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.

34190316_10156565734322342_1901037449597943808_n.jpg
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:

wYOr2i0g

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.

Jorelle
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
Advertisements

In A League of His Own [Rune Stones and Voodoo Who Do #5]

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

If you’re invested in the Southeast Asian wrestling scene or someone in the community trying to prove your worth, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across the name Ho Ho Lun. For years, his name was heard in hushed circles, left largely in part through the word of his agent, MWF Creative Director, William Elvin.

For those of us who knew, his exploits were legendary: He pioneered the art of professional wrestling in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. He has been all over the world, plying his craft and stepping into the ring with the best the business has to offer. And yes, he made it into the WWE- sure, TJ Perkins has Pinoy blood, but was born in the US. As far as some of us were concerned, Ho Ho Lun wasn’t just representing Hong Kong, he was representing Southeast Asia- the community he helped build.

So with all this momentum, it was hard to believe that this man- the living legend- was actually a really cool guy, with a love for Chickenjoy and a sense of humor that would make your little brother weep.

Merry Christmas

Somehow, we just always knew that somewhere along the line with Ho Ho Lun. In the months prior to Noche Buena, we were visited by William Elvin, during a training session at Makati Cinema Square. Now, I was aware of the nature of William’s visit; it had all been discussed in the weeks before. As a gift to the boys and girls of the Manila Wrestling Federation, he was going to send either Ho Ho Lun or Jason Lee to the Philippines to provide the roster with a weekend of training that December.

Now, we knew internally that it would be an incredible crime to not capitalize off this by putting together a main event worth watching. And once William made the confirmation of Ho Ho Lun’s Manila visit, we arranged the paperwork and made it happen: the Manila Wrestling Federation would close out 2017 with Robin Sane vs. Ho Ho Lun.

The latter end of 2017 was incredibly brutal for us. With increasing pressure from our personal lives clashing with the increasing demands to better our in-ring product, we knew something was going to give sooner or later. A delay in a deal we were working on at the time had left up with a hiccup that forced us to work both Balikbayan and Noche Buena on consecutive months.

But the moment we made the announcement towards the end of Balikbayan on that painful November afternoon, we knew were on the verge of leaving a mark in the local community.

At Long Last

And before we knew it, just three and a half weeks later, we were in the presence of Ho Ho Lun himself. Robin was the first to meet him, and they were soon joined by Mr. Lucha and Tala for dinner. It took me awhile to get there- I had to pull in some overtime at work, but once I logged out, I made a rush from one end of Makati to the other to sit down and meet Ho Ho Lun himself.

Just like our first encounter with the Eurasian Dragon, we were all somewhat nervous at first. But eventually, all that just went away. The remarkable thing about Ho Ho Lun is how down to Earth and low-key he is. Speaking for myself, it was inspiring to see someone that accomplished treat this business like… well, business.

He wasn’t boastful, he didn’t have to brag. He didn’t walk around and try to promote himself with every step he took. He was just chill and for some of us, it was such a breath of fresh air. This guy loves wrestling so much that he doesn’t allow it to affect him on a superficial level- who wouldn’t be inspired by that?

After dinner, we had coffee with Ho Ho and dicussed the next two days. Now, with a show the next day and training the day after, you would have thought that the next forty-eight hours were going to go by smoothly. But it didn’t.

Upon arriving at Makati Cinema Square the next morning at eight, we found that the ropes and turnbuckles had been taken down due to a party the night before. With the help of Aldrin Richards, Kyle Sison, and a travelling American veteran by the name of Charlie Salmon, we did what we could to assemble the ring until the arena’s crew arrived to help us out.

29995380_10216280193936407_1751900149_o

If that wasn’t enough, our sound system didn’t arrive until one. Any plans to run through a tech rehearsal had to be scrapped, because before we knew it, it was already show time.

For the entire afternoon, our guys did what they could to deliver one amazing match after another. With the company of Australia’s ‘TNT’ Greg Bownds, we put together the best show we could. But when it came time for the main event, Ho Ho Lun and Robin Sane defied any expectations presented to them and took our audience through the best fight to ever grace the sacred halls of the Makati Square Arena!

