On Gender and My Personal Road to Fate [Rune Stones & Voodoo, Who Do?]

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

It is Saturday morning, September 15th, 2018; Payday Saturday, just one week removed from the events of MWF 4: Road to Fate; and here I am waking up early for what is supposed to be my first day on Hormone Replacement Therapy. I have my prescription, all I need is the bloodwork so my doctor could compare and flesh out a better treatment course. Once that’s done, I can begin my journey.

Now, I hate getting my blood tested. And it isn’t because I’m afraid of needles, but I hate fasting. Going hungry is one thing, but going thirsty is another thing altogether. And through nothing but will and the promise of a good future, I made sure I didn’t ingest anything for a good twelve hours. Given the weather conditions, I begin my journey to the mall clinic hoping that there wouldn’t be a lot of people due to the weather and I would be back home in no time. And sure enough, there is no one at the mall clinic because it’s closed for the day.

Better luck next weekend…

Rex Lawin disrespects the LGBT pride flag brought in by Martivo at MWF 3: Republika (Photo by Miggy Hilario)

 Wrestling and Gender Sensitivity

As a transgender person coming into wrestling, I had tried to keep my identity as an open secret early on. The response I had received after coming out on our Insider Blog was overwhelmingly positive- and that was something I just never expected. Wrestling in many ways an esoteric brotherhood, it’s ingrained in the fabric of our tradition. So to know that I am accepted among my peers was just more than anything I could have asked for. Even people who weren’t supportive of me, started to show legitimate support and concern following the reaction to that article.

Not too long after it came out, we had our third official show for the year, Republika. At the end of the Rex Lawin-Martivo match, Rex took it upon himself to do the unthinkable and disrespect the Pride flag Martivo took to the ring with him. He had apologized to Martivo and I once he returned to Gorilla. Now, I was in shock because I didn’t know whether I should feel offended or proud that he took it upon himself to get some extra heat off a pretty hot crowd.

And so in the aftermath of Republika, the decision was made to shoot a gender sensitivity video featuring Rex Lawin and Coach Gus Queens.

Rex Lawin defeated Martivo at MWF 3: Republika (Photo by Miggy Hilario)

Understanding SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression)

I understood myself because of the internet. In my early to mid-twenties, I looked to places like Tumblr as a haven where I could slowly come to terms with my own gender identity while understanding the experiences of others whose self-expression may fall outside of the gender binary. So many of these identities and expressions are normal to me.

In my understanding, if people were capable of experiencing a wide range of attractions that went from all-to-none, then it seems only natural that the same can be applied to gender identity. Which, is the focus of what I’m about to talk about.

A week or two before the events of Republika, I had scheduled a consultation for HRT treatment with Victoria by Love Yourself PH.

Love Yourself PH is a fantastic organization that provides free HIV testing and reproductive health education to people all across Metro Manila. In the last year, they have extended their services to transgender people in need of HRT treatment through Victoria by Love Yourself.

Hormone therapy does not come cheap, especially if you want to do it right with the proper medical supervision, so to have this option available to people like me was nothing more than a godsend. And so, on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, I left work early and underwent the first of what till be many HRT consultations at Victoria’s Pasay branch.

My experience at Victoria was comfortable and interesting. The people who worked there made me feel right at home and I had the chance to share my experiences with fellow trans sisters who are so far ahead in their journey. We talked about everything; from shaving, to dealing with family, to managing hormones, and dealing with the more intimate nature of our romantic relationships with the people we love. It was relaxed. Like, I could have spent all afternoon there and talked about life over a pot of tea.

Now, before you get a chance to speak with a doctor, you will sit down with a representative from Victoria who will run you through the basics of SOGIE. This whole experience was such an eye-opener for me.

So, they sit me down with another transwoman, who by the looks of things, is just so far ahead of where I am. She’s been presenting for a while and from my understanding wanted HRT to soften her features a little bit more.

There we are, sitting next to each other, while a representative from Victoria ran us through the various gender and sexual identities. Like I said, I basically grew up on Tumblr. These things are not new to me. But for the girl I was with, all the information seemed so new that she needed a moment to comprehend that the world wasn’t as black and white as ‘male and female’ or ‘straight and gay’; there were shades in between, and that like myself, there are transwomen out there who like women; that there are people who feel like men and women, or none at all.

I guess, in my naivety, I had assumed that all queer, at least trans and non-binary people, all knew the same things. It showed me that even though we were both the same, there are still so many differences in our understanding of gender and the world around us.

That experience never left my mind that when the time came to do a gender sensitivity video, it would become the major influence behind our efforts.

More Than Boy and Girl

Production on the video was nothing short of a dream come true for all of us. In many ways, the interaction between Martivo and Rex Lawin wrote itself. While they are both incredibly similar wrestlers in approach and work ethic (they’re young, hungry, and very proud), they’re both such polar opposites that they almost complement each other.

Martivo is the rainbow warrior, a man who is unapologetically himself and a reflection of how far acceptance and tolerance have come in the Philippines; a new wave of strong and eclectic Filipino men. On the other hand, Rex Lawin represents the toughness and aggression of traditional Filipino masculinity. And yet, he accepts and understands these differences without any issues.

Here we have two characters that represent the past and future of Filipino men, understanding each other.

What makes this so powerful for me is how it reflects some of the instances I had come out to people. In my experience, acceptance sometimes comes from the least likely of people. And that’s so powerful, because sometimes, someone I would never imagined would understand gets it more than someone I thought would.

