Tuesday, February 4, 2014

LOST and Found: How Chikara's Crossroads Are Similar to TV's Most Polarizing Show

The DeLorean was part of Quack's masterplan, but did it pose more questions than it answered?
Photo Credit: Zia Hiltey
LOST was a hot button for television fans for various reasons. The show started out as a pop culture phenomenon for creating a stranded-disaster epic with well-plotted mystery and science fiction elements. As the show progressed each season, the writers posed more questions that they didn't seem prepared to answer.

By the time the show finished, the fanbase was divided into two camps. One group, of which I was a part, didn't seem to care that so many of the minutiae introduced weren't given resolution. The growth of the characters and the emotional catharsis were enough to make the shows six season arc eminently satisfying. The other group was dissatisfied with how much of the show's mythology remained unpacked. Too many details were left unaddressed, and regardless of any emotional impact the show may have packed.

Despite my opinions on the show, I don't begrudge anyone for not being satisfied with how much of the show's seemingly infinite amount of questions posed were not addressed. Consumption of art is not universal. For every piece of art presented for public perusal, a near unlimited ways to watch and digest that singular example exist. Because one can interpret a piece of art in a plethora of ways, the show's legacy is an uncertain one at best. Granted, other shows may have more of a consensus legacy either way. Few people who have watched The Wire in its entirety seem to doubt its place in the pantheon, while a show like Whitney has earned its reputation in infamy for several reasons. Still, for as checkered as the show's perception is among its fans is, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, and JJ Abrams at least pushed the envelope, and the result saw them at least put a piece of art out for referendum. Some shows don't even get that benefit.

Mike Quackenbush is on the record as being a fan of LOST. Perhaps that piece of information could shed light on the direction where he is taking Chikara Pro Wrestling. In the last two years, the narrative surrounding the company has suggested more questions than answers. Saturday in Easton provided a moment of emotional catharsis the likes of which approached or even surpassed the levels produced by many of LOST's finale-style moments. Clearly, the story is nowhere close to being over. This moment seems more like a season finale than a grand watershed revolution.

But the number of questions that has been posed and not addressed seems staggering. With its monthly (at best) schedule and notorious glacial pace at advancing stories, the Chikara fandom seems to be splitting into similar camps as LOST fans did. In one corner, the fans who want return on their emotional investment sit excited that the wrestling promotion they love is back with a whole new story. In the other, fans who are skeptical at the lack of issues addressed on Saturday await whether the company's direction will tie up all the loose ends that it has left in its wake in the last two years.

I can't answer what camp Quack seems to be in, because I don't know him personally enough to ask him questions about his philosophy running a wrestling company. He seems like the kind of person who keeps that information close to his vest anyway. But in the past, he has almost always delivered on stories he has set out to tell. But he also has the benefit of hindsight. He's seen how polarizing LOST has been, and the ball is in his court as to how he wants to proceed.

Wrestling has definite advantages over scripted television in that the narrative is continuous and in the age of social media and streaming video, no time really is an "off" time to tell the story. Quack seems like he's the savvy type anyway. Most of the current story has been told through YouTube and Facebook so far anyway. Maybe the details will come in on the side while the main narrative will be for moments like the Submission Squad basically saying "OVER OUR DEAD BODIES" and the combined forces driving back Jimmy Jacobs and his army. Maybe I sound like an apologist in my own projections of how this story is going to play out. The only thing that I know at this point, however, is that I don't know anything about the future or how it will be conducted.

But I do know that Quack and Chikara are at a crossroads right now. The company already has riled up its base fans and they've polarized enough that the next year or so will be interesting to watch not just for what Chikara produces, but how fans react. A promotion shutting its doors as a storyline device isn't the mark of playing thing safe. Trying new things and skirting the edge will almost always engender a split reaction at first. However, how those moments are handled and followed up on defines where a legacy will end up.

So Chikara's legacy is now up for referendum. I can't say for sure how that referendum will go. Time is needed for the story to play out. But the evidence for either side feels so familiar to a show that I loved and obsessively watched when it was on the air. Whether Chikara's fate is the same as LOST or better depends on how things go. I might be biased, however, but I think Quack deserves a chance to reveal his masterplan though.