History: One More Round

Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to spend that much time with Ho Ho Lun after the show. Once we had things settled at MCS, I had to rush over to the Fort for a work assignment. I did get the chance to speak with him briefly the following day at training, but it really a casual catch-up of everything that had happened in the last two days.

Which is why I can’t help but find myself eagerly anticipating his return in just a few short days. It’s one thing to get a chance to work with someone  as accomplished Ho Ho Lun, but it’s another thing to crack a dry little joke into the world and know that in the same room, despite some distance in language, another person gets it too.

Working with Ho Ho Lun was an eye-opening experience. For a brief moment, I got to hang out and work with someone- another adult, mind you- who took wrestling so seriously that he did not allow it to get the better of his ego. And that to me, in this business, is the mark of a true professional.

Hasbros, DDT’s, and Me [Rune Stones & Voodoo, Who Do #3]

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

I was four years old when I first started watching wrestling. While I only remember bits and pieces, it’s a moment my mom remembers very clearly… I was sick, it was late, I couldn’t go to sleep, and my mom was desperate to find anything that would distract my mind, even a little. So, she flipped through the TV and settled on wrestling.

“They were big, they wore tights, and threw each other around,” my mom recalls. “They looked like superheroes!”

And they did- in a huge way! And as I watched the “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Jake “The Snake” Roberts tear the house down on what, thinking about it now, must’ve been a tape-delay replay of Saturday Night’s Main Event on either StarSports or the American Armed Forces Network, I found myself falling in love for the very first time in my life.tumblr_inline_ngma88rp2E1r5344l

“I thought they were going to distract you!” my mom sighs. “I had no idea it was going to become a lifelong obsession. God, if I only knew!”

My mom tells this story a lot, because I can’t even begin to count all the times during my childhood she tried to wean me off wrestling. In fact, it took a trip to a child psychologist to convince her to let me watch wrestling for good.

Before I ever fell in love with a girl, I fell in love with wrestling.

A Mark of the 90’s!

The 90’s was such a different time to be a wrestling fan. If anything, it required a level of patience that many just don’t have in today’s world. WWF programming was available on both cable and free-TV, in varying degrees. If you were lucky enough to have cable, that meant you watched the WWF on a three week tape delay.

But, if you didn’t, you had to follow WWF programing through IBC 13, ABC 5, and then RPN 9 on Saturday nights on a two month tape delay. And if that wasn’t enough, pay-per-views were often separated into two parts and played over the course of two weekends as part of a “Saturday Night Blockbuster/Movie of the Week” programming block. So, theoretically, you could start Summer Slam one week and finish it the next, but having gone through an episode of Superstars that would have spilled the beans on the main event for you.hasbro-wwf1.jpg

I was too young too care. For me, wrestling was awesome and I wanted to watch everything! And thanks to Hasbro’s now iconic line of 4-inch figures, the crazy universe of the World Wrestling Federation was now even closer to me. Every afternoon, my nephew and I would sit down on the floor, with our Hasbros to re-create some of our favorite matches and make up some new ones of our own.

Thinking about it now, my work as the Commissioner of the MWF is really an extension of a pastime I could never bring myself to outgrow.

In Living Color

Excluding the Manila Wrestling Federation and other wrestling events I had worked on, I’ve been to six wrestling shows in my life, starting with a barely remembered show at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum headlined by Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

I was too young to really remember the actual details of the show. All I can remember was being there and seeing a wrestling ring and real wrestlers in front of me for the first time in my life. It was fun, exciting, and I remember not being able to keep my eyes away from what was going on.

At the end of the show, the promoters allowed the fans to come around the ring and meet the wrestlers. And with my Hasbro Jake “The Snake” Roberts figure in hand (I had already lost the Damien figure by that point), I had a picture with the mystery man from Stone Mountain Georgia.