Lucha Sogie

Let’s Learn Together!

The fact that we had the chance to educate people and open their eyes to LGBTQ identities was such a dream come true for all of us. And with that, we want to do our part to continue this wave of acceptance. If Filipino wrestling is this colorful and diverse now, imagine where it would be in a few more years?

The A/V team at the MWF Wrestling have put together this amazing resource that we urge everyone to copy and share. Allow me to introduce you all to the LUCHADOR SOGIE!

The LUCHA SOGIE has four values:
Gender Identity: How you feel about yourself.
Gender Expression: The way you present yourself to the world.
Biological Sex: The parts you were born with.
Orientation: The people you love.

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Coming Home [Rune Stones & Voodoo, Who Do?]

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Even Rex Lawin and Mr. Lucha can’t help but smile when Santa’s around!

 

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

August 12th, 2018, Sunday Night. It’s just minutes following our last show of the weekend; I am tired, on the brink of a migraine, and I am absolutely rapturous. I am emotionally overwhelmed and as I look around me and see our entire team- wrestlers, staff, tech, interns- celebrate on a job well done, I can’t help myself but break into tears.

Our return to HistoryCon 2018 was three years in the making. But to me, this was five years of hard work, doubt, and heart ache actualizing itself in fruition. Since 2018 began, I had been so caught up in the rush of things. I had to control myself, because if I broke even just once, it would interfere with all the work we at management need to turn this dream into a functioning company. But in the presence of family that included new-found and re-acquainted friends from other promotions, I couldn’t help it. I had to let go.

Robin Sane, William Elvin, Tarek El Tayech, and yes, even Mr. Lucha, and I met in the middle of the ring when it was all said and done. For a brief moment, any ongoing issues didn’t matter. Regardless of what side of the ring we happened to be on, the Manila Wrestling Federation came home and as one

single unit, we shared an embrace.

In spite of everything that’s going on with Lucha and Sane, and no matter how hard it can be for Tarek, William, and I to get things done in spite of all the tension- the love we share for each other will always be there. Those four are my brothers through and through, and nothing can ever change that.

Okay, enough with the feelings. Time to get on with this look back on what in many ways was a Historic Weekend.

COMING HOME

Three years ago, the Manila Wrestling Federation made its debut at the inaugural HistoryCon in 2016. We had made it to the event as a showcase of combat sports that included boxing, mixed martial arts, and kickboxing. With help from our friends at the Australasian Wrestling Federation and Singapore Pro Wrestling, we did three back-to-back shows that enabled us to work in front of a live crowd for the very first time.

The weekend culminated with a Team Manila vs. Team Singapore crossover that saw “The Statement” Andreuw Tang defend the SPW Heavyweight Championship against Robin Sane; on the Main Event, Mr. Lucha and The Eurasian Dragon went head-to-head for the first time. By the end of the weekend, bodies were broken and life-long friendships were forged.

Professional Wrestling proved to be incredibly popular at HistoryCon. So popular in fact that I later learned that the Manila Wrestling Federation’s hour-long shows generated the most foot-traffic than any other booth, exhibit, or celebrity on stage. So naturally, it didn’t take long to be invited to return the following year.

While we had looked into ways to bring the product to the convention during the 2017 HistoryCon, being able to provide a weekend’s worth of wrestling just seemed unfeasible. So we resigned ourselves to time on the main stage on the first day. It was fine, we were just happy to be back. And in front of a convention floor of hundreds, we introduced the Manila Wrestling Federation and promoted that year’s Road to Fate.

Anything more seemed like such a far-flung dream…

TAKING THE HARD WAY HOME

In the months before HistoryCon, we had already been asked about involvement with the convention. Our answer was always the same: HistoryCon was our home and it was only a matter of time before we came back, in full force.

Not long after MWF 1: Kasaysayan, Senior Analyst, Tarek el Tayech and I met up with Jacque Ruby, the country head of A&E Networks Asia and one of MWF’s strongest supporters. And with that, and a few finalities to sort, the deal was done: The Manila Wrestling Federation would return to HistoryCon.

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This is your show Mike,” Management said. “You know what to do.

Plans were made for HistoryCon. This wasn’t just going to be a major homecoming, our product was going to be seen in front of thousands of convention-goers, along with a host of globally recognized personalities. We were set to leave a lasting impression on everyone there.

On Thursday afternoon, a small team that consisted of our myself, floor director, Lexi Bartolome, Tarek el Tayech, and our incredible ring crew led by the talented Ohm David, arrived at the World Trade Center. The ring arrived shortly after having braved the storm on a nineteen wheeler that sponsored by the incredible folks at 2GO.

And so, with our ground team complete, we spent the next few hours assembling what would be our venue for the next three days. By 10:00PM the ring was complete and we decided to call it a night. On my way out, I go through the booths and make my first and only purchase of the weekend, a pack of WCW trading cards from 1991.

For the next several days, this will be my only moment of peace.

FRIDAY

Friday was arguably the easiest day during the convention, but because we were just adjusting to the set-up and flow, it also became our most stressful day that weekend. Creative Director William Elvin had landed a few hours earlier and was one of the first to arrive at World Trade Center. We shared a cigarette as more of the team began to arrive. By lunchtime, we were ready to go for the first block of shows that day.

Our guys had to pull double duty, but they did it well. We performed in front of two back-to-back groups of kids from various schools across the Metro. For us, this was a very big deal because they reminded so much of ourselves and the fact that this was the first time they were seeing live wrestling was truly something special.

