MWF Balikbayan — Wrestling Comedy of Errors
MWF Balikbayan

There are no excuses for how late this turned out other than sitting on my hands the whole time while typing this with a pencil between my teeth. Same thing goes for MWF Balikbayan, a show that faced a laundry list of difficulties coming in, and it proved to be quite the learning experience. Not everything is good, not everything is bad, and not everything is deliberate. I’d say the title I’ve given this is quite appropriate in hindsight. It was still a pretty good show, yielding a truly incredible match, two new prospects, and some entertaining moments.

MWF Balikbayan was not to be the last show of 2017 as there was to be yet another one less than a month after with a VIP guest to boot. It’s extremely foolhardy to pull it off on such a tight schedule, especially for a promotion in its first official year. However, that’s the kind of envelope-pushing, tightrope-walking tomfoolery we seem to like putting ourselves through for other people’s enjoyment because we are masochists of the highest order.

DISCLAIMER: I’m the ring announcer and a production crew member of Manila Wrestling Federation, so this is not an impartial review. Reader discretion is advised.

Also, the match commentary was done in post-production. Some creative liberties had been taken to enhance the viewing experience.

MWF Balikbayan Match Card

Morgan Vaughn vs. Mr. Lucha

The undefeated Mr. Lucha in the opening match of this event seems a bit like a disservice to his stature, yet he went up against the underhandedness of Morgan Vaughn. Mr. Lucha competes in MWF with his morals, so it was the routine tecnico contra rudo match.

Morgan Vaughn had won against Robin Sane in Road to Fate with cheapness, but his opponent’s diminished condition courtesy of still-tender sprained ankles were also a factor. For him to win against a healthy and somewhat perturbed Mr. Lucha, he would’ve had to pull off a dirty trick miles off the left field.

Surprise is always the Glitch’s calling card, but it seems that he hasn’t even mastered the darker arts of pro wrestling just yet. Ric Flair had his own bag of tricks, and Eddie Guerrero had a particular style of lying, cheating, and stealing. If Morgan Vaughn is to start getting more ahead in MWF his way, he’ll have to figure out his own way of “glitching”.


Fabio Makisig Open Challenge

Fabio Makisig is the type of guy who would revels in the beating up of some kid. Mind you, much of his joy was from having been given a bit of a challenge by Kyle Sison, who volunteered to have the floor mopped with his own face. Testing one’s mettle is the first step towards greatness, after all.

While Kyle Sison lacked physical stature, he made up for it with some guile. He would catch Fabio in compromising positions, which could’ve handed him the upset win if only he had a bit more meat on him. For instance, that triangle choke could’ve been a lot tighter and those strike should’ve had more pepper in them.

Nonetheless, props to Kyle Sison for putting up a pretty fight. Not much was expected of the kid when he took off his shirt, but he has some potential.


Frankie Thurteen vs. Moises Liwanag (Balikbayan Box Match)

The one knock against this match is the lack of sufficient weapons in the balikbayan boxes. We could’ve had more typical balikbayan box fare, like cans of Spam and Danish cookies. They could’ve had a box of Danish cookies, open it up, and find out it’s actually a sewing kit. They could then jam each other with needles for the hell of it.

You know what could’ve made the match a lot more dangerous? An old Nokia phone, preferably the 6610 or the old 3310. And Lego, lots of them. Maybe I should’ve brought my spare Lego and put them in a little sack. Then they may be spread out like thumb tacks in the ring. Then again, I could then get arrested for reckless endangerment.

As you watch this match, you can see how Cuddles the Bear had been traumatized by the harrowing experience of being abducted by Moises Liwanag. He also received a standing Angel Bullet from Frankie Thurteen outside the ring. The real victim of this contest was Cuddles, and the blame goes to Mike Shannon for having booked this.


Gigz Stryker in Action

I’m still not entirely sure about the true efficacy of acupuncture, and that’s me saying that as a Chinese man. However, it does seem like it did wonders for Gigz Stryker, although I’m not sure of the credentials of medicine men who use the Papyrus font for their signs. Regardless, it was good to see the action hero back on his feet after being so thoroughly brutalized months before.

I’ve worked closely with RG the Tech Guy for a while now, and I can say he’s a stand-up guy. For him to want to test himself against the 90s Action Hero is a testament to that. He held his own long enough to show how far he has come in his wrestling training, although the gap between him and Gigz Stryker is still lightyears apart.

A routine application of Asintado ended the contest, and RG thanks his idol one more time before getting back to his station with a sore back and a few lessons richer.


Aldrin Richards vs. Hanzello Shilva

Did you just watch that? It was to be expected that a good match could be had from two evenly-matched wrestlers, yet it turned out this had a lot more going for it. This was certainly Aldrin Richards’ breakout performance, and Hanzello Shilva also did brilliantly as he went above his perceived level as well.

