With all the wrestling I watch, my favorite company by far is CHIKARA. I’ve talked about it for years and have done posts about their DVD covers and my own experiences at their shows. Every now and then, I get people asking me about where to start or what to expect. With the company celebrating its 10 year anniversary, I thought it would be good to do a write-up of what the world of CHIKARA is all about for beginners.
CHIKARA is a Philadelphia-based independent wrestling company that’s both a promotion and a school known as the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory. The students learn a mix of different wrestling styles from around the world, with a strong emphasis on the Mexican luchador aspects. The shows are locked into a “family friendly” label, meaning no cursing or general lewdness to the point that when something seriously impressive happens, the fans are wont to chant, “HOLY POOP!” The in-ring antics tend to have a real comic book edge to it all, with colorful, masked competitors with over-the-top gimmicks and a share of fourth-wall-breaking comedy. It’s the kind of show where this would happen on a semi-regular basis.
Despite reveling in fun and goofiness, the shows tend to tell strong, long-running stories that any new fan could pick up on. CHIKARA treats every year’s worth of shows as a season, usually giving closure to major arcs by the time they reach the finale. Seeds for future storylines come in various subtle and unique forms, existing sometimes years before they’re brought into action.
While students and graduates are the core of the roster, they also include people from other ends of the indies and tend to include lots of foreign talent for flavor. Everyone tends to be labeled “tecnico” (good guy) or “rudo” (bad guy), with the insinuation that those two groups train exclusively together. They tend to do just over two dozen shows a year, usually with multiple shows over the course of a weekend, and always release them soon after (24 hours to two weeks, depending), available from Smart Mark Video in the form of DVD, online stream or MP4 download. Recently, they’ve started doing internet pay-per-views and have one coming up on Saturday, June 2nd.
They also sponsor YouTube sensation and internet wrestling fan staple Botchamania.
How it Started
In 2002, indy wrestlers “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush and “Reckless Youth” Tom Carter decided to start their own wrestling school, partially based on their distaste for there being no school that catered to anything international. Hence, they started up the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory in Philly. Their first class was made up of five students: Hallowicked, Ichabod Slayne (later Icarus), UltraMantis (later UltraMantis Black), Mr. ZERO and Dragonfly. The question came up of where these guys were supposed to compete. On May 25, 2002, they held their first show for the sake of showcasing the new guys, while including other indy names like CM Punk, Chris Hero and Colt Cabana.
Since then, the school’s been churning out groups of graduates every year or so. Early on, Tom Carter left the fold and Hero took his spot as instructor. The Wrestle Factory occasionally factors into the story, usually in terms of how the wrestler’s mask is something that they had to have earned through paying their dues and completing their training. To remove one’s mask or perform in one without earning the right is considered a prime insult.
How Should I Get Started?
Smart Mark Video has a bunch of “Best of” DVDs for each year, which is the best bet. You can’t go wrong with any year of King of Trios, although keep in mind that each King of Trios event is three shows long. Other strong shows to start with include Young Lions Cup VI Night 3, Chikarasaurus Rex, We Must Eat Michigan’s Brain, Eye to Eye, Aniversario Elf and most definitely High Noon.
Right before finishing this write-up, I watched Hot Off the Griddle from three weeks ago and that’s a pretty great one too.
Um… is There a Way I Can Get Started Without Paying?
Instead of jumping headfirst, you can check out CHIKARA’s weekly podcast, which features lengthy snippets from various matches, as well as the occasional interview. Other than random story and event updates, the channel also features Throwdown Lowdown, which is a quick look at a random devastating maneuver, including a slow motion replay. Every once and a while you might get something truly special, like a lengthy brawl between Tim Donst and Hallowicked in a furniture store.
Your usual pro wrestling rules with a couple minor differences:
– Count-outs last for a count of 20 instead of 10.
– Removing someone else’s mask results in immediate disqualification.
– In a tag match, they use “lucha tags”, which means that exiting the ring constitutes a legal tag.
– Two-man and even three-man pins are allowed, with the logic being that the victim’s partner should be able to break the pin unopposed.
