Wrestling Memory Lane: Claudio Castagnoli, the Kings of Wrestling and My Favorite Storyline

October 27th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

As of this writing, we’re fresh from the finish of Bragging Rights, the latest PPV in WWE’s overcrowded schedule. A lot of the event centered around Wade Barrett holding John Cena in his thrall against his will. It’s another chapter in what’s been a really good run for Barrett’s short-termed WWE legacy. I thought the show NXT was a fantastic concept, followed by an interesting second season (as long as you ignore the trainwreck final episode) and a hilarious self-aware third season where the commentators are open to how awful the show is. The Nexus storyline has been top-notch outside of random unfortunate instances that you can’t blame on the writing. Injuries, stupid firings, temporary deportation and even the stupid ending of Summerslam was improvised from time restraints.

Now it’s in an entertaining stage where John Cena is forced to follow orders from Wade Barrett or get fired. Wade has been demeaning him on a weekly basis, but it’s showing more ripples than just Barrett vs. Cena. Wade has been alienating himself from his Nexus peers by focusing far more on himself than the team. Cena is beginning to raise the ire of his friends in the locker room because he’d rather attack them based on Wade’s orders than be a jobless millionaire. A lot of it is borrowed from the Shawn Michaels/JBL storyline from a couple years ago, but it’s stronger here. For one, the villain is a man in his first year in the company, rising up and only getting better, as opposed to being a dude long past his prime like JBL.

But there was another “forced lackey” storyline this kept making me think of and the more I look back on it, the more I realize it was one of my all-time favorite wrestling storylines. When I think of my favorite angles, I think of things like Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick “The Model” Martel or Ric Flair vs. Mr. Perfect or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock (and by that I mean joining all their different feuds into one overarching story). The one in question isn’t even a WWE story, WCW, TNA or even ECW. No, it’s from the wonderful world of CHIKARA.

Since CHIKARA is far from mainstream, I thought I’d take some time to go over the angle for the uninformed.

Readers might recall that CHIKARA is my indy wrestling fed of choice. I’ve talked about CHIKARA a lot here and I’ve stated the wackiness of the product, but it isn’t completely dependent on it. Sure, they have storylines like a wrestling knight whose tag team partner is a younger version of himself pulled out of the timeline and they end up feuding and have a match where the loser is thrown in a time machine. They would have a tag team named 2.0 change their gimmicks and become the Badd Boyz, leading to a Badd Boyz vs. 2.0 match where the Boyz win by count-out due to 2.0 not showing up. There was a time when two wrestlers had a no-time-limit falls-count-anywhere match that went outside until the cameraman lost track of it and it continued to the next night’s show at another venue where there was finally a winner (23 hours and 36 minutes, longest match ever). Not to mention the time a tag match took forever to start up because two of the guys were too busy having arguments about the Sega CD.

Thing is, not everything is goofy in CHIKARA and even when they are silly, the booking is really good. They like to build each year up as a season with a basic main storyline with enough of an ending during the finale that would lead to the next year’s big angle. Our storyline here is one that mainly takes place during the year of 2007, but with more than enough lead-up and aftermath. It focuses on this man, Claudio Castagnoli.

The 6’5″ Swiss powerhouse could be argued to be one of the best performers in the world. It’s still a complete wonder why he isn’t tearing things up in the WWE right now, considering he’s a total package. He’s got size, strength, speed, agility, good psychology, a good look and loads of charisma. As a heel, he’s an egotistical, bullying Swiss banker with more money than you. As a face, he’s the chillest dude you’ve ever met. I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

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The CHIKARA Comic-to-DVD Cover Gallery

May 31st, 2009 Posted by Gavok

For the past couple years, I’d take a second every once and a while to talk about CHIKARA, an indy wrestling organization based out of Philadelphia. Founded by wrestler and head trainer Mike Quackenbush, it’s a school that turned into its own federation. With seven years under its belt, it’s grown to have its own cult following and for good reason.

I regularly bring guests to their shows, tending to take those along who know little or nothing to do with wrestling. They always have a blast. Where else can you see a mute sea monster in a muscle suit team up with a amateur wrestling Rocky Balboa against two clown-like figures dressed up like ice cream people? And not only that, but the wrestling is actually GOOD! It’s routinely funny and the storytelling is top notch.

