Manila Wrestling Federation
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2019 - 12:00am

Wrestling is the telenovela for men. It has all the fast-paced action, explosiveness, twists and drama of a television series, and off the wall, larger than life characters that men love attaching themselves to from childhood. Professional wrestlers can be vessels for men to live their superhero fantasies through. Internationally though, wrestling is not respected by the mainstream sports audience because the big promotion companies try to obscure the fact that the matches are scripted. But in the Philippines, one organization has embraced the entertainment side of “sports entertainment,” and refined the storytelling aspect to a compelling level.

Manila Wrestling Federation (MWF) was founded in 2017 by a core composed of wrestling fans, UP theater people, and a diverse gang of creative types who saw it as an outlet for the tired masses. Since then, they have built a modest training center, collaborated with foreign wrestlers, streamlined the business, and made it Filipino and current. Their last event, “MWF 10: Republika” held in a mall in Manila, drew a huge, involved crowd. It featured Filipino wrestlers battling wrestlers representing mainland China, more than a hint at the issue of the day. 

“The inspiration behind MWF really was just the joy that we all felt as children watching our heroes in the ring as we were growing up,” explains MWF senior analyst and theater actor Tarek El Tayech. “Just seeing these larger than life characters stepping into that ring with such fantastic characterizations and their crazy antics; I’m sure a lot of people remember all of the wild stuff that people like Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts used to get up to, Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior. I still know the local superstars back in the day like Joe Pogi, Turko Torero, the Smokey Mountain Brothers, The Bakal Boys, all of these characters. We’re trying to take from what they built on and improve upon it or see if we can make something that is unique on our own and lasts the test of time.”

MWF has people from all walks of life converging on their training facility in Quezon City and pooling their blood and sweat to create an enticing, exciting and uniquely Filipino product.

“It’s a whole different experience. Wrestling is amazing. It’s really is an art form,” says artist and female wrestler Luchadonna. “And it exhausts you in every way. If you paint, you don’t get physically tired, do you? In wrestling, you tell your stories and it exhausts you in every way, physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s one of the hardest you could ever do and also one of the most rewarding.”

“Whatever sport that is, basketball, boxing, MMA, track and field – I was in track and field – you try to win,” says Grade 12 student and wrestler Khayl Sison. “Here, you’re trying to tell a story, put on a good show, athletically. So it’s really hard.”

The MWF claims it can do more with what people call fake than what others perceive as real. Their shows are athletic competition, acting and performance art with an element of danger, all rolled together.

“It’s as if this is the fantasy of the people who work in offices, high school students,” says wrestler Fabio Makisig. “If they didn’t have to do their daily obligations, this would be their life, their dreams that we are living in the ring.” 

“I want our stories to move people enough to do a positive change in their life,” adds MWF co-founder Mr. Lucha. “Like me, when I was watching wrestling. As a kid, I felt that emotion, someday I want to do this. But to get there I need to do this, this and this. Wrestling helped me to do things in my life that got me to where I am, got us where we are.”

The goal is to eventually afford to pay the wrestlers full-time wages to reward them for their sacrifice, and go global. The MWF’s colorful characterizations and professionalism has started to catch the eye of mainstream media. They are currently negotiating with a new television partner. More significantly, the international wrestling community is taking notice.

“They’re working quite hard to fulfill the dream. Most of the wrestlers here are not wrestling for money,” observes former WWE wrestler Ho Ho Lun, who fought in “MWF 10: Republika.” “And this is not a multi-million dollar business. It doesn’t I mean they have to spend money do all this. They have the passion, they have the enthusiasm. Most of the people do it because they love wrestling. So I hope that they grow, become successful. They have a good future.”

Hard work, dedication and the Filipino spirit have taken the Manila Wrestling Federation to the tipping point of success.

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