– If a tag partner or opponent can’t make the show, usually a replacement will be picked from a pile of names. This pile appears to have every wrestler’s name in it, so don’t be surprised when you announce the Shockmaster and he doesn’t show up. Just keep going until something takes.
There are mainly three titles in CHIKARA. The first one is the Young Lions Cup, a trophy competed for every year in a 1-to-3-day tournament for wrestlers 25 years or younger. For the year following, the winner defends his trophy like a championship to challengers of that age requirement. Once someone loses the trophy – whether because someone defeated him for it or because the following year’s tournament has started – they can never compete for it again. There have been 15 YLC holders in the company’s 10 years with the current one being Japanese wrestler Tadasuke. He hasn’t appeared in CHIKARA since, but he has been defending the trophy internationally.
Next came the Campeanatos de Parejas, the tag team championship belts for the company. In 2006, CHIKARA held a multi-day tournament called Tag World Grand Prix, where the winning tag team became the champs. This ended up being Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, otherwise known as the Kings of Wrestling.
The rules for title defenses is one of the more interesting staples of CHIKARA. Rather than simply getting a title shot, each team needs to earn it through a point system, with the team needing three points to advance. Every tag victory (not counting 6-man or 8-man tags) counts as a point. Every loss brings your count to zero. This means that you need to win three consecutive tag matches over time to earn your title shot. If two teams are put against each other and they both have two points, then it’s basically all-or-nothing. The quickest way to earn a shot is to take part in a four-corners tag match and get the pin on all three rival teams. Once the title defense happens, the tradition is for it to be decided by best two-out-of-three falls. The current Campeones de Parejas are Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano, FIST, enjoying their second reign.
It took a long while, but the 2011 season finally gave us a top singles title in the CHIKARA Grand Championship. Twelve contenders were split into two groups and spent the following months taking part in a series of round robin matches. Then the guys with the best win-loss records from each group met at the company’s first internet PPV, High Noon. Eddie Kingston is the first and still-reigning champion.
While not an official CHIKARA title, the late “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney tended to center his matches around his vanity belt, the ICW/ICWA Texarkana Television Championship. Throughout the indies, including CHIKARA, he’d regularly lose it and win it back shortly after to the point that he held the belt 27 times.
Major Show Types
CHIKARA tends to do two Aniversario shows on a May weekend and then a show titled Chikarasaurus Rex in July. Neither show really has much of a theme to it other than being a tent pole to the company.
The aforementioned Young Lions Cup tournament takes place every summer, though the way the tournament works keeps changing. One of the main ideas of the concept is that rather than be a regular tournament, one of the rounds would feature a series of multi-man matches. For instance, most years would have six singles matches for the first round, followed by those six winners having an elimination match against each other. The winner would go onto the finals. Last year’s tournament ended up being crammed into one show due to Hurricane Irene.
During the fall, a lot of the main stories usually funnel into Cibernetico (each show’s title is named after a Batman movie, such as Cibernetico Returns, Cibernetico and Robin, Cibernetico Begins, etc.), an event and really large main event match that can last anywhere from an hour to just under two. Like an amped up Survivor Series elimination match, it’s made up of two teams of eight. Each side has a strict tag order instead of letting anyone tag in. There can only be one winner, so if the winning team has 2+ guys left, they have to fight it out until there’s one man left standing.
Earlier in CHIKARA’s existence, they’d do an annual multi-day tag tournament called Tag World Grand Prix. The tournament featured tag teams from all over the world and various indy feds, with a couple years ballooning to 32 teams. Other than a brief reprise in 2008 when CHIKARA went to Germany for a week, Tag World was retired in 2006 to make way for its natural follow-up.
Since 2007, CHIKARA has annually held the tournament King of Trios, going from tag teams to six-man tags. Always done across three days, the tradition is to have 16 teams of three compete, though the 2008 year upped it to 28 (the biggest wrestling tournament ever, with 84 competitors). Considered to be CHIKARA’s biggest show – and really a celebration of wrestling itself – teams include the local roster and trios from all walks of wrestling, usually lumped together by some kind of theme. Two rivals from, say, Ring of Honor may have to put aside their differences to represent their company in the tournament. Losers are freed up to compete in unrelated exhibition matches on the remaining nights and the third night features a massive Tag Team Gauntlet Match. The sixth King of Trios is coming up in September and do I ever have blogging plans for the lead-up to that one.
