Three Star (Matches) and a Sun: Wrapping Up PWR’s 2017

ProjectsThree Star (Matches) and a Sun

I. Some Reflections on the Project

PWR’s 2017 wraps up with a sprinkling of matches from their last three shows of the year. Eight matches spread across three shows from September to November as well as one match from PWR’s weekend at the Asia Pop Comic Con. The pickings are sparse to say the least but still provide us interesting perspectives to analyze the developing nature of PWR at the end of the year. 

This footage seems to paint an entirely new transition for the company than the one felt at the start of the year. Even more new talent has come to the dance, the top title scene is in flux, and some of my personal favorites are on their way out the door soon enough. I suppose it’s in the nature of binge projects like these that the passage of time feels a little sharper than usual when it comes around. 

It’s around the time I was analyzing this year end footage that I felt myself losing steam for this project. Don’t get me wrong, I still fully expect to complete analyzing all the footage and writing up all my observations but something about the Power Mac Center era of shows just disagreed with me. In fact, by the time I finished up all the matches from PWR Vendetta 2017, I found myself feeling much more negative about the footage than usual.

Perhaps the worst offender from this set of footage would be The YOLO Twins vs. The Regime match from Vendetta. Now normally, this match would be a recipe for success in my books. It combines two things that I’m a big fan of in PWR footage: The YOLO Twins and international talent. 

Yet nothing in this match worked for me. The YOLO Twins felt a step slower than the normal, their heel characters dulled down by the lack of a proper heat segment. It doesn’t help things that Dr. Hertz’s style relies on the British style baiting and grappling that the YOLO Twins were clearly unaccustomed to working. Even Tengu’s high flying felt just the slightest bit off and crooked. I was shocked at how little this match did for me.

And that honestly gave me pause.

Even watching what I believe to be the roughest period of PWR’s history at its beginning, I found myself diving in with a nostalgic glee. Sure, the matches weren’t the best quality in the world, but there was an enterprising charm to it that just could not be denied. Here were guys who loved pro wrestling, going out there and putting their bodies on the line to reignite the industry in this country. It was hard to be mad at.

But by the time I wrapped up the 2017 footage, the bar had been raised. Guys like Billy Suede and Jake de Leon came in to show us just what Philippine wrestling could be and suddenly the failures that made up the charm of the earlier footage became much harder to swallow this time around. After all, this would be the fourth year of the company in the country, surely some amount of polish and progression could be expected. And at some points, that can definitely be seen, but in others it falls flat.

I really took the time to consider why these last few matches from 2017 left me feeling this way. Part of it might have something to do with my wrestling habits that surrounded my Philippine wrestling project. As I write this, it’s December of 2019 and I’m cramming in as much 2019 wrestling footage as I can for my year end lists. That meant that in between matches from PWR Vendetta, I was watching matches by Konosuke Takeshita, Meiko Satomura, David Starr, Timothy Thatcher, and more. Surely even local wrestlers can attest that those workers are on a way different level of talent to most Filipino workers even today, let alone from two years ago.

Consuming that much wrestling of such a high quality might have done the Vendetta footage a disservice as the contrast simply became too stark. Keep in mind also that at the peak of my consumption of Filipino footage, I would watch multiple matches if not multiple shows in a single day. This meant that my comparison of workers existed mostly in relation only to the local scene. Opening up the perspective to more international wrestling might have tainted my view of the matches I had left to cover. 

Perhaps, I had grown too attached to the PWR of early 2017 already. Through the footage, I’d become invested in talents like Billy Suede, Jake de Leon, The YOLO Twins, and even more. The sudden influx of new talents might have shaken the foundations that I had built my PWR viewing experience on, creating an adversarial reaction to some of the newer elements on my screen. 

There is also the possibility that the wrestling just wasn’t as good as everything else that 2017 had to offer. While I find that there is some truth to that too, I promise that this write up won’t be entirely gloom and doom. There are still a pair of gems and highlights hiding in this footage. And if anything, one match even surpassed my initial viewing of it which means that there’s still upwards mobility for the footage here as well as what I plan to watch in the future.

II. Billy Suede: PWR 2017 MVP

For the first time since the company’s inception, Jake de Leon isn’t the standout of the year. That’s not to say that Jake de Leon regressed in any way. His work remains ambitious, psychologically sound, and diverse. But as I’ve mentioned in previous pieces, it’s near impossible to match Suede’s polish and experience.

When we last left PWR, Suede had just been crowned the PWR Championship in my favorite Panzer match of the footage that we have. It was absolutely the right call to put the belt on Suede. Not only was he comfortably the best wrestler on the roster, he also got wildly over with the crowds and had a way of piquing their attention and redirecting their energy in a way that only true veterans can. 

In a perfect world, Suede stayed with us for years and pushed out banger after banger month in and month out. Sadly for us, the real world is never quite so kind. Especially the real world of pro wrestling. 

