Report From The Fort: Best Match (Andrew’s picks)

We were struggling to narrow down our award to just one match. One of the many things we enjoy about wrestling is that it’s so varied, and there are many contenders for best match, all for different reasons. As such we have picked two matches each, both of which meant a lot to us for different reasons. Rae will be posting hers shortly, but in the meantime…

Winner: Sara Del Rey vs KANA (CHIKARA’s Klunk In Love: Oct 8, 2011)

We’ve declared our undying affection for Sara Del Rey on the blog before, and those affections are indeed unwaning. Not only one of the best female wrestlers in the world, she is arguably one of the best wrestlers in the world full stop. Other than the all female promotion SHIMMER, possibly no company has done more to reward Del Rey’s skill than CHIKARA. In a company featuring wrestling ice creams, temporally displaced Egyptian snake gods and evil (yet devilishly attractive) insect overlords, something as petty as human gender is unlikely to be an issue to success.

When I first took it upon myself to introduce Rae to CHIKARA, one of the matches I showed her was a 2007 bout between Icarus, Gran Akuma & Brodie Lee and Cheech, Cloudy & Sara Del Rey. I don’t think it would be an overestimation to say that Del Rey played a pivotal role in her indoctrination, inspiring not only a love for indie wrestling, but also a typically insightful post on intergender wrestling

KANA on the otherhand, is maybe less known to a wider audience, although 2011 was undoubtedly her “breakthrough” year in the west, with a successful tour of the US taking in CHIKARA and SHIMMER. Having trained and shared a room together early on on their careers, the idea of the two wrestling each other was thought of by many as a dream match.

Then...

...and now

That they were having a match at all was great news. That CHIKARA had the courage and the belief (not only in the wrestlers but also the fans) to make this match the main event of one of their shows gives an indication of just how highly they are thought of. And that faith was more than rewarded with what was easily my match of the year. Not just for the quality of the match (which was amazing) but also in what it stands for. In a year in which the female division in the WWE has often dropped down to levels that can only be described as “risible,” it’s important to remember that there is excellent female wrestling out there.

From SHIMMER’s continued successes to CHIKARA’s Joshimania weekend, from Anarchy Championship Wrestling’s gender-neutral shows to the growing popularity of Quebec’s NCW Femme Fatales, from the UK’s Pro Wrestling EVE to their Japanese partners in Ice Ribbon, there is more female wrestling of a quality that puts many male wrestlers to shame than ever before. Yes this stuff is harder to access than WWE or TNA, and yes you might have to brace yourself for accusations of slightly ulterior motives (believe me, I know) but you will be rewarded with some of the best wrestling that’s out there at the moment… from wrestlers who are possessed of dedication, talent, determination and, coincidentally, ovaries.

Skip to about 4 minutes in the following video for a clip from the match

Winner: Mike Quackenbush vs Eddie Kingston (CHIKARA’s High Noon: Nov 13, 2011)

I’ll be writing more about how much I enjoyed CHIKARA’s first ever iPPV later, but this match is one of the reason’s why the show worked so well. I know I’m coming across as an unabashed fanboy, but one of the thing’s CHIKARA do so well is create emotion through stories and this match, the culmination of their 12 Large Summit tournament, was no excecption.

The tournament was held throughout the 2011 season to finally crown the inaugural CHIKARA Grand Champion, and was dedicated to the memory of CHIKARA alumni Larry Sweeney who took his own life early in the year after a long history of mental illness. In one corner was Mike Quackenbush: founder and head trainer at CHIKARA, and one of the most talented technical wrestlers currently in the US. In the opposite corner was Eddie Kingston: one of my favourite wrestlers and a close personal friend of Larry Sweeney. Kingston is by no means a technical wizard, but he is an amazing brawler, and his promos are second to none – including this gem he released in the run up to the show…

That promo would probably be enough to earn this award by itself to be honest, but the match more than lived up to it. With nearfall after nearfall, a teased Quackenbush heel turn, and the entire roster surrounding the ring by the time the final bell was rung, it was an amazing match, and an honour to get to watch live. I realise this might sound like hyperbole, but it’s true – I genuinely felt like part of something special watching live from my bedroom over in the UK that night, and it’s thanks to moments like this that I love wrestling. Thank you CHIKARA