29250858_10216134903144228_2084891962_o

It’s very fitting: the first live wrestling show I ever attended included the first wrestler I ever saw on TV.

Here We Are Now

In a few short months, I will be thirty years old. In a couple years, I will have been a wrestling fan for exactly three decades.  I’ve been in the business for four years, and when I think of everything, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve acclimated a treasure chest of memories. But until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t have any real recollections of my first ever wrestling show until my sister and niece unearthed an envelope of old photos.

 

Now, I hadn’t seen any of these pictures in about twenty-five years and as I flipped through each one, memories came rushing to back as my jaw slowly dropped at the sheer volume of talent on hand for that show… David Schultz, Kevin Sullivan, Konan, Johnny Grunge, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Medusa, and the Warlord (with someone who looks a hell of a lot like Paul Heyman!).

It’s hard to look at these pictures without wanting to go back in time and relive this show as a twenty-nine year old. But then again, I think of my five-year-old self. Those guys worked that show for a crowd of really impressionable kids. And when I think of myself now, I’m making wrestling shows with my friends for a new crowd of really impressionable kids.

During last year’s MWF Live, there was a little boy in the front row with his dad. He came to our show with his own Spinner Title and a head full of dreams that were on the verge of coming true. And seeing him thoroughly enjoy our first show with all of his heart, he re28942725_10216134983306232_1552965360_ominded me why I decided to even get into this crazy business in the first place.

It’s not about glory, it’s not about legacy: it’s about leaving the next generation with a memory so unforgettable that one day, they inherit our business to inspire the generation that comes after.

At the end of the show, my mom approached that boy and pointed at me.

“You know, Mike was just like you at that age”, she told him.

And you know what? While I try not to take any moment away from my roster, I’ll take that. It was one of the few moments that truly made it all worth it.

 

Magick Mark [Rune Stones & Voodoo, Who Do #2]

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

 

Just recently, I was asked a very simple question: What does kayfabe mean to you? And to my surprise, it was a very hard question to answer.

Almost immediately, my mind flashed back to the summer of 1994 when the then-WWF came to Manila for Manila Mania, an event headlined by Bret and Owen Hart in a rematch of their classic at Wrestlemania X. The crowd was hot- so hot in fact that people took our seats and we had to watch the rest of the show by standing on the isle.

What really left an impact on me was the presence of the Undertaker. On the weeks leading to the show, I found myself frightened at the thought of seeing the Undertaker and Paul Bearer. Somehow, in my mind, I worried I might have done something bad that when the show was over, he would certainly creep into my room and take me to the crypt.

And then it happened… There I was, perched on my dad’s arms when the lights went off, the crowd hushed and not a moment later, the iconic “dong” of his entrance music hit the Araneta Coliseum. The crowd erupted as the Undertaker and Paul Bearer made their way to the ring. The electricity was deafening and I was scared. I tried to look but when I saw that cowboy hat eerily creeping closer and closer, I broke into tears and buried my face on my dad’s shoulder.

91zCWQ2djoL._SL1500_
Zombie Undertaker

“Look, it’s the Undertaker!” my Dad said.

I kept crying and I couldn’t stop. In fact, I spent the whole match crying in his shoulder.

Now, I could easily be a smark ass and hate on my 5-year-old self for not watching the match. But at the same time, I can look back at myself and proudly think, “I was so invested and I was such a mark that the Undertaker actually SCARED me!”.

I GOT WORKED AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL!

Flash-forward Twelve Years Later

It took the WWE eleven years to come back to the Philippines, and when they did, they did not disappoint. In the middle of the infamous Peninsula siege of 2006, just as the country was on the verge of military lockdown, the WWE went ahead with their set of back-to-back shows.

By then, I was 17-years-old, and I was somewhat dissatisfied with the product at the time that I turned to tape-trading to fulfill my needs. But even with all that, there was an electric purity to the entire event that you don’t often get.

The show started off with a one-on-one between Eugene and Snitsky and if there’s anything I remember most, it’s how fans popped at the simplest things:

Clothesline? Pop!

