Monday, January 26, 2015

"ONE IN, ONE OUT!": Chikara A New Start Review

Kingston whupped on Condron the whole match, but he couldn't stop his star from being born
Photo Credit: Brian Schmid
For my 17th Chikara show at the ECW Arena, my 20th in Philadelphia, and 25th overall, the TH style will do. Check back to Smart Mark Video for the DVD or VOD, because you're gonna wanna see this thing.

  • Sidney Bakabella's Wrecking Crew defeated the amalgamated forces of The Throwbacks, Shynron, Jervis Cottonbelly, and Kimber Lee when Blaster McMassive finished off Lee with an avalanche belly-to-belly suplex.
  • Nøkken earned his third point and a shot at the Grand Championship when he defeated Ophidian with a Steiner screwdriver.
  • NRG defeated Colony: XTreme Force in under two minutes when Hype Rockwell hit Arctic Rescue Ant with the swinging uranage backbreaker.
  • UltraMantis Black upended Juan Francisco de Coronado with the Praying Mantis Bomb.
  • The BDK defeated the Colony when Jakob Hammermeier tapped out Worker Ant with a modified version of the sharpshooter.
  • Eddie Kingston was disqualified against Kevin Condron. Condron feigned getting hit with a low blow while referee Jon Barber was distracted, and Barber took Condron's word for it.
  • The new, more EEEEEVILLLL looking team of Frightmare and Hallowicked defeated the Batiri when they hit Kodama with a superkick-crucifix driver combo.
  • IN the main event, Icarus retained the Grand Championship with a belt-shot to Chuck Taylor's head and the Chikara Special.