We gave them the true highlights of our product, showcasing all the best the MWF had to offer, including a special rematch between Robin Sane and Mr. Lucha.

After having the chance to present the Manila Wrestling Federation on the mainstage, our ring was graced by the presence of TV personality, Kuya Kim Atienza who had the chance to get an inside look at some of the things we do inside the ring.

It was a lot of fun, Momma Shannon was there to cheer us on. We made it through.

SATURDAY

After having figured out our groove the day before, we got into Saturday slightly (and I stress the word slightly) more relaxed. With our team assembled, we made rounds, interacted with convention goers and hyped up the audiences for our shows that afternoon. All very standard.

Day Two ended with a main event for the ages as Robin Sane took on Koto Hiro, who was accompanied to the ring by Nina. Moments after Koto took the well-deserved victory, a hooded man emerged from the audience and assaulted Sane. One look later, he revealed himself as Zayden Trudeau. I guess he felt left out by the crossover matches we had planned for the following day, because he took to the mic and issued an open challenge.

Overcome by emotions, I rushed to the ring and checked in on Robin Sane. He was scratched up, but he was egging me on to give him the match right then and there. But I knew he had to rest up, so I took on the mic and looked over at Zayden and told him that yes, he had his match. But more than anything, he was going to have to bring his A-game and then some, because Robin Sane’s heart could not be denied.

Robin Sane in black gear – A throwback to MWF’s first appearance at HCon 2016

SUNDAY

Due to the weather, we had to arrange matches on the spot. Because of that the decision was made to merge the morning and first afternoon block into one full show… And I’ll be damned. I honestly think that had we been in UP Bahay Ng Alumni or even the PowerMac center in Makati, I think we would have given wrestling fans one of the best shows produced locally. Every match was amazing… Mr. Lucha vs. Alexander Belmonte III was one of the most intense, and physically grueling brawls I had ever seen in my life.

As a showcase of the best Philippine Wrestling had to offer, we decided bring back the History Maker Rumble from MWF: Kasaysayan, but with a truly unique twist. 30 Wrestlers in an over-the-top-rope-elimination match with the final two wrestlers competing in a Singles contest. Jacque Ruby was kind enough to join us for the Rumble.

It was a sight to behold. Earlier that day, Robin Sane took it upon himself to weave together the entrance order for the Rumble. He could have easily put himself at the last spot and made history again. But being himself, he wanted a fair chance and more than anything, he wanted a challenge. If there was anything I could take away from the Rumble was seeing how much fun everyone had inside the ring. You could just feel it.

In the end, “Danger” Rex Lawin proved to be strongest man that day and emerged victorious over a final line-up than included Aldrin Richards, John Sebastian, Mharkie from the KakaiBros, and Martivo. Now, here’s the thing: for the last several months, Lawin has made it clear that I screwed him and it was only a matter of time before he got his revenge. And he did it. He rubbed into our faces even more when he was invited to the mainstage to be awarded by Jacque Ruby, Gus Queens, and Tarek, before representatives from every major network and publication in the country.

I’ll give you that one, Rex… I’ll give you that.

We wrapped up the weekend with our final block for the evening, which included another set of Match of the Year candidates, highlighted by Robin Sane vs. Zayden Trudeau; two rightful masters of the 450 Splash. For over fifteen minutes, those two threw everything they had at each other- and then some! Again, if this match was held in front of a wrestling audience, they would have blown the roof off. It was incredible. Robin Sane walked away with the victory, but more importantly, he and Zayden earned each other’s respect.

… IN CONCLUSION

The MWF ring crew: Ohm David and the Ohm Boys

If you’ve managed to stick around to the end, I thank you.

If you skipped all text, I can’t thank you but I understand.

To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to squeeze in the magnitude of that entire weekend into a single blog post. I could write at least three chapters about our time at HistoryCon, and even then, I’d feel like I’d be missing something out.

Two of our lovely tech team guys, Mark and Io!

We ended the weekend by thanking everyone- the wrestlers from both the Manila Wrestling Federation and Philippine Wrestling Revolution; the tech and ground team that makes our shows run perfectly; the ring crew/Ohm Boys, without whom, we wouldn’t even have a ring to ply our craft in; and most importantly, the fans!

For the entire weekend, a group that consisted of Ritz Sy, Christopher Sandico Pepper (and family), and Martin Vicencio braved the weather to support us. They got the crowd riled up and cheered, booed, worshipped and antagonized every single wrestler that stepped into that ring. That dedication and support is something I can never thank them enough for. If you guys are reading this, you’re the best and I don’t know where we’d be without that.

Commissioner Mike w/ Kayana

So here I am, wrapping this all up…. What a homecoming! Aside from the wrestling, being at HistoryCon was the chance to make new friends and get acquainted with old ones, such as Santa Klaus and his daughter, Kayana- who, in all regards, was probably the first fan we ever made. It really felt like coming home.

With an MWF Champion on the horizon and 2019 not that far away, one thing’s certain: The Manila Wrestling Federation will be back at HistoryCon to make more history!

The Fallout [Rune Stones and Voodoo, Who Do?]

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon 

It’s been over a week since the events of MWF 3: Republika, and even up to now… I can still feel the after effects of what, by all means, was a historic night for everyone at the Manila Wrestling Federation. As I type this, I can still feel traces of what Ho Ho Lun did to me. I should have seen that knee coming, but somehow, I just thought there was a chance to reason with the man who single-handedly spearheaded the Southeast Asian wrestling scene.

