The 'crazy, amazing, jaw-dropping' world of pro wrestling in Philippines | Inquirer Sports

The ‘crazy, amazing, jaw-dropping’ world of pro wrestling in Philippines

07:49 PM September 14, 2016

WWE Live Manila. Sherwin Vardeleon/INQUIRER

Seth Rollins dazzled the crowd when WWE came to Manila on September 9. Sherwin Vardeleon/INQUIRER

Chairs are set but the people won’t sit. Everyone is eager to see at what extent the gladiators would go just to keep their opponents down.

The canvas is placed on the center, but the masterpiece would even spill outside at times, eliciting the crowd to roar louder.


It’s an unimaginable high like no other.


READ: 7 things you’ll only experience at a live WWE show

But this is not boxing or mixed martial arts or any other combat sports. It’s a field where the results are predetermined but the pain isn’t: this is professional wrestling.

For one reason or the other, generations of fathers, siblings, cousins, and friends have been in awe watching grown men batter each other just to get their arms raised.

And for the performers, there’s nothing quite like the rush standing in front of an adoring crowd, may it be cheers or boos, as they prepare for battle.

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“The hardest part for me is before your entrance music hits because that’s where your nerve is,” said “Classical” Bryan Leo. “You’re overthinking, wondering, and hoping you don’t mess up.”


“Once your theme hits, you just disappear and hear the roar of the crowd. You see that those people, whether 30 or 3,000, there’s such a big rush cause they are there watching you. The moment you’re between the ropes, there’s no drug like it, there’s no greater high when the fans boo or cheer you. That’s the big deal.”

The stage is set, the performers are in the ring. The only one separating the fighters from tearing each other apart is the referee that will decide the outcome and the thin air they are about to shatter. And then, the bell rings and all hell breaks loose.

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“Once that bell rings, I go blank and do stuff I never thought I would be able to do,” said Bombay Suarez.

“It numbs you, at the same time, lets you think at a very fast pace. As soon as the bell rings, I don’t know what I’m going to do to beat this guy. I work with some guys who hit so hard, I dislocate my shoulders and a few body parts. When they hit you, it doesn’t feel a thing but you know it made contact. I don’t feel the pain until I’m in the locker room.”

It has been overstated that the audience has always been the sixth man, the undeniable factor which affects the psyche of the athletes performing in front of them. But the rowdy nature of the crowds they perform in makes it a unique experience, something Leo and Suarez are proud of as members of Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR), the country’s lone pro wrestling promotion.

Then-PWR Champion "Classical" Bryan Leo celebrates with his stable Royal Flush. Photo from PWR's Facebook page

Then-PWR Champion “Classical” Bryan Leo celebrates with his stable Royal Flush. Photo from PWR’s Facebook page

Since opening shop in 2014 after being conceptualized through a Facebook group two years before, the promotion has garnered its own fanbase, packing crowds from Makati Cinema Square and iAcademy to open courts like in BF Homes in Paranaque. Though still in its formative stages, PWR has succeeded in establishing itself as a premier pro wrestling outfit in the region.

READ: Roman Reigns beats Chris Jericho at WWE Live Manila

From technical matches ending in submission, the hard knocks-style of strikers, lucha libre-inspired high-flyers, women wrestlers, to even hardcore matches, PWR has it all, giving the fans a unique experience the performers say they will never forget.

“We’re halo-halo,” said Leo. “If you think about it, people will always have their preference. People might want to see Bombay Suarez light his hand on fire, one would like to see Bryan Leo make one simple submission. The whole point is variety, it’s something for everybody. There are some who are crazy, who are really technical, who are very simplistic, and basically an opportunity for a lot of styles to succeed in. A lot of people in the company are full-blood Filipino, a lot of them are half, a lot are foreign, so it’s a different experience altogether. Seeing each wrestler is a different experience. That’s what makes us different, we’re not afraid to take in anyone as long as you have the passion.”

As much as PWR gave aspiring Filipino wrestlers the stage to pursue their dreams through their bootcamps, pushing the product to its finality is an endeavor all people involved truly worked hard for.


Preparations for a show could go on for months, from training the wrestlers which will perform in front of the live audience to planning the technical aspects for the event. The wrestlers worry about these stuff weeks and even months before the big day.

“There are lots of great athletes who can pick up in the drills, but a lot of those who quit early. There are lots of guys who are unfit but have such passion for it that no matter how long it takes, no matter how much pain it takes, they just keep on going,” Leo explained. “As for the production side, it’s something the guys worry about everyday because there’s always something that goes wrong or could do wrong. It’s a very expensive production and if you don’t take a close look at something, it could go wrong.”

