Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dispatches from the Lake: An Entirely Too Long Chikara Event Report

Dasher Hatfield's chest after running afoul of Gary Jay. OUCH.
Photo via Anthony RH Hauser
‘Who Are These Guys?’

‘The guy in the ring? That’s deviANT. The guy coming to the ring is Worker Ant, formerly assailANT. They used to be tag partners, but Worker had a change of heart, and now he’s a good guy.’

‘Alright, cool. And they’re ants?’

‘Yes, they’re ants.’

The bell rang, and the wrestlers fought on the outside of the ring, culminating with Worker ripping off one of DeviANT’s antennae. My dear friend, Eric, who had never been to a Chikara show, turned back to me with a huge smile on his face. ‘I’m all about this', he said. And I cannot tell you how pleased I was.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been able to introduce a friend of yours to something you love, but it is the greatest thing ever when they end up wanting to jump all in on it. Once the Spectral Envoy came out, he wanted to know all about it. Nothing feels better than that.

The Hubs, Eric, and I climbed the stairs into the Logan Square Auditorium, showed our IDs, had our tickets ripped by Leonard F Chikarason, and danced a bit with the Latvian Proud Oak before heading to the bar for a tepid Pabst Blue Ribbon. We chose our seats and settled in for a long, glorious day of wrestling.

The first show, Quantum of Solace, was outstanding top to bottom. There were a few bits that slowed things down, but otherwise I had a blast. Between a few of the matches, Gavin Loudspeaker, Chikara’s ring announcer, would bring out some of the tecnicos to take selfies with the fans or to play this game where five people had to untie themselves from a knot formed with their arms. We had fun with it, though I didn’t grab any selfies. I hate selfies. I hate typing the word, but that’s just my damage. I’m also incapable of approaching a wrestler and asking for a photo. I feel like I’m bothering them. Weird quirk of mine, but what are you gonna do? The card was switched up a bit from what was advertised, but nothing too drastic.

The show started with The Throwbacks, Dasher Hatfield and Mr. Touchdown, defeating Submission Squad members Pistol Danger Evan Gelistico and Gary the Barn Owl. There’s no way Hatfield isn’t feeling the chest chops Gary was throwing. Those were LOUD. (Ed. note: look at the pic above. HE FELT IT ALRIGHT)

Ophidian and Heidi Lovelace were up next. I haven’t seen enough of Lovelace, and I need to track down more of her stuff. She’s a lot of fun to watch. From what I understand, she’s from the Midwest, and the fans loved her. Ophidian fell into the heel role, but he still got a lot of cheers. Eric got a kick out of the fans hissing for Ophidian. Lovelace started the match trying to shake her opponent’s hand, but Ophidian had none of it. They told a great story during the match with her trying to fight back as he destroyed her leg. After he got the pin, Ophidian helped her up and shook her hand. Lovelace was all about selling that leg too. The Hubs saw her at the later show, and she was still limping around. Mike Quackenbush came out to address the crowd. He thanked us all for our continued support. He didn’t come out at the later show, which I thought was a bit weird.

After Quack left, we got another chapter in the continuing saga of the Baltic Siege and the Bloc Party. The Lithuanian Snow Troll and the Latvian Proud Oak beat Mr. Azerbaijan and new member Prakash Sabar, who looks exactly like X-Pac. The Proletariat Boar of Moldova came out to wail on the Siege after his mates lost. The Estonian Thunder Frog came out to check on his team after the beating was done. He would be facing off against the Boar later in the show.

Next, we had two former partners collide in Worker Ant and deviANT. They brawled on the outside with Worker breaking up the 20 count a few times so he could dole out more punishment to his former fellow Gekido member. They ended up back in the ring where they brawled until Worker Ant hit a pumphandle slam with a knee to deviANT’s face. Love Worker’s new gear. The construction helmet was a great touch.