Ho Ho Lun lost to Robin Sane, in one of Southeast Asian wrestling’s most talked about upset wins.

I was wrong; the knee to the gut knocked the wind right out of me and sent me stumbling head-first into the canvass. In the days after show, as I slipped in and out of consciousness, trying to piece the entire night together, my wifey would look at me, concerned that I had inadvertently suffered a mild concussion.

Despite the aggravating  throb in the middle of my head that would dominate for the better part of three days, I just couldn’t help but think about Mr. Lucha- one of my best friends the man who, next to Robin Sane, stood by my side at the very inception of the Manila Wrestling Federation.

Why, Lucha? Why?

Watching It All Unfold

If the atmosphere ringside was electric, backstage was in chaos. I rushed to the back to find the MWF backstage crew in scramble as our referees crawled their way to the medics, hoping for some relief before rushing back out to the fray if needed.

The impact from landing on the canvas left a dull, throbbing ache on the top of my head. Through all the commotion, I rushed to Gorilla and slipped on my headset in an attempt to regain some level of control over the show.

I looked at the monitors. By that point, Lucha and roster managed to get Ho Ho Lun out of the ring. Like a blur, Ho Ho and his Mainland referee ran to Gorilla and rushed backstage in a blur. I was going to have to deal with them later. For now, we needed to finish the show and finish it fast.

“Will, you there?” I spoke on the headset.

“I’m right here, Mike”, Will spoke back. “Let’s try to contain the show na?”

“Yeah!”

And before we could cue something- anything to get the roster to return backstage- Khyle Sison knocked his former mentor with a low-blow, triggering a roster-wide brawl. This was not what we wanted- Republika was supposed to represent the heart of Filipino fighting spirit and the honor that came with it.

Punk Doll Robynn took out most of MWF’s roster with a dive off the ring.

Within moments, a diving cross body from Punk Doll Robynn took out most of the roster, effectively ending the fight. This left Mr. Lucha and Ninja Ryujin in the ring together with Robin Sane, and left me backstage with a sigh of relief. I pulled off my head phones and leaned back, thankful it was over and in dire need of an Advil.

And then it happened: After having pulled Robin Sane to his feet with all his might, Mr. Lucha dropped him with the most vicious DVDX/Sagada Driver I had ever seen- like, he stopped mid-move to readjust Robin Sane on his shoulders to really drive the point home. On his knees, Mr. Lucha surveyed the violence and let out with one of the most frustrated and heart-felt screams I had ever heard.

Mr. Lucha left the ring and returned backstage. I stood up and right before I could ask him why, he just looked at me, turned his head and walked away. He didn’t want to talk about it. Somewhere, behind me, Ho Ho Lun was rushing his referee into the backseat of a Grab car I assumed was on its way to the airport.

Why Lucha, Why?

I’ll be the first to admit that the last year hasn’t exactly been easy on Mr. Lucha. A lot of the promise that had been placed on his shoulders slowly shifted to Robin Sane. More than anyone on the MWF roster, Robin Sane unintentionally elevated the level of standard people expected from our product, and because of that, it was only natural that he would start to shine as a serious main event player.

Ninja Ryujin looks on as Mr. Lucha’s betrayal of Robin Sane sinks in

But as someone who knows both Robin Sane and Mr. Lucha full well, it pains me to recognize that so many people often forget just what a talent Mr. Lucha really is. At his best, Mr. Lucha can really bring it into every match and shows incredible restraint to give his opponents, regardless of size or shape, and equal chance. He is the ideal Filipino in every possible way.

I still remember the first time I had ever seen Lucha in that costume… It was around three weeks before we were all expected to make our debut at HistoryCon at our then HQ, Alpha 53 gym in Mandaluyong City. I was blown away.

He was proud, happy, and incredibly excited to show the world exactly what he was made of. He was the sum of a series of conversations we had had in the months before- just the both of us, on my mom’s balcony going back and forth on how much we needed a hero to unite the Philippines at the dawn of a new political landscape.

There was so much promise- there’s still a lot of promise. I just can’t bear to see him throw that all away because he’s frustrated. But at the same time, I get it.

The DVDX/Sagada Driver

Mr. Lucha is a perfectionist through and through and I’m sure, somewhere along the way, in the light of an ever-evolving form of wrestling dominating the country, his instance of maintaining tradition became a problem beyond his control. And after having lost to Robin Sane and having faced humiliation at the hands of Ho Ho Lun, Khyle Sison and Ashura, something inside him snapped.

I haven’t talked to him since Republika because I am still trying so hard to understand him. If there’s any room for reason, it’s now… Before it’s too late.

We’ve lost so much in wrestling as it is. I can’t lose another friend.

All photos by Miggy Hilario 

Before We Say Goodbye to Pride Month [Rune Stones & Voodoo, Who Do]

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon 

Two months ago, I decided to go ahead and shave what had apparently become an iconic strip of facial hair above and beneath my lips. I had kept it for two reasons:
1. It hid my resting bitchface
2. I hate shaving my face
But it’s novelty had worn off. While I had plans and I had learned to work around it, my face was itchy, I was getting regular fits of dysphoria and it was evident I was in need of a different kind of blade job.

FML, right?

What is Dysphoria?

Dysphoria, also known as Gender Identity Disorder, is the feeling shared by a substantial number of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.  It can affect people in a number of ways. I deal with somewhat mild dysphoria in the sense that while I’m not too crazy about it, I’m comfortable enough with my body. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments when I look in the mirror and dislike what I see.

