Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Tales: National Pro Wrestling Day 2014 Preview

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Will Icarus have to be pressed into battle once more?
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
National Pro Wrestling Day is in Easton, PA on Saturday. The show starts at 1 PM. A gaggle of WrestleBros, including myself, will be there. Beyond those facts, I am not sure how to gauge what is going to happen in two days. The narrative splits into two distinct tenors for the events to unfold at the Palmer Center/Funplex.

The superficial story for National Pro Wrestling Day is an event full of fun, colorful characters from the Chikaraverse coming together and raising money for an awesome charity, Against Malaria. Scores will be settled. A title will be contested. Two mat technicians will go toe to toe in a best two-out-of-three falls match in what is being positioned as the nominal main event. Mirth and merriment will be offered for all in the name of wrestling and helping out the less fortunate.

But beneath the surface lies something a bit meatier, a bit more mysterious, a bit more dangerous. The cast of characters at NPWD and the venue suggest that this gathering is part and parcel of the Chikara/Wrestling Is family of promotions. Chikara is coming up on eight months dormant, and the only three piece of the Wrestling Is CHIKARA! anagram left standing are the H, the K, and the exclamation point. Someone has been funding a ghost army of rogues that is nominally headed by Dr. Cube and contains such fiends as the Gekido, the Bruderschaft des Kreuzes, and Sinn Bodhi. They paid off Sidney Bakabella to join their mission. I don't know if Bakabella and his Wrecking Crew are beholden to ideologies. All I know is that he loves money and will do anything for the best payday.

Not incidentally, a story of resistance and familiarity called Ashes has played out through other, more viral channels. Although many who have competed under the Chikara banner have lost their ability to give a flip about their former home, a dedicated few still hold lit torches. Hallowicked is still training recruits at the Wrestle Factory. The Colony continue their search for their AWOL third member. Shane Matthews and Scott Parker may have gone to the LOST Island in search of their answers. Eddie Kingston still calls the Chikara Grand Championship "her." And Icarus has been the only one trying to do anything to raise up an army to fight for his home, against the will of those who want to destroy it from without.

Some of the above have been announced for the event. Hallowicked will wrestle Mike Bennett. the Colony's match hasn't been announced, but by process of elimination, they'll more than likely be going up against Los Ice Creams. Eddie Kingston greets Frank O'Rourke in battle. I can't imagine, however, that Icarus or 3.0 will be missing completely. Much like Mike Quackenbush's fandom of LOST is worn on his sleeve, the structure of the Ashes videos feels like a typical season of the science fiction mystery thriller series that took up many hours of my life during its run on television. Each video hints at something bigger, something more pervasive, but very few plot points are resolved until the season finale, when the floodgates burst open.

So, is National Pro Wrestling Day that "season finale," much like Aniversario: Never Compromise felt like a finale for the two years that preceded it? The members of 3.0 pressed Archibald Peck into a corner until he admitted that something could be done. The final video cut to a creepy shot of Cube and the Gekido standing ominously in a semicircle in a dimly-lit room with the words "The End Is Now" fading in. If I had to guess when a climax would come to this story, NPWD is the most logical point (with May 25, 2014 as the second most logical, given that it was the date on Peck's big board).

Even so, the secretive, almost separated Ashes/defense of Chikara story may be obscuring several micronarratives, some which may be connected to the battle looming as a direct result of Aniversario. The Baltic Siege will face their own reckoning, as the Polar Baron's Union will do battle with them one more time. The Polar Baron has promised he will make an offer to the Siege that they could not refuse. The troubles in Chikara started to intensify when these Eastern European avatars began to appear on the scene, and their war has been a constant across every branch of the Wrestling Is galaxy. I may be reaching, but I think their battle will be integral to the big picture.

One feud coming to an apparent close that has seemed self-contained is the no-disqualification bout between Shynron and Juan Francisco de Coronado. Shynron burst onto the scene last year and gave Coronado fits enough to drive a wedge between the latter and his manservant, Herbert. The Spirit Dragon sympathized with Herbert, and as a result, he won the services of Coronado as a manservant. If any bout on the card is for pride, this match would fill that bill.

Hallowicked's battle against Bennett also has some history; the latter tapped out to the former en route to the Spectral Envoy's victory at King of Trios '12. Other than that match, not a whole lot of action is going on that is steeped in hatred. Maybe Joe Pittman's comments to Heidi Lovelace over Twitter were a bit rude. Maybe Kingston and O'Rourke will potato each other into some kind of insta-feud. Perhaps Colt Cabana will do something chippy in order to set off a fuse in Drew Gulak. Both Eric Corvis and Sonjay Dutt have a bit of peacock in them. But if nothing else goes down, NPWD will be a really fun wrestling show with some feuds culminating on it or building within it. In other words, this show may not have the Chikara name, but it will feel like a Chikara show.

Maybe the biggest clue as to what might happen at NPWD is that the card is structured as if this were Chikara's regular jaunt into Easton in February. To act as if the company never left might feel like trollbait, but no matter how far any average fan has gone down the rabbit hole of viral material, one consensus remains the same. Everyone wants Chikara back, and my guess is everyone would love to pretend that maybe it never left in the first place. I know I am aching for a return of some sort.

So the two narratives may not be as disparate as once thought. Still, trying to extrapolate a concrete resolution from the swirling vacuum of chaos that is the Chikaraverse right now may be as foolish as expecting Daniel Bryan to be in the Royal Rumble without advertisement (too soon?). Still, the fireworks factory is on the horizon, but even if that destination is not arrived upon on Saturday, I don't think the wait will be too much longer afterwards.

And hey, the afternoon of wrestling, which is free for everyone who wants to watch live or remotely, looks absolutely spiffy regardless of storyline implication.

National Pro Wrestling Day will happen at 1 PM Eastern Standard Time in Easton, PA at the Easton Funplex, located at 4100 Green Pond Road. Doors will open at the venue at 12 PM. You can tune in live via a YouTube stream embedded at their site. The event is free of charge to view no matter where you are, but you really should donate money to Against Malaria.