Pieces of Hate were out next. Jigsaw’s new mask is great. He’s changed the eyes so they have a slight curve to them, which just screams ‘I’m evil’. The Shard is a little powerhouse. They’re really enjoyable to watch. They fought Arik Cannon and Darin Corbin. This was my vote for favorite match of the day. Team AC/DC had new, matching ring gear in pink, white and black, and it looked awesome. There was a lot of love on our end for the slow motion segment. It’s a great way in inject a little comedy into an otherwise serious match. Pieces of Hate came away with the win after hitting the Jig ‘n’ Tonic on Corbin.

We got more Baltic Siege on Bloc Party action with the Thunder Frog wrestling the Proletariat Boar. The rest of the Siege was in the back recovering from their post-match beat down, but the other members of the Bloc Party were at ringside. The Boar won the match with a spear, and the entire Bloc Party trio beat up on the Thunder Frog until his partners came out to make the save. Solid match, with the highlight being an appearance from the Hammer of Peace. Fun stuff.

Our main even for the afternoon show was the Spectral Envoy against Sidney Bakabella’s Wrecking Crew, comprised of Blaster McMassive, Jaka, and Oleg the Usurper. Oleg is one of my favorite gimmicks going right now. When he slayed Dragon Dragon last year, I was all in. The match started with the rudos attacking the Envoy when their backs were turned. Tons of over the top rope flippies, culminating with McMassive diving over the top rope. That was BANANAS. I’ve seen him do it before (pretty sure he did it at the Chikara WrestleCon show last year), but seeing it live is a whole 'nother ball game. Oleg tried to hit Ultramantis with his war helmet at the end of the match, but Blind Rage showed up and took the weapon from him. Mantis trapped Oleg in the Chikara Special, winning the match for the Envoy.

Look for this show on Smart Mark Video. I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you weren’t there live.

We didn’t have tickets to the Expansion Pack event between shows, so we headed out to grab some grub before Diamonds are Forever started. I’d worn my Cesaro King of Swing shirt to the event, which Dasher Hatfield saw on my way out. He was not pleased, even after I tried to tell him I considered him the original Olde Timey King of Swing. He was having none of it, so to even out the karma, I bought one of his shirts later that night. It’s a copy of Cesaro’s International Superpower shirt. It’s glorious. We’re cool now too, and sealed our truce with a hug. (Dasher is awesome.) After thanking the other wrestlers on the way out and getting a hug from the Thunder Frog, we headed into the muggy Chicago afternoon for some chicken wings.

The evening show, Diamonds are Forever, wasn’t as good as the afternoon one. The first half was really uneven, with three of the four matches being over in what felt like under five minutes. I was also sitting next to a group of guys who talked through the entire show about early '90s hardcore wrestling and complaining about how there was too much comedy during the show. They were kind of terrible.

We started the show with Old Fashioned, Jervis Cottonbelly and Marion Fontaine, defeating Los Ice Creams, El Hijo de Ice Cream and Ice Cream Jr. Great opening bout. Plenty of comedy and some solid action to warm the crowd up. Each team pulled a kid in from the crowd to start the match for them, which got a ‘King of Trios’ chant from the crowd. Old Fashioned used their kid to distract Los Ice Creams, before pinning them with double backslides. Their awesome music kicked in, and they brought both kids back into the ring to shake hands with the wrestlers and each other. Next we got the three crazy short matches.

First up was Max Smashmaster, accompanied by Blaster McMassive, destroying JoJo Bravo. Smashmaster looks great. He’s dropped a bunch of weight, but is still ENORMOUS. I legit thought Bravo’s rib cage was destroyed when Smashmaster hit his running senton. One of the highlights of the night was Smashmaster ascending the ropes and hitting Bravo with a moonsault for the win. Seeing a GIANT man flip through the air like that will never not impress me. Bryce Remsburg, senior referee of Chikara, put a shirt over Bravo’s face and carried his limp body to the back.