After winning the title, Suede would only have two more matches with the company (not counting the Asia Pop Comic Con shows) which are luckily available for us to enjoy. In fact, outside of the APCC matches, Suede’s complete run on PWR’s main shows is available to us via YouTube which is truly one of the great blessings of the 2017 footage.

First up, we have a three way championship match between Billy Suede, Ralph Imabayashi, and Chris Panzer. Imabayashi is riding high after winning his rivalry against Jake de Leon in a Matira Matibay which makes him an ideal contender to Suede’s crown. Panzer, on the other hand, gets this opportunity for…reasons? Not only did he lose the title to Suede, he also lost a one-on-one rematch to Suede at the APCC weekend. So, not exactly sure what got him this chance kayfabe-wise.

Booking aside, this is a good match. It’s your standard three-way with everyone given a chance to shine and show off. Suede acts as the glue with his big bumps and stiff strikes making him both a credible obstacle as well as a generous seller. The three men string together decent sequences together and the pace never dips for too long.

Of note is that they do a three-way strike exchange spot which we also saw in the JDL-Ralph-Panzer match and we’ll see later on from the Bolt-Zayden-Mike match. It’s a go to spot for these stipulation matches and a little lazy, all things considered. Definitely one of those spots that feels like a checkbox that needs to be ticked as opposed to something that occurs organically within the match. It is worth nothing though that the iteration in this title match is probably the best version of the spot that they did this year. Mostly cause Suede has some heavy, heavy hands.

Also worth noting that Suede continues to incorporate comedic spots into his matches. I do think that it’s better incorporated this time around as opposed to the “Kiss Me” spot in his Panzer title match. Here it plays off more as a direct result of the action in the ring instead of a strange intrusion from outside the reality of the wrestling involved.

It’s a fun match with Panzer walking away with the win and the belt. Panzer’s up and down year continues with a title reign briefly interrupted and just as quickly restarted. It’s very stop and go with Panzer but with the belt back on his shoulder maybe he can pick up steam again.

With Suede doing the honors and dropping the PWR Title back to a full time roster member, that leaves him with one final match to leave a mark on the Revo-nation. For his farewell match, he takes on fellow Canadian Zayden Trudaeu. 

Though he we don’t have much footage of his ascent in 2017, Zayden Trudaeu developed a reputation as a spectacular midcard high flyer that lands him in this high profile match-up. Just following on the footage, the leap from showcase match against Vintend0 to wrestling Billy Suede’s farewell match would be pretty jarring if I didn’t know about Zayden’s trajectory in the company afterwards. 

At the time, Suede and Trudeau marketed this match as the “All Canadian Classic” which means they unsurprisingly go for an indie epic style match up. Luckily, of anyone on the PWR roster, Suede is probably the most well-equipped to pull it off and he leads Zayden through a thrilling bout here.

Zayden keeps up decently here but there’s holes in his game. For a spot-based high flyer, he doesn’t have the smoothness and speed that one might expect. He displays some decent fire though and his offense is unique enough amidst the rest of the roster to leave an impact. 

What left the best impression from this match were the transitions. The way Suede forces Zayden to step up to his level and constantly found ways to cut him off made Zayden’s struggle to topple the former champ all the more compelling. To see him build and build momentum before finally getting the victory at the end of the day made for one of the best matches on the whole set by far. 

With that, we say goodbye to Billy Suede as far as the YouTube footage is concerned. Easily the wrestler of the year and even with this short run, one of the most talented and significant wrestlers in PWR’s history. 

II. The Next Generation

The most notable changes to the PWR roster in late 2017 come from the midcard. We’ve already met Trian dela Torre in his All Out War match against The Apocalypse but at PWR Live: Sugod! we see him fight alongside Evan Carleaux as The Naughty Boys in a four-way tag team match. Among their opponents on that night we also have The Kakaibros of Mh4rckie and Kh3ndrick. Sadly for us, we’re not treated to a promo from the Kakaibros. 

The Punk Dolls of Robynn & Martivo and The YOLO Twins fill up the remainder of this four-way match that gives us a glimpse into what the future of the PWR tag team division will look like. Both The Naughty Boys and The Kakaibros would become major fixtures in the tag team ranks down the line so these early bits of footage from them paint a picture of just how far they’ve come. 

Unfortunately for us, it does come in the form of a four-way tag match which is a difficult enough stipulation with highly experienced tag teams let alone two fresh ones in their first year of pro work. The match is unable to sustain any significant narrative for too long but that’s not what multiteam matches like this are for anyway. It’s more of a showcase bout–give everyone a chance to do a few spots, pop the crowd with a few dives, then take it home. 