I’ve learned how to block of negative energies from my life. I mean, I’m crazy enough to get myself involved in the wrestling business, which is loaded with negative energy- so it’s pretty evident that I’ve managed to block out negativity for the most part… But dysphoria, that’s a silent kicker that lurks in the shadows of my mind; chipping away each and every day until I break down and something has to be done.

Mike with MWF Creative Director William Elvin and Senior Analyst Tarek El Tayech

“Cool Rock Boy”

Through most of my life, I got by as “Cool Rock Boy”, a gimmick I created for myself to survive. Growing up, I experienced homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia first hand. Any part of myself that had come across as remotely gentle (not even feminine) was met with ridicule and violence – like, I got a busted lip back in my first year of high school just for being an *NSYNC fan.

In the years that followed, I caved in, mentally put everything that could be feminine about myself away and pretended to be a “regular guy”, under the idea of being a “cool rock boy”- an image that I continue to keep, for the most part because it’s easy, convenient, and somewhat not too far from home. Ish.

Discovering Myself

When I was twenty-two and in the process of finally growing my hair out, something inside me changed. I still to this day don’t know what it was- maybe it was a spiritual awakening, maybe it was the accumulation of so much stress going on, but something in me snapped. I woke up one morning, just feeling like I wanted to own up to all the feelings I had spent so many years keeping away.

I felt feminine and for the first time in my then two-decades of existence on planet Earth, I felt like myself.

You’d think that after having opened myself up, I’d be okay and I could just go about my normal life without a care in the world. Years, even decades of repression, forces the opposite, because now I was forced to spend the next seven years catching up with myself. I had to get to know myself from scratch, while trying to get by with a career and dreams that we’re almost too impossible to ignore.

For the first time in the mirror, I could look at my own face and recognize the person I was looking at. It was beautiful, it was terrifying, and I didn’t even know where to begin… How can you lead an honest life if half the world didn’t want to understand you.

And so, I jumbled between gender identities and pronouns, until just a couple of years ago, I accepted the fact that I’m transgender. A transgender woman, no less. A transgender woman who likes girls. (Think Angie King, but with a steel chair instead of a race car!)

Mike feeling the love from his MWF brothers

Coming Out

The advantage cis people have is that whenever they meet someone new, they don’t feel compelled to describe themselves to whoever they meet. It’s very “what you see is what you get”. People simply take for granted how easy it is to present themselves when they aren’t part of a minority, a minority that faces regular violence and discrimination.

Being an out and happy transperson isn’t just an act of free will, it’s a political statement because we face so much shit on a daily basis to just be ourselves.

In my experience, while I don’t know what to expect when I come out to people, it’s always been generally supportive. People try to understand and accept it. Some of my friends weren’t surprised. To some, family members in particular, it’s been hard to accept because who I am defies every expectation that was set on me.

It’s not easy or ideal, but I do recognize that compared to other trans girls, I’m lucky.

Thankfully, this acceptance has managed to extended its way to wrestling. I’ve got so many people in the scene as friends on Facebook and I’m sure I’ve dropped enough hints with the memes I share… Most of my closest friends in the business are aware and have accepted it, even encouraged it. MWF management supports it which more than an actual wrestling ring, is more than I could ask for.

Not speaking as Mike Shannon, but speaking more as Mikers Litton (my real name is too anglo and masculine for my liking)… I was ready to keep who I really am as a secret if it meant MWF had a shot at success. So having this support is overwhelming, and as I write this in the middle of my office, I’m trying really hard not to cry by pretending I’m about to sneeze.

I’m Mike Litton, a queer transwoman in the wrestling business. I’m lucky to be part of a vibrant minority in a community that have done so much to advance the industry as a sport and an art form. I am proud of who I am and it’s an honor to be among a minority that has given so much to wrestling.

Here’s to a future of more ass-kicking, innovation, and acceptance!

I leave now with a quote from Elvis Costello… “You can call me anything you like, but my name’s Veronica.”

Year Zero: Republika [Rune Stones & Voodoo, Who Do? # 12]

by Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

In June 2017, the then-struggling Manila Wrestling Federation made its return to the Makati Square Arena for the promotion’s second standalone show, Republika. After putting all our efforts into making MWF: Live the best show imaginable, we knew we had to take things a step further. We didn’t have a lot, but we had a lot of nerves as a promise to keep to our budding Kapa-FEDS to give them the best wrestling show in the country: And we succeeded.

Match Card with sponsorsAs I’ve admitted in a previous entry, running shows at Cinema Square was incredibly stressful. And this continued from Live into Republika. If anything, we were faced with a far greater task: where Live was our chance to show the world what we had, Republika had to become their reason to stay. So while there was a focus on wrestling, we wanted to emphasize the stories we could tell given what little we had.

In the week leading to the show, the turnbuckle at the Makati Square Arena snapped during training. This would the first of many instances where the MCS ring would give out on us. So, with just weeks before the show, the decision was made to pay for the welding repair out of our own pockets. But even then, when it was time for the show, we still had no idea what to expect. All we could do was hope and pray that this show would be better than our last!

