|King of Trios is awesome, and you should read this post to familiarize yourself with it|
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Even if being immersed in the promotion can give an extra sense of satisfaction (or heightened disappointment, depending on the outcomes) this weekend, one can know nothing else about the promotion except that it exists and still enjoy King of Trios. The following is a primer of sorts on what to expect at the tournament. I'm not sure how many tickets remain for any of the three shows, but the Easton Funplex holds a lot of people in terms of independent wrestling crowds. I'm sure if you wanted to make a last-minute road trip to the Lehigh Valley, you could score a general admission ticket and experience for yourself the grandeur of the weekend. But anyway, if you want to go and don't know what you would be getting into, well, why not read this guide and see what you're up against, or if it's something you'd enjoy.
WHEN! WHERE! HOW!
King of Trios 2014 will be taking place at the Charles Chrin Community Center of Palmer Township, on 4100 Green Pond Road in Easton, PA. The colloquial name for the venue is the "Easton Funplex," so don't use that name when punching the venue into your GPS or phone. Easton is part of a greater suburban metropolis that includes Bethlehem and Allentown, situated on the Lehigh River in east-central Pennsylvania, right by the Delaware River. It's about a 90 minute drive from both the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas, although it's a manageable drive from points around the East Coast like Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington. If you're coming from New York or points northeast, you'll want to find your way to I-78. Coming from Philadelphia and points south, going from I-476 to either I-78 or US-22 is your best bet. Coming from the west means a trip on I-80 to PA-33. However, any map site or GPS will get you there in good order.
The weekend has four associated shows - three of them wrestling shows and one as an interactive meet-and-greet festival known as Fan Conclave. Friday night's show starts at 7 PM local time, while the doors open at 6 PM. Saturday contains both Conclave and the second of the three wrestling cards. Conclave starts at 2 PM, while the show starts at 7 PM. The events are not contiguous; you'll have to leave after Conclave and show up again at 6 PM when the doors open for the show. Finally, Sunday's events start with a potluck cookout in the pavilion area outside the venue at 1 PM. The doors open at 2 PM for a 3 PM start. I will only be there in person for the third show, for those who'd like to say hello to their local, neighborhood wrestling blog type dude, and I will more than likely be going to the potluck cookout too.
The thing about Chikara shows is that you want to get there at least a half-hour if not earlier before door-open time. Crowds, especially at the Funplex, can get pretty big, and if you have general admission tickets, you won't want to get shut out of the best seats by showing up right around door open time.
King of Trios Tournament
Ah yes, the King of Trios tournament itself is the namesake event happening over these three shows. With 48 individual competitors, it is the largest tournament in pro wrestling in America. It is a single elimination tournament with 16 trios. It is the only portion of the proceedings over the weekend that has matches on all three cards, and the first show is dedicated solely to first round matches. Most, if not all, trios have some kind of long-lasting association with each other, especially ones that compete regularly in Chikara. The promotion is heavily based on stables, so this event is its signature and arguably its most important cluster of shows.
Despite the importance on the tournament, the title is not defended and is non-transferable. Think of it like a sports tournament, where the winners reign for a year (or in the case of the Spectral Envoy, for two years), but don't defend that reign at all. As an aside, the promotion that is least like the "pure sports build" paradigm has the most successful sports-like tournament in all of wrestling. Tournaments like Battle of Los Angeles and DDT4 in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla may be more or less successful depending on metrics or whatever, but they're largely means to an end given that winning them leads to title shots. Chikara has no trios title, and thus winning this is the thing.
Why should anyone want to go to an event based on the six-man format? As WWE has proven to the mainstream over the last two-three years, the trios match archetype can be fun and fulfilling. Chikara arguably has come the closest to perfecting the art of any company that operates north of the Rio Grande. Of course, Chikara's trios matches have a major difference to WWE's. The company operates under lucha libre rules for tagging in and out, which means exiting the ring counts as a legal tag. Also, Chikara's count outs come after a referee count of 20 instead of 10, and removing anyone's mask is grounds for disqualification.