In 2007, CHIKARA also had an event called Rey de Voladores (which roughly translates into “King of the Flippy Wrestlers”), an 8-man tournament of high-fliers. It would feature two 4-corner elimination matches with the winners facing off in the finals. Since they already have the world-wide talent flown in, they’ve since made Rey de Voladores a part of the King of Trios weekend, taking place over the course of Night 2 and Night 3 with the contestants generally being those who were eliminated in the King of Trios tournament in Night 1.
Who’s in Charge?
Highest on the food chain is the CHIKARA Commissioner. Originally, it was Bob Saget (yes, THAT Bob Saget), who was only mentioned for a while until finally making an appearance to lay down the law and sign a Hair vs. Mask match between Icarus and Jigsaw back in 2006. An unknown scandal caused him to step down, giving the position to the current Commissioner Dave Coulier. He has yet to make an appearance or even publicly acknowledge the company. Weird.
Working under the Commissioner is the CHIKARA Director of Fun, a guy who also gets to make the matches, but has more of an on-air role. For years, it was Leonard F. Chikarason, a fair and reasonable man who moonlighted as a commentator for the shows. After Coulier took over, Chikarason was relieved of his Director position and became a full-time commentator, along with other various tasks. He was replaced by the corrupt Dieter VonSteigerwalt, whose decisions swayed in the favor of the evil BDK stable. CHIKARA was bought out by a company called Worldwide Media Development, which had the promotion audited by representative Wink Vavasseur. He helped clean up CHIKARA and ended up replacing Dieter as Director of Fun. While he’s an all right guy and filled with enthusiasm and creativity, he hasn’t gotten a firm grasp on the whole wrestling thing quite yet.
There’s also a Board of Directors mixed in there, but whatever.
What Kind of Weird Characters are We Talking About Here?
– UltraMantis Black: an evil and devious masked, cultist supervillain who enjoys plots of world domination as well as the spirit of Christmas.
– Los Ice Creams (Ice Cream Jr. and El Hijo del Ice Cream): two creepy, clown-like Mexican tricksters with cones sticking out of their heads. Accompanied to the ring by an ice cream truck jingle.
– The Olsen Twins (Jimmy and Colin Olsen): fraternal twins who act as if they’re identical in order to fool their opponents.
– CP Munk: a giant chipmunk with a Pepsi logo on his shoulder who says no to acorns. Teams up with Colt Cabunny. Colt Cabana found this pretty funny. CM Punk most certainly did not.
– Amasis: a breakdancing pharaoh.
– Hydra: a small and borderline frail aquatic monster who believes himself to be the toughest hoss of the indies. after retiring, he went on to co-host a cooking show for kids. Yes, really.
– Player Uno: the 8-Bit Luchador is an NES enthusiast with a built-in pause button that’s more of a hindrance than anything else. Teams up with Stupefied/Player Dos to form the Super Smash Brothers.
– Lance Steel: a knight from medieval times pulled to the present via time rift. When in need of a tag partner, he used a time machine to bring in a slightly younger version of himself.
– Darkness Crabtree: the Octogenarian Luchador, he’s too feeble to be of much use unless he’s given his pills.
– Private Eye: a skilled detective whose head happens to be a giant eyeball.
– Create-a-Wrestler: a blank slate of a masked wrestler who left it up to the fans to come up with his identity in a series of contests. After going through such gimmicks as Moscow the Communist Bovine and Ultimo Breakfast over the years, he settled on Dasher Hatfield, a turn-of-the-century masked baseball player with a handlebar mustache. He’s teamed up with Sugar Dunkerton, a Harlem Globetrotter from the 70’s, and Mr. Touchdown, a nerd-hating meathead who happens to be Dasher’s step brother-in-law.
– Tursas: a giant, bearded Viking warrior of few words.
– Dragon Dragon: a dude in a cumbersome, plush dragon costume.
Keep in mind that even in a company of dragons and sea monsters, nothing is goofier than Icarus’ terrible back tattoo.
Look at it. LOOK AT IT!
