PWR 2014: From My Side of the Fence [No Curtains Needed #3]

By William Elvin Manzano

I wanted to write a long-form article about dirty, controversial finishes and its place in today’s modern wrestling landscape, but unfortunately, a question from Martin Vicencio derailed that plan. Also, since this will be a very long one, I will only be able to answer one question for now. I’ll save the other ones for next week.

Martin Vicencio: Since CBL did give a shout out to Mr. Elvin and Mr. Litton, any chance to hear your side of that story that happened back in 2014?

Obviously, this would be a more interesting topic. So, the thing about controversial finishes would have to wait.

Alright, here is the PWR story from my perspective, the way I remember it. You can ask the people involved for more details, but here is my account from when I got involved to when I quit the promotion in 2014.

And just a bit of a heads up, if I may make one. These events happened four years ago. The story I will tell involves younger, inexperienced, naïve and immature versions of ourselves – way different from the characters you now know, love or hate. We’ve all changed since then. We are all different people now from when we first knew each other, for better or for worse. But regardless of what happened to us, whatever hurtful or painful memories we may have caused each other along the way, I will always be proud of the fact that I was among the ones who first built the dream. Yes, the Philippine wrestling dream that we are all living in today.

Beginning

I’m not sure about a lot of details on the earliest days of PWR’s foundation, and a lot of this article’s segment may be told in the wrong order. All I’m sure of is that it started with a Facebook group of wrestling fans in the Philippines. For reasons I really can’t remember, I was already friends on FB with Ace Victor (you may know him now as PWR’s Kanto Terror), who I believe was the one who added me in.

I also do not remember much about how I ended up being in the core group of the PWR founders. I remember that we all had a lot of ideas on the group’s name, and finally settled with PWR – Philippine Wrestling Revolution. I recall Enoch (now known as MWF Frankie Thurteen) and a graphic artist named Kirk Castillo had a lot to do with this name, along with the contributions of the others in the group.

One thing I can remember is that the first guy in the group I met in person was Bombay Suarez. We spent hours talking about wrestling over cigarettes (and coffee, maybe?) over at the open area near the cinemas of the Shangri-La Mall.  We then formed a core group of 9 members to start building the promotion: myself, Mike Litton, Yusuf Meer (Classical Bryan Leo), Nelson Aman Jr, Ace Victor, Ouel Babasa, Bombay Suarez, Emjay Lapus, and a guy named Jay Alfonso who dropped out of the group early on.

But, being inexperienced and naïve people we were back then, energies and ideas were all over the place. There was no clear leader, and everyone was just voicing out their opinions and insisting on them. This was when we decided to elect officers within us, in a meeting I sadly wasn’t able to attend. Around this time, I was also in the creative development of “Maxie The Musical”, a stage adaptation of the film Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, and we had a meeting the night of the PWR election.

I was driving home when Emjay Lapus called me up, informing me that I had been elected as Vice President to Yusuf, who was elected as the group’s leader. I am not sure how true this was, but Emjay told me that I was getting a bit of push to be the president, but reasonably, they opted not to because of my busy schedule. So from there, Yusuf was President, I was the VP, and Mike was appointed to be the head booker, with Ouel also working with us creatively. Nelson Aman was our trusted secretary, Emjay took care of the early legal inquiries, Bombay was in charge of training, and Ace was put in charge of logistics (if I remember this correctly). In that group, it was myself, Yusuf and Mike who grew the closest. 

I’m not sure if most of you are aware of this one, but the real public debut of PWR was when we made up about 95% of the very small audience at REINA and Wrestling New Classic’s Joshi+Jam Manila in January 2014, held at the Ynares Gym in Pasig, which featured Tajiri, Mia Yim and Filipina-Japanese Syuri Kandou. To this day, I am baffled by the lack of effort by the producers to promote this event. According to Mike, he was friends with the promoter on FB, and passed the details to Nelson who got in touch with the contacts in the Philippines – a housewife and her daughter.

