Monday, December 8, 2014

He Made His Bed, and He Died in It: Chikara Tomorrow Never Dies Review

Fare thee well, Deucalion
Photo Credit: TH
In the TH Style. Live replay is available on SMVOD, but if you want to own a physical copy on DVD or MP4, then keep checking back to the main Smart Mark site.

Highlights:
  • In the pre-show Young Lions Cup final, Heidi Lovelace overcame the rest of the Colony: Xtreme Force to defeat Missile Assault Ant with a basement hurricanrana.
  • "Smooth Sailing" Ashley Remington was able to fell Juan Francisco de Coronado in their German Suplex-Only match with a ring-in variant of the move.
  • Eddie Kingston took down Jimmy Jacobs with two Backfists to the Future.
  • After the match, Kid Cyclone came down, attacked Kingston with a pipe wrench, and cut a promo blaming him for the "deaths" of his Greenhorn Militia brothers. He claimed not to even want to wear his mask, removed it, and demanded to be known by his birth name, Kevin Condren.
  • The Devastation Corporation won Los Campeonatos de Parejas from the Throwbacks two falls to one thanks to help from Sidney Bakabella and an Argentine rack backbreaker/flying elbow combination.
  • In a match that saw the return of Derek Sabato as a Chikara referee, UltraMantis sent Delirious packing out of Chikara with the Praying Mantis Bomb.
  • After the match, Delirious used the Eye of Tyr on Hallowicked and Frightmare, and 'Wicked hit Mantis with a big yakuza kick.
  • Soldier Ant was the sole survivor in Cibernetico after he took out Fire Ant with a chokeslam.
  • In the main event, Icarus made Deucalion pass out with the Chikara Special inside the cage.
  • After the match, The Flood came out, and Jimmy Jacobs ordered them to stand down. Icarus then "killed" Deucalion with the Estonian Thunder Frog's hammer. On the Internet pay-per-view broadcast, a new Thunder Frog was shown in infancy.

