MANILA, Philippines – For many Filipinos, Sundays are usually spent with family and loved ones. Last Sunday, January 31, however, turned into a wrestling night, as Philippine Wrestling Revolution treated its family – the loyal PWR fans – to an action-packed show dubbed PWR Live: Road to Vendetta at the iAcademy Auditorium.
Both the PWR and Philippine Hybrid X (PHX) champions faced unexpected challengers, while the wheels have spun en route to the pro wrestling promotion's February 20 show, Vendetta.
First, a quick rundown of the results at PWR’s 9th event on Sunday, its first for 2016:
Now, a low-down on the hits and misses.
Imabayashi beats Apocalypse, then gets “royally flushed”
Rederick Mahaba kicked off PWR Live to host the Mahabang Usapan show. His guest was the newly-crowned PWR Champion himself, Ralph Imabayashi.
The 19-year-old Filipino-Japanese sensation thanked the fans for their support, especially following his victory against “Classical” Bryan Leo for the PWR Title at Terminus last December.
Then, on cue, the ex-champ spoiled Ralph’s celebration. Bryan Leo and Scarlett headed out to the ring to invoke his rematch clause… at Vendetta. Left without an opponent at PWR Live, Imabayashi asked for one. Mr. Sy granted his wish, and it’s a title match against… The Apocalypse!
It was a huge first title defense for Imabayashi at the main event. The 6-foot monster hit his Death Bell finisher right off the bat, then targeted Imabayashi’s left arm.
The champ recovered, hitting a flurry of offense to chop the formidable Apocalypse down. Apocalypse later propped Ralph on the top turnbuckle for an emphatic Death Bell, but Imabayashi countered with a Super Sonic Crusher outta nowhere for the win!
Ralph’s celebration was again short-lived, when the Bryan Leo-led Royal Flush staged a sneak attack on the champion! Leo hit a Styles Clash on Imabayashi, then taunted the champ with the PWR Title belt!
Imabayashi’s ring skills are undoubtedly good, but he really needs to work on his mic skills. If he does, not only can he lay claim to defeating Leo in the ring, but also beating CBL at his own game on the microphone!
As for Bryan Leo – who chose to postpone his PWR Title rematch – he found himself facing Rederick Mahaba, thanks (or no thanks) to Mr. Sy.
CBL, the submission specialist, didn’t disappoint, making quick work of the lovable Mahaba. Rederick held his own, but it wasn’t enough, as he tapped out to Leo’s Blackpool Clutch upper-body submission hold.
Mahaba was attacked some more by Leo after the match, but a stinkface that followed, care of Scarlett, probably took away all the hurt.
This reviewer’s personal pick for match of the night, however, is Bombay Suarez versus Peter Versoza. The P to the V sought to thwart Bombay’s Malaysia dreams (more on this later), but bringing down the Heart and Soul of PWR is no easy task.
Bombay’s hard-hitting moves – especially his wicked legdrop from up top – was responded in kind by Versoza with agile yet impactful maneuvers. It was a solid back-and-forth contest, won by Bombay with a Kick of the Day.
Coming in at close second is the face-off between returning PHX Champion Ken Warren and resident gamer Vintendo, who answered the arrogant champ’s open challenge.
Vintendo took KW to task, at one point landing a hard chop to the chest, producing a thud heard ‘round the iAcademy Auditorium. But a vicious Wi-Fi kick to the back of Vintendo's head gave Warren the victory (in a non-title match as Warren pointed out on Twitter).
Another unique match-up at PWR Live was Chris Panzer versus Joey Bax. Panzer beat Bax’s Fighters for Hire partner Miguel Rosales at Terminus in December, and the Panzer Army leader made it 2 for 2 on Sunday.
Bax went postal on Panzer with suplexes, then landed some hits on Panzer’s pretty-boy face, defying a “#WagSaMukha” chant by the PWR crowd. Ultimately, Panzer hit a Panzerschreck kick and applied the Anaconda Vice submission to pick up the win.
Panzer soon hits a Panzerschreck, then locks in an arm lock for the victory! @RapplerSports #PWRLive pic.twitter.com/p2ixFiIjeA — Michael Bueza (@mikebueza) January 31, 2016
Panzer and Bombay will have more one-of-a-kind matches in a few weeks’ time, as they will represent PWR and the Philippines in title matches at the Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW) event Uprising.
The Network connects… and orients
At the pre-show, PWR’s enterprising team The Network enlisted the help of one of its downlines, Chino Guinto, to battle Los Trabajadores in a tag team match.
