Just a few weeks away…
Tomorrow I’m starting up my extensive look at King of Trios, the annual 3-day event held by my favorite indy wrestling federation (well, favorite wrestling federation in general), CHIKARA. Before I do any of that, I thought I’d take a look at some history. Not the history of CHIKARA itself, as I’ve covered that already. I mean how things began with me as a fan.
During 2006/2007, I was only into WWE. TNA never did anything for me and the whole independent wrestling scene was completely alien to me. I hadn’t tried looking into it and wouldn’t have even known where to start. It wasn’t until the internet introduced me to Human Tornado that I started paying the indy scene any attention. Human Tornado, now retired, was a skinny and uncannily charismatic skinny wrestler with an afro and a pimp persona. I didn’t so much watch any matches with him as I was shown this fantastic little music video from the early days of YouTube.
Now, Tornado has never performed in CHIKARA, but that’s not my point. This video opened my eyes at the inventive and more intimate world of indy wrestling. This guy would never see the inside of a WWE ring due to his physique, but is that really the worst thing in the world? He’s still out there and presumably, I could have seen him live. The idea that out there was a flippy black dude with invincible testicles and the ability to backhand a fiend across the ring opened up my universe.
There’s another video with him that’s grainy as hell, but also brilliantly sells him as someone worth paying attention to. When wrestling Scorpio Sky (now Mason Andrews in TNA), a Test of Strength causes them to pop-lock against their will. They step back, try again and this time “Beat It” by Michael Jackson blares over the speakers as the two get into a knife fight and break into a dance sequence. This continues until Scorpio Sky has enough and clotheslines Tornado.
I never did follow up on any of this in any meaningful way, like trying to follow Pro Wrestling Guerilla, where they both performed. I didn’t get another taste of the indies until catching MTV’s ill-fated Wrestling Society X. That show featured them both, as well as a bunch of other supposed big names I had never heard of. The cheesy half-hour show wasn’t exactly perfect. A lot of the matches were just cool moves being done back and forth until someone won. The thing is, the show was self-aware and allowed itself to be over-the-top in ways the more mainstream stuff couldn’t. There were fights involving dunking your opponent’s head in a piranha tank or Tombstoning them into an exploding casket.
My favorite little thing in there is how a scene involved a fireball being thrown into the champion Vampiro’s face. This is a classic wrestling stunt that’s nothing more than lighting a piece of flash paper on fire and flicking it into the guy’s face. MTV took offense to this and pulled the episode for a couple weeks. When they aired it, they made it look like some kind of Dragonball Z super attack that caused Vampiro’s unconscious body to ripple before our very eyes. Somehow, their stupid censorship made things BETTER.
I post regularly on Something Awful’s forum and I don’t know if it was in the comic or wrestling sub-forum, but somebody (I believe a then-CHIKARA fan named Cromulent) posted a bunch of the DVD covers. Covers that I’ve talked about many times before, which were parodies of famous comic covers. I wasn’t pulled in, but I was definitely amused.
Where I work, one of my best friends in terms of coworkers was a dude named Jake who followed wrestling as well. I mentioned the covers in conversation and he actually knew what I was talking about. We didn’t so much call it “CHIKARA” as “the thing with the ice cream guys”. He had some familiarity with it due to a friend of his and reacted towards it the way he usually reacted to silly-yet-great things. He’d shake his head and try to disown it, but you can tell he liked it. It’s like he felt he should be above it, but wasn’t and didn’t want to admit it.
One Saturday, I pointed out that he and I had the next day off and suggested the possibility of hanging out. He told me he’d get back to me. Later in that shift, he told me that his friend Matt – who I hadn’t met – and some others were going to “that thing with the ice cream guys” that Sunday and I was invited. I brought my best friend Sean along and we made a road trip out of it. The show was in Philly, so it was about two hours each way.
So on April 22, 2007, we saw Rey de Voladores, a CHIKARA show that introduced an 8-man tournament of high-flyers done via three matches. Back then (as you’ll see soon), CHIKARA shows were exhaustingly long at times and this was no different at 11 matches. I had no idea what to expect, nor did I know any of the existing stories. The first match gave me a good idea of what this company had to offer.