In that way, no one really impresses. Even the dives they execute blur in the memory as the “everyone gather by the apron and wait to catch the diving worker” spot has already begun to wear itself thin on this footage by now. It’s always the same spot too. Everyone has a bit of a brawl on the outside then two or three people take turns diving to the outside for no real reason other than diving looks kind of cool and gets a decent reaction from the crowd.

PWR Vendetta gives us a glimpse of the newly crowned PHX Champion, Mike Madrigal. After Chino Guinto vacated the title, Madrigal won the title in a tournament during the APCC weekend. We don’t have footage of his title win but I think Madrigal’s a good pick for this spot. He has a strong character and while he doesn’t have the best ring work going around, his charisma lends him a lot of credibility that makes him perfect for a midcard title like the PHX belt.

It’s in that well defined character that makes this match stand out for him. Mike sitting outside the ring reading a newspaper as Bolt and Zayden run through their junior heavyweight sequences. And really between the spots and Mike sitting at ringside, Mike reading the paper is much more exciting. Nothing sums up what makes this match great better than Bolt and Zayden doing their best Ricochet-Ospreay babyface superhero pose stand off only for Mike to slide in from the outside and join in on the pose. Kupal indeed.

That truly is a special spot and says a lot about the local scene and wrestling in general if you ask me. As Bolt and Zayden work far too hard in the ring with their not-too-perfect sequences, Mike can come in and steal the show with a simple pose. A brilliant microcosm of the duality of pro wrestling today. Sometimes less truly is far, far more.

As you might have noticed, this is our first glimpse at the aforementioned Bolt who remains a fixture of the PWR midcard even to this day. He doesn’t leave too much of an impression on the memory in this match. Mostly he runs through some decent enough cruiserweight style moves as well some not-too decent strikes. He is inoffensive in this match flanked on either side by someone with a superior moveset and someone with a superior character. Not Bolt’s fault, but that’s how it is.

III. Jake de Leon Turns and Kuya Migs Owns

The centerpiece of the PWR Vendetta 2017 footage is the Ubusan ng Lahi match pitting Team Sy (Chris Panzer, Dax Xaviera, Miguel Rosales, Joey Bax, & SANDATA) against Team Sebastian (John Sebastian, Rederick Mahaba, Ralph Imabayashi, Peter Versoza, and a mystery fifth man) with the control of PWR on the line. This comes as the climax to a storyline where John Sebastian bought fifty percent of the company and thus shared power with Mr. Sy who was the company’s long-serving general manager.

This match holds iconic status among longtime PWR fans for a couple of reasons. 

First, the identity of the mystery fifth man. The final man to round out the heel force of Team Sebastian would be none other than “The Senyorito” Jake de Leon. Yes, for the first time, the top babyface in the country turned heel. There’s very little to hint at this in the footage we have and the live crowd’s reaction reflects this shock. There’s a major reaction to the turn but then just confused follow ups as no one really wants to boo Jake de Leon.

I can’t even say that this is Jake’s fault. He makes subtle changes to his performance from the get go–unsmiling on his way to the ring, denying the fans their “Yay!” chant as he poses (a move undermined by Sebastian and Mahaba doing it on his behalf), and putting a bigger emphasis on limb work and arm psychology in the ring. This move doesn’t work for a very simple reason: no one wants to dislike Jake de Leon. 

The only time JDL gets heat in this match comes in the back end of the match when he breaks up a pinfall attempt. One can even hear a fan cry out, “We still love you!” towards the start of the match.

The second thing that makes this match iconic would be Miguel Rosales’ performance in the finishing stretch. This Ubusan ng Lahi match utilizes the classic Survivor Series trope of the singular babyface staring down insurmountable odds. Rosales finds himself at the end of this match taking on three men, all former PWR Champions in Jake de Leon, Ralph Imabyashi, and John Sebastian.

And Rosales makes the absolute most of the moment, suplexing the three former champions into oblivion, even eliminating Jake de Leon and John Sebastian. He only falls at the end of the match after Rederick sneaks in a steel tray to Ralph which he uses to wallop Rosales in the head. A Tombstone Piledriver follow up puts an end to Rosales’ shining moment of glory.

But oh what a moment it was while it lasted. 

Miguel Rosales has been such a fantastic find during this project. When I first ran into him on PWR’s YouTube page many years ago, I wrote him off as nothing more than a cheap Brock Lesnar-Goldberg knock off. It’s easy to make that assumption because it’s pretty much true. Rosales’ whole moveset is built around Barangay Suplex (whose name takes direct inspiration from Lesnar), a Spear, and a Jackhammer. 

But writing him off as a cheap knock off ignores a very important fact: Brock Lesnar and Goldberg are amazing.

Derivative as it may be, it’s a genuine sight to behold Miguel Rosales thrashing people around to take them to Barangay Suplex. Neither Brock Lesnar nor Goldberg will ever cast a sidewards glance at Metro Manila to perform here. 