General Observations:
  • According to fellow Wrestling Bro @chudleycannons, Sidney Bakabella was out in front of the advance crowd exhorting them to leave in protest of the lack of Chikara professionalism but not asking for a refund, which is the most Sidney Bakabella thing ever.
  • Before the match, referee Jon Barber asked to check Mark Angelosetti's football to see if it was properly inflated. It wasn't, which led Dasher Hatfield to pull out a pump. Angelosetti then spiked the ball, which led to Oleg the Usurper and Jaka fighting for the ball on the outside. One cannot accuse Chikara of being untimely.
  • Kimber Lee's first entree into the match saw her lock a largely-ineffective sleeperhold on Blaster McMassive. In fact, Lee didn't really do a whole lot of damage at first until she got pushed to the limit and went all screaming fighting spirit on Max Smashmaster later on. When she hit the tilt-a-whirl tornado DDT on him, the Arena popped huge.
  • Once Hatfield piled all five rudos in the corner and baseball-slid them, I knew that the spirit that Chikara had lost somewhere in early 2013 was back.
  • Seriously, I'm pretty sure if he wanted to, McMassive could have thrown Lee into the river on that avalanche belly-to-belly. The Devastation Corporation know how to win matches as prick heels while leaving the genpop in awe of how they win matches.
  • Ophidian/Nøkken was a match I expected shenanigans or a potential turn from due to this blog written by the purveyor of Snake Style, but it was a mostly straightforward match with classic rudo/tecnico balance. It's not just me, right? That blog did portend something sinister?
  • Nøkken has one killer right cross. Did Chikara import him from Kaiju Big Boxing Battel?
  • So yeah, the Colony: XTreme Force is pretty much over now, right? Arctic Rescue Ant got his butt handed to him in less time than it took Juan Francisco de Coronado to come out for the next match. Him getting murked in near-record time and the look of disdain Missle (!) Assault (!) Ant (!) gave him seemed to indicate that it's solo time for the Twitter superstar.
  • For as much grief as PA Chikara crowds give Jon Barber, it was nothing compared to the heat Derek Sabato received when he came out to ref the JFDC/UltraMantis Black match. I would dare say the ECW Arena gave Sabato the business.
  • Speaking of JFDC, his gait to the ring was so slow that he elicited a "HURRY UP! HURRY UP!" chant from the crowd. He got on the mic when he finally got to the ring and cut a promo, but I couldn't tell what he said at all. The boos were so loud.
  • Mantis hit JFDC with the Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex, and my heart simultaneously fluttered because it's an awesome move and sank because I'm pretty sure that is the closest I'll ever get to seeing Manami Toyota wrestling in America again.
  • Mantis dropped JFDC with a full nelson slam on the apron, then followed him outside and kicked him in the rear before dumping him back into the ring and dodging a leg drop that landed the Ecuadorian Elite on his bum. Yes, UltraMantis Black was working the butt, about the closest thing ever to a Chikara wrestler not working PG.
  • Of course, JFDC got his revenge when he wrangled Mantis in a seated keylock that saw his butt lodged directly in Mantis' face. Hey, you live by the keister, you might as well die by it...
  • Mantis got the win with the Praying Mantis Bomb after some confusion that led JFDC to argue with Sabato over rope breaks. Funny, but Sabato was also the replacement ref for the Loser Leaves Chikara match with Delirious at the finale after the first one got bumped, a match which also had some shenanigans. Once is a fluke, twice is coincidence. Thrice will be a trend, which means folks should probably start paying attention who refs Mantis' match from here on out.
  • Now that he's wearing metallic green short tights, Jakob Hammermeier looks a LOT like Sheamus from the neck down, even in skin tone. Could he become Chikara's next great overlooked super-worker?
  • Pinkie Sanchez fits so well in the role of agent provocateur. He's a combustible element that adds some more levity to a group that could use it with how morose and mechanical its two biggest members (Nøkken and Soldier Ant) are. 
  • I never tire of seeing the Ant Hill Splash to the outside. Fire Ant may get taken for granted because he's the only member of the Colony who has undergone almost zero change since he debuted, but he's always up for taking the big risks.
  • Four separate times, Soldier Ant took Sanchez out of the ring and dumped him so he could get in on the action. I'm surprised that for all the outbursts Sanchez had (including his transcendent "BRYCE, I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU" line after the senior ref facilitated a break) that he didn't stupidly try to attack the automaton ant, but I guess Chikara has to save some things for later in the season.
  • The story of the match was that, much like during cibernetico at the finale, Fire didn't want to hit Soldier. Towards the end of the match, Fire seemed to evoke some kind of old feelings in Soldier by saluting at him, all of which went away when Hammermeier shoved Fire into Soldier. It was a great tease.
  • Ah, so Kevin Condron was the one who picked up the Lithuanian Snow Troll during The Flood's EVERYTHING MUST GO sale and swap meet.
  • Condron had a total flamboyant glam prick vibe going on with his gear, body language, and demeanor. He could totally milk it and become a big star both within and outside Chikara in short order.
  • "Despite growing up eight miles from this building, Kevin Condron would like to be announced from as hailing from Los Angeles, CA." -- Gavin Loudspeaker. Or, as @chudleycannons remarked, now that he's a California native, any shot Condron had of appearing for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla is now out the window.
  • Right as the match started, Condron grabbed a chair and goaded Kingston into grabbing one of his own. He dropped his and put his finger to his chin offering a free shot. Kingston took it, but not before dropping his own chair to avoid DQ.
  • Condron then tried to extend brawling (read, getting his rear end handed to him) on the outside long enough that he could escape into the ring and get the cheap countout victory. That kind of dedication to a cause is what elevates a boring squash into a fascinating story.
  • Kingston got a vast majority of the offense in this match, which was great because he's one of the best at wailing away on someone way out of his paygrade, but Condron broke out an Arn Anderson spinebuster at one point and it looked damn good. This kid's gonna be a star.
  • I'm pretty sure if Sabato walked out from the back after Barber fell for Condron's Eddie Guerreroing, he would have been greeted as a hero. Way for Barber to steal his "most hated referee" status back.
  • Condron taunting Kingston after the match was pure, 24 karat gold, man. This kid is gonna be a megastar some day.
  • Hallowicked and Frightmare came to the ring in new gear carrying a blood-red banner with an ominous looking symbol on it. Given how popular they were before their turn, they had to change something drastically to make their rudo transformation work, and I'd say they succeeded.
  • IT was still really weird to cheer for and see other people cheer for The Batiri outside of the context of The Flood story. But Chikara takes you weird places, weird and wonderful places.
  • Bryce Remsburg at one point commanded to Frightmare and Hallowicked during a borderline legal double team "One in, one out," and for the rest of the match, a precocious little kid in the front row kept shouting "ONE IN, ONE OUT!" at them every time they tried a double team. I want that kid to be at every show from now on. Any time a child gets that invested in a show, you want to cultivate him at every turn.
  • Although the funniest moment from the Ref Kid (as I will now call him) came when Obariyon was on the top rope after getting crotched by Frightmare and Kodama came in to help out, and he shouted "Technically, one of them is out of the ring!" He'll make a fine know-nothing babyface sympathizer one day.
  • The main event saw everyone in the arena cheering for Chuck Taylor and the tide starting to turn against Icarus right from the entrances. Was Icarus already fatiguing the crowd? Did he serve his purpose and now had to return to his roots? Were people that affected by him using the Thunder Frog's hammer to end Deucalion? Either way, he wasn't in a good position from start.
  • In a continuation of the oldest and best feud in indie wrestling, being Taylor vs. Children, Taylor made it a point to yell at Ref Kid when he was on the outside of the ring.
  • Taylor accidentally wiped out Remsburg and then took the opportunity to pull out an old trick from his Team FIST days and throw powder in Icarus' eyes. Icarus came prepared and threw some of his own in Taylor's eyes. I would have cried tears of joy if they had just embraced there and brought out Gran Akuma, Johnny Gargano, or even Sugar Dunkerton to bring the family back together.
  • Icarus kicked out of the Omega Driver/Awful Waffle which... man, I couldn't even believe that.
  • Icarus broke the cross crab at the ropes, and Taylor and Remsburg got into a scuffle over it, recreating the old Earl Hebner-gets-shoved-and-shoves-back spot. After, Remsburg looked away, allowing Icarus to hit Taylor with the belt, then a Pedigree, then after a two-count the Chikara special for the win. At this point, Icarus had totally lost the crowd.
  • After the match, Icarus grabbed kids from the crowd and palled around with them. He turned into John Cena so gradually that I hardly even noticed.