Bodyslam? Bigger pop!

By the time Eugene hit the sleeper hold, I could have sworn the fans were gonna blow the roof off the arena. We were so deprived of live wrestling that the smallest things actually meant something.

Sure, I could go on about how awesome it was to see RVD in person or how Triple H vs. Big Show was the best match of the night. But seeing a sleeper hold warrant such an intense, emotional reaction made me realize how hungry we really were for live wrestling.

WWE Raw Manila
WWE Raw Live in Manila 2006

Where are We Now?

Kayfabe in the 21st century is so hard to define because it means so many different things to so many different people. A term that once fiercely protected the business and encapsulated many of its esoteric traditions is now used as a mere plot device to keep a feud going on social media. But then again, it is understandable…

In today’s world, wrestling is prominently covered by sports and entertainment outlets, including ESPN and Rolling Stone- which, if anyone remembers, was almost unheard of 10-15 years ago. The public perception around wrestling has changed. Mainstream audiences accept it for what it is, and that’s huge.

15 years ago, many fans were still trying to process the very concept of wrestling and there was hostility. It was hard for people to give into the suspension of disbelief when, for better or worse, the business had spent decades lying to its audience.

That trust took a long time to gain back, but here we are- wrestling fans with a concept that begs to be defined by the changing attitudes of the 21st century.

kayfabe_FI
The director of the WWF Slammy Awards in 1987 was credited as “Kaye Fabe” 

A Most Beautiful Thing

As I sit on a quiet weekend afternoon, I sip tequila and look at my WWE action figures while I try to answer the question for myself and myself only… The veil has been lifted, and there is a weird balance promoters everywhere are trying to find. Because the fans want to know everything, but they also want to lose themselves in the moment.

It’s up to promoters to remain true to the traditions of the business, while adapting to the modern logic and the natural trend of the times. But most importantly, for fans, workers, and promoters alike, I think everyone has to remember what it’s like to be a mark and cherish that.

Everyone involved in the business today started off as a passionate mark who wanted to believe in this grand, limitless universe bound together by what is arguably the most refined variant of the oldest sport in the world.

In short: being a wrestling mark is a beautiful thing.

Old Mark
A Mark that Got old, with All the Success in the World.

At the age of five, I believed in the darkness of the Undertaker. When I was sixteen, I understood the magick of the Undertaker. And as I approach my thirties, having spent a significant chunk of my adult life involved in the industry, I still believe in the darkness. It doesn’t scare me the way it used to, but I can’t say that I’m not attracted to its allure and danger.

Knowing what I know, I think I’m at the best age to really appreciate wrestling as a mark.

MANILA RULES: Our Story, So Far… [Rune Stones & Voodoo Who Do #1]

By Commissioner Mike (CM) Shannon

We have a ring — our own wrestling ring, and you know what? I still can’t believe it!

At the beginning of every show, it’s customary for me to come out and address our audience for that afternoon. They made the trip to come out and support us and I make it a point to thank them for that, while easing off any of the nervousness my roster may be experiencing at that moment. I’m used to this.

But walking to the ring – our very own ring, mind you- last weekend at the UP Film Institute for Open House: Level Up was just something else. I walked into a packed house of a little over a hundred and in the middle of all those people was our baby- our very own wrestling ring. Everything we had spent the last four years fighting for was right in front of me and I was shaking.

From left: MWF stars Frankie Thurteen, Mr. Lucha and Robin Sane, competing in the new MWF wrestling ring.

Dropkicks on My Heart

A good friend once told me, “Getting your heart broken by a girl is nothing compared to getting your heart broken by wrestling”. And it’s true. My heart was broken by wrestling and for a long time, it was hard to watch a single wrestling match without remembering what had happened to me. Wrestling wasn’t just taken from me, the new guard that came in made sure that as long as there was wrestling in the Philippines, Mike Shannon wasn’t going to be part of it.

I left them with the clear intention that whatever happened to me, I was either going to start another promotion or find my way into another. I was not done. I made my case before a jury who had already decided my fate, and lucky for me, people listened.