The crux of it is the unexpected finisher. Let’s just say Aldrin Richards is a big fan of a particular wrestler in a certain Japanese pro wrestling promotion. There was a match that happened very early that year that left quite an impression on the scene for the rest of 2017. It then inspired a young man named Aldrin Richards to do the same moves he saw on that fateful day, the fourth of January.

I have my own thoughts regarding the One Winged Angel. It’s not what can be considered an “apocalyptic” move, but its long setup time and impact makes it what I would call a Tier 4 move—a Level 2 finisher. Using it in a match requires both strategy and careful consideration. You don’t pull it out for every single match; it should be reserved for the big matches.


Rex Lawin vs. Robin Sane

In this episode of “Will Robin Sane Get Screwed Over by Coach Gus Queens Again?”, we have Robin Sane getting screwed over again by Coach Gus Queens. With how he butted in when Robin Sane was up against Morgan Vaughn, it seemed like Gus was just out to get him, no matter what. At least, we got to establish that.

So when Gus came out just as Mr. 450 was about to do his 450, it was not that surprising. But what was indeed surprising was Fabio Makisig coming out to do Queens’ bidding, most likely for a considerable sum of money. With what looks like a triumvirate, Robin Sane was outgunned.

Then in comes the rejuvenated Gigz Stryker for the save. The 3-on-2 situation ended with both fan favorites getting the better of the trio, but only after Robin Sane had dropped yet another contest. It wasn’t without a lack of trying, but the speedy one is in a bit of a pickle with the life coach constantly hounding him.


Camera Woes

My biggest worry coming into the event was the lack of a cameraman to take footage (the one who worked on Road to Fate had to wrestle), but it was assuaged when I was introduced to a guy volunteering to do the honors. I gave him some instructions (based on what could be improved from the last event’s footage) and briefed him on the camera’s different parts.

It’s an old Canon Vixia HF R300 camcorder. Excusing its dismal low light performance and subpar field of view, it’s a good video camera that has served me well over the years. I bought it second-hand in Greenhills—the cheapest thing I found that had microphone input. Its strengths are batteries that can last for over two hours (I have two), lightness and portability, and comfortable grip. If you don’t have the right arm of a 6-year-old child, you can keep it steady without having to turn on image stabilization.

Unfortunately, I forgot to turn image stabilization for this Parkinson’s patient. Okay, maybe I’m being too hard on the kid, but the footage he took with my camera was not as good as that from Road to Fate. 

What I’ve ascertained as the cause of the slight shakiness was his grip, with his thumb on the bottom of the camera. This most likely created unnecessary strain in his forearm, which made his handling of the camera less than ideal.

While having to deal with this, I learned the following lessons:

  • Artistic liberties with camera work should be discouraged. Just capture the action and nothing more.
  • Remember to tell him to not use the zoom.
  • Instruct him on the proper handling of the camera—where it goes on the hand and what not to do.
  • Give him tips on how to keep the camera steady, especially on using the elbow to stabilize.
  • Tell him to never stop the recording, even if he’s worried about battery life. I paid good money for those big batteries.
  • Image stabilization may be considered, despite its negative effect on battery life.
  • Check footage during intermission so errors can be addressed for the second half of the show.
  • If the footage is shaky, lightly chew the cameraman out.

Some may think I’m exaggerating and the footage isn’t all that shaky. Maybe you’re right, but it was still not what I was hoping for. When capturing action like pro wrestling, a steady camera is the most important factor in video as it has to be certain that nothing distracts the audience from the action. That’s why I’m being an asshole about this.

Fortunately, I was also recording with my other camera at the back. I had that camera shooting at 60 frames per second so that I may be able to use it for slow motion. Results of that experiment were mixed at best.

Other Comments

This event was plagued with setbacks. Most of the pre-event ones did not involve me, but I did play a hand in the lack of promotional material leading to the show. I was supposed to supervise the creation of graphics and videos for the event, but I had been so preoccupied by work and illness that I couldn’t keep up. Fortunately, one of the guys (an in-ring personality himself) stepped up on his own volition to work on it. He deserves full props for his work.

Aside from the slightly shaky camera (that made me overreact upon checking the footage for the first time), there was the abhorrent sound system that plagued the show. From the wonky mics, intermittent static, music being cut at the most inconvenient times, and so on, I had to deliberately calm myself while announcing. The microphones, in particular, tended to cut off, most likely due to not having their batteries checked and replaced beforehand. Turns out the sound guys there were assistants, including an intern, and the lead sound guy was absent.

A big sticking point was them not having the national anthem when it was needed (they had it in previous events), prompting someone from the audience (my good friend BJ David of Nerd Rage PH) to volunteer for singing duty. No one sang along, but at least that was taken care of.

Everything else that put a damper on the show was on the wrestling side, most of which I’ve discussed above. There’s another one less than a month after, and we’ll have a guest of honor in Hong Kong wrestling star and former WWE Cruiserweight Classic participant Ho Ho Lun. Hopefully, we can do a lot better with this one—we wouldn’t want to embarrass ourselves with those stakes.

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