Match of the Night: Dasher Hatfield, Mark Angelosetti, Shynron, Jervis Cottonbelly, and Kimber Lee vs. Max Smashmaster, Blaster McMassive, Flex Rumblecrunch, Oleg the Usurper, and Jaka - Appropriate that the first Chikara match of 2015 was a big multi-wrestler match with some of its most colorful characters. It also got a ton of time, and every wrestler got a chance to showcase something, which was an encouraging sign for the new year. Everyone in the match did their thing well, and the main story thread, which involved Kimber Lee getting her shot to establish herself as the new Sara del Rey, was outstanding even if it didn't exactly end the way the crowd wanted it to.

The match was chock full of big spots piled on top of each other, working the crowd into a froth and giving them enough to chew on to assuage the blow of the Wrecking Crew eventually winning. Then again, the Devastation Corporation especially always finds itself weaseling into wins that skirt the boundaries of clean. They're such well-choreographed (or improvised) to get everyone in position to allow these wins to happen, and then the actual finish usually is bonkers, whether it's the Death Blow or not. Here, Blaster McMassive sent Lee halfway into the ceiling with a belly-to-belly superplex that looked as impressive as it was sold. These things are why the Devastation Corporation especially, but Oleg and Jaka as well are so good.

But the Lee part of the equation was the real eye-opener. Outside of the misguided save from Jervis Cottonbelly, which wasn't nearly as bad in retrospect given how Cottonbelly is as gentlemanly towards his male partners as well, Lee gave a refresher to the Chikara crowd that gender is or at least should be or can be transparent (which isn't to say Chikara is perfect in this arena, but that's another debate for another time). She threw her shots with the best of them, and when she tornado DDT'd Max Smashmaster, the arena registered on the Richter Scale. It didn't happen because the crowd was full of commie pinko feminist warlords, but because Lee earned her praise and gutted it out, earning her place among the Chikara roster.

Overall Thoughts: A New Start didn't exactly feel like the name suggested, to be honest. It wasn't the grand dawning of a new era in Chikara, like You Only Live Twice felt like. Rather, with the roster stabilized back into its normal, prewar state of rudos y tecnicos, the venue being the old ECW Arena, and the focus on longer matches and building stories, this show had all the hallmarks of season premieres from before the chaos started surrounding the company, like in 2010 and 2011. The tecnicos didn't whitewash the results. Matches went a lot longer than they did on average from last season. Building blocks for bigger shows during the year were set up.

Then again, maybe the new start wasn't for the company but for various individuals within said company. Kevin Condron was a faceless nobody as Kid Cyclone, getting sent out to slaughter with his fellow greenhorns in a militia he didn't want to be a part of. He shed the mask, and now he looks like a star, strutting his stuff to the ring, throwing his panache around even when his body was in physical danger, channeling the spirit of Eddie Guerrero if Eddie Guerrero were a flamboyant port of Adam Lambert into a wrestling character. He may get his butt whipped along the way, but he will look damn good doing it, and his showing at the premiere seemed to foreshadow a bright future.

Similarly, the team of Frightmare and Hallowicked changed drastically for the first time in the five-plus years I've been a Chikara fan. Their masks went from cutesy to warlike. They traded in the t-shirts for plasticized armor. They carried a medieval banner to the ring and stylized their movesets accordingly. The two wrestlers who most needed a makeover on the roster got it, and they felt energized anew.

The most drastic reboot of them all did not even happen and was only teased in the main event, but Icarus' run as the hero of Chikara may be at its end. The crowd had already turned on him by the time he came to the ring, but his actions seemed to indicate that he was ready to return to his mantel of the Worst in the World. One could forgive the powder in the eyes because Chuck Taylor threw it first, but the belt-shot was unprovoked. Still, a hero doesn't do what the villain does anyway, even if that villain is insanely popular because he's a two-timing git.

Still, the Chikara timeline returning to normal would be the definition of a new start, but at the same time, the last two years have almost felt like a dream that interrupted the normally relaxed and lighthearted atmosphere. I'm glad to have my Chikara back.