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.