Contrary to public knowledge, there’s no specific blueprint for the matches.

READ: WWE CWC: Fil-Am Perkins makes it to the Final Four

“I think a big misconception is these wrestling matches are choreographed because they’re not,” said Leo. “There are guys who may have an idea on what they want to do when they come in, but ideally, as a pro wrestler, you’re supposed to go there at a heartbeat’s rate.”

Suarez added: “It can go from a full month of preparation to finding out wrestling later and putting a match on the spot. Some train it off and be physically ready for anything. We train to be ready for anything, so it doesn’t matter if you give us a month in advance, but if you find out that you’re facing somebody else, you have to be ready.”

A poster of the now defunct Pinoy Wrestling. Photo courtesy of Pinoy Wrestling Facebook page

A poster of the now defunct Pinoy Wrestling. Photo courtesy of Pinoy Wrestling Facebook page

Staging these events today is a far cry from how it was done in the yesteryears, specifically with the ill-fated Pinoy Wrestling of the late 1980s.

“The actual wrestling is pathetic. There was hardly any storylines,” shared Atty. Ed Tolentino, one of the few writers who closely followed pro wrestling back then. “The props used were cheap and the television coverage was limited and horribly blurry. Back then, there was no internet or cable television and wrestling fans watched delayed telecasts of World Wrestling Federation (WWF) programs on Channel 13. But even then, they knew that Pinoy Wrestling was nowhere close the WWF brand and it was viewed as a poor knock-off version. It just didn’t capture the fancy of local wrestling fans. The WWF was just beginning to hit its stride in the United States and it was too early to cash in on the local front.”

READ: Zayn, WWE stars ‘twice as motivated’ as they head to Manila

Pinoy Wrestling had its fair share of characters, from the iconic Joe Pogi, Zorro, Turko Turero, Max Buwaya, and the like, but aside from the personas, Suarez said that PWR is a lot more different from what the Filipino wrestling fans have been used to.

“Aside from the characters in the promotion being relatable to the Filipino audience, I don’t think we took anything from Pinoy Wrestling. We tried to revolutionize what they did without taking anything from them,” he said.

And they did. Shedding the idea of the rag-tag backyard wrestling from its core and setting up venues the way independent circuits has it done in the United States and Europe, PWR has slowly gotten the respect of the wrestling fans as they built their name and eventually, their fanbase.

READ: Childhood dreams granted in WWE’s return to Manila

“The fans were probably thinking that some of us could actually wrestle, even a little bit. That’s what we heard,” Leo said. “A lot of people were praising Bombay Suarez because he was crazy and he was going through tables. There were some who were praising Panzer and Ken Warren because they were the good looking and athletic guys, Jake de Leon because he’s a fat guy but he was moving really fast. I didn’t get praised at first, but they were praising my mic skills.”

 Bombay Suarez. Photo by Hub Pacheco via PWR's Facebook page

Bombay Suarez. Photo by Hub Pacheco via PWR’s Facebook page

Leo is now one of the promotion’s elite technical wrestlers and best talkers. Portraying a heel (bad guy) character, he has gone on and held the PWR Championship twice before losing the title to Jake de Leon last May at Wrevolution X.

Suarez, meanwhile, is more on extreme side. Armed with his signature flaming chop, a move where he lights his arms on fire and slaps it on an opponent’s chest, he is a former Philippine Hybrid X Champion.

The public has also been appreciative of their efforts, showing up in the wrestlers’ merchandise and actively joining the discourse in social media, all helping PWR gain more fame.

“When I browse the PWR fan page, some of the comments are people tagging their friends. As soon as they get there, they say it’s amazing. They go from thinking it’s something funny to having a complete different perspective,” said Suarez. “What we’re doing now is to change people’s perspectives to see wrestling as something which might kill their time, but it’s something that will give you an amazing experience at the end of that night. The dream for me now is to convert how Filipinos see professional wrestling. I want to educate them to take it seriously. It’s not just funny, it’s something crazy, amazing, jaw-dropping.”

Leo said, “At this point, we’re trying to establish ourselves locally and prove that we are a big deal, show how much of a gift this really is not just for them, but for us as well. It will be great if it happens, but if it didn’t, I just want to keep on wrestling.”

And that’s the core of it all, these wrestlers having the avenue to put on their own spin as they wrestle in front of an appreciative crowd, raining them with claps and cheers as the show comes to a close.

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“The best moment is when the last bell rings and you go back there knowing you put smiles in people’s faces,” said Leo. “That’s the whole point of what we do, to go out there and put a smile on people’s faces.”

TAGS: wrestling

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