The tournament has been held yearly since 2007 with the exception of 2013, when the company was on hiatus. All tournaments have been conducted with 16 trios in a simple bracket format except in 2008, when 28 trios were booked. Yikes. The previous winners include QuackShaneSaw (Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, Shayne Storm aka STIGMA), Los Luchadores de Mexico (Incognito aka Hunico aka Sin Cara, Lince Dorado, El Pantera), Team FIST (Chuck Taylor, Icarus, Gran Akuma), Bruderschaft Des Kreuzes (Claudio Castagnoli aka Antonio Cesaro, Ares, Tursas), The Colony (Fire Ant, Soldier Ant, Green Ant aka Silver Ant), and the Spectral Envoy (UltraMantis Black, Hallowicked, Frightmare). Of those trios, only the Envoy is fully intact and returning. Of the past winners, Jigsaw, Icarus, Ares, Fire Ant, and Silver Ant will be competing on trios in this year's tournament, while Taylor will appear in another capacity during the weekend.
Conclave is basically the "WrestleMania Access" of King of Trios, only far less corporate. Wrestlers mill about the venue selling their wares, posing for pictures, or generally interacting with fans in a positive, friendly manner. Most of the booked wrestlers during the weekend come out for various functions or just to chill, but sometimes, wrestlers who aren't even booked who are just in the area will come out as well. Last year, Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels were at a TNA taping just up the road in Bethlehem, and they stopped by Conclave for a spell.
Conclave isn't just about meeting people, whether wrestlers or other fans, or buying merch. Chikara always has something planned for the proceedings. This year, a wrestler photobooth (which will presumably be shot by Friend of the Blog Zia Hiltey), a No Mercy video game tournament, tecnico Family Feud, and live wrestling trivia are all planned. However, I get the feeling that slate only chips away at the iceberg.
Rey de Voladores Tournament
King of Trios isn't the only tournament that happens during the weekend. Translated literally as "King of Flyers," the Rey de Voladores mini tournament puts eight men into three matches with a whole bunch of fireworks over the final two days of the proceedings. The tourney starts on night two with two four-way semifinals. The matches are elimination, and competitors are supposed to tag in and out, although as with any multi-person match with tag rules, chaos can be the rule of the day. The winners of those matches face off on night three to determine who claims the RDV title. Like King of Trios, this title is non-transferable and is not defended.
RDV, like King of Trios, has been held every year except one since 2007 (no tournament was held in 2012). However, only half of the tournaments have been held during King of Trios weekend. In 2007 and 2008, the mini-tourney was held at its own event, and in 2013, it was competed for at National Pro Wrestling Day. Past winners include Chuck Taylor, Incognito, Kota Ibushi, Ophidian, El Generico aka Sami Zayn, and 2 Cold Scorpio. This year's field has not been completely revealed yet, but the only prior winner announced so far is Taylor.
Tag Team Gauntlet
The Tag Team Gauntlet is as it sounds, a gauntlet match featuring tag teams, ten tag teams to be exact. The match is a night three tradition that dates back to the first King of Trios event in 2007, which was the only year that had more than ten teams competing. Basically, two teams start, and one one team loses, it is replaced with another one until all ten teams have made their appearances. The match contains teams that didn't have enough members to compete in the Trios tournament, or from parts of teams eliminated the first two days. The match is oftentimes an avenue for surprises. In 2011, Dragon Dragon made his ceremonious return to Chikara in the gauntlet, while last year, Demolition and Marty Jannetty both competed.
Another thing to remember is that the match has implications towards Chikaras Campeonatos de Parejas, or Tag Team Championships. Contenders for the belts are decided via a points system. If you win a match or eliminate a team in a multi-team match, then you are awarded one point towards contention. IF you accumulate three points, you get a title shot. If you accumulate seven, you can name the stipulation. Once you lose a match, however, you lose all your points and start from the bottom. It is possible that the winner of the gauntlet could accumulate enough points to get a shot at the titleholders (currently Dasher Hatfield and Mark "Mr. Touchdown" Angelosetti). However, points are usually not "cashed in" without advance warning. Prior winners include Cheech and Cloudy, Demolition, Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw, Frightmare and Hallowicked, Atsushi Kotoge and Daisuke Harada, and 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty.
