in the multi-person Path of Gold Match. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Robynn

The Punk Rock Maiden is as tough as nails. Robynn goes toe-to-toe with any wrestler, at times flying from the ring onto her opponents at ringside.

Bursting into the scene in October 2016, Robynn usually tags along with queer wrestler Martivo in their quest for PWR Tag Team gold. She has also joined the multi-person Path of Gold Match twice. 

Earlier this year, she and Crystal settled their rift in a hardcore All-Out War Match. Robynn not only dished out punishment on Crystal, but also took it when she missed landing on Crystal from atop a ladder and went through a makeshift plywood table instead.

Who or what inspired you to become a wrestler? This may sound funny, but I started to watch wrestling because I had a crush on Jeff Hardy. Every time I watch him wrestle, it made me curious what it was like to do it in the ring and just be fearless. Then there’s Lita and Trish Stratus. They were so empowering for me with how they wrestle, they are why I wanted to become a wrestler.

How did you become a part of PWR? I met Senior Referee Matt Roxas when I was in first year college. When he found out I like wrestling, he invited me and some of our friends to watch PWR Renaissance in 2014. It was my first time to watch live Filipino wrestling, and I instantly fell in love with it.

I asked him if I could join PWR and train for wrestling, but he said I couldn’t yet because I was still a minor then. Since I can’t train at that time, I youngboyed (or did ringside duties like crowd control). I was usually at the entrance for tickets, and sometimes at the merch booth. In September 2015, they opened a new bootcamp, and that was the right time for me to train because I already turned 18.

How is your wrestling journey so far? So far, I think I’m doing okay. But I can’t say I’m satisfied with what I’m doing with wrestling. I know there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I just can’t stop here because I know the journey is still long. All I have to do is be hungry for wrestling all the time so I can do better and be better. 

What is your favorite moment in your career so far? I think my favorite moment was when Crystal and I had our first women’s match in PWR. I can’t say I was proud with my performance, but it was the moment I’ll never forget because it made me feel that I’m doing something that could inspire other girls to reach for their dreams and do what they want, especially when it comes to wrestling. 

What do you aim to accomplish in your career? I just want someone to tell me that they were able to reach their dream to become a wrestler because I inspired them. I think that would be my ultimate goal, and I would know that I was a good example for them.

What does it take to be a wrestler in the local wrestling scene? You just have to be tough. Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. If you won’t be able to take the pain during trainings, you won’t survive. If you won’t be able to take criticism from other people, you won’t survive. So being tough is a must.


DEBUT. Starling debuts at Art of War Wrestling and defeats Silent D. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler 

Starling

Starling was the first woman to debut in Art of War Wrestling (AOWW), at its inaugural show Genesis.

She quickly took care of her opponent Silent D with a spinebuster. But post-match, the fiery wrestler was attacked by another female wrestler, Jiara Frost.

Who or what inspired you to become a wrestler? There’s no single person who inspired me to become a wrestler, though I’ve always been amazed in the (he)art that goes with being one. At first, I just wanted to train with other people. I’m a cycling and overall fitness ethusiast, but didn’t really have anybody to be as enthusiastic for it as I am.

I was often called “crazy” for wanting to do stuff that aren’t deemed ladylike – or human-like, for some people – like riding my bike 100+km away from home in a day or pumping iron. Pro wrestling fits right in with my “crazy” interests.

How did you become a part of AOWW? [Fellow trainee] Cheyza Brown Wolf recruited me. I joined a bodybuilding thread he’s also a member of and where he sought recruits. Of course, I got interested, and asked right away. He really pushed me to go through it, constantly reminding me not to give up. I am quite a doubtful person, most especially when it comes to myself. But when somebody else believes in me, that is everything so I can’t afford to let that go to waste.

How did your debut at AOWW Genesis go? What did you feel? Anxious. Questions like “What if I suck?” and “What if everyone hated me?” ran through my head. What swept those death-inducing anxieties away was AOWW’s and coach Chilly Willy’s belief in each of us.

With that out of the way, what remained was the excitement of showing everyone what we’ve been training so hard for. Some of us started training in June 2017. I started in November 2017. Given that time frame, I’d say I did alright on our first show.

What do you aim to accomplish in your career? I’m not gonna lie, talks of getting booked abroad is getting me pumped up. That would be a huge step up for my career. To be known in the local wrestling scene is one thing, but to be known abroad is something else altogether. I’m still a Filipino who will carry “Pinoy Pride!” – I guess, despite its negative connotations – even if it’s only a fraction of what this nation tends to really care about. Of course, I’ll need to keep mastering my craft in order to deserve that kind of opportunity.

What does it take to be a wrestler in the local wrestling scene? Guts.

What do you have in store for wrestling fans in future shows? Some nobody from another promotion made a sexist comment saying females are the inferior gender. As a female pro wrestler, I’m gonna show pea-brained people like him just how deluded, idiotic, and regretful it is to think and believe such. It’s high time a woman truly reigns in this scene! Watch out!


ENIGMATIC. Ashura has competed in Manila Wrestling Federation against the likes of Ninja Ryugin and Frankie Thurteen. Photo from MWF

Ashura

The enigmatic wrestler from Manila Wrestling Federation (MWF) has faced the likes of Ninja Ryugin and Frankie Thurteen. She is currently under the tutelage of MWF mainstay Mr. Lucha.

Who or what inspired you to become a wrestler? Akira Hokuto, Manami Toyota, and Shinobu Kandori. I am a big fan of All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW).

How did you become a part of MWF? Let’s just say someone picked me out of the dirt and gave me a home.