The Power of the Liwanags

In what’s one of my favorite moments in our short history, Moises Liwanag took to the ring with his newly christened disciple, Brother Jomar. The crowd loved Moises and the decision was made to give him the time greet his budding congregation. Moises took to the microphone and after a brief sermon, promised to “heal” members of the audience that included PWR’s Alexander Belmonte III and future MWF Senior Analyst, Tarek El Tayech.

mwf-republika-when-in-manila-moises

This moment alone proved to be a showcase of Moises’ powers. With his arm locked in a cast, Moises placed his hand over Tarek’s head and blessed him with the power of the light, giving this injured, yet dashingly handsome man, the chance to regain feeling and movement in his arm for the first time in months.

You would have thought this was enough to weak Moises, but it just made him stronger. Frankie Thurteen rushed to the ring and gave the enigmatic leader the fight of his life, but even then, it wasn’t enough. One impaling backbreaker was enough to give Moises the highly-coveted victory.

The Young Lions of the MWF

In another showcase of talent and passion, the young Hanzello Shilva took to the ring to face Morgan Vaughn. Vaughn used his wiles to get the better of Shilva for most of the match, but through sheer will and attitude, the hungry cub defeated the Glitch.

Hanzello had poured his heart and soul into that match, dedicating it to the memory of his mother who had unfortunately passed a month earlier. It was a very poignant moment for the young Wolf, who proved to everyone that no matter what it took, Hanzello Shilva was a wrestler who would always stand for honor.

An Evening of Debuts

In the weeks before Republika, the Manila Wrestling Federation found itself with a handful of new recruits who were willing and ready to prove themselves inside the ring. Fabio Makisig took the ring first and used the moment to prove why he was one the nastiest and endearingly entertaining wrestlers in the Philippine Wrestling.

Enter: Aldrin Richards. Richards was young patient and ready to prove himself as a legend in the making. Richards stormed to the ring and took a beating from Fabio Makisig, but when he saw the opportunity, he bested Fabio and proved to everyone there that he too was worthy of calling himself a wrestler. But one rookie mistake later, Fabio got the better of him and left the ring, antagonizing the audience along the way.

Later on that night, another hungry young wrestler by the name of Ashura took to the ring. Initially, plans were for Ninja Ryujin to face off another wrestler, but somehow, Ashura came into the ring instead and gave him a hell of a challenge. Like Richards, she too was hungry. But unlike Richards, she had a point to make.

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Ashura is someone who does not want to be regarded for her gender. She is a wrestler first, before anything else. So if there was anyone on the roster who had the hardest job to get that through it was her. And who better to guide her though her first match than Ninja Ryujin- a wrestler with all the patience in the world who understands that each and every opponent commands a different approach in the fight.

Because of this, both Fabio Makisig and Ninja Ryujin have become the defacto ‘boss’ battles of the Manilaverse. If a new wrestler can make it through either of them, they have a chance of surviving everyone else.

A Battle of Power

If there’s any re-match I would love to see, it’s Rex Lawin vs. Mr. Lucha. Both these guys are the biggest and baddest the Manila Wrestling Federation has to offer and on our second show, they collided head-to-head in a battle for the ages. Before the show, Lawin and Queens had bounded Lucha in an attempt to get a rematch against Gigz Stryker. But Lucha called him out and the match was set.

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Both these guys are incredible powerful and are highly skilled warriors. Where Lucha knows how to balance athletic proficiency with brute force, Rex Lawin uses his own brute force with his knowledge of kickboxing and ground-based combat. For that, these two beat the hell out of each other.

Lawin was able to ground Lucha and control him for most of the match. Lucha was able to get the better of Lawin and in order to even score the victory, Lucha put everything on the line (including the rest of the show) and drive a flying elbow into Lawin’s chest.

An Award Winning Main-Event

For the second show in a row, Robin Sane headlined the main-event of the evening. In the weeks leading to the show, Gigz Stryker offered a challenge to both Mr. Lucha and Robin Sane. And while Lucha was ready, if anyone wanted him more, it was Robin Sane.

Robin Sane understood what happened during MWF Live- after taking that historic 450 splash off the top rope, his performances became a standard of excellence that had to be maintained in each and every main event. And because of that, he accepted Gigz Stryker’s challenge and gave him a match worthy of the marquee.

But unfortunately, Sane’s victory was short lived. Rex Lawin and Gus Queens hit the ring and assaulted Gigz Stryker, forcing the entire roster to pour into the ring in order to separate them and me to give Rex his re-match.

To Wrap This Up…

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In hindsight, Republika was the show that set the tone for everything else that followed: It gave us the unexpected debuts of Jomar Liwanag, Aldrin Richards and Ashura, Rex Lawin proved that he had what it takes to hang with the biggest the MWF had to offer, and Robin Sane began to establish himself as a main event mainstay.

Not bad for a tiny wrestling show, on a tight budget, and a decent crowd of 90+.

Photos by Martin Vicencio and Jonathan Guillermo

 

 

Tales From Gorilla [Rune Stones & Voodoo Who Do]

Okay, so before I get any further, I would like to announce this: Manila Wrestling Federation will be at HistoryCon 2018. On Friday, June 1st, 2018, representatives of this promotion (namely myself and Senior Analyst, Tarek El Tayech) met with Jacque Ruby, president of A&E Networks Philippines, to discuss the promotion’s involvement in this year’s event.

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Mike Shannon & Tarek El Tayech with Jacque Ruby, Country President A&E Network Philippines

Since the inception of the Manila Wrestling Federation, HistoryCon has always been a very important weekend on our calendar. During the inaugural convention in 2016, MWF worked the Singapore Pro Wrestling (SPW) and Australiasian Wrestling Federation (AWF) to produce a series of back-to-back weekend shows that would launch the careers of a number of our more tenured performers.

