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.
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
The CHIKARA coverage on 4th Letter of course comes from the habit of using comic book homage for your DVD covers. What’s the story behind how this came to pass?
- Many of us are comic nerds at CHIKARA, and proud to be. Backstage last month, as an example, the main topic of conversation wasn’t that Mr. McMahon’s limo blew up on WWE Raw, but what’s going to happen in World War Hulk. 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. Several of the artists that contribute to our website and other projects are also comic fans, and it just grew out of our shared love of the medium.
Are you comfortable with this man deciding who you’re going to fight?
Another bizarre little quirk about CHIKARA is that your match-making Commissioner is TV’s Bob Saget. Where did this even come from? How did this happen? The short version of what I’m asking is, “What?“
- Bob is very, very involved in the backstage happenings at CHIKARA, and really, when I say “very, very” I mean “not really.” He has been very kind and generous to lend his name to us in some capacity without yet getting sick of, or threatening to bring suit against us.
CHIKARA has been going on for over five years. What are some of your favorite matches, with or without you in them? While I’m at it, what are some of your favorite matches in general?
- We are always evolving, and my answer to this question changes all the time. One of my personal favorites so far this year has been teaming against Pantera, Lince Dorado and Sicodelico, Jr. at King of Trios, Night 3. The final night of Young Lions Cup V (from last month) was loaded with good stuff, and having just watched my copy, I can say it’s really a strong team effort all around, which sometimes, as it is greater than the sum of its parts, proves more satisfying than any one match. My personal favorite non-CHIKARA match took place on 10/10/96 at Sumo Hall in Japan for Michinoku Pro, which featured Super Delfin & Tiger Mask IV & Gran Naniwa & Gran Hamada & Masato Yakushiji vs. Dick Togo & Taka Michinoku & Shiryu & Sho Funaki & Men’s Teioh.
Getting back to the topic of the site, you’re a noted comic fan. What kind of stuff are you reading these days? Note: answering with “Who Wants to be a Superhero: Feedback” is immediate grounds for disqualification.
- I keep up with JLA and the Avengers books, including the spin-offs from The Initiative. I’m a fan of the Black Panther, so that’s got me reading Fantastic Four for the first time in years. Astonishing X-Men is a favorite of mine, and my wife too. I read all of 52, and no matter how good Countdown might be, I’m not getting into another weekly book.
Heh. You have nothing to worry about in terms of Countdown being good.
We all have a comic or two that we read that we aren’t exactly proud of. For me it’s the old 90′s Venom comics and for hermanos it’s All-Star Batman and Robin. What are your guilty pleasure comics?
- I’m not sure if this exactly qualifies, but I loved the West Coast Avengers. Hawkeye and Hank Pym are two of my favorite Avengers’ characters, so this was a no-brainer for me. But man, there are some of those Al Milgrom-tainted issues that are really close to being absolute trash… and I wouldn’t give them up for anything. I feel that way, even more so, about my complete collection of all seventeen issues of The Champions. God, I love the oddball team books. Viva La Defenders!
Jigsaw, the Wrestling Riddle with a Mouth
Outside of the DVDs, there are definitely some comparisons you could make between comics and CHIKARA. For instance, Hydra’s physique is obviously based on a Rob Liefeld musculature. I guess what I’m getting at is, is Jigsaw aware that he’s Deadpool? Because he is!
- There are some comic/CHIKARA crossovers that we are aware of, but weren’t meant as a swipe. Crossbones, of the Neo Solar Temple in CHIKARA, is also the name of a Captain America villain. That isn’t what our Crossbones based himself on at all. The same is true of Rorschach, a prominent character in Watchmen. Jigsaw’s red and black outfit strongly resembles Deadpool, but not by design. In the same way, we didn’t come up with that name to pay tribute to that Punisher mort. Equinox, who some kids like to call “Spider-Man” doesn’t especially look like Spidey to me, and to be nitpicky, there’s an obscure Marvel villain by the same name that didn’t enter into our thought process even once. Conversely, one of my own ring outfits is a wink to Black Bolt of the Inhumans, and obviously there are some overt references to the Superman and Batman archetypes in CHIKARA, which is entirely intentional. It’s not by accident that the tag team called “The Superfriends,” short-lived as that was, came out to the theme from 1978′s “Challenge of the Super Friends.” The original UltraMantis mask was a tribute to Japanese superhero Kamen Rider, while the name is an obvious nod to UltraMan. Skayde, who sporadically appears with us, based his costume on UltraMan Taro, and for a time, wrestled as the White Power Ranger, a sentai character which basically allows us to sweep the category of the Big Japanese 3 when it comes to superhero influences. And that’s just for starters…
Internet friend Cromulent helped get me into CHIKARA, so I figure I owe him a question of two. He wants to know where you first saw Lince Dorado and who originally trained him. Also, is there any chance Skayde could have one last run in CHIKARA?