Robin Sane was the first to call, and then came Tala. They were interested and so were their friends, a renegade lot of multitalented performers who wanted more than what they were given. It was really adorable, now that I think about it. We would meet every so often and court each other. We didn’t say anything just yet, but it was obvious that we wanted to end up together.

And so as 2014 came to a close, we decided to go for it. Maybe we could make this wrestling dream happen. Maybe our dream still had a chance.

Enter Hybrid

We entered 2015 with the makings of a promotion… Well, barely a fraction of a promotion. We had four wrestlers, one referee, and a booker. It wasn’t much, but it was better than my action figures and it was an actual start!

Our first official trainings happened at the Elorde Gym in Tandang Sora. It was a long way off for us, but hey, it had a ring with some suspension that could take a few bumps. It was all that we needed and within weeks, we were accompanied by old friends such as Rex Lawin, and newcomers to our little merry band such as Fabio Makisig and Gigz Stryker.

With a diverse cast of bodies and personalities, we began to discuss the specifics of our future promotion. We were going to be colorful, hard-hitting, and imaginative. We were going to tell stories that reflected life in the Philippines in the biggest way possible. We were going to be family-friendly. And we were going to be better than everybody else.

We knew we had the power to do it and so, just as we were in the process of preparing for what would have been our teaser video, we were dealt with two blows:

  1. Elorde Tandang Sora didn’t want us anymore. Even though we had friends there who did what they could to keep us around, upper management wanted more than what we could afford to give. The message was clear anyway.
  2. The creation of a secondary championship was announced by what was the only Filipino promotion at the time: The PHX Championship. The Hybrid Championship.

In a matter of weeks, we lost our name, our identity, and our home.

Making History

Somehow, we managed to get by for the next year. While there was a lot of turmoil and uncertainty, we just somehow managed to stick together and soldier on. Somehow we just knew if we marched long enough, we’d get somewhere.

After losing Tandang Sora, Fabio Makisig offered us Ninja Academy: They didn’t have a ring, but they had everything we needed to fine-tune our skills. Week in and week out, our guys would spend hours on their mats and foam pits to fine-tune the safe execution of their moves. We would have never been able to cultivate our high-flying and intense style if it wasn’t for Ninja Academy.

But even then, we continued looking for a gym with a workable ring to house us. We recognized that without an intangible demo of our product, we weren’t going to move. The decision was made, and with the blessing, love, and support of all our girlfriends, we shot our own teaser video.

We knew couldn’t be hybrid anymore, but we kept that spirit alive in our name: the Manila Wrestling Federation, MWF. And not long after, by the graces of the universe, our video attracted enough attention that we were fortunate to get the chance to perform in the first ever HistoryCON.

We had three days’ worth of wrestling to deliver, and to round out our small, yet sparky batch of wrestlers, we were accompanied by SPW (Singapore Pro Wrestling) Superstars “The Statement” Andreuw Tang, Eurasian Dragon, Alexis Lee, and the Thaibarrian. In addition, a travelling veteran by the name of “T.N.T” Greg Bownds also joined us.

Singapore Pro Wrestling’s “The Statement” Andreuw Tang faced Robin Sane at the MWF Show in HistoryCon 2016.

HistoryCON was a learning experience. Anything we had planned for was instantly thrown away the moment we were out there, working our own shows for the very first time. And somehow, even with the lack of experience and finances, we made it and forged lifelong friendships with seasoned veterans who got us over by showing us first hand just how real wrestling can be.

The Eurasian Dragon put it best: “Wrestling is such an esoteric art-form. You have more bad days than good, but when the good finally comes, it makes up for everything.”

And it’s true. It’s damn true.

Taking Over the Square

After HistoryCON, you would have thought we’d have built up enough momentum for a full stand-alone show. But unfortunately, the cards of destiny had another plan. We had been evicted, again, from our new found home base, Alpha 51, in Mandaluyong City.

