When I gave up on WWE and TNA for good, I was just learning how amazing Ring of Honor was, but I also knew there were other indy feds out there that I might enjoy. In fact, some ROH fans who I trust to recommend the kind of wrestling I prefer kept urging me to sample CHIKARA, the Philadelphia-based company that takes both its name and logo from the Japanese kanji meaning “strength”.
TODAYâ€™S ISSUE: Taking a look at bizarre indy fed CHIKARA
Much like I did with Ring of Honor a while back, itâ€™s time for me to take the full immersion course in another highly touted indy fed, CHIKARA. But wait, isnâ€™t CHIKARA the company with DVD covers that look like comic books? Donâ€™t they have wrestlers with oddball names like Los Ice Creams, the Colony (Worker Ant, Fire Ant, and Soldier Ant), UltraMantis Black, and Amasis? Donâ€™t they have shows called â€œTwo Eyebrows Are Better Than Oneâ€, â€œStephen Colbert > Bill Oâ€™Reillyâ€, and â€œThe Sordid Perils of Everyday Existenceâ€? Donâ€™t they have kayfabe authority figures such as the â€œDirector of Funâ€, Leonard F. Chikarason, and the â€œCzar of Securityâ€, Crazy Frank?
None of the above makes me think Iâ€™ll be able to get into CHIKARA. It sounds really silly, and I canâ€™t fathom how that silliness could lead to great in-ring action, as has been promised by some CHIKARA fans I know. Then again, a lot of the wrestlers whose work I appreciate work in CHIKARA too, so it couldnâ€™t be all bad. Also, I hear CHIKARA regular Mike Quakenbush is amazing, and heâ€™s the founder of the Chikara Wrestle Factory training dojo. From what little of Quack Iâ€™ve seen in ROH, heâ€™s certainly my kind of performer.
So the promise I make to CHIKARA fans is that Iâ€™ll sample the product, give it an honest chance, and decide for myself if I like CHIKARA or not.
MATCHES I WATCHED
Mike Quackenbush v. Black Tiger – A terrific match, utilizing psychology and selling, and an underlying story of Quack feeling a need to prove himself as the reigning NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion. Quack has a seemingly limitless arsenal of unique wrestling holds, pinning combos, and aerial attacks, and Black Tiger stayed with him all the way through this one. After focusing on the leg of Black Tiger throughout the match, Quack earned victory via submission thanks to his excellent â€œLightning Lockâ€ hold. Very good stuff, and exactly the kind of match I enjoy. One point for CHIKARA, for sure.
Los Tres Deliriosos v. The Colony – I donâ€™t know why three solid performers would wish to be associated with insects, and thatâ€™s a part of CHIKARA that I just donâ€™t understand. Perhaps long-term viewers could fill me in. Are they just supposed to be silly, or is there some reason why these men have banded together and given themselves names relating to pismires?
Delirious is my favorite guilty pleasure in ROH, but his gimmick is pretty bizarre, so three times the fun might not always be a good thing. Included among the solid wrestling action in this contest were the unusual antics of both teams. Delirious (the original) hit Shadows Over Hell and the Chemical Imbalance II on Fire Ant for the victory. This is where Iâ€™m torn, because the in-ring content very good but the comedy was out of place compared to what I normally enjoy in pro wrestling matches. Had they done a more â€œstraightâ€ match, in other words, the same match without the goofy â€œsaluteâ€ spots from Soldier Ant, the â€œnever-ending elbowsâ€ from Team Delirious, or the â€œjump-for-joyâ€ spot, Iâ€™d have been more satisfied. But I must admit, even with all the distractions, this match offered excellent action. All six men can go and were game, so letâ€™s call it half of a point for CHIKARA.
The Briscoe Brothers v. F.I.S.T. – This is my first look at F.I.S.T. but of course, being an ROH fan, Iâ€™m very familiar with the Briscoes. This was a great tag team match, as the Briscoes showed a lot of wrestling ability in addition to their vaunted double-team maneuvers. F.I.S.T. were also excellent here, especially Gran Akuma. The match was right up my alley, and Iâ€™ll definitely look for more from F.I.S.T. in the future. Definitely another point for CHIKARA.
Eddie Kingston v. Tim Donst – The match took place in front of about 92 people in some Knights of Columbus hall in Connecticut, and the venue looked about as bush league as any indy fed could get. Iâ€™m not looking for several thousands of dollars worth of set pieces, but a few black curtains and some lighting could have gone a long way in this â€œarenaâ€.
The rookie and youngest member of the CHIKARA roster, Tim Donst, is an athletic 19-year old amateur wrestler who tried to make this a wrestling contest, but for every move the mauler Kingston couldnâ€™t counter, he used a shortcut like a thumb to the eye or a thrust to the throat. Kingston simply pounded Donst into oblivion, and imposed his will on his opponent throughout. At first viewing I hated this match, but the second time around I saw something different unfold: the young lion trying to make his mark against a bully of a veteran who was in no mood to play around with a greenhorn.
