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CHIKARA Primer: A Beginner’s Guide to Wrestling’s Funnest Promotion

May 23rd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

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.

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CHIKARA’s High Noon: Sunday on iPPV

November 12th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

For the past four years, I’ve been hyping up the indy wrestling fed CHIKARA. Originally just a wrestling school run by Mike Quackenbush, it translated into its own fed for the sake of giving its students somewhere to compete and over a decade carved its own niche. It’s got just about everything a wrestling fan could want. Great characters, great wrestling, great comedy and some of the better storylines in the business while at the same time keeping it something all ages can enjoy.

Of course, my support of the company can only go so far. While they’re doing shows more spread across the country nowadays, they are centered around Philly and I can’t expect anyone reading to go and buy a ticket on my say. Their shows are all available on DVD, but I can see the hassle in that, especially not knowing where to start.

On the other hand, this Sunday is High Noon, the company’s very first iPPV and I highly, highly, HIGHLY suggest giving some thought in checking it out.

High Noon is the finale of CHIKARA’s tenth season. It’s a climactic, big profile show that you can watch live from the comfort of your own home. It’s $15 and you can order and stream it through GFL Combat Sports. It starts at 4pm and has its own 45-minute free preshow beforehand.

Here’s a look at the card and what the show has to offer.

The main story of the 10th season has been crowning the first ever CHIKARA Grand Champion. Although the company has had tag champs and a Young Lions Cup (a singles title for people 23 and younger), they’ve been able to write around the fact that they’ve never had a world heavyweight championship. Until now. Twelve wrestlers were selected to take part in a year-long round robin tournament called the 12 Large Summit (“12 Large” being a catchphrase of the late Larry Sweeney, who died early this year). With all the matches done, we’re down to our finals.

On one side, we have “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush, the squeaky-clean head trainer of CHIKARA who is an absolute genius at technical wrestling. On the other side is “The Last of a Dying Breed” Eddie Kingston. Eddie is a brawler, who tends to win the crowd over with his pure emotion and never-say-die attitude, along with an intensity reminiscent of Taz in ECW. Despite Kingston being a major name in the company for years, I can’t recall too many times that the two have crossed paths. Either way, this should be good and constitutes as a perfect money match for someone to be crowned the first champ.

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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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Grappling Under a Different Tune

June 27th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

I’m sure some of you may have seen the site Tube Dubber. It takes two YouTube videos and merges them, showing one vid’s visuals and the other’s audio. As it turns out, there are a mountain of wrestling entrance videos, otherwise known as Titantrons, on YouTube. These being the looped highlight reel videos that play on the big screen whenever someone walks to the ring. Not only are seemingly all of them on YouTube, but some fans decided to make these videos for those wrestlers from earlier eras.

At the Something Awful wrestling sub-forum Wrestlehut, a bunch of us started playing around with Tube Dubber and seeing what we could do to improve on these wrestling Titantrons. Here are some of my better ones.

The Hurricane
Doink the Clown
Vladimir Kozlov
The Ultimate Warrior
Jeff Hardy (my favorite one)
CM Punk
Adam Bomb
Brutus Beefcake
John Morrison (listen, the guy slows down time. I had to do this one)
JBL… if he was a face.
Rated RKO
The Miz
Mike Knox
The New World Order

Later on, I decided to take some CHIKARA and indy highlight videos and tack on a new soundtrack.

The Osirian Portal
The Super Smash Brothers
Chuck Taylor
Mike Quackenbush

This is way too fun. Try it!

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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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Comics and Wrestling: The Parallels

August 30th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

About now I’m in the middle of writing three different articles while planning to finally update the Table of Contents. It’s annoying, because I want to have something to post, but I end up being torn between all the different projects and nothing really gets done in time. It’s like I’m a monster that has to choose between the scientist that created him or the loving child that befriended him. Too much time looking back and forth and too little time getting results.

What I’m meaning to say is that this here post is going to be really pointless. More so than usual.

As an introduction, let’s look at this quote from my interview with wrestler “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush:

“A certain type of personality and humor attracts a very specific demographic to CHIKARA, and in that way, we end up in bed with (figuratively speaking), and surrounded by, like-minded individuals. There are so many thematic similarities between pro-wrestling and comic books, that there is bound to be some level of crossover.”

This is very true. There are the obvious comparisons, like the concepts of heroes battling villains in a repeated contest of good vs. evil. Colorful costumes. Slick names, whether they be codenames or last names. Mantles are passed down. Bad guys turning to good guys. Good guys turning to bad guys. Characters with names like Sandman, Mysterio, Hercules, Nitro, Crossbones, Rorschach, the Punisher, etc.

But I got to thinking. There are a lot of similarities between comic books and professional wrestling that go unnoticed. Follow me.

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In comics, one of the most entertaining guys is a talented man by the name of Morrison.

In wrestling, one of the most entertaining guys is also a talented man by the name of Morrison.

They both have connections to mind-blowing drugs, now that I think about it.

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Wrestlecomics Interview: “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush cuts a promo on Gavok

July 11th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

hermanos is off covering that E3 thing for that magazine he does, so that leaves me to hold up the fort. It’s all right because I have quite the treat. Regular readers know that I’ve been talking about the pro wrestling federation CHIKARA to the point of annoyance in the last few months. And with good reason!

Moving to the next step of fandom, I’ve secured an interview with “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush himself. Quackenbush, nicknamed “The Master of a Thousand Holds” (though to be fair, I’m sure he’s probably sorta kinda good at eight or nine more), is a 16-year veteran of the ring and is the man who co-founded CHIKARA back in 2002. He’s a wrestler, a trainer to wrestling hopefuls, occasional commentator, writer, and possibly the next surprise identity of Ronin. He’s also one of the best performers I’ve ever had the honor of watching wrestle.


A rare image of Mike Quackenbush that doesn’t involve him shoving someone’s left knee into their right ear.

Not to mention that he’s a major comic fan. So this is, you know, still on-topic for the site.

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I know what CHIKARA is and you certainly know what CHIKARA is, but let’s play it safe and say that whoever’s reading this doesn’t know. Can you give us a little description of what it’s about and what sets it apart from all the rest?

- CHIKARA is a group of pro-wrestlers/luchadores/ninjas/ would-be-super-heroes that get together and enact the age-old struggle of “good vs. evil” within the context of a wrestling universe that permits elements of science-fiction and fantasy beyond what is currently considered “acceptable” or “mainstream” by wrestling fans at large. I hope, when the final word on CHIKARA is written, that our effect on the wrestling performance genre will be akin to the effect Monty Python had on British comedy, or Jack Kirby had on comics.


Quack as part of Eddie Kingston’s Cibernetico team, based on the first issue of Justice League International

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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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