We met with the contact persons a number of times in Seattle’s Tomas Morato, with the understanding that they wanted to work with us. We inquired about if we can have the ring they will use after their show, in exchange with our help in promoting it. Ouel got a good promotion deal with one of the top local pop stations, but aside from that, the producers themselves never really did a thing, as far as I know and have observed. The housewife and her daughter were very nice and sweet to us, but they seemed like they didn’t care about the venture at all. 

Anyway, all we got from that deal were free tickets, a commentary spot for Yusuf and Mike (which no one heard), a quick spot for Bombay doing a Northern Lights Suplex and getting choke slammed during intermission, as well as great pictures. To us, that night seemed like enough motivation to really start getting serious about the promotion.

It was around that time when more people were becoming aware of PWR’s existence, and talent started pouring in, including Josh Bauserman (a trained wrestler who helped teaching the basics to the early PWR wrestlers), Jake de Leon, Ken Warren, Robin Sane, Rex Lawin, Mr. Lucha, etc. Tarek El Tayech also started helping out, and the group just grew bigger and bigger.

Perhaps the most notable character to come out of this batch — at least for purposes of this story – was Jason Dimayuga, a Fliptop rapper that goes by the rap name of Ice Rocks, and who gave himself the ring name Mayhem Brannigan.

PWR Revolution Now

Because we really had no clue what we were doing then, we were ready to get and take advantage of all the help that was being offered to us. It was around this time when I co-wrote a musical in Ateneo de Manila, which included Tarek El Tayech and veteran sportscaster Bill Velasco in the cast. Bill said he wants to check PWR out, and maybe even feature us in his sports show in the ABSCBN News Channel. I introduced him to Yusuf, leading to that fateful meeting in Xavierville Avenue where I was food poisoned and was sent to the hospital by Yusuf and Bill. (You can ask Yusuf for stories about my misfortunes and unfortunate incidents with him, he can tell you quite a few)

Anyway, Bill asked us for a proof of concept, one where sponsors can see the wrestlers and the wrestling product. That was how PWR’s first show, Revolution Now, was conceived.

It was only when we were booking Revolution Now when creative differences between Yusuf, Mike and myself became apparent. I won’t go into details, but I was forced into being the middleman between two of my closest friends at that time, and believe me, it really did not feel good at all. I got non-stop calls from Yusuf about how the guys are complaining about Mike’s booking, and I got Mike to defend his ideas often, causing more stress for all parties. It was very tiring, and contributed to a lot of stress I was already dealing with from my theater career and personal life. Not to mention, I was already thinking seriously about permanently moving to Hong Kong during this period. It was just negativity from all aspects of my life.

We were able to overcome all the differences and worked well together in booking Revolution Now, but the friendship between Yusuf and Mike were going downhill from there, and me being their third best buddy just made it worse. Apart from all the creative disagreements, I could say that our younger selves also got overwhelmed with the real world responsibilities of actually putting up a company, so our efforts and energies only became more scattered.

Wendy’s Glorietta – the meeting from hell

As a 13-year theater arts veteran, I have dealt with and got involved in a lot of backstage drama and heavy politicking. But to this day, nothing compares to that Wendy’s Glorietta meeting PWR had, which had one specific purpose: to get rid of Mike Litton in front of the whole roster, without him even expecting it. The worst part of that day, which still makes me kinda sick of it until now, is that I knew everything that was about to happen but chose to not even warn Mike. From what I remember, the two leaders of that cause were Ice Rocks and Yusuf.

Before that fateful meeting, I remember gathering up with Yusuf, Ouel, Ice, JDL (not sure but I remember him being there), and Tarek at a nearby Family Mart to discuss the afternoon’s proceedings. We were about to put Mike on the spot by asking him to book one whole show right then and there, and compare it to what Yusuf came up with. This was going to happen in front of the whole roster, seemingly designed to totally embarrass Mike. Unfortunately, I went along with it.

But damn, when I saw Mike in that long table at Wendy’s – one of my very few true friends – being in that horrible situation, I had a sudden change of heart. With the help of a few members of the PWR talent pool, including Mr. Lucha, we were able to maneuver the conversation to save Mike’s spot as PWR’s booker for at least one more day, and made Yusuf and his group more frustrated. Ice saw this as us being “spineless”, but in that situation, personally, I was saving Mike from further embarrassment while still trying to hold on to Yusuf’s friendship.