The first show is the only one exclusively dedicated to the the King of Trios tournament. All eight first round matches will be held on this first show. The matches get varying lengths, although it's rare to see a first night match get a prolonged showcase. The main event traditionally features one of the guest teams that has one or more former WWE/TNA/WCW/ECW/puroresu superstars on it. Additionally, the phrase "card subject to change" usually comes into play on night one. In the event's history, only 2011 featured every single wrestler advertised to be there on night one. Replacements are sometimes done using a "random draw," (read: it's all a work, brother) where the referee picks a replacement name out of a hat. Usually, it takes three tries to get the "right" name announced. For those who will only be able to attend one show and need help deciding, if you like trios matches, then night one is probably for you. While you probably won't get the best six-man match of the weekend, you'll get them in bulk.
Night two has the most stuff going on by sheer volume. You don't have to go to Fan Conclave if you're attending the second show, but the experience of going to the meet-'n-greet can make the entire weekend even more satisfying. You even have the chance of seeing angles kick off like in 2011, when Green Ant slammed Tursas and kicked off the Flex Express. As a show, night two can sometimes be the strongest night, and it's usually of higher quality than the first one. In years like 2010, when the plan was for the rudo BDK team to win, the most powerful emotional catharsis can come at the end of the middle night, when the Colony defeated the BDK's B-team in the quarterfinals, which at that point was the first time anyone from that stable had lost via pinfall or submission. Plus, Yoshi Tatsu, Rockstar Spud, Seiya Sanada, Rich Swann, and Tigre Uno are all scheduled to make their first appearances of the weekend here. For those who can only go to one show and need help deciding, night two may not have the opening appeal that night one has or the flash-bang finality and quality that night three does, but it's a great way to spend a Saturday.
Night three is, pardon my off-color comparison, the money shot for the whole weekend. King of Trios and Rey de Voladores conclude here. The Tag Gauntlet happens. Night three also traditionally has had random nuggets of fantastic, one-off matches, like Manami Toyota/Madison Eagles, 3.0, Ebessan, and Takoyakida/Colt Cabana, the Swamp Monster, Johnel Sanders, and Darkness Crabtree, Toyota and Kaori Yoneyama/Command Bolshoi and Tsubasa Kurigaki, and any number of Eddie Kingston singles showcases (vs. Austin Aries, Christopher Daniels, and Akira Tozawa). Plus, the main stuff tends to be at its best. RDV has produced two all-time finals during KOT weekend in Ibushi/Player Dos and Generico/1-2-3 Kid. The main tournament matches deliver in terms of in-ring action, reaction to emotional stimulus (either positive or negative), or both. Honestly, if you can only go to one show, I would wholeheartedly suggest catching the finale.
You don't need me to tell you about Chavo Guerrero, Homicide, Hernandez, the Spirit Squad, or Yoshi Tatsu. Depending on your level of knowledge about current TNA, I may not need to tell you about Tigre Uno, Sanada, or Spud either. I would also be bereft of letting you know about their backgrounds because I haven't watched TNA in over a year. However, the Chikara regulars may be a bit daunting for a first-timer. On the outside looking in, these wrestlers are all silly masks that appeal to kids, and while that statement is partially true (and I might add that it's healthy and awesome to appeal to kids), the roster is as diverse and nuanced as anything. However, nuance may not be possible for even the most astute first-time viewer. I know it took me a year or so to get acclimatized to the promotion's quirks and mores. So, the following are the important roster members to remember.
The Spectral Envoy - This trio consists of UltraMantis Black and two anthropomorphic pumpkin beings known as Hallowicked and Frightmare. Mantis, in addition to being an insectoid wrestler, is a noted master of the dark arts and the macabre. He's also the frontman for a hardcore punk band, which gives him one of the most strangely awesome auras of any pro wrestler in any company. This trio won the last tournament, and they are at the heart of the current battle for Chikara's soul. Hallowicked is also the head trainer at the Chikara Wrestle Factory, so he may make a few appearances if some of his graduates get in trouble during the weekend.