We decided to regroup and advance into the coming year with our eyes set on our stand alone show. Coach Gus Queens came in and helped us with a recruitment drive that would bring in a number of future stars including Hanzello Shilva, Morgan Vaughn, and Moises Liwanang.

Robin Sane and Mr. Lucha, along with Fabio, trained our boys to get them ring-ready as soon as possible. The boys were then rounded out with Frankie Thurteen, a young visionary whose age finally allowed him the chance to set foot inside the squared circle with no restrictions.

And so, with a small, but solid roster of wrestlers, we decided to go for it. The date was set, April 8th, 2017, MWF Live at the Makati Square Arena, headlined by Mr. Lucha and Robin Sane in a Manila Rules Match.

1st Poster for the first-ever MWF Live, a a full year before MWF 1: Kasaysayan on April 8, 2018.

We had run Manila Rules several times during HistoryCON. But when we received a confused reaction from the audience, the decision was unanimously made to save it for something truly special. And if there was any match that was going to set the tone for everything that came after, it was Mr. Lucha and Robin Sane in that first main event.

Working through a combination of excitement and the jitters, both men went out there for five grueling rounds of non-stop action and made history. I still remember watching Robin Sane take that very first 450. He had been practicing that move for over a year, perfecting every chance he had. He didn’t say anything, but I knew he was just going to try. And when the moment came, that daring bastard took my breath away and pulled it off. The first in the country.

In the end, Lucha took home the victory by nailing Robin Sane with a perfectly timed and executed DVDX. It’s a move he rarely puts out there, knowing that it’s the ultimate killer once he drives you into the mat. But that’s what always made him special. Lucha has it in him to destroy whoever’s in his path without breaking a sweat, but he doesn’t. He holds too much respect for his opponents for a wrestler of his caliber.

With a thunderous roar from the one hundred strong in attendance, we did it. Despite some hiccups that would plague us, we made it to the dance.

Sure, there were a lot of challenges at Cinema Square. We had to work on a beaten boxing ring, we had to deal with an unreliable sound system and so many technical delays that took away from the experience of our shows. But in the face of all those hiccups, we stuck to our guns and kicked each challenge in the face.

Robin Sane faced Ho Ho Lun in the main event of 2017’s MWF Noche Buena.

But as 2017 drew to a close, despite the reaction from newcomers that included Aldrin Richards and Ashura, and a monumental main-event with former WWE talent, Hoho Lun, it was clear that something had to change if we wanted to be the best in Asia.

The Future

For the first time, I came to the ring last Sunday with a proper entrance and before me stood our ring. I was nervous, and for the first time, I fumbled as I addressed the crowd. I even got Sig Pecho’s name wrong. This doesn’t happen to me. But for the first time, as I stood in the middle of our ring, I felt the pressure.

I arrived to the UP Film Institute early that morning and the first thing I saw was that ring. I couldn’t even go inside. Aside from my wife, that ring is the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on, I couldn’t even step inside.

MWF Open House: Level Up Promotional Poster, featuring Mr. Lucha.

And that magnified the moment the show began. Just being inside our ring, in front of all those people, I couldn’t help but think of all of the moments, big and small, that led us there. The struggle, the sleepless nights, the sacrifice- it all finally led somewhere and I was right in the middle of it.

Yes, the Manila Wrestling Federation is under new management. And there are a lot of things I’m getting used to, but this was always the plan all along: to keep the ship together until a group with the resources and the patience came along to guide us through the next step of the journey.

With Kasaysayan on the horizon, I know that my sleepless nights and struggle are only just beginning. But that’s okay. Because now, we’re all pieces of a bigger entity that’s focused to make the Manila Wrestling Federation the third biggest promotion in the world. It’s a future that will enable every single one of us in the promotion to potentially make a living by doing what we love most.

I couldn’t think of a more exciting time to be a wrestling fan, because our history has only just begun. In fifty years, maybe more, there won’t be any Mike Shannons or Robin Sanes or Mr. Luchas, but there will always be the Manila Wrestling Federation.