never kneel at the altar of conformity – a (brief) introduction to CHIKARA

As part of your all-new look, we will be covering a lot more in the way of independent wrestling on the blog, rather than solely covering the usual WWE product. Now, we have mentioned CHIKARA and some of the other independents on occasion, but we are aware that some of you might not be aware of just how awesome CHIKARA is. This will only be a very brief introduction to the company, but hopefully I can get across some of the spirit of CHIKARA and at least give you a basic grounding.
CHIKARA (Japanese for “strength”) are a promotion based in Philadelphia and have been running shows since 2002 (featuring a main event including future WWE-stars CM Punk and Colt “Scotty Goldman” Cabana.) Using a combination of Mexican lucha libre, Japanese puro resu and Lancashire catch wrestling styles, the brains behind CHIKARA and the original trainer at the attached wrestling school is Mike Quackenbush, also known as the Master of a Thousand Holds and regarded by many to be one of the best wrestlers on the independent scene. A self-avowed comic book geek, Quackenbush is partly responsible for the DVD covers that ape comic book covers from throughout the years (a subject covered in far more depth and with far more knowledge by Gavok over at 4th Letter.)
In fact, during an interview with Gavok, Quackenbush was asked to explain CHIKARA for someone who was completely unfamiliar with the product, and his answer is worth repeating in full, because it explains a lot:
“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.”
Now, describing your wrestlers as “ninjas” or “would-be-super-heroes” might seem like a stretch, but when you realise that the roster has included time-travelling medieval knights, dragons, pharoahs and pirates, not to mention anthropomorphic representations of goats, ice-creams, ants and a straight-edge chipmunk named CP Munk you can get an idea where he’s coming from.
L-R Chivas II, El Hijo del Ice Cream, Dragon Dragon, CP Munk, Carpenter Ant
That’s right, CHIKARA isn’t the most serious promotion in the world. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find consistently better wrestling anywhere on the planet. The combination of genuinely entertaining and amusing personalities, gimmicks and promos with some of the best active independent wrestlers today makes for truly addictive viewing. Incidentally I choose the word “addictive” carefully; as Ray will attest, once you “pop” you can’t stop and you will find yourself living for the next sale to add to your collection.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that CHIKARA are only focussing on comedy characters, a quick scan of the Alumni section of the roster reveals a who’s who of WWE, TNA and ROH stars: CM Punk, Matt “Evan Bourne” Sydal, Colin “Delaney” Olson, Al Snow, Alex Shelley, Sonjay Dutt, Amazing Kong, Glacier, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Jay Lethal, Matt “Max Buck” Jackson, Nick “Jeremy Buck” Jackson, Bryan “Daniel Bryan” Danielson, Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, D’Lo Brown, as well as classic WWE stars Ax, Smash and One Man Gang. Believe me when I say that CHIKARA’s slogan of “Wrestling Done Right” makes perfect sense after you’ve watched a few matches. In fact, one of my favourite matches of all time (and certainly one of my favourites from 2009) was a match from the King of Trios tournament (available on the incredible value for money CHIKARA sampler.) but if you’re too impatient or too much of a Scrooge McDuck to spend money, there is a highlight video on YouTube…
Now, if you watched that video and managed to avoid smiling enough that your cheeks hurt, then admittedly CHIKARA might not be for you. But, and I think I speak for Ray as well, when a match helps you to forget breathing for the last few minutes they must be doing something right.
There’s only so much I can explain here about a company with such convoluted comic-book style storylines. For example, the current major story, an NWO/Nexus/Invasion style story involving a group known as the BDK (Bruderschaft des Kreuzes) has it’s origins back in 2004 with the formation of the Dark Breed stable. I think you’ll agree that six years is a long time for a story to evolve, certainly putting the WWE’s “oh bugger, best come up with a reason for these two to have a match” policy to shame. However, there are a few basic tenets that are worth explaining quickly, to give you a grasp of how the company works.
Matches are loosely based on Mexican lucha libre rules, the most important of which is the “lucha tag” – meaning that a wrestler only needs to leave the ring and touch the floor to make a tag to their partner. This allows for much faster and more fluid matches, something which is important in the multi-man tag matches that CHIKARA specialise in. Other lucha-influenced rules include a 20-count outside the ring (as opposed to the US standard 10 count) and immediate disqualification for any wrestler removing the mask of their opponent.
CHIKARA has no main singles title, instead focussing on the Campeonatos de Parejas (tag team championship) which a team must first achieve 3 points before challenging for. Points are awarded for winning tag matches, but should they lose a match they lose all their points. Therefore, to win the titles a team must win 4 matches in a row. The only other championship in CHIKARA is the Young Lions Cup, a yearly tournament for wrestlers aged 25 or under. There is also the Rey de Voladores, or King of the High-Flyers (the semi-finals of which is featured in the highlight video up there… it’s OK, you can watch it again… I understand, just pop back down here when you’re done.) This is more akin to the King of the Ring in that it’s a title given to the winner, but it isn’t one that can be challenged through the year.
I wish I could tell you more now, go into more detail about exactly why I have such a crush on Ultramantis Black, why Vin Gerard transforming from Equinox was one of my favourite storylines of the last few years, why Frightmare is one of the most exciting wrestlers in any promotion at the moment, and why Bryce Remsburg is the only referee that I would specifically watch a match to see – but this is early days for us… we need to keep a little mystery in the relationship still. Trust me, as we move forward and you get to know more and more about CHIKARA’s past and future, you’ll fall in love with them just as hard as Ray and I have fallen.
For now, I’ll leave you with 3 videos: the first two will recap the main events of the last year, while the third (from the Fan Conclave at the King of Trios 2010 tournament) will give you a taste of just how different the interactions between wrestlers and fans is at the independent level. Enjoy…
PS. Did I not mention they’ve a video game coming out? Oh yes…


3 thoughts on “never kneel at the altar of conformity – a (brief) introduction to CHIKARA

  1. Yaaaaaayyyy Chikara! Great article, I look foreward to you guys giving me more reasons to give Mr. Quackenbush all my money.

  2. I’ve read this blog for a quite some time now and, since we seem to have similar tastes, I watched a few Chikara matches…

    This is a ridiculously awesome promotion ! \o/

    Thanks for sharing your love of it, I think it’s contagious.

    Your #1 (and only?) french fan 😉

    • Hooray! Yes, it is VERY addictive. Once you’ve seen one show you start looking for the next on DVD. Glad we were able to persuade you to give it a try. We’ll be writing more about CHIKARA soon.

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