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May 24

Chikara S14.1: You Only Live Twice

Posted on Saturday, May 24, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

We’ve done a couple of previous posts about the Chikara indie promotion, which spent much of 2013 pursuing a remarkably audacious storyline in which the company itself closed down, and storylines were carried on through a mixture of micro-indie shows, social media, ARGs, and even a film.  With the company now about to run its first official show in almost a year, this seems a good time to check in on them.

For those of you who read the WWE posts, Chikara are an interesting contrast.  For one thing, there’s no equivalent of Raw or Smackdown; promotion between shows consists primarily of promos and recap videos on YouTube (and, in the past, blog posts on their website; no doubt we’ll see more of that in future).  This changes the dynamic quite a bit; it means there’s more incentive for every match to count (both in storyline and in-ring terms), and no need to cycle through matches to fill hours of weekly television.

Chikara stories can sometimes be rather more eccentric than anything the WWE would do – this is a company which has no apparent problem with magical artefacts and time travel.  But they also tend to be rather more fully thought through and internally logical – to the point where they run the risk X-Men-style accessibility issues.  The typical WWE recap package is lucky to go back more than three weeks.  Chikara has produced a few recap packages for this show; two of them are five minutes long and start in 2011.  And they’re not kidding.  (It’s a major reason why this post ended up being so much longer than I anticipated when I started on it.)

It’s this overall evidence of planning that buys the company the benefit of the doubt on obvious plot questions such as “yes, but why are some of these guys being booked on the show if they’re conspiring to destroy the company?”  They have a decent track record for answering such questions in the end.

Let’s recap, then.  Season 12 (Chikara has long grouped its shows in seasons) ended with its corporate owners shutting the company down, alarmed at the attention being drawn to their dodgier activities.  Over the following months, the wrestlers scatter among various micro-indies, while lone wrestler Icarus carries the torch and enlists first the fans, then the wrestlers, in a campaign to reunite the roster and restore the company.  Eventually he uncovers incriminating evidence that prompts Chikara’s owners to put the company up for sale, presumably to get him off their backs.

Meanwhile, assorted villains from Chikara’s past return to attack the micro-promotions, apparently in an attempt to wipe out the remnants of the company once and for all.  This broad alliance of weirdo villains – the Flood – destroy most of the lifeboat promotions, but Icarus rallies the wrestlers in time to save the final one, Wrestling Is Fun, and repel the Flood’s big attack at the National Pro Wrestling Day show, finally turning the tide and making sure that the new owner still has something to re-open.

That was a few months ago, and on Sunday we reach the official start of Season 14.  (Season 13 was the shutdown, appropriately enough.)  Logically enough, “You Only Live Twice” is full of Chikaraverse talent; the selling point of this show is the return of Chikara itself, and big name guest stars would be a distraction from that.  They’re running their de facto home venue in Easton, PA.  And they’re doing it as a double-header weekend; Wrestling Is Fun is running the same building the previous night with the final night of its “Tag World Grand Prix” tournament,  a show which isn’t officially Chikara but isn’t exactly not Chikara either.  Both shows are available on iPPV, though in the case of the Saturday show, I suspect a part of that is that they’ve got the equipment there anyway so they might as well use it as a tech run.

Let’s start with the Saturday show – Wrestling Is Fun’s “Tag World Grand Prix 2014 Night 3”.  This is the conclusion of a 16-team tag tournament which normally runs in Chikara, but got loaned out to WIF this year, bridging the gap between seasons.  Wrestling Is Fun was the only satellite promotion to long pre-date the shutdown, and unsurprisingly it’s the only one to survive.  It serves a number of functions – a proving ground for rookies, a nostalgia venue for semi-retired Chikara guys of yesteryear, a promotion to run the home venue while Chikara itself is on tour, and a place to run Chikara angles that need to take place outside the control of the company’s storyline management.  It’s also largely a throwback to a simpler era of Chikara with more basic stories.

1.  Tag World Grand Prix 2014, Semifinal A: The Osirian Portal (Amasis & Ophidian) v The Devastation Corporation (Max Smashmaster & Blaster McMassive).