The chance to entertain and showcase our skill at the very event that brought us to dance is truly an honor, and on behalf of everyone at the Manila Wrestling Federation, we look forward to seeing our Kapa-FEDS there!

Now, onto today’s blog:

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Tales From Gorilla
by Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

It’s six o’five on a Sunday night. MWF 2: Maki Wrestling Wag Matakot was supposed to start five minutes ago. And while the fans have taken up every seat in the venue, many are still filling themselves with all the different snacks and treats we’ve got at the concession stands in the front of the venue.

I’m not nervous. But I’m not calm either- I’m somewhere in between. I have to be. In the days leading to the show, a lot of people would ask me if I was excited. I’d reply, “Ask me that again after Sunday”. Granted, I do have fun. But as far as I’m concerned this is work. And I’m going to treat it like work.

Coach Gus opened the show, earlier than originally scheduled. He was set on making a real impact on the show. As much as I hate it when he does this, I couldn’t ask for- let alone expect- anything less. For the last year, Coach Gus (and Rex Lawin, to an extent) have tested my patience time and time again. And while I allow him to get away with this behavior in small doses, the night promised some sweet revenge that’s been a long time coming for many of us.

Gus Standby Tanjeco

Coach Gus standing by. Photo by Noel Tanjeco.

And so, at exactly 6:10, the show started: following the national anthem, Coach Gus Queens burst into the Bahay Ng Alumni with a marching band. He took his moment to antagonize the audience (again), to which the signal was given for R.G. to rush to the ring to cut him off with some well-deserved punishment, after of course an exchange of choice words.

While R.G.’s work ethic as a wrestler was a given, I couldn’t help but find myself pleasantly surprised with how well Coach Gus handled himself. He actually trained for this match and it showed. He took what R.G. gave him and dished it right back. The match was hot, and it wasn’t long before both men spilled into the university grounds.

Show Proper

For the first time, the MWF locker room just felt electric. While many of us arrived to the venue in the morning, our backstage team and ring crew had been in the venue since 4:00 AM that morning. Their hard work enabled the boys and girls of the Manilaverse to get the some last minute training before the show began later that day.

Every single wrestler who was scheduled to wrestle that night came into the Bahay Ng Alumni prepared, and absolutely ready to storm into that ring and prove themselves to every Kapa-FED who had paid to see an unforgettable night of wrestling. Yes, there were a lot of nerves floating around that night. Every one of them came into the show to ultimately get the better of their fellow wrestlers, but even then, there was this sense of team spirit that was hard to deny.

In short: it didn’t matter who you were, who you were facing, we were all in this together!

An Unexpected Surprise

During the middle of the show, I came to the middle of the ring to thank our audience and announce the first round bracket for our upcoming MWF Championship tournament. But before I could announce any of the other matches, I was cut off by a man I never expected see face-to-face in the center of a wrestling ring: Stan Sy, the longest tenured general manager in the history of Philippine wrestling.

Granted, we had met informally several months before during Star Wars Force Friday, but this was the first time we ever faced each other in that capacity and we did give a moment to sink in. I had no idea he (and his ‘manok’) were in the building, but here they were, and I welcomed the surprise and allowed history to unfold.

Sandata

Sandata and Rex Lawin gave us a memorable fight. Photo by Trixie Dauz.

Sandata came into the ring decked out in U.P. colors, looking for a fight. And that was answered by someone who wanted nothing more than to kick my ass.

For the next fifteen minutes, Rex Lawin and Sandata- two wrestlers with two completely different histories and fighting styles- tore the house down. Sandata had Lawin on the defensive, keeping himself one step ahead, until Rex Lawin found his opening to brutally overpower Sandata.

If Rex Lawin proved himself to be the most dangerous wrestler in the country today, Sandata showed just why he’s one of the best, most-rounded technicos in Philippine Wrestling. Selfishly, I can’t help but want to see him back at MWF ring. This time kicking Rex Lawin’s butt so hard that he stops pestering me about that stupid medal!

Family Values

Another treat was the premier of Sagot Kita II. After a long hard search and two bottles of gluten-free mango juice Fabio chugged like Zesto, Gigz Stryker answered the call in, well, typical Gigz Stryker fashion! Together, the bully and action star went head-to-head with two of the most unexpected superstars to ever grace the Manilaverse: The Liwanags.

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Jorelle. Photo by Trixie Dauz

I’ll just say this:
1. Jomar is an absolute talent
2. Jorelle (a.k.a ‘Friend’) is a beast
3. I don’t know if Moises is dead or alive. Jomar and Jorelle keep to themselves backstage and have yet to answer this question. For legal reasons, we have to know as Moises has a backlog of uncollected checks that Management is close to donating to their church!

Sane – Lucha II

If there was any that kept on me the edge of my seat, it was the main event. Now, I knew what a big risk it was to book this match, but I also knew that there was no other way we could kick off our long journey to the MWF Championship. As so, as I watched two of my best friends destroy their bodies I thought of how long I had dreamt of this.

Years ago, I imagined the long road to a championship that wouldn’t just serve as a crown to the best wrestler in the country. No, I imagined something else: a crown that would have the power to unite ever single Filipino under the dream of a hero that represented all of our best qualities.

Robin and Lucha were nervous. We all were. Somehow, they carried all that nervousness, put their friendship on the line and fought, knowing full well that only one could return with their footsteps cemented on the road to history.