The Colony/Colony X-Treme Force - Despite their introduction into Chikara fairly late in the game (2006 instead of 2002 like many wrestlers who embody the promotion as "originals"), the Colony may be the most identifiable faction within the company. The main reason is that wrestling ants are pretty much the strangest thing that anyone who wasn't a fan of South American lucha libre has ever heard of. The trio started out featuring Fire Ant, Soldier Ant, and Worker Ant, but Worker Ant retired some time in 2008, and Soldier Ant is currently brainwashed as a member of The Flood (more on them later). Silver Ant joined in 2009, and the current wrestler named Worker Ant joined in 2012 against his will, actually, which is a long story that I don't know I want to get into right now. Anyway, the Fire/Soldier/Silver trio won King of Trios in 2011.
Their current nemeses are knockoff ants known as Colony X-Treme Force. They were introduced in 2012 as the "new and improved" version of the group, mainly because they had sweet military upgrades. Missile Assault Ant, Orbit Adventure Ant, and Arctic Rescue Ant were even retroactively given the original Colony's King of Trios medals from 2011 by then-Director of Fun (think commissioner or general manager) Wink Vavasseur. The battle raged on between the two factions for over a year, both in Chikara and in the Wrestling Is family of promotions during Chikara's hiatus. In a twist of fate, the two Colonies will face off against each other in the first round of this year's tournament.
Icarus - He has been the main actor of Chikara for over a year now. Once a hated heel (or rudo in lucha parlance), Icarus turned to the side of light by taking up the mantel for Chikara's fans and opposing the increasingly paranoid Eddie Kingston for the Grand Championship. He famously had Kingston in the Chikara Special submission hold at the final show before hiatus when Vavasseur gave the call to break down the set and chase all the fans out of the arena, thus ending said event and the company itself. He was the only one who still believed in Chikara when the rest of the roster went into diaspora, and thanks to his inspirational leadership, he was able to rally the troops and revive the promotion. For his efforts, he was given another shot at the Grand Championship, which he won. Since then, he's defended against all comers while doing battle in the main narrative. He will be competing in the King of Trios tournament alongside...
The Throwbacks - ...Dasher Hatfield and Mark "Mr. Touchdown" Angelosetti, who currently hold Los Campeonatos de Parejas as the Golden Trio. Hatfield and Angelosetti were not original tag partners. The Throwbacks contained Hatfield and Sugar Dunkerton. Angelosetti came in when Dunkerton left the promotion, although he didn't have the same happy-go-lucky attitude that the first incarnation of the team possessed. This clash of attitudes led to friction within the group, but they overcame their differences and became stronger for the effort. Hatfield's nickname is the "Old-Timey King of Swing," and he wears a baseball mask, so expect a lot of spots and moves that hearken to America's pastime. Angelosetti, as his nickname suggests, has a football motif, with the meathead, aggro jock persona to go along with it.
The Flood - The Flood is a massive group of collected baddies from Chikara's past that is threatening to resume the company's hiatus and end it for good. The group contains remnants from marauder groups such as the BDK and Gekido, and it has enlisted such singular scoundrels as Dr. Cube, Sinn Bodhi/Kizarny, and Jimmy Jacobs. The group even recruited Chikara originals Jigsaw and Eddie Kingston to its ranks, and it has kidnapped Soldier Ant and Delirious, brainwashing them into service. The group is led by Deucalion, a massive, Bane-affecting killing machine, whose signature chokebreaker has put no fewer than three wrestlers out of commission, seemingly for good. The entire season so far has revolved around the battle between the combined forces of Chikara against this group, and with several Flood entrants into the King of Trios tournament, that theme will probably continue throughout.
The above is by no means a complete treatise on the state of Chikara, but I think - or at least hope - that it's enough to get any newbies ready for a huge weekend of indie wrestling, mirth, and merriment. The best thing about Chikara is that you don't need to become immersed in the story to get satisfaction out of it, and King of Trios is perhaps the best example of being a wrestling smorgasbord as any.