The Black T-Shirt Squad (Mike Quackenbush, Reckless Youth and Don Montoya) find themselves unable to defeat the Night Crew (Blind Rage, Hallowicked and Ichabod Slayne) in any combination due to constant cheating from the rudos, usually in the form of using a jack-o-lantern as a weapon behind the ref’s back. The Squad finally gets their revenge by winning a couple tag matches, including one where the stipulation is that Ichabod has to wear a dress at his next CHIKARA appearance. The tension between Ichabod and his leader Blind Rage boils further when they keep trying to help each other in their matches via interference, only for it to backfire. Ichabod becomes a technico and challenges Rage at the finale. Rage wins thanks to Hallowicked’s interference and, as part of this stipulation, unmasks Ichabod.
The season begins with a feud between DJ Skittlez and Blind Rage, escalating into a match where the winner gets to choose the loser’s new theme song. Long story short, the skull-faced-painted, dark soul known as Blind Rage would go on to enter the ring to the tune of “Conga” by Miami Sound Machine. He shakes off that loss by winning the Tag World Grand Prix with Hallowicked, where in the finals, they injure Mr. ZERO. ZERO’s partner UltraMantis tries to avenge his partner while defeating Hallowicked for the Young Lions Cup, but ultimately fails. ZERO too earns a match against the champ and doesn’t succeed.
Mike Quackenbush defeats Jigsaw in a match that goes 45 minutes, which gnaws at Jigsaw and his partner Rorschach (known together as the Conundrum). They work to get revenge on him, as well as his female ally Sumie Sakai. Unfortunately, these stories end rather abruptly due to sudden issues in terms of the company finding a venue to perform in.
Jigsaw starts to win over the crowd and becomes a tecnico. The second Young Lions Cup features a wild card system where of a handful of new wrestlers yet to compete in CHIKARA, two would be chosen to be part of the tournament. One of these turns out to be newcomer “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney, who ends up making it far due to the help of the other wild card names, angry at the unfairness of the process. It’s Jigsaw vs. Sweeney in the finals and among the chaos, Jigsaw’s partner Rorschach (who Jigsaw had defeated to advance) ends up costing him the match and joins Sweeney’s side. Sweeney then starts a stable called Sweet ‘n’ Sour International.
While talking big about how he’s going to take out the likes of top names Quackenbush and Chris Hero, Sweeney continues to duck Jigsaw when it comes to a rematch. At the big Cibernetico match, it’s revealed that one of his masked associates, Spyrazul, is really the long-missing Quackenbush in disguise. Jigsaw ends up pinning Sweeney, earning him a shot at the Young Lions Cup, which he ends up winning at a future date despite all the outside interference working against him.
Tag World Grand Prix starts off the season where in the finals, a jealous Chris Hero turns on his partner Mike Quackenbush to side with their opponents Claudio Castagnoli and Arik Cannon, calling themselves the Kings of Wrestling. Quackenbush faces Hero through several tag matches, but for the next two years, he’s unable to get a single singles match out of the guy. While Quackenbush and friends get a win or two in there, the season ends with Claudio defeating Quackenbush in a match where the winner is banned from competing in the 2006 Tag World Grand Prix.
Two popular tecnico teams FIST (Gran Akuma and Icarus) and Men@Work (Mr. ZERO and Shane Storm) have a competitive rivalry that gets out of control. The two teams have two matches with no clear winner due to time limit draws, leading to a third match with an hour-long time limit. That appears to be a moot decision, as Men@Work gets a surprise win within a couple minutes, causing FIST to snap and put Mr. ZERO on the shelf due to injury. The team of Jolly Roger and Lance Steel (Knight Eye for the Pirate Guy) put an end to Sweet ‘n’ Sour International for good by humiliating Sweeney, but soon after, Roger is forced to retire after the now-rudo Icarus refuses to relinquish a submission hold long after the bell at the end of a match and causes permanent damage.
Shane Storm makes a name for himself as a singles competitor by winning the Young Lions Cup tournament and then successfully defends it against Icarus. FIST would get that win back at Cibernetico, as Gran Akuma defeats Storm at the very end to become the sole winner. This all culminates into a mask vs. mask match with Storm winning and Akuma being forced to show his face.