- I think I speak for all of the CHIKARA gang when I say we would ALL like to have Skayde back with us in the near future. As for Lince Dorado, he’s spending the summer months at Chikara Wrestle Factory, and like many of our visitors, has trained many places. He received some training from El Pantera. His family is from Juarez, but he is half Puerto Rican.
Icarus and Gran Akuma are Team F.I.S.T. They probably don’t like you.
In terms of titles, you guys have the Young Lions Cup, the Campeones de Parejas (tag titles) and Larry Sweeney carries around his pet title, the ICW-ICWA Texarkana Television Title. Yet there’s no top heavyweight title. Why is that?
- Actually, a quick correction, we have Campeonatos de Parejas (tag team championship,) whereas the phrase Campeones de Parejas means tag team champions. With the tag belts and the YLC, how many titles does one group really need? I think if a motion arose to create a new title, it would be shot down on the basis of diluting the importance of the ones we already have.
True or false: Equinox’s bones are made of the same material as the inside of a Stretch Armstrong doll?
- There is always room to speculate.
Two of the stranger alumni of CHIKARA: Mokujin Ken and CP Munk.
Even in a company with wrestling ants, time traveling knights and communist cows, I have to believe that there’s some kind of CHIKARA cutting-room floor. Are there any goofy gimmicks or storylines that you guys dropped for being too over-the-top?
- There is nothing of the sort.
Hypothetical situation. CHIKARA’s doing a show in, say, Hellertown and suddenly dying Green Lantern Abin Sur crashes his spaceship just outside. Which member of the roster would be the most qualified to take over as Green Lantern?
- In a round-about way, the most fearless of us is probably Lince Dorado these days. In training, I’ve seen him hurl his body around with no regard or concern. If being fearless is the qualification, he’s probably got the rest of us beat cold.
The young and impressive Lince Dorado fights off the enigmatic and awesomely creepy Los Ice Creams.
You yourself are a writer and have released several books over the years. If Marvel or DC had offered to let you write whatever series or miniseries you wanted, what would it be?
- I tried to break in with DC back around 2000, and it was an incredibly negative experience dealing with their editor(s). I’ve worked in magazines for a decade, and I’ve never once come across such juvenile, petty, unprofessional people as I did in a handful of talks with DC’s editorial staff. I can only hope that whoever steers the ship at DC these days has pulled in the reins on some of the clowns that no doubt probably still collect a paycheck there. That being said, I’d love to have the chance to write comics, if the circumstances were right. I’m big on team-ups, thanks in no small part to growing up on Marvel Team-Up. I’m fascinated by oddball pairings. Ghost Rider and the Vision. Angel and the Falcon. I especially like the Silver Age Bat-family (Batwoman, Dick, Babs, Man-Bat, etc.) and the Giffen-era Justice League, and there’s tons of stories to be told with those characters.
Batman vs. Captain America. Er… Captain America prior to the Civil War epilogue. Who wins?
- Batman. No one beats Batman, even Prometheus gets his come-uppance eventually. I’m saying this as if these characters are real, which, to people who grew up with their respective mythologies, they are. Any writer could draft their actual fight to end anyway they wanted. Some hack would have D-Man and Bat-Mite do a run-in just to muddy the waters.
Hey, I resent that! Let’s say this demonic alien invades Earth. He’s physically invulnerable, super strong and all-out vicious. He has you cornered. Luckily, his one weakness is that he loses his powers when somebody shamelessly shills their projects in front of him. What would you do in this situation?
- I would most likely raise the topic of CHIKARA’s free, weekly podcast, ingeniously titled “CHIKARA Podcast-A-Go-Go,” which, as you’ve no doubt gathered my friends, is both weekly and free. You can find them on iTunes and all over YouTube. After which, I would discuss with said alien the merits of our frequently malfunctioning chikarapro.com, our online home and cyber-headquarters. Last but not least, I would entreat this alien to investigate our upcoming live events, those being July 21st in Wallingford, CT and August 5th in Philadelphia.
Two more questions. First, what would be a question I could ask you that would get you so offended and angry that you would end this interview in a huff?
- Nesmith or Jones?
Okay. Totally unrelated follow-up question: Nesmith or Jones?
- *Quack proceeds to flip over a table in frustration and storms out of the room, angrily slamming the door on his way out*
Whoa. That was controversial.
That guy again.
Thanks again to Mr. Quackenbush for taking the time for this Q&A. If you want to see the definition of an awesome Quackenbush match, I highly suggest ordering Anniversario? where he takes the fight to rival Chris Hero.