“I want virgins!” Manila Wrestling Federation’s Mr. Lucha’s way of saying he want first time viewers.
On a typical Saturday night, I may spend my hard-earned weekend on a night out, maybe a fancy dinner, or grab drinks around Poblacion. But this isn’t a typical Saturday night. Out of all forms of entertainment to consume or participate to at my disposal, I went out and watched a wrestling match. Yes, it’s when two (or more) people go at it in the ring grappling, supplexes and all. So, I went down to Mandala Park in Mandaluyong to catch men and women in spandex.
Officially launched in 2016, Manila Wrestling Federation takes after the showmanship of the famed WWE, which has become a template for many international wrestling promotions. Conscious not to fall into a copy of a copy, MWF embraces its rugged edges, grit, and compelling uniquely Filipino storylines. Beyond the costumes and masks, the promotion is one hundred percent performance art and sporting event. It’s a telenovela come to life. The promotion dubs it “aksyon novela” just like the ones on your television and it’s got the drama and the intense action with wrestling as its vehicle, all taking place in the ring. With a familiar concept repackaged for a generation of craving for fresh forms of entertainment.
Manila Wrestling Federation is a medium-bending exploration on what Philippine Wrestling can be.
Pro-wrestling might not be real for the most parts but Manila Wrestling Federation celebrates its fabricated reality, or kayfabe, committed to their reality of “Manila-verse” in serving complex narratives that allow characters to explore in.
A Royal Rumble
At the venue, their wrestling ring was set up in an open space free from walls, in an environment that stir up a call and response reaction from the audience. The night’s festivities were to welcome the return of Manila Wrestling Federation’s Kasaysayan series after a short hiatus in 2018. The night’s main event, a championship match between defending champion Robin Sane and Rex Lawin who received the crowd’s biggest jeers. The match was punctuated with bloody Robin Sane who came out with the belt still in hand. During the match, confusion can be read from the crowd’s faces
trying to decipher whether the blood was real or not. The wrestler Robin Sane was sustained a cut on the neck. So, yes, the blood was real. Pro-wrestling might be fake, but the commitment for delivering a story is real, even if it takes a bloody cut here and there.
We met up some key players from MWF to get to the meat and to ask whether resident Pinoy Luchador Mr. Lucha has a day job.
We sat down with founding members Mr. Lucha and Tarek El Tayech, to get to the meat of their uprising in Philippine wrestling and to ask whether resident Pinoy Luchador, Mr. Lucha as a day job. The character Mr. Lucha, who’s current storyline is about going against his mentee, Luchadonna. Tarek El Tayech carries the Senior Analyst title within the fabricated reality of Manila-verse, but is the real-life President of Manila Wrestling Federation.
So how did you conceptualize Mr. Lucha as a character and how did you get your start with Manila Wrestling Federation?
Mr. Lucha: Uhm, First with Mr. Lucha, I’m really a fan of Lucha Libre. People said, “Pilipino ka, bakit Lucha Libre yung style mo? ‘Di ba, you’re supposed to make your own style?” I like the flashy spandex, I like the jumping here and there, the colors, ever since I was a kid.
How much preparation goes into a match?
What’s happening in the end is already predetermined. The people don’t know it, same with the TC shows. Only the writers know what’s going to happen. Even now, the show is done after we disassemble the ring, probably a day after this, tomorrow we are going to go back at it, write the next story and then there. I would say, as soon as the show is done or we already have the whole year planned out we’re just going into the details per show.
When does Mr. Lucha come to life, and when does Mr. Lucha end?
Mr. Lucha begins when I put on the mask and he ends when I take off the mask. So, if I’m not wearing the mask I am myself. The moment I put on the mask is when I go to work. So, I don’t break character.
What does Mr. Lucha do when the mask’s off?
It’s called Manila Wrestling Federation (laughs). Yeah, that’s seriously what I do. We do marketing, we do all the stuff that people don’t want do. We do that behind the scenes of MWF.
How would you describe Manila Wrestling Federation to people with zero idea about Philippine Wrestling?
Tarek El Tayech: We call it an aksyon nobela because we want to take something that Filipinos are very interested in, something the Filipinos are very good at which is storytelling and we want to just show that in another avenue here in wrestling. We’ve had a lot of great performers who have come out that are Filipino not just in wrestling but all over other forms of entertainment and we feel that wrestling here is ripe for people, the audience watching, it’s a new form for them to sort of digest new forms of storytelling, new stories, Filipino stories in a Pinoy context with Pinoy characters that just resonate with everyone in the audience.
What kind of stories are you interested in telling? How do you deal with the violence of wrestling?
Well, violence in itself is always easy isn’t it but for me I feel like what brings a person to violence? Those are the things that I want to see and understand. The motivations behind the character and what makes them pursue what they are pursuing at that point in time.
We are telling stories about elections. We’re telling stories that are topical to what’s happening in our country. If you follow the stories of last year we were talking about things that were happening in the current zeitgeist like inflation and all of these things that are affecting common everyday Filipinos so we just wanna tell human stories, we just wanna tell Pinoy stories in that context and so for us it’s not really a case of whether or not we want to pursue a particular story. I’m only beholden to our stories.
How do you prepare for the possibilities of injuries on your players?
It’s not an easy job to do there are risks involved and it’s a dangerous form of art. It’s a sport that’s also entertainment that also puts these performers’ bodies on the line. They do it for the enjoyment of the audience that’s out there in front of them and that’s quite admirable. I believe that something like that, something that can give the people, the audience so much enjoyment it’s something that should be a benefit to all Filipinos.
What do you want first timers to take away from the show?
I hope they remember the feelings that they were going they were going throughout the entirety of the night, the rollercoaster of emotions that our shows can bring them to.
I want them to take away the fact that “I want to watch and come back and watch the next show.”
This is my guarantee, you come to any Manila Wrestling Federation show, I guarantee you, you watch that show, you’ll be coming back to the next one. I personally guarantee you that. I will make sure that our stories, our wrestling, our characters, our also there’s at least one person in there that you will relate to and latch on to and identify with and doesn’t necessarily have to be that identification over that person but that sort of bond like “Ah okay, I get that”.
Check out their upcoming events on Manila Wrestling Federation – MWF FB page!
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