The end of my PWR run

Needless to say, Mike’s and Yusuf’s friendship, as well as Mike’s grasp in the PWR roster, grew thinner quickly ever since. Me, I knew I was almost done. Emotionally beat up with my life’s drama around that time, I decided to just leave the country and build my life here in Hong Kong, away from all the negativity.

A day before I left the country in August 2014, I visited the PWR training for the last time at Fitplus Gym Bicutan. I was approached by Ice and JDL. “Ok, so now that you’re leaving, we’d like to take the VP spot,” Ice said. Take note that it was all Ice speaking, and JDL was just there. JDL was always nice to me, and I have nothing but good memories with him during my time in PWR. I told them to call Yusuf up, to make it official. Yusuf agreed.

“First order of business, we’ll get rid of Mike,” Ice continued. There were many reasons given as to why they wanted to totally get rid of Mike, but none of them ever warranted such hostility, at least in my opinion. I just told them to call up Mike and tell him their decision in person. I was tired of all the drama. I was willing to let go.

I was still part of the booking team for PWR Renaissance 2014 with Ouel and Yusuf, which I remember to go smoothly. I remember Tarek being in charge of putting together some of the angles, too. Aside from booking the show, I was away from all their affairs at that time, and was just happy to be writing wrestling from Hong Kong.

However, that all changed when we were booking Terminus 2014. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, as the saying goes. Leading up to it, we were encountering difficulties in running ideas with Ice, who often insisted on his own ideas regarding the Mayhem Brannigan character. If I remember it correctly, we were running a storyline where Mayhem, an anarchist, was suspended by PWR management. To continue this story, I pushed for him to not have a match at Terminus just yet, and instead do angles throughout the show. I called the idea for the series of angles “Brannigan Brigade,” where a number of PWR bootcampers were to invade the show wearing the Mayhem mask and gear. The show was meant to end by having him featured heavily in a big angle.

He insisted on having (and winning) a hardcore match against The Apocalypse, and, as told to me by Ouel, was refusing to do what was being asked of him. I tried talking to Yusuf about it, but he told me to just adjust the plans according to what Ice wanted. We had our last stressful argument about the script and the details he wanted me to change. I was totally spent and done dealing with PWR.

I remember just telling Ouel that I’m quitting the promotion, which he took with much respect. He thanked me for all the things I’ve done and the memories we shared, and we agreed to go on separate ways. However, Yusuf basically giving Ice the key to just change his booking according to what he wanted really frustrated me. Call it an attack to my ego, or a bit of jealousy because a friend chose another guy over my ideas, but I admit, it really felt like I was betrayed. So I chose to attack Yusuf back.

I talked to the other guys in the PWR talent pool who I know were also frustrated with what was happening in the promotion,  and fed their disappointments. I was among the ones who riled them up against Yusuf and in effect the whole of PWR, which, from what I remember, was the first real division in the Philippine wrestling scene.

I own up to that. It could have been dealt with much more peacefully. I could have just walked away and left the whole thing. But, I didn’t. I was among the ones who built the dream, and was also among the ones who first fanned the flames, hoping to burn it down. All the negativity just piled up, and exploded into one big ball of anger and more ugly emotions.

Epilogue

After a few months, I sent a personal message to Yusuf, with Ouel and JDL as witnesses, and apologized for all the trouble and ugliness I helped create. We forgave one another, and patched everything up. After that, Yusuf was giving me updates on PWR’s success, and I have been genuinely happy for the promotion ever since.

Around the same time, Mike was setting up Manila Wrestling Federation with Mr. Lucha and Robin Sane. Mike would message me from time to time, and we exchanged some ideas about wrestling. This opened up the doors to where we are now, with me and Mike working together again to establish MWF in 2018.

So here I am, running wrestling shows with dear friends again. And happy.

***

 

That’s it for now. I would imagine all of this would take some time for all of you to digest. Here’s my side of the truth, now, if you can, ask the other people for their take, and for them to fill in the details.