General Observations:
  • Heidi Lovelace found Zack Ryder's old tights, i.e. one long leg and one short leg.
  • Missile Assault Ant kept yelling his name over and over again, like he does on Twitter, which was the most over single part of the match. Indie wrestling fans tend to love the dumbest things sometimes, although I don't mean that as an insult or complaint.
  • Apparently, Los Ice Creams aren't the only ones in Chikara who gusta Randy Orton, because Missile Assault Ant broke out the Garvin Stomp at one point.
  • Missile Assault Ant worked big so well in this match, but I wonder how much of it was due to Lovelace's HBKesque overselling. They broke into a slap-trade, and she was on spaghetti legs with the punch drunk facial expressions that I love to an almost disturbing degree.
  • After the match, Lovelace was moved to tears upon accepting the Young Lions Cup. No matter how many times I tell myself wrestling is worked and the results don't really matter as much as I thought they did, it's still really poignant to see wrestlers get misty-eyed over winning titles or accolades.
  • Juan Francisco de Coronado came out for his match with two GAUDILY-dressed valets mimicking the look of conquistadores from the Spanish colonial era. In all actuality, the valets probably got their gear from a local Mummers troupe. As a Philadelphia native who's been forced to watch his fair share of New Year's Day parades, I know a Mummers get-up when I see one.
  • To top Coronado's opening coterie, which probably itself was a way to play mindgames on his opponent's usual intro, Ashley Remington came out with FOUR women on his arms. The games of oneupsmanship were on before the match even began.
  • Remington, ever the sportsman, offered his hand, which Coronado accepted only to sucker him into a rear waistlock. The thing that makes Remington such a unique character is how he reacted. Rather than getting all huffy, he retorted that he understood and then did the same thing.
  • At one point, Coronado and Remington found themselves on perpendicular aprons to each other, and they started running towards their common corner when Coronado went and SPEARED him through turnbuckles off to the floor. Coronado has been one of my favorite Wrestling Is Fun! grads for awhile, but if he can develop a knack for the big spot like that on the reg, his ceiling is unlimited.
  • I really dug how they built the match around the German suplex, both teasing it and executing on it. Even the "missteps" towards the end when Remington tried to get a pin off a flapjack-type maneuver and then Coronado locked in his ankle pick submission added a certain sense of adrenaline, like they planned to appear like they got so caught up in the moment that they forgot the stipulation.
  • Coronado took the German suplex that lost the match by folding up in a ball. After Remington released the hold, Coronado stayed in that position until Remington kicked him over to give him his fruit basket.
  • Contra Code (Sliced Bread #2/shiranui/flip over reverse DDT) on the outside by Jimmy Jacobs near the beginning of the match? Okay.
  • I earmarked Jacobs/Eddie Kingston as the potential match of the night and perhaps the year before the event started, but it went on second and was mostly a storyline device. It served its purpose, but I kinda hope that next year, the two get more of a stage.
  • Kid Cyclone came out with a pipewrench and abruptly attacked Kingston after the match. He cut a pretty scathing promo about how Kingston the night before everyone cheered his redemption at King of Trios brought on the deaths of 3quinox and Create-a-Wrestler II. It made sense, which coupled with the post-match goings on in the main event cast a detailed portrait in shades of gray for the coming season.
  • Dasher Hatfield started out the Tag Title match by using the baseball butt pat as an offensive move on Blaster McMassive. I got a good chuckle out of that.
  • The Throwbacks busted out a double team Yoshi Tonic, which is a move that kinda skirts the edge of believability, but as a double team move, it actually looks really slick.
  • The little things and the attention to details are what can turn good matches great. Example, at the end of the first fall, Mark Angelosetti ate the Death Blow from the Devastation Corporation. Hatfield tried to make the save, but Sidney Bakabella held him from getting involved. Hatfield of course chased him back to the entryway momentarily, but it was a sequence that was brilliant in its execution and showed how managers can still add worth to an act.
  • And in a world of dumb-as-rocks wrestlers, it's good to see some intelligence. Angelosetti was still in death mode after taking the Corp's finisher, and Max Smashmaster tossed Hatfield over the top rope, constituting a tag, and then dragged Angelosetti back in the ring to set off the biggest heat segment ever.
  •  Blaster McMassive, the six-foot plus dude who looks like he was carved out of granite, did a tope con hilo over the top rope onto the fray on the outside. If you're not impressed with that display of HOSS athleticism then... well, I don't know how to end this sentence without sounding like a buttface.
  • DASHER HATFIELD KICKED OUT OF THE DEATH BLOW? HOLY POOP.
  • The collective air let out of the arena when Bakabella grabbed Justice Jon Barber and prevented him from making the final count. Seriously, you could hear a pin drop.
  • Upon further review, I like the original Death Blow better than the v 2.0 that put Angelosetti away. Still, it was a huge end to an outstanding match.
  • Delirious came out in full black body paint with "Delirious Never Dies" printed in green on his back, which looked completely badass.
  • Delirious and UltraMantis Black traded Praying Mantis Bombs (double underhook piledriver) early in the match, which I thought would have worked a lot better if Jacobs didn't break out his Contra Code finish so early in his match.
  • Mantis ducked on a Delirious clothesline in the corner where Barber was, then Mantis followed up with the same before Delirious finally clocked Barber with a lariat. Ref bump!
  • Delirious hit Mantis so hard with Mantis' own Havoc Staff that the skull headpiece flew off into the crowd. He hit the Praying Mantis Bomb again to no count until DEREK SABATO came running to the ring in a Chikara referee shirt.
  • As Mantis celebrated his victory, his Spectral Envoy teammates came out to celebrate, except Delirious had the Eye of Tyr in his possession. He brainwashed Hallowicked and Frightmare, which means they'll be under the control of the Eye until Delirious passes it off and it's used on someone else. That raises a few questions. First, does this mean N√łkken isn't under Jakob Hammermeier's control anymore? Two, Mantis promised he'd never use the Eye anymore, but using it would be the best way to free 'Wicked and Frightmare from its power. Another moral gray area is added to next season's narrative.
  • Soldier Ant came out for the Cibernetico with bullet wounds worked into his gear, which I get completely for his character's motif, but for an all-ages show? Then again, Chikara has dealt in the issue of "death" all season long, which is heady for kids to swallow.
  • OH SNAP, Fire Ant and Soldier Ant squaring off for the first time in the ring was ruined by Jakob Hammermeier tagging in. Hammermeier is so good at being a slimy, sniveling heel that it is hard for me to hate him, even when I want to boo him.
  • And the Cibernetico completely devolved into a massive brawl with big dives and mass chaos about a third of the way through. The most impressive part? Everyone remembered their spot in the batting order.
  • Soldier when he finally got a chance to work in the match, he was working the early Undertaker, no-selling shtick. The Flood did something to him, but what exactly was it?
  • The final four left in the match were Silver Ant, Fire Ant, Soldier Ant, and Hammermeier. Soldier stared down Silver, which prompted the former Green Ant to yell "I DON'T WANNA HURT YOU." But it almost seemed as if the old Soldier Ant wasn't there.
  •  I thought Hammermeier being the one to eliminate Silver with a simple punch was a little anticlimactic because it should have come down to the ants.
  • Once Hammermeier was eliminated, the fans chanted "TWO ANTS ENTER, ONE ANT LEAVES," which officially is my favorite wrestling chant of all-time.
  • That chokeslam that Soldier finished Fire with was brutal, mainly because Soldier isn't really a big dude. He really had to get that goozle locked in, and the lift portion looked like it took superhuman amounts of strength. 
  • Deucalion came out for the main event without any of his Bane gear, but he did have a pelt with all the masks he claimed in battle. 
  • Conversely, Icarus came out with the Estonian Thunder Frog's hammer, which was a little disappointing because of how predictable it was. The way Icarus has had all the laurels laid at his feet this season has almost felt a bit John Cenaesque.
  • I personally popped when Gavin Loudspeaker announced that escaping the cage was off the table. WWE has nearly ruined me on cage matches with its backwards rules on how to win.
  • Both competitors really used the cage, but it was constructed with so much give and slack in the supports that more than a few people I spoke to in the crowd feared that it would fall apart.
  • Jacobs came out afterward with The Flood but holding them back and saying to Deucalion "You made your bed, now die in it." It was a loaded statement, but it made me wonder whether the Flood was over as a collective or whether it would regroup with Jacobs as the big bad.
  • Okay, the elephant in the room was the manner in which Icarus gave Deucalion his end. I saw the phrase "premeditated murder" thrown around, which in the context of the feud seems a bit overblown. All is fair in war, but then again, Deucalion was clearly beaten and surrendered. Is a trial by hammer fair? At worst, Icarus doled out punishment for the eight "lives" taken by Deucalion and thus is justified from an authoritarian point of view. At best, however, is that it leads to not Chikara Zombies like I had guessed, but maybe Chikara Civil War. Think about it. Kid Cyclone unmasking has loose parallels to Spider-man taking his mask off (and loose is the key word). The main thrust however, authority vs. freedom, security vs. liberty, is right there in the undercurrent, and several stables are cloven asunder right now. The stage for 2015 is already set.
  • The live crowd didn't see it, but courtesy of the lovely De O'Brien, the iPPV crowd got to see the birth of a new Thunder Frog. SWEET! 
  • Deucalion, at least as of a half-hour after the show ended, was still laying dead in the ring. Now that is dedication to kayfabe, brother. 

