Pro-wrestling is the province of the eight-year-old child and the thirtysomething adult — not that there’s much difference most of the time. A childhood staple for many Filipinos, pro-wrestling presents romanticized play fighting perfect for a culture rooted in machismo and alpha male fantasy fulfillment.
‘80s kids watched World Wrestling Federation or RJ Jacinto’s Pinoy Wrestling, which aired on PTV and RJTV. Pro-wrestling migrated to cable in the ‘90s, vanished in the early ‘2000s, and returned to popular consciousness through JackTV in 2005. Today, its popularity lives on in pirated streams from Websites We Shall Not Name, and locally through promotions such as Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR) and Manila Wrestling Federation (MWF).
The point of good pro-wrestling is to tell a story through physicality; to show a character’s cunning, brutality, empathy, and technical skill through action. Like with all stories, these wrestling matches come with their own tropes. Here are five of them to know to turn you from a mark (normie wrestling fan) into a smark (a woke wrestling fan, a smart mark if you will).
Heroes and villains are the basic building blocks of storytelling; and the same rings true for wrestling. Babyfaces/faces are the good guys. White meat babyfaces are always smiling, high-fiving fans, and giving merch to kids. If they were D&D characters, they’d be paladins — Lawful Stupid. They never cheat, use weapons, or expect the inevitable betrayal from their friends.
Jhemherlyyn pinning down Jake de Leon.
That’s not to say all faces are idiots. Badass antihero faces, like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Jon Moxley, do cool guy things like chug beers, swear, and enter the ring from the crowd. Another type is the underdog, whose persona is premised on them being so skilled and/or charismatic, yet unable to win the championship. Jhemherlhynn, the self-proclaimed Star ng PWR, might not have the size nor experience as the other women on the PWR roster, but her energy, scrappy attitude, and selling (making a move look believable) make you want to root for her every time she gets knocked down.
Examples: Daniel Bryan’s Wrestlemania 30 run, Hiroshi Tanahashi, El Santo
“I just tied this man to the ring post and electrocuted his nuts. AITA?” Yes, you are. But you’re a heel, so that’s okay! The Heel’s goal in life is to make the audience hate you, and the easiest way to do that is to beat up the face. Heels resort to rude/unsportsmanlike behavior to get reactions; see: Mike Madrigal, PWR’s resident kupal, flipping off the crowd every chance he gets, or Alexander Belmonte III unmasking Revo Ranger. Unmasking a masked wrestler, in Mexican lucha libre tradition, is the utmost sign of disrespect one wrestler can show another.
Heels are not above cheating through low blows, unsanctioned weapons, or interference from their managers or stablemates, in order to secure the W. Variations of the heel are the Chicken Shit Heel and the Foreign Heel. The Chicken Shit Heel’s distinguishing feature is cowardice, and s/he will opt to get the match thrown out via disqualification rather than fight an opponent. The Foreign Heel, on the other hand, is, well, foreign, usually (but not always) European. Because we all know different = bad, right, kids? Thanks, Vince McMahon.
Examples: Edge, The Bullet Club, The Miz, Endgame
Heels are fueled by hatred from the crowd, otherwise known as ‘heat’. Remember, as a heel, the louder the jeers, the better you are at your job. Cheap heat is obtained by heels eliciting a reaction directly from the audience by 1) insulting them (The YOLO Twins used to spit on people as part of their entrance); or 2) insulting the city they’re in, or their local sports team, though the latter is not as common in the Philippines.
Mr. Sy bribing wrestlers to join Mr. Sy Group of Talents (MSG) with an ampao.
If done under the right circumstances, cheap heat can evolve into nuclear heat, where you piss off every single person in the audience to the point where nothing can be heard above their collective booing. A good example of a heel who can quickly evoke nuclear heat is Mr. Sy, the ringleader of the eponymous heel stable, the Mr. Sy Group of Talents (MSG). At a recent PWR show, he taunted the crowd for being coronavirus-infected, and compared MSG to Kobe Bryant mere days after the NBA legend’s untimely demise. “MSG is the Kobe of pro-wrestling, minus the rape allegations. And MSG won’t go down in flames,” Sy claimed in Kobe Country, to a chorus of boos, “Fuck yous” and “Tangina mos”.
Being a wrestling referee, like being a teacher, is a thankless job. Referees enforce the rules inside the squared circle while making sure that the people in the ring don’t actually kill each other. The job comes with occupational hazards, such as accidentally being in the way of Edge’s spear, or eating a diving crossbody.
It doesn’t help that it is a truth, universally acknowledged, that all wrestling referees have one (1) hit point. The slightest shove from a wrestler can send a referee flying from the ring and knocked out cold for two minutes (looking at you, Red Shoes Unno), ample time for the heel to do a lot of damage to the face. More often than not, refs have as much use as another Fantastic Four reboot.
Also known as the local talent or enhancement talent, the jobber’s function is to make the other wrestler look good, by allowing the latter to show off their charisma, signature moves, and athleticism at the expense of the former. In wrestling parlance, this is called putting your opponent over. Putting your opponent over is important because it builds up their credibility, making them a more fearsome match for another wrestler down the line.
The humble, oft-maligned jobber was turned into a major story arc in PWR with the introduction of the now-defunct stable, The Council of Trabajadores. The Council was a group of shadowy figures whose members regularly jobbed to more established wrestlers on the roster, until one of their members, Quatro, realized that he actually enjoyed winning.
Matches with jobbers are often shorter than regular matches, with really short matches that last anywhere from seconds to a minute and change called ‘squash matches’ or ‘squashes’. Some might think that there’s no dignity in jobbing, but most wrestlers’ (mostly forgotten) in-ring debuts are usually as jobbers. So, remember: There are no small roles, only small, nameless people who eventually become superstars.
Photographs by Hub Pacheco
Header art by Zoë Rosal
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