Palmer Center (Easton, Pennsylvania)
More than eleven months – just short of a full twelve months – passed in between “official” Chikara matches. Icarus and Eddie Kingston wrestled to a no contest in the main event of the June 2, 2013 anniversary show in Philly which would be the last match on an official Chikara show until this one on May 25, 2014.
In the meantime, Chikara sought to answer the age old philosophical question of “if a wrestling promotion does not actually promote any wrestling matches, is it really a wrestling promotion?” True to its avant-garde form, Chikara spent the past year as a promotion that existed in name only while running a year-long storyline centered on the near destruction and then re-birth of the promotion. The angle had its supporters – those who found the drawn out story to be just the sort of out-of-the-box pro wrestling concept that attracted them to Chikara in the first place. Other Chikara fans found it frustrating that a wrestling promotion they enjoyed wasn’t – you know – actually running wrestling shows. Others who were not necessarily what one would consider fans of the promotion before the angle were left confused, baffled, and in some cases angered at the downright unorthodox situation.
The entire one-year ordeal was as polarizing as pro wrestling can get.
With all of that as buildup, there was certainly interest from all sides as to what Chikara might look like one year since holding its last match and show.
The answer – in general – is about as you remembered it. That is, with one potentially large caveat.
The ring announcer – the intentionally atypical Gavin Loudspeaker – received a several minutes long chant upon entering the ring. The BDK – the mustachioed Ares and mammoth Tursas – marched to the ring accompanied by the kind of consensually negative response rarely seen in indie wrestling. The Spectral Envoy – winners of the 2012 King of Trios – got a hero’s welcome upon emerging from behind the curtain, led by twelve year Chikara veteran UltraMantis Black. The good guys were greeted rudely by the debuting Nokken – another very large wrestler – and we were off. It all had a very Chikara-feeling to it.
The match itself was also classic Chikara. The ring work was solid, built around a steady blend of comedy and wrestling style that felt part lucha influenced and part lucha tribute. The BDK were effective as rudos with Tursas moving well for a man his size. There was some sloppiness, but the crowd reacted like the match was a big deal and the wrestlers held up their end of the bargain just fine. At least in my eyes, this was match was rather indicative of how I remembered Chikara before the long sabbaticals and viral videos.
The major difference – the caveat mentioned earlier – was that this re-born version of Chikara has a much larger feel to it than the Chikara we last saw in 2013. The crowd size had a lot to do with that perception. The announced attendance was 1,500 and it looked every bit of that. The hard camera pointed towards the entrance way where the chairs on both sides went 25 rows deep. The crowd was not only very large, they were very boisterous. There is no denying that many of those in attendance had waited a long time for Chikara to return and they were going to enjoy every single second of it.
Production wise, the slightly tinted lights and unique backdrop at the curtain gave the ordinary rec center (that looked like a rec center on National Pro Wrestling Day) a polished, professional feel. The graphics before and after the match were crisp and clean. Commercials played throughout the show hawking the Chikara card game, the 2014 King of Trios tournament, the Ashes of Chikara featured film, the soundtrack to that film (available on iTunes and Amazon!), and not one but two mobile phone games available on your iOS or Android devices. Chikara has always been an ambitious promotion that was not content with being a small time indie, but watching their return show they felt like an honest-to-goodness big deal which is something very few promotions anywhere in the world can pull off these days.
Whether they prove to be overly ambitious and whether the spike in attendance is short-lived remains to be seen. What was obvious to me just one match in is that Chikara has a lot of momentum going right now. Regardless of what people thought about their decision to not run for an entire year and keep their fans largely in the dark, they are at the very leaving giving off the perception that they have returned stronger and with far more momentum than they left with.