MDJ Says: MDJ has been a wrestling fan all his life, but does that mean he’s got what it takes to actually make it as a professional wrestler? He took a crack at it with the Philippine Wrestling Revolution, and this is how his little adventure went.
Professional wrestling: A childhood dream
MDJ: I’ve always loved that sweaty, spandex-filled spectacle known as professional wrestling. I wanted badly to be a pro wrestler when I was a kid. I knew it was just a dream though.
Because here’s the thing. I wasn’t a particularly sporty kid. I’ve been fat, pudgy, and uncoordinated for as long as I can remember. I suck at any sport you can think of, especially those that involve one or more of the following:
- Athletic skill
- Cardiovascular endurance
It’s funny how I ended up with Zee, who’s got sporty germs sprouting out of every pore in her body – she was a national team climber, a competitive swimmer, and an equestrienne, but that’s a different story altogether.
ZEE: I thank my father for the athletic genes. I think I’ve been in training and on a diet most my life. I’m currently happy being the chill, lethargic person that I am now. It’s my dream too to watch MDJ go through the excruciating hours of training I used to have. Watch him with a bag of popcorn and cheer at the sidelines. That would be something new for me. Love it!
MDJ: So becoming a wrestler was a huge dream of mine. It’s just that wrestling didn’t exist at all in the Philippines. I didn’t have the natural athletic gifts. And at 33 years old, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to even attempt to chase down this fantasy.
A revolution rises
MDJ: One happy day, I happened to come across this article on Rappler about a feisty little startup called the Philippine Wrestling Revolution, or PWR for short, that had made it its mission to revive the sport of professional wrestling in the Philippines.
I said to myself, Holy moly, these guys are the real deal! And so I dragged my wife along to their inaugural show, PWR Renaissance, at the Makati Square Arena. I was entranced. They had it all.
Whereas old school Pinoy Wrestling featured such routine, run-of-the-mill moves like vertical suplexes and half-assed bodyslams as finishers, these guys were all over the place – high-flying acrobatics, scientific grappling, bad-ass power moves, funky martial art spins and kicks.
ZEE: I had a feeling I would not hear the end of this PWR group. I knew nothing about wrestling until I met Mark. My childhood did not include WWF. If it did not include guns, knives, and maiming people until the eyeballs popped out of their heads or involved having to extract a bullet with a buck knife by yourself, little kid Zee wouldn’t watch it. As I listened to MDJ talk about wrestling, I realized I liked it..him talking about it, I mean. He speaks with so much passion and love for it. So I have very little to share, and what I do have to share is based on what little I know.
MDJ: The characters were bloody awesome too.
Their main heel (that’s what us wrestling nerds call the bad guy) is a dude named “Classical” Bryan Leo, who loves reminding us all that he’s from a First World Country, and that the rest of us are just sons and daughters of pokpoks and jeepney drivers.
ZEE: I liked him. He had an awesome trench coat and owned the character Bryan Leo. A character you would love to hate.
MDJ: I really dug this guy named Mayhem Brannigan, a masked anarchist antihero who lives to stir up controversy. He carries a freaking baseball bat around, and was arrested for sending one of Bryan Leo’s flunkies to the hospital with a concussion.
ZEE: Hands down, best hair and great body ink.
MDJ: I dug this other guy too – the “Iron Chef” Bombay Suarez. The guy is a legitimate bad-ass, and a legend in the Philippine backyard wrestling scene. His logo is a Hello Kitty skull & crossbones, which somehow makes him seem even more terrifying. The dude is intense; he got suplexed on the concrete floor and powerbombed through a steel chair, and he STILL came back to win his match.
ZEE: Great presence, this Bombay. Looks like a wrestler, acts like one. Best costume award goes to him too. One of my faves and has the most potential to be big, if you ask me.
MDJ: There’s a guy too named Chris Panzer, the Detroit Fight Machine, who mixes muay thai with high-flying aerial moves, and seemed like a real crowd pleaser. I guess it’s mainly because he’s pogi.
