Mind of an Adult, Eyes of a Child - Why I Love Chikara
Ten Reasons Why I Am Chikara
The overwhelming majority of articles on this website, understandably, focus on the goings on in World Wrestling Entertainment., As the largest wrestling company in the world, large enough to probably justify being referred to as the one through ten largest companies in the world, it is the entire wrestling world to the majority of its fans. If we're being realistic, this is fine and it has to be fine. Outside of this, a few things are written now and then about TNA, and rarer than that are articles about other wrestling promotions. Heck, out of the 28 articles I have posted myself, only 2 of them haven't totally focused on either of these companies.
Today though, I want to talk about a different professional wrestling promotion. Not only that, but I want to talk about a promotion that may or may not exist as we stand. They haven't ran a show since June this year, and there are none planned for the near future. I'm talking, of course, about Chikara. Named after the Japanese word for 'strength', Chikara began in 2002 and for the next decade they proved themselves to be a truly unique wrestling promotion in the modern era. With action influenced by Lucha Libre and Japanese puro, and storylines heavily influenced by comic books, Chikara produced a product that was entertaining enough for young fans yet intricate and intense enough for older fans wanting something more.
The Lucha Libre influence went deep, with a roster divided into 'tecnicos' (babyface) and 'rudos' (heels). Multi-man tag matches were more than frequent, with their main show of the year being a 16 team weekend six man tag tournament. A large number of the wrestlers wrestle under masks. The tag team titles, named the 'Campeonatos de Parejos', are always defended in best out of 3 falls matches, as with lucha tradition. Lucha-influence plays a big role in Chikara.
But as we stand, Chikara is no more. At their 'Aniversario: Never Compromise' show on June 2nd this year, the show and company were shut down right as the main event was about to reach its climax. Chikara authority figure, Wink Vavasseur, sat on the stage chomping away at an apple as his security goons ripped everything down and moved the crowd out of the building. That was that. All future shows were cancelled, they had a merchandise fire-sale and everything was reduced to conspiracy theories and whispers. Icarus, the man who was about to win the Grand Championship at Aniversario and uber-heel since day one, has taken it on his shoulders to try and keep the Chikara memory alive, along with a few others highlighted in the Ashes video series. It would seem this is all building to something, and I don't have enough words to play with here to go deep into.
Instead, I'm gonna list off the ten reasons why I love this company. Hopefully they will encourage you to look into Chikara yourself. You won't regret it.
1: RESPECT FOR THE FANBASE
One of the big complains about WWE on a frequent basis is the lack of acknowledgement of their history, or the lack of continuity. Natalya is portrayed on-screen as The Great Khali's girlfriend for months, but then all of a sudden she is the wife of Tyson Kidd. There are many examples, but frequently we have to watch WWE whilst forgetting much of recent history. Not with Chikara. The company really values the attention and smarts of their fans, and many of the stories go deep and go long.
They are also incredibly fan friendly. Being British, I haven't been able to attend a Chikara show, but just look up anyone who has and it seems like one big family. Approachable wrestlers, affordable merchandise, transparency, it's all there. Plus Chikara wrestlers are by far the most interactive on social networking. Tweet Tim Donst, Dasher Hatfield or whoever else and the chances are you'll get a reply. Not just a phoned in reply either, but a genuine reply of curiosity and interest. Chikara realised quickly that their fan base was their lifeblood, so they made the most of that.
2: REAL STORIES
Okay, by real I don't mean REAL, but actual stories are at work here. The comic book influence really shines out, and the storylines that the company booked weren't just thrown together 'wrestler A doesn't like wrestler B so they fight' rubbish, booked on the fly. These were/are thought out stories, with plot points and character development. The current situation seems to be the most ambitious yet. It might end up to be all bluster from the fan base, but Chikara's future is full of so much intrigue and theory, you can spend hours just reading about it on various blogs.
Where as modern day professional wrestling seems to have been terminally diseased by MMA in that the vast majority of wrestlers are essentially 'First Name Last Name', Chikara was the polar opposite of this. The roster is full of genuine characters, larger than life superheroes and shadowy villains. You have the various members of The Colony, be it Fire Ant, Green Ant, Soldier Ant or their darker mirror images. You've got the Old Timey King of Swing, Dasher Hatfield, the Ancient Egyptian-inspired Osirian Portal or the Jock of all Jocks, 'Mr Touchdown' himself, Mark Angelosetti. Where else can you see a tag team of Ice Creams double team a 1970s Basketball player?
Even the less cartoonish characters have deep, deep layers. Tim Donst made a transformation from plucky youngster to brain damaged mole to Raven for the 21st century. Christ, even those who don't really have much of a gimmick seem to have a load more character than your average wrestlers. The Devastation Corporation are the prototypical hoss destruction tag team, Icarus was the Best at being the Worst in the World, 3.0 were the most lovable tag team and is there anyone in wrestling more entertaining than Chuck Taylor? (Hint: no.)