Donst (the character) came of age a bit through this baptism by fire, as Kingston took him to a place he hadnâ€™t been before. It reminded me of Cactus Jack v. Triple H at the Royal Rumble in 2000; the accomplished wrestler endured great pain and suffering, while learning another side of the business and discovering another facet of himself in the process. Like Rocky Balboa, Donst just wouldnâ€™t stay down, although it would have been for his own good.
Late in the match it was Donstâ€™s wrestling skill that allowed him to make a brief comeback, and he looked sharp against the brawler for a short time. Ultimately, Kingston nailed a back-fist and won via pinfall, but the rookie grew before our eyes in the ring that night. Great story, great psychology, great monster-vs-overmatched face drama. Score one for CHIKARA here.
Ricochet v. PAC – This match was also performed in a tiny, cheesy venue, looking even more â€œindyrificâ€ than the Kingston/Donst match. Keep in mind these are just comments; I certainly wonâ€™t hold the venues against the matches or the wrestlers. Itâ€™s just a shame CHIKARA canâ€™t afford to showcase their hard-working athletes in a more appropriate forum. Maybe if multiple indy feds teamed up for â€œshowcaseâ€ events, the stage upon which they perform could look a little more professional. But I digressâ€¦
Iâ€™ve never seen â€œThe Future of Flightâ€, Ricochet or â€œThe Man Who Gravity Forgotâ€, PAC, before this match, but with nicknames like these, something tells me to anticipate a high-flying affair. To put it simply, this was an explosive air show that put to shame anything TNAâ€™s X Division has offered in the past few years. These two guys are amazing! The innovations and high-risk attacks in their arsenals are off the charts. If you can appreciate an occasional flippy spot fest, youâ€™ll love this match. Obviously, another point for CHIKARA. I want to see more from both men, and any time a first look at a performer leaves the viewer wanting more, theyâ€™ve done their job well.
Chuck Taylor v. Drake Younger – As far as I can tell, CHIKARA doesnâ€™t have a heavyweight championship. Of course they have a tag team title (Campeonas de Parejas), and this match is for something they call the Young Lions Cup Championship. Taylor is actually carrying a cup-like trophy, which I assume is on the line in this open challenge. This was the cocky heel champion against a surprise bad-ass challenger, and they worked a solid match together. Taylorâ€™s â€œAwful Waffleâ€ finisher is wicked-cool, and he utilized it to defeat the â€œPsycho Shooterâ€, pinning Younger with one hand after knocking him senseless. It was a short match, but well worth a look. Score one more for CHIKARA.
The Kings of Wrestling (Claudio and Hero) v. Lince Dorado and El Pantera – Again Iâ€™m only familiar with half of the equation, since Iâ€™ve never laid eyes on Pantera or Dorado before. The story of this contest was the Kings utilizing the standard US-tag style of cutting the ring off and focusing on one opponent, while the lucha libre cat-men employed their high-impact, aerial style. It was surprising that Hero wound up tapping to Panteraâ€™s â€œCHIKARA Specialâ€, since there was no set-up for a submission earlier in the mach, but commentary explained that Hero had been forced to submit to this hold three times in the past three months, so it was something of a Kryptonite to him, if you will. Another very enjoyable tag team match, far superior to anything on weekly television. Again, CHIKARA deserves a point here.
So with a score of 6.5 out of 7, my initial aversion to CHIKARA was quickly overcome thanks to the phenomenal action in the ring, and the athleticism and innovation of the wrestlers who compete there. I still donâ€™t get some of their hokey approach, but I donâ€™t care, as long as the percentage of solid wrestling to zany comedy is high. Iâ€™m not quite sure why they name shows things like â€œThe Crushing Weight of Mainstream Ignoranceâ€, â€œThe Battle of Who Could Care Lessâ€ and â€œReturn of the Son of the International Invasion of International Invadersâ€, and I donâ€™t understand why they have characters called â€œCreate-A-Wrestlerâ€, â€œPlayer Unoâ€, â€œHydraâ€, and â€œOphidianâ€. But the truth is, it doesnâ€™t matter.
If CHIKARA wants to swaddle their entertaining, quality wrestling in a one of a kind wrapper, Iâ€™ll gladly tear into that wacky packaging and take a bite. Since Iâ€™m looking solely to the indies to quench my pro wrestling thirst these days, CHIKARAâ€™s outstanding performers are a welcome addition to my growing menu of wrestling excellence, even if they do consider Bob Saget to be their commissioner.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. â€“ â€œNever look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up.â€ â€“ Jesse Jackson