Phl fans embrace WWFX
- Joaquin M. Henson () - February 19, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Only hard-core fans insist the action is for real but even if wrestling is scripted, it didn’t matter to over 3,000 fans who enjoyed seven exciting matches staged by the fledgling World Wrestling Fan Xperience (WWFX) at the Smart Araneta Coliseum recently.

The good guys beat the bad guys in the riotous two-hour show that borrowed familiar storylines from mainstream organizations World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and TNA (Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling). From the thumping music that introduced the wrestlers to the finishing moves that capped each contest, WWFX brought life to the sport more known for its Hollywood-style drama than anything else.

Veteran Billy Gunn, 48, opened the hostilities which started over an hour late to accommodate latecomers caught in traffic. He failed to impress the fans who remember his exploits as a 10-time world tag team champion and was pinned by Jimmy Yang. Then, Hurricane Helms used a choke slam to soften up Sheik Daivari for the finish. Before the divas match, Jillian reprised her WWE role as an out-of-tune singer by murdering a song which led to turning off the arena lights to stop her from continuing. Jillian went on to battle archrival Melina in a hair-pulling contest. Foiled in trying to force a submission with a camel clutch, Jillian had no antidote for Melina who won on a three-count. Rhino closed out the first half of the show by downing Luke Gallow.

After a 30-minute intermission, Snisky marched onto the ring holding a baby doll, portraying a demented, evil character. Carlitos, a Latino who danced in to the lively tune of “Guantanamera,” was easily the fan favorite. They took their brawl all the way to the upper box section, coming within touching distance of fans who were treated to a close-up of the action.  Back in the ring, Carlitos employed the flying drop-kick to set up Snisky for the pin. MVP or Montel Vontavious Porter got the drop on Chris Masters in a high-quality bout. Masters repeatedly hammered MVP’s left leg and attempted a submission with a half Boston crab. MVP shook off the pain, executed a suplex and did an elbow drop that took the starch out of Masters.

The night cap featured the main event between John Hennigan – also known as John Morrison – and Shelton Benjamin for the first-ever WWFX heavyweight championship. On the line was the 12 1/2 pound, $150,000 title belt. The bout got off slowly with both grapplers trash-talking to set the stage for a rowdy finish. Benjamin even threatened a TV cameraman by hollering “hey, keep the camera on me” as he trapped Hennigan along the ropes. Referee Rudy Charles was accidentally hit and lay on the canvas motionless as the grapplers took turns pinning each other – without anyone counting. A substitute referee entered the ring but he, too, was knocked out in a wild sequence. Eventually, Charles woke up and did the honors as Hennigan pinned Benjamin to make it a victory sweep for the good guys. True-to-life girlfriend Melina barged into the ring when it was over to kiss Hennigan and was joined by the other good guys in celebrating the win in the grand finale. After the show, the wrestlers signed autographs and posed for pictures at the coliseum lobby to accommodate fans who stayed for their turn until past midnight.

“Manila was a great host, the people were great and the accommodations were fantastic,” said Shawn Daivari, the WWFX talent coordinator. “It was definitely a profitable endeavour. Depending on how profitable will dictate a return and how soon. I was proud of my entire team. I don’t dictate which match is better than any other, the audience does. And from the first match to the main event, the people were rumbling so even then it’s hard to decide. I’m happy the fans were never silent. That means they were always engaged which means hopefully, they got their money’s worth.”

Daivari said categorizing the wrestlers as either good or evil is relative. “I didn’t notice a single bad guy based on crowd reaction,” he said. “The people of Manila were such awesome fans and so enthused, every competitor got an amazing ovation. I think the talents loved it. It’s no secret overseas touring is what we enjoy the most because we get to see so much of the world and how they interpret our art form. To our guys, I think they were happy they were able to compete on a level equivalent to what they are used to at WWE which is something a lot of them don’t get to do anymore.”

Daivari said what makes the WWFX different from the rest is it makes the stars accessible to fans. “The day before the show, the talents had a meet-and-greet and autograph-signing at two different malls in Manila,” he said. “I got photos emailed to me and I couldn’t believe the turnout. There were literally thousands of people at each mall swarming these talents for autographs. They did a great job staying way longer than they were scheduled to make sure everyone was satisfied. I believe they did the same at the coliseum.”

While every match had its highlights, Daivari said the main event stole the show. “The main guy is Hennigan as he’s the champion,” he said. “But the WWFX is really an ensemble cast. In the WWE and TNA, you depend on one or two main event acts to sell tickets and underneath is a bunch of interchangeable cogs in a machine. I feel anyone on the WWFX card could have been in the first match or main event and the audience would have been happy with that based on the crowd reaction.”

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