Category Archives: Chikara

(05/25) The Colony vs. The Colony: Xtreme Force

Palmer Center (Easton, Pennsylvania)

The backstory to this one is pure, unadulterated Chikara.

Former Director of Fun (authority figure) Wink Vavasseur introduced The Colony: Xtreme Force in early 2013 as a marketing ploy to capitalize on the vast popularity of the original Colony.  Wink did what any good marketing man would – he took a good idea and brought it to the extreme.  This new colony consisted of a snowboarding ant (Artic Rescue Ant), an astronaut ant (Orbit Adventure Ant), and a deadly weapon-wielding ant (Missile Assault Ant).  Sure beats plain old fire and green ants.  To lend the group an air of legitimacy and further dilute the original Colony, Wink moved Soldier Ant to the Xtreme group and gave the original Colony the rudo assailAnt (formally of Colony foes The Swarm) as a replacement.

Solider Ant chose against assimilating into the new group, deciding to simply leave Chikara instead.  assailAnt was more willing to conform to his new surroundings and partners.  At National Pro Wrestling Day in February, assailAnt officially won over his new partners by refusing to side with his old friends in the Swarm in an attack on the Chikara wrestlers.  To reward his good faith, Green Ant presented assailAnt with the gear of retired Colony member Worker Ant.  assailAnt now wrestles as the new Worker Ant.

Despite being natural foes from the start, this match marks the first time the two groups have met in trios competition.

The match was a well-executed extension of that build and backstory.  The members of the Xtreme Force made sure to spend plenty of time getting their personas over and shouting their names to the crowd since after all, their entire existence is one mass marketing campaign.  The original Colony came out strong with their usual assortment of fun – and not overblown – double and triple team moves.  After Worker Ant and Artic Rescue Ant had some trouble on the first move of the match – an admittedly higher difficulty lucha arm drag – the rest of the way was completely smooth.

Both sides have some nice team moves.  There were several variations of launch-type moves where one or two team members threw another team member onto their opponents.  The Xtreme Force pulled out the old – and always effective – Kaientai triple team show boat where a pair of teammates forces an opponent to bend over at the waist while the third team member climbs on his back for a nice team pose.  This variation saw Artic Rescue Ant make like Worker Ant was his snowboard with a snowboarding-esque pose.

The Xtreme  Force picks up the victory indicating that the feud will continue which was to be expected given that it is still a relatively new deal.  The Colony might another problem to worry about, however, as the absent Solider Ant unexpectedly returned at the end of this show alongside Delirious and seemingly aligned with Jimmy Jacobs’ big group of bad guys.  The Colony are Chikara’s defining act and it looks like they will be heavily featured this “season” with all sorts of evil ant adversaries to deal with.

Trios| Worthwhile | Quality & Angle

(05/25) Chuck Taylor vs. Ashley Remington

Palmer Center (Easton, Pennsylvania)

Chikara has a knack for getting a lot out of what appear on surface to be one-note gimmicks.

While Adam Rose is sputtering out of the gate over in WWE, Chikara has gotten years of service out of similarly one dimensional gimmicks such as wrestling ants; an old timey baseball player; a cotton-bellied, top hat wearing, English accented masked wrestler known as “the world’s sweetest wrestler”; and of course, a pair of wrestling ice cream cones.  The promotion certainly knows how to get a lot of return out of seemingly very little.

Enter “Smooth Sailing” Ashley Remington.

Making his Chikara debut in this match, Remington strolls to the ring wearing a sailing captain’s hat to the accompaniment of a low key, easy listening number.  He is joined by two decidedly classy-looking ladies who walk arm and arm with him to ringside.  The announcers gush over Remington’s grace and charm.  He spent four hours introducing himself to everyone in the back and held the door for all who entered the building, they say.  Early in the match Remington backs Taylor into the corner.  Acting on instincts, the referee aggressively starts the mandatory five-count to break the hold, no doubt assuming that Remington will take the full five seconds as most wrestlers do.  Instead, Remington lets go of Taylor immediately and calms down the unnecessarily worked-up official.

“I break at one, my friend!” Remington proclaims to mollify the referee.

Played by wrestling disc jockey Dalton Castle, Ashley Remington is part Jervis Cottenbelly and part “The World’s Most Interesting Man”.  The latter feels like the obvious inspiration for the character with the announcers in particular putting Remington over with praise that at times feels like it was taken straight from a Dos Equis commercial.  Remington played the role with far more subtlety than the announcers, however, which is mainly why it worked so well.

His ring work supported the gimmick as well.  The last thing you need is for your ultra-smooth, always-on wrestler to be sloppy or rigid in the ring.  Remington kept things simple, complimenting his basic moves with a few smooth spots that he could hit with ease.  Dalton Castle has been hit or miss, but Ashley Remington came off cool and confident, just as he should have.  Taylor – who is equally hit or miss – was good here, downplaying his own large personality in favor of letting Remington shine.