In a contrast to the Men@Work/FIST feud, a series of battles between Jigsaw and Hallowicked cause the two to gain a mutual respect and Hallowicked begins to head towards a more virtuous path, much to the chagrin of his partner, UltraMantis Black.
Reckless Youth makes a brief return appearance, with Hero and Castagnoli trying to injure him. Reckless Youth is rescued by longtime fan, Arik Cannon, who becomes excommunicated from the Kings of Wrestling and has a hard time finding a partner for Tag World. He ends up teaming with a reluctant Jigsaw. Also of note is that UltraMantis Black can’t make the show due to an injury, meaning his partner Hallowicked is forced to find a replacement through a random draw. His partner is the vocally-incomprehensible madman Delirious, who ends up matching up perfectly with Hallowicked’s style. They end up becoming a permanent team as Incoherence, causing UltraMantis Black to start a new group with Crossbones and Hydra known as the Order of the Neo-Solar Temple in hopes of teaching Hallowicked a lesson. Hero and Castagnoli win the tournament to become the company’s first Campeones de Parejas and spend the season crushing any team of challengers.
To replace Cannon, Hero and Castagnoli adopt FIST into the ranks of the Kings of Wrestling. Icarus has a major setback when he loses a Hair vs. Mask match against Jigsaw and publicly gets his head shaved, but towards the end of the season, he and Akuma earn a title shot and defeat their mentors. Since Castagnoli is the one who is pinned and is leaving for a short-lived WWE contract, Hero has his champion minions put the boots to him until Quackenbush and the other tecnicos save Castagnoli.
The biggest story of the year comes from a tag match where Eddie Kingston teams up with international star Shinsuke Yamagasa, who replaces Kingston’s usual partner Joker. On commentary, Larry Sweeney jokes excessively about how Kingston is terrible when it comes to being in a tag team as his partners always leave him and this is no different. A rivalry begins between Kingston and Sweeney that continues to escalate with Sweeney jamming his Texarka title belt into Kingston’s throat and at a later point running him over with a car. Having a hard time getting his hands on Sweeney – even in the Cibernetico match where they’re both captain – Kingston gives Sweeney his comeuppance during the season finale in the form of a Yellow Belly Strap Match where the two are connected by a strap and Sweeney has nowhere to go.
In an 8-man tag match, Eddie Kingston is rolled up and pinned by Hallowicked out of nowhere, causing Kingston to lose his mind. He has a deep-seated resentment due to the perception that everyone thinks Hallowicked is the best Wrestle Factory student when Kingston feels he himself is. A match between the two becomes a no-contest after some lengthy brawling. Kingston isn’t given his requested rematch and takes out his frustrations on new wrestler Tim Donst. Kingston gives him the beating of a lifetime and although Donst stands up to it, gaining the respect of the crowd, he ultimately goes down. Kingston finally faces Hallowicked in a Falls Count Anywhere Match and defeats his rival.
Chuck Taylor, the newest acquisition into the Kings of Wrestling and third member of FIST, proceeds to make a name for himself, especially by winning the Young Lions Cup. He’s constantly pestered by Ricochet, who eventually challenges him to a match where if Ricochet loses, he’ll never show his face in CHIKARA again. Ricochet indeed loses, but sometime later, a masked man named Helios challenges Taylor for the cup. Taylor is incensed, screaming to everyone in earshot that that is MOST OBVIOUSLY Ricochet in a mask, but nobody acts on it and Helios ends the year as holder of the Young Lions Cup.
At King of Trios, Claudio Castagnoli makes his return, going right after the Kings of Wrestling. His one-man war against the stable is all for naught as he loses a match against Hero due to cheating and is forced back into the fold against his will. The Kings of Wrestling begins to splinter into two groups of four, but member Mitch Ryder convinces them all to put their differences aside and join back together. Despite their dominance, Hero begins to lose a lot of matches due to Quackenbush introducing a new submission hold called the CHIKARA Special that Hero is susceptible to and teaching it to all the tecnicos. The Kings of Wrestling win Cibernetico against Ryder’s rival Lince Dorado and his team of luchadores with Hero, Castagnoli and Ryder left. In a situation where he’s legally allowed to attack his teammates, Castagnoli turns on his stable and wins the match. He ends up working his way through various members of the Kings of Wrestling until facing Hero and defeating him decisively, causing Hero to leave the company for good.