The next crazy short bout was Blind Rage defeated Mat Fitchett. All I remember about this match is this lady in the crowd’s face when she got a look at Blind Rage’s face. It was hilarious.

Third under-five minute match was The Odditorium, Oliver Grimsly and Qefka the Quiet, winning via disqualification against the Batiri, Obariyon and Kodama. The Batiri were disqualified because of excessive violence. This was bad at the time, but it ended up making sense by the end of the night. Seemed like a waste of time in the moment. I get that they are building a story across the whole year and that this wasn’t the culmination of the feud, but it was still disappointing.

After only about fifty minutes, we went to intermission. We thought this was crazy weird or that something was wrong with the ring, but no biggie. There was a lot of hope that the second half of the show would deliver. Fun little story. We had gone up to merch tables before the show started, and I picked up my Dasher Hatfield shirt. The Hubs has wanted a Morton Salt shirt (because he is a weirdo), so I suggested getting an UltraMantis Black shirt. He waffled a bit, so we went back to our seats. Completely oblivious, I mentioned that most wrestlers make the majority of their money on merchandise sales. Apparently, this made my husband feel like a giant piece of shit, so he back to the table to pick up a shirt. We were out of cash at that point, so he tried to use a credit card. Mantis razzed him for trying to do so in his typical jovial manner, so the Hubs ended up buying two shirts.

In summary, you’re welcome UltraMantis.

The second half of the show was light years ahead of the first. We got started with Juan Francisco de Coronado defeating Billy Roc. JDFC is usually very entertaining, but I couldn’t get into this match. He ended up winning in a manner than escapes me.

Things picked up with The Colony, Fire Ant and Silver Ant (formerly Green Ant) defeating their knockoff rivals in the Colony Xtreme Force, Orbit Adventure Ant and Missile Assault Ant. I loved this match. It held very high energy and was engaging. Orbit Adventure Ant’s space helmet is one of the best things ever conceived on planet Earth. These teams gel really well, and put on one of the more exciting matches of the night. The Colony got the win when Silver Ant made Orbit Adventure Ant tap out to the Chikara Special.

Jimmy Jacobs against Eddie Kingston was up next. I was really looking forward to this one, but Jacobs came out dressed in street clothes. He grabbed a mic and asked Kingston to join the Flood. He laid out that no one in Chikara cares about him. No one likes him. Kingston attacked, but then Jacobs brought up ‘her’, and how he could help Kingston get ‘her’ back. Kingston broke down and Jacobs beat him with a spear. Not sure if Kingston is joining the Flood, or is just going to be chaotic neutral for the rest of the season. I’m all about story progression, but the folks sitting next to me weren’t having any of it. They got vocal about it, which was super annoying. I’m pretty sure that the ‘her’ Jacobs was referring to is the Chikara Grand Championship, since Kingston called it ‘her’ during the Ashes video series. I’m very interested to see where this goes.

The final match of the evening was 3peck0, Archibald Peck, Shane Mattews, and Scott Parker, against Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes, Tursas, Ares, and Nøkken, accompanied by Milo Schnitzler. This match looked like it was going to end prematurely too when the Odditorium interfered, but the Batiri came down to make the save. Archie got on the mic, and challenged the Flood to a ten man tag match. Bryce made the match official, and we were off to the races. The tecnicos fought to drag the Flood back to the ring. Things got nuts when Archie went to the top rope and flattened everyone with a dive over the ring post. Match was absolute madness. At one point, Tursas was teetering on the ring apron as 3.0 tried to knock him off. Parker took a dive at him, sending the MASSIVE Tursas onto his teammates on the floor. You could feel the impact through the floor. Somehow, Oliver Grimsly ended up back in the ring, got caught by the Batiri in the Go to Hell, and was pinned. Crowd went crazy and Scott Parker got on the mic to thank us all for coming out.

Too long, didn’t read version - Chikara is glorious, and if you aren’t paying attention, you’re missing out on a great product.