Thank you for reading. Thanks for your question, too, Martin V.

 

Special thanks to Nelson Aman Jr., a.k.a. THE Nelson Jr., for the photos. 

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Bootcamps, Booking, Bible-Thumpers and More [No Curtains Needed #2]

By William Elvin Manzano

 

Greetings, mga #KapaFED!

Before I begin answering your questions this week, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for supporting MWF’s Insider Online initiative. As most of you may have figured out, we’re using the FB group and the blog to closely communicate with you, hardcore fans of the Philippine wrestling scene. We are trying our best to get more of the mainstream entertainment viewers to check out our programs, but we know that it will always be you that is the heart and soul of our fanbase.

With that being said, let’s start the discussion!

EJ NepomuXennial:  When will be your next bootcamp? Is there any possibility for a bootcamp to be held around Quezon City? It is because I am from Valenzuela. I admit not being much athletic-looking and already around late 30s but I have ample martial arts background and used to be active in some extreme sports, can I still join? Thanks in advance.

Naturally, we receive this question quite often, in the form of “Paano maging wrestler? Gusto ko mag-apply.”

We will soon welcome people to train with us, which is exciting especially with the growing knowledge we are gaining from our visiting guests, such as Ho Ho Lun and Eurasian Dragon. We are making steps to make the bootcamp as organized and systematized as possible before we open it to new aspiring professional wrestlers.

Just a quick tip I want to share to those who dream of stepping into the ring: Please, stop worrying about your gimmicks and learn how to work first and foremost. Remember, the legendary rock and roll band KISS learned to play their instruments first before putting on their make-up and elaborate costumes. (Sorry kids, this old man can’t think of younger references.)

Create-A-Wrestler screen from WWF Attitude, Playstation 1.

It’s ok to dream up something, and have ideas on how you want to present yourselves once you learn how to wrestle safely and effectively. But please remember, you are not a video game create-a-wrestler where you can just decide your gimmick and moveset minutes before your first match.

I’m saying this because I’ve met aspiring wrestlers who become frustrated and disappointed because their mindset was wrong in the first place. You learn to work first, and then you become a wrestler with a gimmick that suits you and your abilities. It doesn’t work the other way around.

Maow Del Rosario:  When are we gonna see the young talent such as Frankie Thurteen, Hanzello Shilva, Morgan Vaughn, and Aldrin Richards in the main event scene? And what would it take to get them there?

Kristoff Sison:  I appreciate the openness to discuss long-term booking! With that, how do you decide who becomes a main-eventer and who gets feuds and matches in the mid- and under-card? Recently, it seemed to move from Lucha-Sane, to Lawin-Stryker, and now back to Lucha-Sane. What does this mean for crowd favorites such as Aldrin, Fabio, and Moises? Is this a challenge considering there isn’t a championship in the promotion yet that creates divisions?

Don’t worry about all those names you mentioned. We have very definite and specific plans on where to take each and every one of them in the next year or two. Here’s what I can tell you: We basically know what we want to happen to all our characters and all the stories we want to tell for the next three years. Of course, nothing is set in stone, as we may have to adjust details when we hear crowd reactions and feedback, but it really helps to have a road map of where you want to go before you set out on a long journey. We’re definitely taking a comic-book style story arc approach to this thing we’d like to call the “ManilaVerse”.

This is also why we prefer to keep our main roster a bit small, so we can focus on everyone and tell their stories as clear and tight as possible. We will have new characters along the way, of course, but rest assured that everyone in the current roster, including the ones you mentioned, have definite and hopefully satisfying destinations.

Carlo Agoncillo: How does your creative process work? Can wrestlers give creative input when they get into feuds? Do they have creative freedom to select their feuds or storylines?

Yup. Pretty much accurate. (from virtualinstructor.com)

The MWF creative process generally works like this: The Management agrees on a big picture long-term plan, then me and MWF Commissioner Mike Shannon convene to lay out details before we come back to the Management to finalize things. Our wrestlers can pitch their ideas, and we will see if and when it could fit in the ongoing arcs we’re writing. In fact, some of them already have given pitches that are now being incorporated in the stories.