These are the teams who qualified from Night 1, and it’s a Chikara match in all but name.  The Portal have been in Chikara since 2007; Amasis is a breakdancing pharaoh, Ophidian is a snake, and they do hypnosis.  They were split up for most of Season 12 but reunited over the course of the shutdown, though injuries rather stalled the momentum there.  Amasis is the Wrestling Is Fun champion; WIF being the sort of company it is (and having the sort of budget it does), there is no title belt, but there is a banana.

The Devastation Corporation are part of a stable of 80s-style monster heels managed by Sidney Bakabella, an 80s territorial manager (seemingly literally – he often seems surprised by modern technology).  The whole stable is part of the Flood, not because they hate Chikara, but because they’re getting paid.  Sidney likes getting paid, and his dimwitted charges are generally happy as long as they’re being pointed in the direction of something they can hit.  DevCorp – who also have a third member, Flex Rumblecrunch – were dominant in Chikara for much of Season 12, but we’re kind of past their imperial phase now.  As the only rudos (heels) left in the competition, I expect them to win here, but probably not to win the final, for reasons about to become obvious…

2.  Tag World Grand Prix 2014, Semifinal B: The Throwbacks (Dasher Hatfield & “Mr Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti) v Knight Eye for the Pirate Guy (Jolly Roger & Lance Steel).

The Throwbacks used to be an odd couple team – gentlemanly 1920s baseball player Dasher and his “step cousin in law” Touchdown, a thuggish jock who Dasher struggled to control.  In the course of Season 13, Dasher won Touchdown round to his way of thinking – he’s still a jock, but no longer a bully – and with the team finally on the same page, they’re starting to pick up wins.

Knight Eye are two semi-retired Chikara veterans with self-explanatory gimmicks (the team name should tell you how long ago their heyday was) who’ve been floating around WIF for a while.  Lance is smitten with Princess Kimberlee, who is basically a five year old’s idea of a princess; she’s a rudo but the gullible gallant seems to be in denial about this.   Roger tolerates her – barely – as a concession to his friend, and vice versa.  It’s a fairly straightforward angle for a team who no longer work on the main roster.

At Night 2, Kimberlee showed up with the Chikara tag belts – missing in action since last June when they were supposedly sold off as part of the stock liquidation – and gave them to her team as bling.  This unexpected promotion of a Wrestling Is Fun team to a plainly significant role in a major Chikara angle seems to pretty much guarantee that Knight Eye aren’t getting knocked out in their first match of the night, but their usual position on the card makes them pretty massive underdogs against any of the other three teams…

3.  Tag World Grand Prix 2014 – Final.  See above.

We can race through the undercard more quickly, as this takes us outside Chikara to the wider Chikaraverse…

4.  Shynron v Jaka.  Shynron’s a high-flier with some impressive moves.  Jaka is one of Bakabella’s wrestlers, and he’s basically Umaga, following the stable’s retro theme.  This could end up being pretty good.

5.  Oleg the Usurper v Eric Corvis.  Oleg is another Bakabella guy – a befuddled medieval barbarian whose presence in modern day indie wrestling is as yet unexplained.  Corvis is a steampunk wrestler who has a book full of wrestling secrets, which he consults during matches.  It’s a strange gimmick and I wonder if book spots are getting a bit too central to his matches.

6.  Los Ice Creams (El Hijo del Ice Cream & Ice Cream Jr) v The Submission Squad (? & ?).
7.  Joe Pittman v Gary the Barn Owl.  The Submission Squad – Gary the Barn Owl, Evan Gelistico, Pierre Abernathy and Davey Vega – had a notoriously badly received tag team match at King of Trios 2009 where they were representing a local indie promotion.  Since then, they’ve turned up in repeated sketches based on the idea of them attempting to work their way back into Chikara and redeem themselves, with negligible success.  Season 13 saw them turn out to defend Chikara against the Flood, but since they didn’t wait for anyone other heroes to show up, they got squashed flat in about ten seconds.  Still, they tried!  How well this translates into anyone wanting to see them actually wrestle will be an interesting question.