How is your wrestling journey so far? I would still have to see more of “it” before I can put together the words. I recognize that there is much for me to improve on. My journey is to be better than whoever they put in front of me. I believe that I am on my way.

What is your favorite moment in your career so far? My debut match was very memorable. It marks Ashura’s birth in the world of wrestling. The world finally met me, and I met them, our audience, the life of this business.

But making my walk to the ring is always memorable, every time I see the eyes and smiles of the kapa-Feds (MWF fans). Every moment of their entertainment is my favorite moment.

What do you aim to accomplish in your career? For the world to know and remember my name.

What does it take to be a wrestler in the local wrestling scene? A great deal of heart and will power. Putting one’s everything into wrestling and the audience’s entertainment are always my top priority.

A warrior might not start out at the top, take a ton of backlash with each match he or she battles in, stumble and fail a lot, but it’s okay. Build up a lot of heart and will power, lower your ego, put your body to the limit, and prepare to give all of yourself in the ring.

Never quit! Never give up! Wrestle for your audience, not for yourself.


THE QUEEN. Queen Rogue makes her presence felt at AOWW Genesis. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler 

Queen Rogue

“Queen of Philippine Wrestling” you say? Rogue is staking her claim to the throne.

The feisty, powerful warrior made her presence felt at AOWW Genesis. She accompanied Hybrid in his match against “The Godkiller” Dabid Ravena, but she later interrupted the proceedings and slammed Ravena to the canvas with a Samoan drop. Bubbly wrestler Project Z then confronted her, prompting a catfight between the two women.

Who or what inspired you to become a wrestler? Superstars like Trish Stratus, Lita, AJ Lee, and Beth Phoenix inspired me to be a wrestler. I’ve been watching WWE since I was a kid, and I admire strong women. I told myself I want to be just like them when I grow up.

How did you become a part of AOWW? June 3 last year, AOWW called for tryouts. I was one of the brave souls who joined. I decided to come and ignore my parents who were stopping me that time because they thought I was just an avid wrestling fan, not one who aspires to be a wrestler. I saw AOWW’s ad on Facebook, in a group of wrestling fans, I think. I saw it as an opportunity and grabbed it.

How did your debut at AOWW Genesis go? What did you feel? It felt amazing! It was astounding. I get to take people’s breath away because of my strength. Lifting a 180-pound man up on my shoulders got the people. No woman has done that in the history of wrestling in the Philippines. Their reactions made me ecstatic. I achieved my dream and I’m just starting.

What do you aim to accomplish in your career? I want to go places and wrestle. Stardom and WWE are my main goals. Also, I want to face my idols in the future.

What does it take to be a wrestler in the local wrestling scene? Dedication, and faith in yourself. You must be ready to give your all, because being in this industry is not easy. Love what you are doing. You must pour your heart and soul for this in order to succeed. You also have to believe in yourself that you can do this.

There will be a lot of haters. Do not bring yourself to their level. Keep doing what you do. Many people have tried bringing me down. Nobody succeeded and no one will. I have faith in me, I know I can do this.

What do you have in store for wrestling fans in future shows? You’ll get to know the Queen more. You’ll find out how she is in the ring. I’ll give the fans hard-style matches. I’ll prove them that women can also be violent and powerful. Rogue will be the example of that.


SOON TO DEBUT. Tala Haliya plans to debut with a bang at Manila Wrestling Federation. Photo from MWF  

Tala Haliya

Tala Haliya is among the founders of MWF. She has yet to make her in-ring debut, but she promises that once she does, wrestling fans “will never forget her.”

Who or what inspired you to become a wrestler? All the people who surrounded me growing up. 

My mom believed in me and I was able to use my different skills and talents. She may not have wanted me to become a wrestler, but I believe that I am strong enough to make a difference. 

Growing up, I learned there are people who were blessed to have skills, talents and oppurtunities, but won’t use it wisely or for good. I was inspired to use what I have and be appreciative of my talents.

How did you become part of MWF? I am one of the founding members of MWF. I started helping in the art department and working as backstage staff, while selling tickets and merch. 

How’s your wrestling journey so far? I would say it’s like a rollercoaster ride, but it’s really more like the PNR or MRT.

I have people saying I won’t make it. Our journey was filled with different gyms declining us, because they were afraid to continue letting us train everytime we practiced in their ring. Traveling was also hard from north to south, and at times from work to practice. It was also hard juggling between my corporate work outside our wrestling and training schedules. There were a lot of sacrifices to make.

Now, I am able to balance things slowly but surely, and focus fully with MWF.  

What do you aim to accomplish in your career? I was born with only one eye clear enough to see this world, but I will do my best to spread awareness that my disability isn’t a hindrance in my desire to achieve who I want to be. There are some people that were blessed with two eyes but use it for evil ways.

I want to be a wrestler who can be a good role model for kids, persons with disabilities, and whoever believes in my views. I want to bring the beautiful Filipino culture all around the world. Show them that we can all unite as Filipinos to spread goodwill to everyone, regardless of religion, gender and city.  

What does it take to be a wrestler in the local wrestling scene? You must be wise, creative, and mindful. Everything you do might be taken against you, be it words or actions.

A wrestler must be strong-willed and humble. There will be a lot of people who will bring you down, people who will easily give up on you, people who will find you weird and judge you. Just stay nice. Be brave and work harder to prove them wrong.

What do you have in store for wrestling fans in future shows? MWF will soon deliver amazing events and great stories with amazing and modern Filipinas! – Rappler.com

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author

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.