Most of the time, we approach them about a seed idea that we have, and we work with them closely on fleshing out the details.

Maow Del Rosario: Follow up question to one from the last Q&A. You said that you’d only bring in a championship belt when absolutely necessary. My question is, if there is no belt around yet, what is it exactly that the roster is fighting for, or what is their current goal that they are working towards (kayfabe / storyline-wise)?

Yes, we will not bring in a championship title if we don’t feel that it is a necessity. That being said, it is also our duty as the creative team to plot out a situation that would introduce the title in a meaningful, important and special way. So in this regard, we ask you to sit back, relax, and wait for it soon.

To answer the second part of your question, the MWF wrestlers are all jockeying for the top spot as they await the main prize. Robin Sane and Mr. Lucha organically become the figureheads for our new promotion due to them being the pioneers, but it is a free-for-all until someone climbs the mountain.

Maow Del Rosario: How would you fantasy book a cross over event between all Philippine Wrestling promotions?

Hopefully, I won’t have to fantasy book anything and book that crossover show for real. MWF is currently taking steps to have a cross-promotional charity event this year, involving the other two wrestling promotions in the country. This is intended to be a part of the MWFoundation, an initiative being planned by the Management.

Exciting, yes? If you guys believe in a higher being, this is the best time to close your eyes and pray for it to happen.

Romeo Moran: why did you kill moises?

Moises is not dead. In fact, the Liwanag story is just about to start. Borrowing from the gimmick a bit, we ask you to have a little faith.

We were told Moises Liwanag was last seen here.

Crisencio Galvez: pro wrestling is always tied to the use of performance enhancing drugs what is your stand on it.

I am against anything that can harm wrestlers’ long-term health. My theatre mentors always told us that there is no substitute for hard work. I believe this applies to every genre of performance and art.

Carlo Agoncillo: That article was very informative do you think you can do articles on Asian wrestling stars like Poppy, Afif Ahmi Greg Glorious or Shaukat so Filipino wrestling fans can get to know them better?

It’s a nice idea to write articles introducing guest wrestlers from around the world when they come in and work shows with us. For now, we plan to write articles to feature members of our roster one-by-one, so you may know them more. But yes, the possibility of eventually working with all those names are huge.

Martin Vicencio With your musical background, any plans on composing or making MWF entrance themes? (if you have done such already, which ones were they? etc.)

I wrote and recorded the current MWF theme music, the one you always hear in our videos. Regarding the entrance themes, we’re currently conceptualizing original music for the wrestlers with Teresa Barrozo, who has years of experience writing music for Filipino movies and stage productions.

Mark De Joya: Between Mike Shannon, Tarek, Robin Sane, and Fabio, I’d have to say that MWF has the best hair game among the Philippine feds. What brands of shampoo do you each use, and can you share your haircare tips?

I just received a message from Tarek, which said this: This Friday’s edition of Tarek’s Take will now be all about his hair care regimen, from scalp, to face, to chest, to parts unknown.

I’m just going to share some interesting tidbits about this whole hair thing.

I used to have long hair and a bushy beard too. During the early days of PWR planning, I remember a day when we met the representatives of Joshi+Jam Manila at Seattle’s Best Tomas Morato (where Bryan Leo and I used to spend whole days just talking about wrestling non-stop). The representatives – a housewife and her daughter – met Mike a week earlier, and were only meeting me for the first time that day. When I arrived, they both said “Ay, ayan na si Mike”. I told them I was not Mike, but kept on calling me Mike throughout the meeting.

Me and my long hair in my cameo appearance as Mang Axel in “Maxie: The Musical”, an original Filipino musical I co-wrote.

Also, in 2014, I co-wrote an original musical titled Breakaway Antigone for Tanghalang Ateneo. This was where I met Tarek El Tayech, who was an actor there. Multi-awarded writer and director Floy Quintos, who wrote the musical’s book and lyrics, legitimately freaked out during rehearsals one night, when Tarek was standing behind the lights booth and Floy thought he was my doppelganger.