Back when I first got into it, I did a post about how a bunch of the DVD covers are homages to notable comic book covers. As time went on, the article became a bit popular, but I lost track after a while and kept putting off an update. Now, I think it’s time not to pick up from after I left off, but to redo it from beginning to end. Here we go!

Kids Eat Free On Tuesday & Pick Up Or Delivery
Based on: Flash #123
Features: Mike Quackenbush… and Mike Quackenbush

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All King of Trio’d Out

March 4th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

You may have noticed that for the past week or so, I haven’t said a damn word on this site. That’s because last Friday I went off to Philadelphia for the three day CHIKARA wrestling show known as King of Trios ’08. What a blast.

Me hanging out with Stupefied, El Generico and Player Uno. This should be the new Mount Rushmore.

King of Trios was the biggest tournament in wrestling history, featuring 28 sets of three-man tag teams. The first two days would feature 14 teams each, whittled down to four teams after ten matches and two byes. By the third night, they’re down to eight teams, with several non-tournament matches added on. Follow that? It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that there were 31 matches over the course of three days and it was rocktastical.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any disappointments in the roster. CHIKARA top guys Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli are in Japan, so they missed out. Plus some of the more memorable guest stars from last year like Yago, Dino and American Balloon weren’t returning. Despite that, we had some of the reliable mainstays, surprisingly entertaining new guys and some bizarre surprises.

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CHIKARA Cover: The Mike Quack Returns

June 8th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

As a little addendum to my look at the comic-inspired CHIKARA Pro Wrestling covers, today they have revealed the cover for one of their latest events, Anniversario?. The question mark is part of the title.

Nice little homage to Dark Knight Returns #4. It’s extremely appropriate due to the backstory here. Chris Hero and the goddamn Mike Quackenbush are practically the top guys in CHIKARA. They used to be a tag team until Hero turned on Quack. Hero, being the cowardly heel, ducked out of any attempts at a grudge match. This somehow lasted two years.

So much like Superman vs. Batman in DKR, this is indeed a long time coming match between two old friends. Plus, as you probably have already noticed, their logos are based on Superman and Batman. I haven’t seen the match, but I hear nothing but exceptional things. I already ordered my copy.

I also had to order Anniversario!, the event that took place a day later. Not a comic cover, but a reference to those old MUSCLE figure posters. There’s a part at the show where I appear and share the most awkard high-five with the Retail Dragon and I need to not only see it on DVD, but need it in gif form. I’ll keep you updated on that.

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Forget the Zombie Covers. It’s CHIKARA Time

May 8th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

Time for something a little different. A few weeks ago, I talked about the World Championship Wrestling comic, discussing a horrifying clash between comics and wrestling. Of course, I’m not done. I have to cover WWF Battlemania, after all. Plus I have a guest article on the way covering a comic that’s very concept causes my brain to explode.

Mixing comics and wrestling isn’t always a bad thing, though. I’d like to talk to you about CHIKARA, an independent wrestling federation that lives out of Pennsylvania. I had heard of it a while ago, but only recently have I given it a look. A couple weeks ago, I was invited to tag along to their show Rey De Voladores and I was basically blown away. It’s got everything I want in wrestling. The wrestling talent is there, giving us innovative and exciting match-ups. It’s got enough story to get by without making it more important than the actual matches. Even when the match is lopsided and the winner is blatant, they don’t make it a one-sided match that lasts two minutes. The match-ups aren’t entirely stuck on good vs. evil. Two heels can fight without having to worry about the crowd not knowing who to cheer for. Two tag partners can compete against each other without some forced storyline about them breaking up.

Most importantly is the fun factor. A lot of these guys are just weird. There’s a guy named the Hydra, who wears a monster mask, but is so skinny that he has to draw a six-pack onto himself with a sharpie in a desperate attempt to make himself seem menacing. There’s Chuck Taylor, once a smiling good guy, now driven mad by success and ego as he physically threatens children and the elderly on a regular basis. He also has a random love for dolphins and has the theme from Pete and Pete as his entrance music. There’s Player Uno, the 8-Bit Luchador, who usually wears tights that resemble overalls, as well as a lucha mask and a cap. During some matches, he’ll even kick a turtle shell into his opponents.

Others I’ll get to later.

The point of this article is the DVDs. Since CHIKARA doesn’t have a TV deal, they mostly get by with their DVD sales. This is actually what got my initial attention, as many of the DVD covers are based on classic comic book covers. The homage covers are done by Marco de Alfonso (possibly spelled wrong) and he does an amazing job.

Let’s have a look.

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