Remington wins in his debut with a smooth looking (of course . . .) submission hold that was some sort of variation on Jamie Noble’s trailer hitch.  Taylor is expectedly salty after losing to a newcomer.  He sulks around the ring while Remington is handed something by one of his lady friends who have returned to ringside after the match.  It is a wrapped fruit basket, which Remington hands to Taylor.  The Kentucky Gentlemen is justifiably confused by the odd gesture at first.  However, he looks at the gift, processes what the gesture meant, and suddenly an “oh shucks!” smile spreads across the often-villainous Taylor’s face.

Taylor is just another victim of “Smooth Sailing” Ashley Remington’s endless supply of charm.

One sub-10 minute match and I already want to see more of Ashley Remington.  A debut – particularly one with as auspicious beginnings as this one – cannot be asked to accomplish more than that.

US Indie Singles | Worthwhile | Quality & Individual Performance (Remington)

(05/25) Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (Tursas, Nøkken & Ares) vs. The Spectral Envoy (UltraMantis Black, Hallowicked & Frightmare)

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.

Trios | Common | Intrigue

(01/19) Green Ant vs. Drew Gulak

Wrestling Is Respect
Elks Lodge (Boonton, New Jersey)
30-Minute Iron Man Match

I think one of the several inherent problems with Iron Man matches is that it the layout of the falls tends to take focus off of the actual wrestling that is going on. Have there been too many falls? Should they have done a fall so early? Have there not been enough falls? Did that fall make sense in that position? Even if the wrestling is all perfectly acceptable how the falls are structured almost always overshadows that.

Less than two minutes in to this match Gulak forces the Colony member to the mat and starts wrenching on the elbow. It looked like Gulak was going to transition into something else, but Green Ant taps immediately. The announcers used the established reasoning for early Iron Man match submissions in pointing out that it was likely strategy on Ant’s part to give up early and not risk further damage. Not more than two minutes later, Green Ant applied his special version of the Chikara Special to get Gulak to submit. I generally don’t have a huge problem with early submissions in an Iron Man match, especially with two guys who wrestle a submission style usually. Nonetheless, here I was three minutes into the match and was already focusing debating internally whether those early falls hurt (or would hurt) the pacing of the match, rather than concentrating on the decent chain wrestling going on.

The first ten minutes is all holds and submissions. In fact, there is very little separation during this time and just a lot of decent hold and counter-hold wrestling. Green Ant is a very solid technical wrestler and Gulak is completely tolerable when he is wrestling this style. I thought the first ten minutes might have been the strongest portion of the entire 30-minutes. Right at the announced 10-minute mark – as if the wrestlers were waiting for the announcement – they hit the ropes for the first time.

There was a spot shortly after this where Gulak picked up Green Ant for a scoop slam and threw him leg first onto the ropes. It is a standard Gulak spot, but one he should do away with. It sort of worked in this position, however. They had gone about ten minutes between falls, during which Green Ant had targeted Gulak’s leg. It felt in-line with the progression of the match that he would do a sort of emotion-drive, reckless move there to steal a quick pin but it is still a move that bothers me. It follows the same logic as turnbuckle or apron moves – if the turnbuckle, ropes, or apron hurt more than landing on the mat then why would you ever throw your opponent onto the mat rather than one of those other places?

Gulak later gets a 2-fall advantage with the Gu-lock. Up by two falls and with the match 2/3’s of the way over, Gulak bails to the floor where he takes an entire 20-count (a minute+ of actual time) to get back in the ring. When he does, he immediately bails again. Smart. I sort of hope the remainder of the match would have been Green Ant chasing Gulak around the building Benny Hill style but it was not to be. Gulak baited Ant to the outside, got in the ring himself, and got a beat on him right away. Green Ant really favored his neck around this time but it was never paid off. Green Ant hit a dive at one point, there was a top rope suplex, and some more rope running but the match mainly stayed focus on submission attempts and pinning combos. Gulak appeared a bit blown up down the stretch as he was slow in executing a couple of things and/or getting into position, but it was no big deal.

Ant got one fall back by blocking a Gulak roll up attempt and then tied it 3-3 with less than 5-minutes to go in the match. The finish saw Gulak tap to a second Chikara Special with just seconds left on the clock. I thought the ending was well-executed with the sudden death tease. These matches tend to go to sudden death and I thought this one would end up there as well. It also put over the submission has something strong (by virtue of the fact that Gulak could not last in it for even two more seconds).

It is hard to say if the Iron Man rules hurt or helped the match. The Gulak stall section was a memorable part of the match which would have been lost under normal circumstances. Also, who is to say they wouldn’t have gone for bigger moves and near falls down the stretch if not for the Iron Man rules dictating more of a quick strike/submission/pinning combos approach? By way of comparison, I thought this was better than a lot of recent Timothy Thatcher in terms of two wrestlers a hold/counter hold match. Green Ant is good at that style and Gulak is better off doing that stuff than working the high-impact indie style.

Iron Man | Worthwhile | Quality