Not a lot in the world can match the production value of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Whether it is the complex camera work, high-definition video packages, vibrant pyrotechnics, play-by-play commentary or over-the-top set designs, the Stamford, Connecticut-based promotion is simply miles ahead of everyone else.
Aside from the action inside the four corners of the ring, its top-notch visual presentation makes the viewing experience exceptional. WWE’s world-class production at its live events is now perceived by many organizations across the globe as the gold standard.
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Our very own Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR) will attempt to at least touch the tip of the bar that WWE has established with its upcoming October 12 show. Called PWR Special: Homecoming, the event will be headlined by former WWE superstar TJ Perkins, who is booked to square off with Filipino wrestler "The Senyorito” Jake De Leon.
Perkins is one of the few Filipino-American wrestlers who carved a niche on the WWE stage. In September 2016, the Kansas City, Missouri native captured the second incarnation of the Cruiserweight Championship in WWE by winning the 32-man tournament. He wrestled for the company’s 205 Live brand until his departure this past February.
When it was announced last June that Perkins will perform in front of a Filipino crowd for the first time, the whole narrative centered on his arrival. But PWR added even more notable names to the lineup. “Beautiful” Billy Suede will make his return to the Philippines at the event. A Filipino wrestler who was raised in East Vancouver, the one-time NWA Canadian Junior Heavyweight Champion had an amazing eight-month run under the PWR banner in 2017, which included a short reign as the organization’s champion.
Suede will be joined by Jeff Cobb, who is famous for his work in Ring Of Honor, New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Lucha Underground. The 2004 Summer Olympics wrestling veteran has shared the squared-circle with the most prominent luminaries outside WWE’s confines, including The Young Bucks, Will Ospreay, and Hirooki Goto. Suede and Cobb’s respective opponents in their separate matches at Homecoming are expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
With a show that pits the established performers in the scene against homegrown talents, PWR president Red Ollero noted the growing excitement. “It is a milestone not just for the company itself, but also for the entire Philippine wrestling. The message is very clear that it can be done,” says Ollero who also wrestles in PWR under the ring name Rederick “Mainstream” Mahaba.
Staging a star-studded spectacle has been a sought-after dream for Ollero even before assuming the presidency earlier this year. Pushed by his itch to turn it into reality, he started to send emails to popular wrestlers unsigned by WWE such as Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr. and Kenny Omega to know their rates. To his amazement, they replied, prompting him to outline a project analysis.
Seeing the feasibility of the idea in his mind, he then approached the PWR higher-ups at that time, who readily bought his concept of a big event that could break ground for the industry.
Upon taking over the reins of the promotion, Ollero spoke with entrepreneur Tim Ng, whom he described as the angel investor of PWR. The businessman loved every bit of the idea and signaled the green light to start operations. “The talent fees of these wrestlers were reasonable. With the right amount of resources, it was doable. When we got everyone on board, we just jumped at the opportunity,” he shares.
According to Ollero, the next step was looking for the right personalities to grace the show and aligning their schedules. Everything just fell happily into place. “TJ Perkins was supposed to have his PWR appearance earlier than scheduled, but he had prior bookings. The same went with the others," he discloses. "Then we saw October as a good date. Luckily, TJ said that he is available then. Jeff Cobb is also cleared for that date."
Bigger venue, higher stakes
The next challenge for PWR was to find a suitable venue for Homecoming. In its five-year existence, PWR held its shows in event places the could accommodate roughly 500 people, like the iAcademy Auditorium, Makati Central Square, Power Mac Center Spotlight, Bayanihan Center, and 500 Shaw Events Pavilion.
The company’s persistent search paid off when ABS-CBN Vertis Tent opened its doors. Located within the Ayala Vertis North complex in QC, the air-conditioned showground was launched by the nation’s biggest broadcasting network in 2017, partnering with retail and shopping giant Ayala Malls. It has a seating capacity of 1,200 and a full house of 2,000.
“It’s a dream come true for all of us. It’s not just an exposure for PWR, but it is also a chance for everyone to step up their game and showcase what PWR’s brand of wrestling is all about,” Ollero says. “Reality struck when we saw how many warm bodies would have to occupy the seats inside the venue. We felt the pressure. But eventually, we took it as a positive challenge. Of course, we want the event to be successful. Whether we exceed the numbers or not, it is still a win-win situation for PWR.”
Step in the right direction
WWE returns to Manila this September 20 to host a sold-out show at the legendary Araneta Coliseum, and Ollero’s ultimate goal is for PWR to fill the same arena. To him, Homecoming is definitely a step in the right direction toward that dream. “I want to do a full-blown wrestling event that has a titantron, a big stage with a ramp, lights, fireworks, a superb set design, and a large-scale crowd who is there to see their local heroes fight international stars,” he bares.
If Homecoming becomes a success, it will likely open gates of golden opportunities for the promotion. Ollero is looking at the possibility that wrestling could become a full-time job to PWR talents, stressing that most of them currently wear different hats by day in order to fulfill their passion. “We also hope that we can gain the interest of television networks in the country or other digital streaming sites to air our product,” the PWR president, stand-up comedian, and part-time producer for Comedy Manila shares.
“Homecoming may be local wrestling’s biggest show yet, but it’s really just the beginning for the entire scene in the country," Ollero says. "Now that we have Homecoming, the possibilities are endless."
For tickets to PWR Live: Beautiful on September 22 and PWR Special: Homecoming on October 12, please visit ticket2me.net