Eddie Kingston proceeds to decimate any tecnico in his way, as does the bigger wrecking machine Brodie Lee. Castagnoli, the only guy tall enough to look Brodie Lee in the eye, decides to teach him a lesson. Their matches are filled with disqualifications and outside interference from Kings of Wrestling diehards, but Castagnoli finally shows his dominance in the company’s first and only Cage Match.
The end of the previous season revealed that fan-favorite Equinox is not really a luchador from Mexico, but a Wrestle Factory dropout named Vin Gerard who faked his international identity to trick his way onto the roster. He becomes excommunicated from the locker room and comes back as a bitter, emo hobo guy with intent to wage war on anyone in a mask. He mainly targets the Colony (Fire Ant, Soldier Ant and Worker Ant) and the feud leads to him winning the Young Lions Cup. His main ally for a while is Jimmy Olsen, who is completely unaware that his brother Colin Olsen moved on to the WWE under the name Colin Delaney. Gerard tricks Jimmy into thinking that Colin is masquerading as one of the masked wrestlers, causing Jimmy to unmask and humiliate his opponents in his desperate search, playing into Gerard’s hand.
Gerard finds himself on the same page as Shane Storm, who is hated by the locker room after it’s discovered that he sold tecnico secrets (namely how to escape the CHIKARA Special) to the rudos. Storm undergoes a transformation and becomes Stigma. Soon after, they’re joined by Colin Delaney, back from WWE and acting like a big shot. They refer to themselves as the UnStable. Gerard is finally taken down a peg by a masked wrestler, but not one he would have expected. Jimmy Olsen takes up the mantle of Equinox as a way to mess with Gerard’s head and their feud leads to a Ladder Match with Equinox acquiring the Young Lions Cup.
Meanwhile, UltraMantis Black defeats Tim Donst and gives him amnesia with a bump to the head. He brainwashes the youngster and makes him a member of the Neo-Solar Temple while giving him better treatment than Hydra. This is part of Donst’s plan to infiltrate the rudos. After discovering Shane Storm’s secret from earlier and fulfilling the mission, he ends up convincing his new friend Hydra to join him and leave UltraMantis behind. While the Neo-Solar Temple screw them out of becoming Campeones de Parejas in a match against Incoherence, the Sea Donsters are able to defeat UltraMantis and Crossbones in both tag team and singles fashion.
This is an interesting season as it’s mostly setup. Due to Jigsaw returning in the previous season after a leave of absence, Tim Donst believes himself to be looked over by his mentor Quackenbush and being stuck with a comedy nothing like Hydra makes him bitter. He feuds with his partner and sends him packing in a match where the loser has to retire.
Castagnoli, having beaten Brodie Lee in Season 8, now goes after Eddie Kingston. Kingston endures several losses, but takes it harder than he probably should. He tells the fans that Castagnoli isn’t the great guy everyone thinks he is, but this falls on deaf ears and comes off as sour grapes. Whatever’s going on, Kingston just plain doesn’t respect the guy.
The Colony feuds with FIST, who give Worker Ant a career-ending injury. During a big tag match of Worker and Soldier against Chuck Taylor and Icarus, the Colony is helped out by new member Green Ant and a mysterious newcomer named Carpenter Ant. Even the Colony know very little about Carpenter Ant, but he pulls his weight. Carpenter Ant ends up winning Cibernetico in a shocking turn of events with a Reverse CHIKARA Special on Soldier Ant. After that, Carpenter Ant becomes more and more of a jerk, causing his partners to oppose him.
The strangest story involves UltraMantis Black acquiring a stolen museum artifact called the Eye of Tyr through some dubious and convoluted means. It gives him the power to take over Delirious’ mind and make him his slave, helping him face Hallowicked and his sidekick Frightmare. At every turn, UltraMantis is warned about using the Eye of Tyr excessively, both by the enigmatic newcomer Vokader (who ends up becoming UltraMantis’ advisor) and by a masked man who releases some videos online, insisting that, “War is coming!”