But who needs them when we have Kuya Migs? Barangay Suplex is better than Suplex City. It’s cheaper for one, no need to pay an exorbitant house show ticket fee. But more than that, by the time you see bodies flying and crashing to the mat: it’s real. It’s right there before your eyes. You can see the elevation and you can feel the crunch of flesh and bone against canvas. 

Miguel Rosales becomes better than Lesnar and Goldberg because Miguel Rosales is ours. And Miguel Rosales is here. 

But more than that, more than just the vicarious joy of seeing a well loved spot from abroad made reality at home, Miguel Rosales was an ambitious worker. In all the footage we have of him, he absolutely throws himself at his matches, doing everything he can to pop the crowd. It’s not a smart way to work, it’s not a good way to work, but I find it admirable because more often than not, he succeeds. 

I guess the reason I dedicate so much of this time to Miguel Rosales and his fantastic run at the end of the Ubusan ng Lahi match is because I know where the history is going. While this won’t be our last glimpse of Miguel Rosales in the PWR footage, I do know that his last match takes place at PWR Wrevolution X 2018. This run marks the final spark to kick off a final main event run as a show of gratitude for the time he put into the scene.

We don’t have his retirement match footage but this sure makes a great substitute. After all, his final opponent in this match is Ralph Imabayashi, who would be his final opponent at Wrevolution X. It’s a nice preview of the history that was to come. Imabayashi is the perfect foil to him to end this match as well. Watch his face when he realizes that he’s the last man left to go up against Rosales: pure heel horror.

Outside of Kuya Migs’s miracle run and Jake de Leon’s turn, this is an unspectacular match. Overlong and bloated, it suffers from a heel team that’s more funny than infuriating, and a crowd that can’t be bothered to boo too hard or cheer too loud. Whether that’s down to the fairly uninspired first half or just 2017 PWR crowd weirdness, I can’t be sure.

And now, finally, The Apocalypse.

IV. The Apocalypse and Vlad Sinnsyk Go to War

I know what you’re thinking. This is going to be another piling on about The Apocalypse, the wrestler I’ve been most critical of throughout this series. I’m going to sit here from my ivory tower of smarkdom raining criticisms down upon him yet again, talk about how All Out War is a confused tonally dissonant stipulation, perhaps maybe even drag Vlad into my criticisms somehow.

Nope. I liked this match.

That’s not to say that this match was good, far from it. This match is a structural mess with a finishing stretch designed to prey on any sense of logical progression, ring psychology, or pacing. Apocalypse’s threat level fluctuates yet again as he goes from struggling to put away Trian dela Torre in a comedy match to standing toe-to-toe with bruiser Vlad Sinnsyk and absorbing all his best shots. In the dela Torre match, Apocalypse sold bubbles being blown into his eyes whereas here he brushed off kendo stick shots like they were nothing.

It’s a dumb match from a critical perspective.

But I think that’s what I like about it? There’s a sense of daring and ambition in this match that I haven’t quite felt since the Miguel Rosales vs. Mayhem Brannigan match from 2015. Just the vibe of two guys going out there and throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick. Forget organic unity, forget match structure and layout. Just do stuff.

For one thing, it must be applauded that Vlad and Apocalypse picked a tone and they stuck to it. The comedy in here was near nonexistent and they worked a match that definitely attempted to project a sense of true danger. 

You can feel it from the weapons that they use. For the first time, we see a proper wrestling folding chair, Apocalypse brings out (but fails to use) a genuine hammer, and we even get ladder and plywood spots to round out the whole shebang. And really, I would be lying if I said that my positive feelings towards this match didn’t directly stem from that big bump off of the ladder.

Apocalypse piles up plastic chairs with sheets of plywood in between to form what looks like a backyarder’s version of a CZW deathmatch spot. And you know what? Bless him, Apocalypse takes that ridiculous bump off the ladder through the plywood and chairs. It looked equal parts sloppy, dangerous, and awesome. I loved it. Just a show of complete reckless abandon that charmed its way onto my good side by the sheer spectacle of its own stupidity.

Even the senseless call to have Apocalypse fighting-spirit out of the big bump, rivaling Lio Rush when it comes to idiotic no-sells, and extending this into a finishing stretch that ended with a bland Muscle Buster couldn’t take away the joy this match left me with. 

This was the last match I saw when I reviewed the Vendetta 2017 footage as I’d miss it on my initial pass. And I think it was perfect to be the last match I saw from PWR 2017. I don’t know, there was just something about this match. I could sense it reaching, trying to surpass what had been set as a precedent before it and I couldn’t dislike it for that reason. It completely sliced through the cynicism that I felt watching the other matches from this show and pulled at my wrestling heartstrings. 

It’s not a good match, but it’s an impressive one.

Photo credits to Jacky Rosales

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