I’m proud of both of them. I have spent the last three years watching over Robin Sane and Mr. Lucha. And while I could never give them all the riches I secretly promised them, they are both my boys. And I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Sen Luch

A moment etched in MWF History. Photo by Noel Tanjeco.

 

Republika

The show didn’t end after Robin Sane and Mr. Lucha. After a brief interruption, Gus an R.G. stumbled back into the Bahay Ng Alumni. They ducked it out in the center of the ring, working past interruptions from Rex, Sandata, and Mr. Sy. In all the commotion, Tarek snuck backstage and saw a baton sitting on our table. We didn’t know how it got there, but Tarek picked the baton and looked at me with a nod before returning to ringside.

On the monitor, I watched Tarek slowly approach the ring as Coach Gus looked for a misplaced baton. Someone must have returned it backstage after the events at the top of the show. With a coy smile, Tarek tossed the baton to R.G., who in turn, decked Coach Gus Queens right in the head before taking him down with a modified Kalibre 3:16. Oh my God- that felt so good I needed a cigarette.

And so, with the sound of a marching band who had dawned their school colors and the sound of hundreds of screaming wrestling fans, we closed Maki Wrestling – Wag Matakot with a bang.  I took a deep breath, knowing full well that despite all our nerves and personal vendettas, we all put together the best wrestling show this country had ever seen.

We shared hugs and tears, knowing full well that we made it. I gave myself that moment to celebrate, but I couldn’t bask for it too long, because we are just one breathe away from MWF 3: Republica, and there’s a lot of work to be done.

Being in Gorilla, in control of the show felt right. It was my first time with the headset. And for the first time ever, this Commissioner thing felt right. It felt so right.

Mike Gor

Final Takeaways

  1. Ninja Ryujin is one heart and soul of the Manila Wrestling Federation. The Baewolves injured his shoulder but he went on and finished the match.
  2. Morgan Vaughn is a star in the making. That said, I should start keeping a closer eye on him.
  3. How amazing are the Baewolves?! Can we all agree they’re fangirl worthy?!
  4. Ashura and Kyle Sison tore the housedown. As wrestlers, these two ave grown so much in the last year. They’re more confident and because of that, they’re more deadly.
  5. My “friendship hug” with Sandata was long overdue
  6. No Rex. That’s not your medal and you can’t have it.
  7. Fabio Makisig is such an incredibly multifaceted wrestler.
  8. Every Gigz Styker match puts me in a good mood
  9. The Liwanags are insane! Jomar, too, has grown to become an amazing wrestler and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for.
  10. Lucha vs. Robin Sane is my MOTY contender!
  11. Writing, producing and directing MWF shows with Tarek and Will is ❤
Trio

Photo by Tita Toots Tolentino

The Late-Night Ramblings of a Sleepy Commissioner [Rune Stones & Voodoo, Who Do?]

by Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

In just a few short days, we’ll be right there… In the center of the Manilaverse, surrounded by hundreds of Kapa-FEDS, as the Manila Wrestling Federation makes its return to UP Diliman. This time at the Bahay Ng Alumni, for the second show in our current canon: Maki Wrestling-Wag Matakot. Excitement isn’t even an understatement.

Every show we do is a labor of love, built from the hardwork and sacrifice from our roster, our management, and dedicated technical team- a wider family of hardworking men and women who go through so much every week just to make our shows happen. It’s this hard work that takes a toll on our personal lives and professional careers, but we do it because together we see the dream; we see the end goal. We know where all the sacrifice will take us, and we will do anything to get there.

Before I go any further, a brief apology on behalf of our Senior Analyst, Tarek El Tayech, who was not able to write on this blog due to personal matters.

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In a few short nights, I’ll be standing back at Gorilla, with a headset and a two-way radio, overseeing everything that goes down on what’s going to up a hell of a show. And because I know it’s going to be a hell of a show, I need to be on my toes- anything can happen and as much I don’t want to go out there, I prepare myself to step through the curtains in the event someone crosses the line.

Because I just know, someone is going to try something that’s going to interfere with what I can only hope would be a smooth show. But then again, this is what I signed up for as Commissioner of the Manila Wrestling Federation. It is my job to come in and lay down the law whenever someone steps out of line.

Which also puts me in an interesting situation, because while I could easily abuse my powers and do anything I want (Life Coach on a Pole Match LOL; the Cage of Ultimate Jeopardy), I instill a lot a control. I know that good guys will do good things and bad guys will try to do bad things, and in some cases, both faces and heels will be left with decisions that compel them to reconsider their moral alignment in the Manilaverse.

I see all this, and while I can’t help but hold myself from rushing in whenever someone crosses the line, I do know that every decision every man and woman in the Manilaverse make will leave behind an important mark on the tapestry of this promotions history.

Colorful words and big dreams, I know… But as I pull in overtime at the office, in my life away from wrestling, my mind can’t help but think of this weekend and all its great possibilities. It’s got its highs and lows, but I love wrestling and I can’t wait to see you all on Sunday.

Mike Shannon’s Lazy Predictions:
– Rex hurts someone
– Ashura vs. Kyle is going to be the sleeper match of the night
– Morgan Vaughn declares his secret love for Aldrin Richards
– Fabio Makisig makes Gigz Stryker do all the work for him
– The Mystery Lady turns out to be a really good wrestler
– Gus finds a way to beat RG, damn it!
– Robin Sane vs. Mr Lucha II = MOTY Candidate!