By Sigmund Roy Pecho
Give me a too sweet if in 2018, you are still gaga about wrestling!
In my earlier years, whether you find it odd or not, the very first memory of TV that I have was sneaking under the pillow to hide from a surprisingly horrific and effective gimmick of a dead man coming back to life to annihilate lesser wrestlers in the ring. He kept on playing mind games to his opponents — indeed, he was a psy war tactician with a dwarfish sidekick, who had a deformed facial expression (who, come to think of it, actually prepared me not to be frightened at Lord of the Rings’ Golum). Yes, that unique moment of watching and hiding from the Undertaker was my very first memory of watching TV.
Since then, I closely watched what was then known as the WWF. I also became a Bret “The Hitman” Hart fan, inspired by my childhood hero to be “The Best there is, the Best there was, and the Best there ever will be”. His excellence in the ring was undeniably one of the best ever witnessed in wrestling. He had stellar matches, and his in-ring storytelling taught me what empathy means at a very early age. He defied the odds, went toe-to-toe with anyone who tried to disrespect him, his brand of wrestling and the people he represented. He was a great technician who had amazing matches against big guys like The Undertaker, Diesel, Yokozuna; had heated rivalries in Shawn Michaels, Jerry King Lawler, Terry Funk, Mr. Perfect, Stone Cold Steve Austin, even his great late brother Owen Hart, with whom he had some of his most critically acclaimed matches.
Recognizing my love for the underdog Champion in Bret Hart, I felt the need to create my own path of excellence. Often did I imagine having a career of my own in the WWE, building a character that simply carried my second name “Roy”. I had my dream tag team matches, dream rivalries, dream promos, and what have you. l remember being called weird by my youngest brother because he often caught me playing wrestling with sound effects up until High School. What seemed weirder was that I did not use action figures, and instead imagined my hands transforming as real characters. Indulging in those moments perhaps trained my hands how to work with puppets, how to make them alive, how to sketch my designs, and more.
Yes, I am a theatre practitioner now. I never thought of becoming a wrestler, because I never thought it would have been possible. But now, my craft introduced me to people who, like me, are still so gaga about wrestling; people in my field who were well-informed about the crafts and art of wrestling; people who spent so much time studying great match psychology, interesting characters, historic crowd reactions, and the relevance of character associations in the art of wrestling. My love for the arts led me to meeting people who acknowledged the art in something that is supposedly “just a form of sports entertainment”. I knew I was close to being part of living in a dream.
Last January, I got a call from one of my wrestling fan buddies, and brought good news that there will be a new wrestling federation that would try to meet Pinoy sensibilities. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be part of that action-filled event. I initially expressed my desire to call matches or to introduce everyone. Lo and behold, at MWF Open House: Level UP in the UP Film Studio, I became the voice of the MWF squared circle.
I stepped in the MWF’s newly constructed ring to do my thing. I held the microphone ala-rockstar Constantine Maroulis of American Idol or if you like a more wrestling reference, the loud Mr. Kennedy. I became a character. Once again, I was in my theatrical element, but this time it felt surreal — I was in my theatrical element inside a wrestling ring, the MWF ring.
I brought my Kasintahan (lover-beloved) with me, and was so happy that she enjoyed the show! What’s more interesting was her unexpected remarks recognizing heel tactics, babyface building up psy war through engaging promos, and the story in matches. It was insane hearing her observations, from someone who was not even a wrestling fan.
To me, it proved that we were doing the right thing. We were able to transform our colleagues as characters audience may relate to, characters with empathy, which can be a great tool in reflecting on our personal battles and values system.
Right now, the Philippine wrestling business is beginning to unfold its potential as a new form for us Pinoys to hear and tell stories, to connect us with our own demons and try to figure out how to pipe bomb our way to becoming more fueled in our lives.
I am now part of the MWF, and will always be. And that’s just too sweet to dig!