Now, I know what Tarek would say: I look waaay better than you, Will. Tarek, I know you’re reading this. I agree.

 

That’s it for this week’s “No Curtains Needed”! Let’s continue the conversation and just send me your questions for next week! And, see you on April 8 for MWF 1: Kasaysayan!

 

On Championships and Dream Matches [No Curtains Needed #1]

By William Elvin Manzano

 

Hello, KapaFEDs! I welcome you to the first-ever “No Curtains Needed”, where I — your ever-approachable and ever-patient MWF Creative Director — answer any question you throw at me every week!

Basically, it’s just like that Curious Cat thing. But I like writing long sentences, so I’ll answer all your questions here for all the world to see.

A curious cat that got amused.

Mark De Joya, also known as MDJ, of Smark Henry Wrestling News asks:

When will we finally be blessed with a MWF Championship?

We are already in talks with the one who will design and make our championship belt(s), so it could happen anytime soon. However, like anything else in entertainment and fiction, I say the real issue here is when and how an MWF championship title should debut.

See, the thing we’re avoiding is having a championship title just for the sake of having one, or just because all federations are supposed to have one. Being old-school-minded wrestling bookers, we want to introduce a championship title when it is ABSOLUTELY needed and ABSOLUTELY essential to do so. The last thing we need is one more belt that doesn’t mean anything – and actually just muddles things up – in the Southeast Asian wrestling scene.

The introduction of a championship, just like anything else we plan to do, would require a little bit more patience and trust from you, beloved fans of our product. We promise that when we finally unveil that belt, we would do our best to make it special.

Orville Brown, recognized as the first NWA World Heavyweight Champion in 1948.

Ritz Sy asks:

Will there be a set of South East Asian championship titles implemented in the future, and being defended within the region?

Before I got deeply involved with MWF creative early this year, one of the things I wanted to try was to introduce a special Southeast Asian belt that could be defended all over the region, and could maybe be won and later defended in Manila or here in Hong Kong. Well, before I even got to plan that out, MWF came calling. And now, we’re all here.

Continuing the conversation from MDJ’s question, if MWF is to introduce a Southeast Asian title, it has to be genuinely fought over by wrestlers across all the region, and not just a token given to my friends and people I like. It has to be run like the old NWA World title, and that would need a lot of politics and diplomacy and stress and headaches and more coffee-induced migraines.

Carlo Agoncillo asks:

Will we see SPW or MYPW stars like Alexis Lee, Emman Noorazman and the Statement in a future MWF show? If yes what dream matches would you like to see?

We have a great working relationship with Singapore Pro Wrestling, and Kenneth ‘The Eurasian Dragon’ Thexeira is main-eventing MWF 1: Kasaysayan with Mr. Lucha as his tag partner against Robin Sane and Ho Ho Lun. In 2016, MWF was fortunate enough to have had “The Statement” Andruew Tang and Alexis Lee at HistoryCon, also with the Eurasian Dragon. So, if we were able to get them to be part of our shows before, I don’t see why it couldn’t happen again. And with our Southeast Asian friendships, I don’t see why MYPW would be out of reach.

Regarding dream matches involving SPW/MYPW talent, “The Statement” Andruew Tang vs. Hong Kong’s King Michael has always been a dream match for me to book. In fact, I have the whole thing mapped in my head, from build-up angles to the match itself. Oh, and if you’re not familiar with King Michael, you probably should take a look at him right now…

I’m an Alexis Lee fan too, having seen her work a number of times here in Hong Kong. If she’s available, I’d book her in any match against anyone anytime.

But the one match I really dream of booking here in the Philippines is a one-on-one match between Ho Ho Lun and fellow WWE Cruiserweight Classic participant Jason Lee, who is now working in Dragon Gate. Not only was I fortunate enough to see that match live here in HK, just a week before the CWC debuted in the WWE Network, but I was also lucky to have been dangerously close to the action at ringside with a camera.

That’s it for this week! Please send me more of your questions – about anything and everything – at the MWF Insider Online FB group, or send me an e-mail: hda.williamelvin@gmail.com! I promise to answer them all.