At the end of the last show of the season, the Osirian Portal (Ophidian and Amasis) vs. the Colony (Fire Ant and Soldier Ant) ends and the man from the video and a gigantic, horned companion storm into the ring. Quackenbush, Castagnoli, UltraMantis and others run out to the ring, demanding answers. The mystery man removes his mask to reveal Ares, Claudio Castagnoli’s original tag team partner. The CHIKARA roster is attacked and left laying by the grouping of Ares, Castagnoli, Tursas (the horned giant), Vokoder, Carpenter Ant, Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze. Vokoder unmasks to reveal Tim Donst and Carpenter Ant turns out to be Pinkie Sanchez, a CHIKARA regular who spent the first part of the season unable to find a tag team partner who wouldn’t stab him in the back. They become known as Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes, translating to “The Brotherhood of the Cross”.
The BDK is shown to be a group of those who feel betrayed by CHIKARA in one way or another, such as Del Rey and Haze being annoyed that they were only given matches against each other instead of facing the main male roster. Though in the end, it’s Claudio Castagnoli and Ares using the others as part of their plan to control everything. They own the Eye of Tyr, so Delirious is their attack dog. The new Director of Fun Dieter VonSteigerwalt is in their pocket, so they control the matches. They even have hated Derek Sabato as their biased referee, wearing their colors instead of the traditional blue ref shirt. Early in the season, Lince Dorado joins the group due to how the fans had been booing him for years despite being a tecnico.
The group dominates the company like nothing else, winning all the titles and standing undefeated. Castagnoli, Ares and Tursas are practically unbeatable themselves, but the others get by with outright cheating. UltraMantis Black tries to combat them with his new minions the Batiri (Obariyon and Kodama), but it turns out their master Sinn Bodhi had lent them to him in return for the Eye of Tyr. Since UltraMantis can’t pay up, his allies are now his enemies.
While the BDK continue to crush the CHIKARA roster again and again, Pinkie Sanchez starts freaking out because he insists on seeing Vokoder during his matches. The others don’t believe him, especially since he’s unhinged to begin with. But Vokoder is indeed in the shadows and if it isn’t Tim Donst under the mask, who is it really?
The BDK crisis causes tecnicos and rudos to put aside their differences and team up, especially with an ongoing story where UltraMantis Black tries to make nice with Hallowicked after years of being at each other’s throats. CHIKARA begins to get some wins here and there, including Frightmare’s victory at the Young Lions Cup tournament over Lince Dorado. When it comes time to face the BDK at Cibernetico, the group is made up of the crew from the company’s earliest days: Quackenbush, Eddie Kingston, UltraMantis, Icarus, Jigsaw, Hallowicked and Stigma. Vokoder is brought in as the eighth man and unmasks to reveal himself as “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney, making his long-awaited return (and sadly, his final CHIKARA appearance). Kingston wins the match by being the first guy to take down Tursas head-to-head.
Auditor Wink Vavasseur shows up to make sure Derek Sabato remains impartial and the CHIKARA guys continue to rack up the wins, ending the season with Quackenbush and Jigsaw dethroning Castagnoli and Ares and becoming the Campeones de Parejas.
The BDK is wounded and things only get worse for them. Sabato is forced to be a regular ref, Wink Vavasseur takes over as the new Director of Fun and their only new acquisition is allowing their special ring announcer Jakob Hammermeier to wrestle in their name. Tursas spends the year feuding with Green Ant, who returns from a broken arm with delusions of believing himself to be the next WWF-style Lex Luger. He even bodyslams Tursas at one point! Their rivalry finds its way to the season finale, where Green Ant gets his big win and Tursas is never heard from again.
Wink decides that it’s time that CHIKARA has its own top singles title and puts together a 12-man round robin tournament called the 12 Large Summit (“12 Large, brother!” being the catchphrase of the late Larry Sweeney). Everyone on the roster votes for one person to be in it and the top 12 vote-getters are contestants. It’s cool because while they never spell out who voted who, you can make some educated guesses upon seeing the tabulated votes. These many matches occur over the course of the year.