Match of the Night: Dasher Hatfield and Mark Angelosetti (c) vs. Blaster McMassive and Max Smashmaster, Chikara Campeonatos de Parejas Two out of Three Falls Match - When I first saw Blaster McMassive and Max Smashmaster at King of Trios '12, I almost cringed at how stiff and awkward they moved around in the ring, especially McMassive. They were aimed to be homages to the old, face-painted HOSSES of the '80s WWF, but unfortunately, that homage included them moving around like the average Barbarian, Warlord, or Kona Crush. Over the two years they have been an active tag team (and trio with Flex Rumblecrunch), they've improved so much to the point where they bring quality to the match. Smashmaster is perhaps the finest HOSS worker on the indies, and McMassive has evolved so well. Their match with the Throwbacks, one of the best, if not under the radar, tag teams showed that progress.

The match started a little slowly in the first fall, as each team had some miscues on timing and spots, but by the end of the first fall, they'd calmed down. Then the second fall was a masterful display in heat-mongering, right from the start when the Corp tossed out the fresh Hatfield out of the ring and dragged the just-Death-Blown Angelosetti for the most epic heat segment ever. Each time Hatfield teased a hot tag or Angelosetti a comeback, the Corp squelched it with great timing, which set up the eventual comeback, then "oh poop" moment with Hatfield taking the Death Blow, and then finally, Angelosetti swooping in with the Oklahoma roll for the second fall was masterful.

But then, the third fall was straight fire. It had finish teases and big moves and hope spots, and Blaster McMassive even took to the air with a tope con hilo worthy of Best of the Super Juniors. When the Throwbacks hit the super 3D, the arena was ready to explode, but then when Bakabella interrupted the three count, it was a gut punch, a good, artistically forceful gut punch, but one no less. Hatfield kicking out of the Death Blow offered one final gasp of hope before the Corp won the match, but even though the match didn't end with the fan favorites winning, it was eminently satisfying.

Overall Thoughts: First thing's first, it was absolutely wonderful seeing a wrestling show back at The Arena again. It looked different, as a venue of its renovations should, but it also held the same charm. And the relationship between Chikara and The Arena holds so much magic. I still maintain that the Easton Funplex is Chikara's signature arena for several reasons, but its best shows more often than not are meant to happen in the historic wrestling complex at Swanson and Ritner. Tonight's card was no exception.

Every match was solid in its own right, from the plucky underdog sprint on the pre-show with Heidi Lovelace finally taking her place in the Chikara firmament to the very end with the uneven but memorable main event where Icarus cut the figurative head off the body of The Flood. Chikara finales tend to be very hero-friendly in terms of the results, but this show had two major victories going to the rudos, setting up some huge stories for the upcoming season. Additionally, Delirious' parting shot being Eye-of-Tyring UltraMantis Black's Spectral Envoy brothers throws another major spanner in the works. It wasn't a total landslide of resolution, but the important notes were hit.

And the match quality was the best of the four major Chikara-branded shows I've been to this year. The final night of King of Trios comes closest, but both the German Suplex match and the Tag Title contest held such an epic quality. The former had whimsy, but Remington and de Coronado still broke out some heavy bombs, and the latter built to such an epic crescendo and acted as the crown jewel on the year of two guys who have worked their asses of to improve and become a stalwart tag team.

In closing, Chikara returning to The Arena fulfilled every expectation laid upon it, and wrestling is better for the combination of promotion and venue back together. I am higher than most on Chikara's resume in 2014, but as good as National Pro Wrestling Day, the official premiere, and King of Trios were, this finale felt like Chikara returned home and reclaimed its crown as the King of Indie Wrestling. Everything is right with the world again.