The Trabajadores took the fight to Guinto and Network honcho James “Idol” Martinez, but Bruno Bernardo’s interference proved to be the difference maker. One Pay-in double team finisher later, The Network went backstage feeling like a million bucks.
Their night was not over yet. After Rederick Mahaba’s loss to Bryan Leo, The Network trio emerged to conduct their Official Product Orientation, complete with Powerpoint slides in Comic Sans font!
And it's time for the #OfficialProductOrientation! Complete with Powerpoint slides! @RapplerSports #PWRLive pic.twitter.com/5TJXSjlrtF — Michael Bueza (@mikebueza) January 31, 2016
Martinez offered their products to Mahaba, but he was having none of it. Rederick paid for that “mistake” with a beatdown by the Network, but the bigger Mahaba took out all 3 of them. Unfortunately for Bruno Bernardo, he got the worst end of the deal.
Mahaba then challenged Idol to a match at Vendetta! A face-off between two of PWR’s newest characters would be a hilarious treat to PWR fans.
Their gimmicks are so over with the crowd, no doubt, but they have to step up their wrestling chops, too. Besides, fans don’t want to feel short-changed in getting the total package, right?
JDL/MDM vs. The Royal Flush
The scheduled match between Mark D. Manalo vs. John Sebastian didn’t take place, when Main Maxx left commentary and joined his Royal Flush cohort in beating down MDM.
But “The Senyorito” Jake de Leon rushed in for the save, and thanks to General Manager Mr. Sy, PWR fans were served with an impromptu tag team match.
JDL’s in-ring work never ceases to amaze, while Sebastian’s trash-talking never ceases to annoy. Both men are equally impressive, nonetheless. Main Maxx and MDM played their roles to a tee, as the mischievous bully and the lion-hearted probinsiyano, respectively.
JDL, MDM team up! But Sebastian with a low blow behind the ref's back. A choke bomb by Maxx FTW! @RapplerSports pic.twitter.com/IwOXZ4Kp1E — Michael Bueza (@mikebueza) January 31, 2016
Just one comment: in at least two instances, Manalo could clearly tag out to JDL, but chose to postpone the “hot tag” bit further. It didn’t hurt the match overall, but it’s such subtle things that break the flow of a wrestling match.
Crystal challenges Versoza to a match!
After Versoza’s loss to Bombay Suarez, Crystal attempted to interview him in the ring. But Peter shoved Crystal down to the mat instead. Apparently fed up with Peter disrespecting her in past shows, Crystal challenged Versoza to a match at Vendetta! Peter’s response: a pair of Pedigrees (or Petegrees) to PWR’s interviewer/ring announcer!
This reviewer felt uncomfortable watching that segment. Yes, Crystal laid down the challenge, but Peter laying her out afterwards was uncalled for. A gutsy move by Crystal and a classic heel (bad guy) move by Versoza, but still unsettling.
There have been many inter-gender matches in pro wrestling, though. I bet and I hope both parties – and PWR – know what they’re doing. Let’s see how this plays out.
What’s in store for Vendetta?
“One month! One month!” screamed Bryan Leo all the way to the back after the Royal Flush’s beatdown on Ralph Imabayashi post-main event.
That’s how long Leo and Imabayashi would prepare for their PWR Championship rematch at Vendetta on February 20 at iAcademy.
Jake de Leon’s Path of Gold opportunity will also be on the line in that event against Main Maxx.
Crowd favorites Rederick Mahaba and James “Idol” Martinez wage battle for the first time. Meanwhile, in PWR’s first inter-gender match, Crystal challenges Peter Versoza!
Plus, will SANDATA exact further revenge on Joey Bax, who the masked superstar attacked following the loss to Chris Panzer?
Speaking of Panzer, will he and Bombay Suarez arrive at Vendetta with MyPW titles?
PWR Live: Road to Vendetta was an enjoyable stopover. It was like WWE RAW lite, with a handful of interesting segments and lots of exciting in-ring action.
PWR GM Mr. Sy also played his role well, interjecting when things got out of control, and paving ways for the wrestlers to settle their scores. He even did a Theodore Long (playa!) when he set up the impromptu JDL/MDM vs. Royal Flush tag match.
The show's production improved, too, with intriguing taped segments played to the PWR crowd to complement the action.
Some wrestlers, though, would have to stick the landing of their moves better and put more oomph in dishing them out. It doesn’t take away from the overall PWR experience, but it’s just noticeable when it happens.
Nevertheless, to borrow a line from Pops of the Regular Show cartoon, it was a jolly good show. – Rappler.com
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research 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.