Los Ice Creams are a long-standing Chikara clown act, and that one will be a comedy match.  Since the brothers haven’t won a match in ages, it’s conceivable the Squad might actually beat them.  Pittman is a refugee from the satellite promotion Wrestling is Heart, where he was their champion.  He’s a smug pretty-boy heel.  He’s yet to win a Chikaraverse match outside Heart, so he could use the win – I can’t see him losing to somebody as far down the pecking order as Gary the Barn Owl unless it’s a losing streak gimmick.

And with that, we turn to Chikara itself, and “You Only Live Twice”.  Show titles are themed in each season, and yes, this year’s shows are all Bond titles.  (Hey, they once did a run of shows named after Talking Heads albums, and that resulted in a show called “Brick”.  This is nothing.)

1.  Chikara Grand Championship: Eddie Kingston © v Icarus.  A rematch from Aniversario: Never Compromise, when it was interrupted by security guards storming the ring and ejecting the audience.  The Grand Championship is Chikara’s singles title, introduced in 2011 during Titor’s period of ownership.  (Previously, the tag belts were treated as the major championship.)  Kingston was the first champion and has held it ever since – a task admittedly eased by the fact there hasn’t been a show in a year, but impressive nonetheless.

This feud is essentially a slow burn double-turn.  Kingston used to be an antihero babyface, but he became more and more bitter and aggressive as his title reign went one, alienating both management and fans.  He is weirdly obsessive about his title belt, which he calls “her”.  There is a theory that something isn’t quite right with him.  Icarus, on the other hand, is a Chikara founder who’s spent his whole career as a heel, but whose allies were deserting him at the end of Season 12.  During the shutdown, Icarus rallied the troops and became the beloved symbol of Chikara.  Kingston went into a kind of tailspin, refused to participate in any of Icarus’ efforts, didn’t show up for the big fight with the Flood, and instead turned up at assorted shows throwing tantrums, picking fights with members of the crowd, and taking offence at the idea that the fans thought they had some kind of stake in his promotion.

But he’s still the champion for all that, and it was a good match last time.  Obviously, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Icarus win here – completing his turn to become the official face of the company, while Kingston finds that the return of his company costs him the title he was clinging to all this time.  (One plausible explanation for his failure to join Icarus’ movement is that he knew that if there were no more Chikara shows, he could keep her forever.)

2.  The Colony (Green Ant, Fire Ant & Worker Ant) v The Colony Xtreme Force (Arctic Rescue Ant, Missile Assault Ant & Orbit Adventure Ant).   Ah, ants.  Let’s recap.  In 2011, the Colony – then consisting of Green Ant, Fire Ant and Soldier Ant – won the King of Trios tournament.  Soon after, the GEKIDO faction appeared, consisting of “dark” versions of existing Chikara wrestlers, and supposed trying to expose the dark side of Chikara and destroy the company.  They had their own Colony, the Swarm – deviANT, combatANT and assailANT.  As part of a wider storyline, the former management screwed with the Colony by swapping Soldier Ant and assailANT between the groups.  Soldier refused to co-operate with GEKIDO and so eventually management offered to give him his own Colony – supposedly a cool and exciting new spin-off team.  That was the Colony Xtreme Force, a travesty of the Colony who can wrestle, but generally seem more interested in screwing with people’s minds and yelling their own names.  Soon after, Soldier walked out.  Management then decided to retroactively make CXF the 2011 King of Trios, despite the fact that they’d never won a match and didn’t even exist at the time.  That’s why CXF have the Colony’s 2011 King of Trios medals.  (I suppose logically the new management could just order them to give the medals back, but the spirit of pro wrestling is that babyface promoters order such things to be settled in the ring…)

Meanwhile, assailANT unexpectedly embraced his role in the Colony, eventually winning over the fans and (finally) his understandably sceptical teammates.  He is the only GEKIDO member not to join the re-formed team and align with the Flood.  At the end of Season 13 the Colony give him the costume of their former colleague Worker Ant to reflect his full acceptance as a Colony member.  This will be his debut under that identity (we assume).