Panzer was up against this really douchey cocky young jerk who calls himself the “Human Trending Topic,” Ken Warren. That guy really got my goat, with his greasebag baby afro, Michael Jackson jacket, and all the in-ring swagger and posturing. I got a kick from his finishing move though, which he calls “WiFi – the Winning Finish.”
ZEE: To my gay friends, watch Panzer and thank me later. He wears embroidered wrestling briefs too.
Ken Warren was holding him upside down and gripping groins and I realized that wrestling can bring in such a huge female and gay following.
MDJ: We seriously got creeped out by this other guy named The Apocalypse, a masked monster who is probably the largest wrestler on the roster at 6 feet tall. Despite his size though, he’s surprisingly agile, doing “Holy sh*t!” dives over the top rope, and overpowering his opponent with supernatural strength.
ZEE: I think behind that mask, he is a misunderstood, good guy. I was impressed at his moves.
MDJ: One guy though who really stood out was a silent, lumbering behemoth called Main Maxx. I didn’t expect much from him, mainly because he reminded me so much of myself – an apparent loner, a quiet dude who liked to keep to himself. He ended up the star of the night though, smashing through the entire roster with his kick-ass power moves.
ZEE: He is one big, spritely man. For his size, it is amazing to watch. I hated the jeering from the crowd and their calling him Bonjing enough to give the person screaming it out the evil eye and my eyebrows of death. That shut them up. Hello..I don’t know much about these things, but I say cheer, don’t jeer.
MDJ: My favorite though was a genial, babyface-looking guy named “The Senyorito” Jake De Leon. The guy just oozed charisma, and it was awesome how he went through literally the entire audience during his entrance to shake hands with each and every one there – he did an awesome job making everyone feel welcome. He put up a great fight against Bryan Leo, and I was disappointed that he got his win stolen from him after suffering a leg injury in his match.
ZEE: He’s my favorite because he jumps, rolls and twirls effortlessly. It’s a sight to behold. He also has a lot of charisma.
MDJ: I was just swooning over the whole experience to my Zee, even if she was laughing at me the whole time for being so enraptured by the show.
ZEE: I loved watching you be happy the most, actually. That, and the Coke Sakto and Piattos they sold at the venue.
MDJ: Imagine how thrilled I was when a week after the show, PWR announced they’d be holding a wrestling bootcamp, inviting anyone to try out and see if they could hack it as a professional wrestler.
MDJ’s Bootcamp Adventure
MDJ: Of course I had to try out, and I’m so glad my Zee agreed to let me give it a shot, even if it did mean I might potentially have to eventually wrestle in front of 15,000 people at the SMART Araneta Coliseum in a pair of red spandex trunks if I eventually made it.
ZEE: If you did make it, I would have planned the design of the red spandex trunks and brought the 15,000 people with me to watch you. Plus, plug it with my media partners, dispatch the press release and advertorials and created a social media strat.
MDJ: The first requirement was to film a 15-second audition video making my case for why I thought PWR had to give me a shot. My Zee helped me shoot and edit it, even if she was giggling at my silliness the whole time. This was the audition video I submitted.
ZEE: Shooting an awesome video while giggling is a skill, yo.
MDJ: I was thrilled to bits when PWR messaged me two days later to let me know I’d been accepted. Even if Bootcamp was two weeks away at that point, I rededicated myself to the gym, thinking that even if I wasn’t the fastest or most agile guy around, I could at least be a good-looking, impressive powerhouse who could fling everyone around. Kind of like Gaston in Beauty & The Beast.
I even bought cute new knee sleeves and elbow pads for training, mainly because I wanted to look as legit as possible, even if I actually had zero athletic ability.
Day 1 of training was a thrill for me, I woke up at 6:00am on a Sunday, partly so I wouldn’t be late, but mainly so I’d have time to take a selfie in the elevator on my way down. Self-glorifying commemoration is what us millennials are all about, yo!
I thought I’d waltz in, flex my biceps a bit, toss some jabronies around, and have the crew decide I was going to be the next PWR superstar. I even had a list of stage names for my swaggering, flexing character-to-be:
1. Braso De Joya
2. Macho Libre
3. “Superstar” Carne Asada
Six hours later, I came staggering home to my Zee.