My first CHIKARA match was Create-a-Wrestler (later known as Moscow the Communist Bovine, Ultimo Breakfast and Dasher Hatfield) vs. Darkness Crabtree. After Create-a-Wrestler entered the ring, out came a staggering man in a blue luchador mask with white hair and a beard over it, accompanied by a large masked pharmacist. I figured, okay, the big dude was going to be wrestling and the old guy was his manager. Nope! The old guy was Darkness Crabtree, the Octogenarian Luchador! It took him a lot of time to make it into the ring and get into position to wrestle and that’s when the announcer let us know, “Just a reminder, this is a DARK MATCH!”
The lights went out and a confused Crabtree looked around. Create-a-Wrestler backslided him, got a quick pin and ran off into the back, victorious. I couldn’t stop laughing. Sadly, due to its “dark match” nature, it wasn’t on the DVD.
Throughout the day, I was introduced to a lot of the CHIKARA regulars, including “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney, the Colony, Shane Storm, Jigsaw, Ricochet, Hallowicked, the Order of the Neo-Solar Temple, Eddie Kingston and the infinitely-entertaining Chuck Taylor. Chuck Taylor ended up winning that mini-tournament and also stuck a hammer up his butt at one point.
Why are you looking at me like that?
The two big matches of the show included Chris Hero vs. Claudio Castagnoli (now known as Antonio Cesaro in WWE) with CHIKARA founder and head honcho Mike Quackenbush as the special guest referee, as well as the tag team of FIST defending their tag belts against Up in Smoke. This match was notable for one of the challengers, Cloudy, getting kicked in the midsection so hard that he started ralphing up in the ring. Gross.
During intermission, I asked Matt – a guy who these days is affiliated with Inter-Species Wrestling – where I should start in terms of getting into CHIKARA. There was a table of shows to buy and I wanted to get a handful. He said that all three nights of King of Trios was a definite and I took his word for it. Over the next few months, I also picked up a couple shows from the months leading up to Rey de Voladores and would regularly scoop up some off the website. Nowadays, it’s easier due to being able to get video on demand and not have to wait it out for the mail.
The next few years, I was really, really into the product because they hadn’t branched out too much and their shows were still centered in the Philly area. Every few months, I’d take a trip to one of the shows, work-permitting, and would bring a guest. It was a lot like Fishing with John, a short-lived TV show that was about musician John Lurie going to exotic locations to go fishing with celebrity friends who didn’t know the slightest thing about fishing. Instead of Tom Waits and Willem Dafoe, I’d bring random friends, coworkers and then-girlfriends, many of whom knew little to nothing about wrestling. They all had a blast. It’s easy to be taken in.
The one show I always had to hit was King of Trios. It wasn’t so much a wrestling event as it was a big wrestling party. A celebration, really. It was too late for me in terms of the 2007 one, but I made sure to be there for ’08, ’09 and ’10. I couldn’t make ’11 due to my brother’s bachelor party. This year I’m heading to the show with three others. Colin, my longtime coworker buddy who was there for some of King of Trios 2010. Sean, Colin’s brother who I barely know and he barely knows anything about CHIKARA at all, but after letting him borrow the DVDs for years ’10 and ’11, he’s committed to it. And then there’s that Chris Sims guy who isn’t important.
Over the past few years, I’ve done countdown articles on different WWE events, which have been a huge labor of love, but I always tend to screw up towards the end. Usually it’s that I didn’t give myself enough time to finish watching and writing everything before the first deadline. That would lead to a daily routine of writing for hours just to keep up and that got tiring fast. By the last couple days, I’d be spent and I’d have no choice but to delay it. In some of the worse cases, I lost my drive completely and wouldn’t have been able to finish it anyway had it not been for people asking for it.
I’m glad to say that I’m more on the ball with this one. I guess part of the project is the challenge. I want to see if I can make it through to the other end without having to miss a single deadline. 21 days of updates. 22 if you count this thing. Let’s give it a go.
Oh, and I’m experimenting with animated gifs. We’ll see how that lasts.