That’s the broad strokes of two years of plot.  But bear in mind that if that all seems horribly convoluted, it really boils down to the Colony taking on their impostors, who are now aligned with the Flood.  For the complete novice viewer, that ought to be clear enough.  And if you can’t see what’s awesome about Arctic Rescue Ant – an impostor ant in a fur-lined lucha costume carrying a snowboard – you may not be on Chikara’s wavelength.  I expect this one to be pretty great; Colony matches are usually good and while the Xtreme Force are relative rookies they’ve had good big-show matches in the past.

3.  Four-corner elimination tag team match: 3.0 (Scott Parker & Shane Matthews) v GEKIDO (17 & deviANT) v Pieces of Hate (Jigsaw & Shard) v winners of Tag World Grand Prix.

Welcome to the tag division.  To earn a shot at the tag titles – the Campeonatos De Parejas – you need to earn three points.  You score points by winning a fall.  You drop back to zero if you lose a fall.  So in theory, if somebody wins this match and eliminates all the other teams, they get three points and can challenge for the titles.  This system has the happy advantages of (i) making every tag match matter, and (ii) explaining why anyone in their right mind would bother tagging in for the first fall of an elimination match.  Currently, nobody has three points (since virtually everyone got re-set to zero in the Tag World Grand Prix 2013 elimination tournament just before the shutdown).

3.0 were the first team to sign up for this; they’re the babyfaces.  They were the champions going into Aniversario, where they were beaten by Pieces of Hate – who are thus notionally the reigning champions, even though they have never been called upon to defend the titles, and the physical belts have been sold off.

But wait, there’s more.  GEKIDO are a Flood team; 17 is the counterpart of Mike Quackenbush, Chikara’s exiled founder.  This is his first match since he was written out with an injury angle back in 2012, the plot at that point being that Quackenbush himself had descended to GEKIDO’s tactics to get rid of them.  Quackenbush did succeed in breaking up GEKIDO, but alienated his longtime partner Jigsaw to the point where Jigsaw turned heel, and then aligned himself with his own GEKIDO clone, Shard.  Shard has shown up with the rest of GEKIDO as a Flood member; Jigsaw has not, but has continued to team with Shard.  Jigsaw’s attitude to the whole situation remains obscure; he isn’t talking.  Obviously, that’s a big plot point here.

At National Pro Wrestling Day, 17 was dragged backstage during the big brawl, apparently by Quackenbush himself.  What happened to him isn’t clear and there’s an obvious possibility that he’s been replaced.

Loads of storyline issues going on here.  A very interesting match.

4.  Archibald Peck v Jimmy Jacobs.  Archibald Peck is a time travelling marching band leader, because this is Chikara and that sort of thing happens.  He and 3.0 showed up at the end of National Pro Wrestling Day to tip the balance in favour of the heroes against the Flood.  This involved building a time machine so that they could get there in time.  Again, this is Chikara, and that sort of thing happens.  He also wrestles elsewhere as RD Evans; in Chikara continuity, Evans also exists, but is a separate character.

Jacobs was the leader of the Flood at NPWD, but quite why remains a mystery.  Unlike everyone else in the Flood, he has no real previous history with Chikara; he’s principally a Ring of Honor wrestler.  His cryptic promo for this match broadly hints at some higher agenda which he can’t or won’t properly explain, and seems to indicate that while the other Flood members have been recruited as an alliance of convenience, there’s more to it than just anti-Chikara feeling.

Since Peck is massively over anyway, and Jacobs is the leader of the heel faction and new to Chikara, I’d kind of expect Jacobs to win.  I’ve not seen much of Jacobs, but Peck’s matches are almost invariably hugely entertaining.