Every muscle in my body hurt. I think I pulled a shoulder muscle, a groin, a lower abdominal. I didn’t even know I had a lower abdominal!
ZEE: I was so excited to listen to his training story, then let him sleep off the pain.
A turning point
MDJ: Wrestling bootcamp was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. I thought I was a bad-ass in the gym because I could squat and deadlift 350 pounds, and my arms measure 18″, But nothing prepared for what we had to go through. They had us go through intense cardio drills, agility drills, drills on how to protect ourselves so we wouldn’t kill ourselves if we got dumped on our heads in the ring, but every single thing hurt, even if we got to take our bumps in a training ring with ten times the padding a real wrestling ring would have.
I’m not the fittest guy around, and it showed.
Simple warm-ups like running high kneelifts for 3 minutes had me near tears. I had half a mind at least twice a session to just walk out and never come back. I knew training to be a pro wrestler would be tough, but I didn’t expect it would be that tough.
I went through the same thing for two more weeks, learning a few more skills and moves, but each time I’d wake up the next day with my neck cranked, my head ringing from when I’d forgotten to tuck my chin while getting slammed around, or my ankle tender from when I’d taken a wrong step in the ring.
They finally let us try calling a match on our own once we’d gotten the fundamentals down. I was paired up against a guy a hundred pounds lighter than me. I thought it would be a cakewalk – I’d maybe take a few strikes from him, then just overpower him and roll my way to an easy win.
I’d even decided what my finishing move would be – it would be based on the World’s Strongest Slam, the finisher of one-time World’s Strongest Man Mark Henry, a former WWE Heavyweight Champion who’d used the same move to squash guys like Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio on his way to leaving a trail of broken bodies in his wake.
I didn’t do so well.
I got to toss my opponent around a bit, crank him with a few headlocks and shoulder tackles, and I even managed to snatch him out of the air and smash him down with my own version of the World’s Strongest Slam. I was like butter, man, cos I was on a roll!
It didn’t work.
The dude fought back, and after a couple of stiff kicks to the head later, I had my shoulders pinned down for the 3-count. Just like that, I was the new owner of a 0-1 record in PWR’s books.
I decided that was it, I was done. I’d killed myself for three weeks, trained at the gym like a madman 5 times a week, hit my opponent with a devastating finisher, and I still couldn’t get the job done against a guy who was literally half my size.
It was time for MDJ to retire from active competition.
MDJ: Beaten but unbowed
MDJ: I didn’t get to accomplish much, but I walked away with an even higher respect for what these PWR guys do in the ring. They’re legitimate tough guys with amazing athletic skills. They know how to move, tell stories in the ring, wow the crowd with awesome maneuvers, and they’re hungry to make a name for themselves,
I wish I could have gone further with them, but I’m just glad I got a little taste of what had been a lifelong dream for me.
I’m never going to be a legend of the ring, but at least I got to give it a fighting shot.
This is my highlight reel. I hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much. It’s not very long. I didn’t do much highlight-worthy stuff after all.
My wife is the best though. She knew I felt bad about not being able to make it, so she bought me a replica World Fluffyweight Championship Belt of my own. I might not ever be PWR Heavyweight Champion, but I’m glad just knowing I’ll always be the champion of her heart.
ZEE: I thought you did great! I watched your last training, and my heart was bursting with pride. It didn’t look easy for everyone. I loved cheering and supporting you, our Fluffyweight Champion!
Follow the stars of PWR on Facebook! The Man From The First World “Classical” Bryan Leo, the backyard hardcore legend Bombay Suarez, the Heir to Hacienda De Leon “Senyorito” Jake De Leon, the enigmatic anarchist antihero Mayhem Brannigan, the silent but menacing Main Maxx, the rugged Detroit fight machine Chris Panzer, the Human Trending Topic Ken Warren, the devastating masked force known as The Apocalypse, the crowd-favorite siga from Kanto Tinio Kanto Terror, and the barangay hardcourt enforcer THE Nelson Jr.