A Song for Whoever: CHIKARA High Noon Special Edition

Boss Lady Rae: CHIKARA fans generally fall into two camps – those who can go to the shows, and those who clamour for DVDs the second they’re released. We all love each other dearly, but the envy generated by the DVD dwellers gives off enough heat to melt an ice rink. Trust me. I’m one of them. My King of Trios envy might just be what’s responsible for the whole polar ice cap situation. When Andrew gave me a sampler DVD a couple of years ago and suggested I watch it, I never thought I would love it like I do. Actually, what he really said was “No pressure, but if you don’t like this I may sob like a baby!” I didn’t make him cry.

On Sunday night, something shifted. CHIKARA’s first live iPPV, High Noon, brought us all together. I don’t know how it felt at the venue, but it felt pretty special to those of us watching online. Everyone in the arena in Philadelphia watched the same show at the same time as fans around the world. It made a difference I wasn’t expecting. I was definitely excited at the prospect of watching CHIKARA live, but what I hadn’t anticipated was the sense of community that permeated my laptop screen. If being a wrestling fan means being part of one big dysfunctional family, being a CHIKARA fan is like joining a special sub-division of cousins with a secret key to the entrance. Except, all you need to do to get a copy of that key is ask someone for it. They’ll share it with you and welcome you into the fold.

On top of the fact that High Noon made me ultimate totes emosh (I’ve been dying to type that somewhere), how wonderful it was to be able to watch a pay-per-view live and at a sensible time of the day. North Americans won’t understand why this is so important at all, but High Noon started at 9pm (UK time) and I was in bed before midnight. Admittedly, I spent an hour staring at the ceiling trying to absorb the main event and wondering how long my hair would have to grow before I could execute Jacob Hammermeier’s bitchin’ side-pony. But I was asleep before the time I’m usually getting up from a pre-show nap for a WWE PPV and I didn’t have to book a day off work to recover from the up-all-night hangover. Everyone’s a winner! Well, apart from Australians, who had to get up a few hours earlier. They’ll manage.

In honour of this lovely group people I’m proud to be associated with, here’s my carefully selected tune. (I’m definitely going soft in my old age!)

Sidekick Andrew: Last Sunday marked the 6 year anniversary of the death of Eddie Guerrero. Rather fittingly, it was also the date that Eddie Kingston became the first CHIKARA grand champion. Rae has already written how great an experience it was for us in the UK to be able to join in and watch live, and I echo her sentiments exactly. Hell, Rae will tell you I’m a flint-hearted northerner who doesn’t do emotion, but even I had something in my throat during the main event. I don’t think I’ve seen a more emotional title match aftermath since Wrestlemania XX. OK, it might be soured slightly by the Benoit connection in retrospect, but seeing two friends that happy in the ring showing true emotion is pretty rare in wrestling

Or at least it is unless you watch Eddie Kingston’s work. Like Guerrero, Kingston has fought through personal demons throughout his life. Like Guerrero, Kingston has never hidden his faults and flaws. Most importantly, like Guerrero, Kingston has never lost his love and passion for wrestling. I’ve spoken before of how much I love Kingston’s promos. The way he can make you believe every word he says. The way he can mix real life and the “fake” world of wrestling with such skill and passion. Every single time… I know for a fact that this promo in particular sold a number of High Noon purchases…

Now I am admittedly biased as Eddie Kingston is one of my favourite wrestlers. Yes I love his promos, but I also love his brawling wrestling style and the way he sells moves like they actually hurt rather than “wrestling hurt”. Kingston has been a mainstay of CHIKARA (which just happens to be my favourite promotion) and was part of one of my favourite matches ever. All in all, I’m pretty much an unabashed Eddie Kingston fan and as such I love the fact that he was the winner in the biggest match in CHIKARA history, and the fact that I got to see it live means a lot to me. Thank you CHIKARA, and thank you Eddie. This one’s for you…