5.  The Batiri (Kobald, Kodama & Obariyon) v Sinn Bodhi & His Odditorium (Oliver Grimsley & Qefka The Quiet).  A goblin and two demons versus two circus guys and a mime.  The Batiri are Chikara mainstays; technically rudos, they effectively turned by siding with Chikara against the Flood.  Since then, they’ve been getting cheered (and are obviously intended to be), though interestingly the commentators on Wrestling Is Fun continue to treat them as heels.  Originally, the Batiri were introduced as henchmen of Sinn Bodhi, who more or less abandoned them (i.e., left the promotion).  Bodhi has now resurfaced as a member of the Flood with two different henchmen – we’ve seen Grimsley once before in a guest appearance (and he was fine), while Qefka is new.  The Batiri – or at least Kobald, who’s the only one who speaks – take offence at being abandoned by him, hence the pairing off.  Obviously, in terms of the in-ring product, the interesting thing here will be how well the Odditorium guys perform.

6.  The Spectral Envoy (Ultramantis Black, Hallowicked & Frightmare) v The BDK (Ares, Nokken & Milo Schnitzler).  Again, the Envoy are Chikara mainstays.  Hallowicked and Frightmare are clear tecnicos; their leader Ultramantis is a bit more, shall we say, morally ambiguous.  Another Chikara founder, he was a heel for years, and continues to bill himself as something of a megalomaniacal super villain.  He turned by siding with Chikara against the original BDK invasion, but there’s room for debate about whether he’s ever been truly a good guy, as opposed to a bad guy who was fighting other bad guys.  The fans love him, though.

The original BDK were a sort of German mystical cult who dominated Chikara for a while (partly by infiltrating the management).  BDK stands for Bruderschaft des Kreuzes – Brotherhood of the Cross.  This new version are part of the Flood alliance.  Only Ares is a member of the original group, and Milo and Nokken are pretty much unknown quantities, so there’s obviously some serious work to be done in building up their credibility to be comparable with their forerunners – if indeed that’s the plan.  This is the first time we’ve seen the two newbies in the ring, so heaven only knows how they’ll be portrayed.  But Envoy matches are usually good.

7.  Jervis Cottonbelly v Juan Francisco de Coronado.  Main roster debuts for two Wrestling Is Fun mainstays (i.e., guys who would plainly have been on the main roster a year ago, but for Chikara’s temporary non-existence problem).  Cottonbelly is a painstakingly polite English gentleman (in a mask).  This works out about as well as you’d expect, but he does win here and there.  Juan Francisco is an Ecuadorean aristocrat – essentially an indie Alberto Del Rio – the gimmick being helped by the fact that there was no attempt whatsoever to disguise the fact that he was a rebranding of an existing roster member.  He’s hugely over as a heel, his matches are generally solid, and Chikara could use a few bad guys who aren’t associated with the Flood.  I imagine he’s probably winning here.

Worth getting? Well, I’ll be buying them.  Probably not on PPV, since I don’t think I’m going to have time to watch them both this week, but certainly when they show up as video downloads.

Bring on the comments

  1. Odessasteps says:

    Look for a House to Astonish plug on the Saturday show.

    Jervis Cottonbelly is another charcter resurrected from early Chikara history.

    Once long ago, the ice creams were super over as faces and one night in Reading, challenged FIST for the tag belts and we were so disappointed that night when they did not win.

    Years ago, Quack went undercover as a rudo. I could see that happening again.

  2. Mark says:

    Jervis Cottonbelly
    he has a belly made of Cotton right?

  3. Paul says:

    He does in fact have a cotton belly on his ring gear, yes.

  4. kelvingreen says:

    More of these posts please! Chikara’s a fascinating promotion and it’s always interesting to read about it.

  5. odessasteps says:

    I am posting from the saturday show. How meta.

    I had to come back here because i had no idea who these guys in the ring are. (Match four for those interested)

    And the match ended before i could finish the post. THE heel won.

    Its like 2008 all over again, texting results for the chikarafans board (RIP).

  6. Dave White says:

    I had tickets for today’s show, and then I broke my arm and couldn’t make the trip. Damn, because the crd sounds like a lot of fun.

  7. Dasklein83 says:

    I’ve never watched one of these, but I’m going to order Sunday’s show based on Paul’s posts. Paul should get a cut.

  8. JRC says:

    thanks for this preview. I ultimately decided not to get the show, as I am saving for June’s Phoenix Comicon, but will eventually delve into the real time fun of Chikara.
    Reading about them is such fun.

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