4: TAG TEAM WRESTLING
I'm not even talking about the six man stuff here, more just pure tag team wrestling. The titles, the Campeonatos de Parejos, are held with great prestige. The first champions were crowned in 2006, with a 16 team tournament won by the Kings of Wrestling, Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) and Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro). In the seven years they have been in existence there have only been 14 separate reigns, and only two teams (3.0 and F.I.S.T) have had two reigns. These titles mean something,
Even earning a shot at the titles is like winning the things in itself. No, you don't just have to beat the champions in a non-title match, oh no sir. A team can only challenge for the titles once they have racked up three points from tag matches. Basically this means they need to win three matches in a row, no loss in between, in order to challenge for the belts. Even then, the belts are defended in a best two out of three falls match, meaning that in order to win the Campeonatos, you really need to earn it. It's like the Stanley Cup of wrestling. Maybe.
The roster of tag teams has always been fantastic. The Young Bucks, 3.0, The Colony, various versions of F.I.S.T, various versions of the Throwbacks and many many more. Stacked.
5: MATCHES MATTER
Which leads me on to my next point. In Chikara, the matches and the results matter. Sure, every card might have matches that seem thrown together, but there are always pre-match promos that will add spice to the bouts. And heck, when a company has a company-wide storyline that is drowning in time-travel, who knows what matches will turn out to be important?
6: COMIC BOOK STYLINGS
I don't know why, but I've never got the whole comic book love. Even when I was a child, I didn't get it. I didn't have a huge love for Spiderman, Batman or Superman, because my superheroes were wrestlers. This didn't exactly change as I get older, despite people at university yapping on about DC or whatever the other one is. I still don't give the slightest turd about Batman.
Despite all this, Chikara is the only thing that has given me even the slightest interest into delving into its world. From the very beginning the entire style of Chikara gave off a comic book vibe, and many of its seasons have been informed by comics themselves, such as the current Watchmen-influenced season and meltdown. Chikara single-handedly made me think comics were less lame then I assumed.
7: FLEX RUMBLECRUNCH
Just say it. Trust me.
8: KING OF TRIOS
The biggest show of the Chikara year was King of Trios, a three day six man tag tournament that would provide great wrestling, a huck tonne of fun, nostalgia, stories and everything else that we all love about professional wrestling. Its given us Sean Waltman's best performance in years, in a losing battle against El Generico (Sami Zayn) in 2011. It gave us Antonio Cesaro, as Claudio Castagnoli, doing a 100 rotation Cesaro swing on Grizzly Redwood, whilst on a team with Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) against a team featuring Brodie Lee (Luke Harper). In 2012 we had some of the best comedic wrestling I have ever seen, mostly thanks to the work of Team Osaka Pro. Simply put, King of Trios was everything that was great about Chikara, and subsequently everything that is great about wrestling.
9: TIM DONST
The evolution of the Tim Donst character is reason alone to adore Chikara. He started out losing most matches, before being destroyed by Eddie Kingston in a match that would gain him Kingston's respect. He then lost his memory in a match and became something of a brainwashed follower of the Neo Solar Temple, all of which happened to be a ruse. Since then he's faked face turns, heel turns, and eventually lost his hair in a Hair vs. Mask match against Hallowicked. This led to him falling deeper and deeper into nihilism and depression, and becoming one of the finest characters in all of wrestling. His promos are the best in the company, some of the best in all of wrestling. We all loved Raven in the 90s, and the comparison is obvious but fair. The difference is however, is that where as Raven was quite clearly a character, it's difficult to remember this with Donst. His performance is so captivating,
10: BECAUSE THEY REMINDED ME WHY I LOVE WRESTLING
We love to cheers our favourites, boo the ones we dislike, get caught up in the emotion of the occasion, and generally be entertained. When we were young, wrestling was bigger than life. As we grew into our teens, wrestling was all of a sudden cool and edgy, it exploded into our mainstream. Then it went into limbo, and today we don't know whether we want it to be more cartoon-ish like the old days, or more edgy like the 'Attitude Era'. Chikara is the only wrestling promotion that frequently ticked all of the boxes. The action was good, the rivalries were intense, but the whole thing was wrapped up in a fun bubble. Watching Chikara was watching wrestling with the mind of an adult but the eyes of a child. I can't sum it up better than that.
Whatever happens in Chikara in the future, whether it returns in a blaze of glory or is never heard from again, I'll hold the company in special regard. I was fairly late into it all, but not so late as to miss out on why it was so special.
That'll do for now. Have you any experience of Chikara? What do you think will happen with its future? Any great memories? Any favourite characters? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, or we'll duke it out on twitter (@pingvinorkestra) or email (email@example.com). I've got a stag do (bachelor party) this weekend. Wish me luck.