While the finals of Eddie Kingston vs. Claudio Castagnoli is expected, that isn’t the match we get. Instead, Castagnoli is undermined by Sara Del Rey. She joined the BDK to get respect and a more diverse set of opponents. She’s gotten that and is still treated like a dog by her leader, so why stick around? Especially when Castagnoli strikes against Del Rey’s friend Haze and puts her out of commission. She’s able to defeat Castagnoli, as well as other members of the BDK, and helps relegate Castagnoli to the lowest rank of the tournament outside of Brodie Lee (who wrestled one match before getting injured, so he has an excuse).
The finals end up being Kingston vs. Quackenbush. Despite a bad knee, Kingston fights off his former teacher and stands tall as the new CHIKARA Grand Champion.
The other leader of the BDK, Ares, continues his war with UltraMantis Black. UltraMantis just can’t seem to win against Ares and feels ashamed enough that he almost unmasks himself in front of the crowd before thinking better of it. At the last show, he and Hallowicked have a special match against Ares and Tim Donst where if Hallowicked or UltraMantis get pinned, the loser has to unmasked. If Donst gets pinned, he has to get his head shaved. If Ares gets pinned, he must give up the Eye of Tyr. When the going gets tough, Donst abandons his leader and lets Ares take the fall. As it is right now, the BDK is really just Tim Donst and Jakob Hammermeier, which is like Tito insisting that he’s the Jackson 5.
UltraMantis has warded off Sinn Bodhi by giving him a fake Eye of Tyr. Once he’s gone, he uses the real Eye of Tyr to undo its magic and free Delirious of mind control. Delirious, himself for the first time in years, breaks the Eye of Tyr and runs off screaming, “I remember everything!” Delirious, now far grimmer and speaking very clearly, is out to make the next two years a living nightmare for UltraMantis in order to pay him back. Even though UltraMantis is a tecnico now, Delirious feels that his own redemption comes from destroying the man who stole his will.
The big story of this year is the arrival of the GEKIDO, a group of outsiders taking the form of evil versions of top CHIKARA guys. Instead of the Colony, we have the Swarm (AssailANT, CombatANT and DeviANT). Instead of Jigsaw, we have Shard. Leading this group is a masked man named 17, acting as a dark mirror to Quackenbush. While Quackenbush is the Master of 1,000 Holds, 17 is the Master of the 17 Forbidden Holds. He’s proved this point by breaking Quackenbush’s wrist, ending the career of a newcomer during the poor guy’s first match and doing the same to original Wrestle Factory student Dragonfly.
The group has been identified as a handful of former Wrestle Factory students who were kicked out due to their violent natures and refusal to pay their dues by helping with putting together the rings and doing security at the shows. Their training has been completed by 17, whose true identity is one for speculation. Quackenbush has recognized the Swarm as former students of his named Jose, Frank and Frank, which is crazy, since they’ve been namedropped in blog posts and interviews WAAAAY back.
It’s the CHIKARA counterpart to Cobra Kai and the good guys have yet to get all that much solid ground in their current war.
Is There Anything Else Like CHIKARA?
Wrestling is Fun! is a CHIKARA side promotion of sorts. From what I understand, it’s a more down-low set of exhibition matches featuring CHIKARA regulars and students without being too heavy on storyline. It’s like the company’s own version of WWE Superstars.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla shares the mix of pro wrestling and goofiness, though acts a lot raunchier. The wrestling quality tends to be better due to featuring more experienced wrestlers, though there’s a good deal of crossover between the two companies.
Then there’s Inter Species Wrestling, which is even raunchier. It’s best described as CHIKARA’s alcoholic, abusive uncle. Don’t expect too many five-star matches, though. Just expect a drunk and out of shape man in a tiger mask making you and everyone around him very uncomfortable.
Dramatic Dream Team is a Japanese fed that I admittedly know very little about for the most part. I still know enough that it and CHIKARA can be mentioned in the same breath, what with an inflatable doll being treated like a wrestler, there being an invisible man on the roster, and a 24/7 championship belt that’s been won by inanimate objects.
Then there’s Kaiju Big Battel, a super-weird reality where giant rubber monsters are shrunk down into wrestling rings to do battle. It’s definitely an experience, but there’s only so much mobility you can expect from those monsters.
Who Has the Best Theme Song?
Oh, that’s easy. English gentleman Jervis Cottonbelly, without a doubt.