Thursday, September 10, 2015

UltraMantis Black Has Retired

Pour one out for the career of UltraMantis Black
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
When one thinks about Chikara through the lens of a singular wrestler, odds are, that wrestler is going to be UltraMantis Black. A season one original, Mantis has carried the Chikara banner vociferously, enthusiastically, and most important, deviously. He has been at the root of so many vital story arcs within the promotion, and fairly few wrestlers have become as beloved as the evil insectoid overlord, even though he's spent most of his career skirting the edges of good taste and carrying out insanely diabolical plots as the avatar of the rudos. That's why when the King of Trios teams were announced, and his Arcane Horde was repped by the Batiri and Oleg the Usurper, a generally palpable feeling of disappointment swept over the Chikaraverse. He was held out from the tournament with injuries, and yesterday on Twitter, he revealed that those injuries will cost him more than just a run in the most populated tournament in wrestling:

"Career-ending nature" is the most UltraMantis Black way of saying that he has to retire, which is the most terrible, awful, no-good news to come out of Chikara, basically, ever. Chikara has always been a promotion that was stronger than the sum of its parts, but at the same time, few wrestlers embodied the promotion the way Mantis did. His ostentatious gimmick projected an ornate and self-important aura, but the execution was always anchored with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, which basically is the story of the history of Chikara in a nutshell. He was also the spark and the linchpin for the last five or six years of Chikara stories as well.

Mantis in many ways is the avatar for wrestlers who don't need accomplishments laid at their feet in order to be remembered for the magnitude of their careers. He only won one singles title in his career, the Absolute Intense Wrestling Absolute Championship in a shock booking move. In Chikara, the only palpable Championship he ever won was as the anchor of the Spectral Envoy in the 2012 King of Trios tournament. People sometimes make the mistake of equating kayfabe titles with importance when the real impact comes from emotional investment, story richness, and the ability to convey emotion and catharsis no matter what macguffins are in play. Mantis proved time and time again that his importance to Chikara, and to wrestling for that matter, transcended the normal metrics and spoke right to the hearts and minds of the people who watched him.

That's why this retirement comes as a punch to the gut. Mantis was an invaluably special wrestler who made every appearance he's ever made incredibly memorable. The wrestling world will be dimmer without his spooky and evil light casting an exciting pall across the arena. Thank you, UltraMantis Black, for everything. May you recover fully and be able to live the rest of your life in comfort and without pain. You've given everything you can to pro wrestling, and for that, at least I'm personally grateful.