Monday, February 29, 2016

Assorted Thoughts on Chikara's Evil Ways

Just another fun-filled day at the Wrestle Factory
Photo Credit: TH
Chikara Pro Wrestling held another show at its school, the Wrestle Factory, on Sunday, and I was among those in attendance. The following are my thoughts on the show, in handy, easily digestible portions.

All killer, no filler - Choosing a best match among the slate of seven from Evil Ways is a tough task because six of them were tremendous bouts with their own staggering strengths. The seventh, the Chuck Taylor vs. Jacob Headdress was less a showcase match and more a "get to know you" squash for the new bearer of the Chuckie T mantel. Regardless, all the other matches delivered in some way. Whether it was the strong-style gladiatorial showdown between Silver Ant and Eddie Kingston in the opener, opus built around Argus' leg in the first tag match, Estonian Thunder Frog and Mr. Touchdown battling until the story-mandated end, the rollicking debut of Bugg Nevans against the always fun sparkplug Heidi Lovelace, the hard-hitting personal issue between Devastation Corporation and the unlikely allies Kimber Lee and Oleg the Usurper, or the requisite relevos atomicos in the pre-encore main event, the average attendee had something to hang his or her hat upon. Hell, even if the Taylor/Headdress match wasn't much of a match, it featured Taylor breaking out the "special" version of his hit song, "Dinner for You."

If Evil Ways showed anything thematically, it was the blueprint to the platonic ideal for a shorter Wrestle Factory affair. You assemble a smaller card in a shorter timeframe built upon delivering fast-paced action designed to maximize bang-for-buck. Granted, nearly every show at the Factory to date has felt like it's been assembled in such a manner. However, the matches on this show seemed to be the best-fitting ones, or at least ones that clicked the way they were meant to on paper. Either way, it was a big success.

Chuck Taylor vs. Chuck Taylor - The aforementioned encore match was Chuck Taylor's nominal in-ring Chikara debut, and for the people out there who haven't been on top of things since National Pro Wrestling Day are probably scratching their heads and wondering why a several-year veteran is "debuting" recently. Well, the new "Chuck Taylor" is actually the dude who goes by the name Stokely Hathaway in Ring of Honor. He scooped up the rights to the character when the original Taylor "retired" after last season. Of course, the guy who used to be Chuck Taylor has stuck around, only under a bunch of new names: Scoot Tatum, Rick Beanbag, and now Bugg Nevans.

Now that Taylor, the new R&B singer one, has been confirmed as a wrestler, the first ever feud over intellectual property and rights to a ring name that I can remember is probably confirmed a go. Honestly, it jumps to the head of the line in terms of interesting pairings not only in Chikara, but probably in wrestling altogether. Sure, it's a "comedy" feud, but in Chikara, comedy isn't treated as an afterthought or an intrusion. For someone as uniquely funny as Taylor, I'm sorry, Nevans and someone who bleeds as much personality as the new Taylor, this feud could end up being the highlight of the promotion for the first half of 2016 at least.

Not who he seems? - The Estonian Thunder Frog is back, and everything is right in the world of Chikara again, right? Right? Well, as happy as I am to see the electrified amphibious hammer holder back in his rightful form, something seems, well, not right about him. He talks and wrestles like the Thunder Frog, and if one doesn't pay attention, the signs could go unnoticed. However, his general demeanor has changed. He's gotten a lot more unruly, a lot more brash. Now, I'm not saying a tecnico shouldn't act a bit cocksure. Everyone loved his opponent, Mr. Touchdown, when he was on Dasher Hatfield's good side as a loudmouth. Even now, Mark Angelosetti has sympathy from the crowd.

Which is why I found it curious that the Thunder Frog would kick a man while he was down. Touchdown put his football down on the apron after he spiked it, and the Thunder Frog forcibly whacked it off said position with his hammer. I get the feeling the Thunder Frog, pre-Deucalion chokebreaker, wouldn't have done that. But that Thunder Frog didn't talk as much smack in the ring or act with nearly the amount of hubris that this version seems to have assumed. Of course, the Farmer Frog, the entity that everyone assumes took up the hammer was loud and brash and a bit too forward towards women as well.

The video that showed on DVD/VOD airings of Top Banana showed that the Farmer Frog found the Hammer of Peace, put his hand on it, became the Thunder Frog once more, but then he put it down and went on his way. The lack of connection between that moment and the return of the Thunder Frog at National Pro Wrestling Day seems a bit disconcerting to say the least. I'm not saying this Thunder Frog is an impostor, but I'm also not NOT saying it. The truth is? I feel the mystery is still waiting to unfold, and more to this tale than meets the eye will be unfurled at future dates.

Who is Nazmaldun? - "That was weird," quipped Vlad Radinov after the relevos atomicos match when Jakob Hammermeier used the Eye of Tyr to brainwash Hallowicked, and he wasn't wrong. The winning team worked together well enough without the explicit connection, but Hammermeier, who has recently proclaimed himself "King of Chikara," is the type of Napoleonic figure who'd collect the Broadsword of Nazmaldun (and by proxy, the Spear of Nazmaldun Frightmare as well) for his personal army. But the action raised more questions than it did answers.

At National Pro Wrestling Day, Hallowicked promised that Nazmaldun was coming, which implied that he was a corporeal being. Hammermeier using the Eye on him brings a new conflict into play. Or does it? When Hammermeier shed the Dr. Cube facade and revealed himself at King of Trios '14, he had the Eye of Tyr with him. The Eye found its way into the hands of Delirious who used it on Hallowicked and Frightmare at Tomorrow Never Dies. Between then and Evil Ways, the Eye made it back to Hammermeier's possession, and he used it again on 'Wicked. I'm not sure of the rules of the Eye (and apparently, it has many), but like Radinov remarked, it is weird how this turn of events unfolded, that is unless the whole thing was a plot by Hammermeier to begin with.

Hallowicked and Frightmare began repping Nazmaldun, not Delirious, after the Eye-ing. The direction felt ill-fitting, but he repped it hard, so the circumstances of its beginning sort of fell by the wayside. But while Hammermeier's actions seemed like a misdirection, they may have been more like a revelation. The ring announcer-turned-king has climbed in standing. He's rebuilt the BDK after losing N√łkken to oblivion and Soldier Ant to reprogramming. But then again, why time the revelation out when Hallowicked was at his most vulnerable? Not a whole lot makes sense here, but Chikara looks either to be setting up the ultimate masterplan revelation or an epic confrontation between a reborn Germanic super-stable and a demonic force whose true power is still unknown.

That's a paddlin' - For the second straight Wrestle Factory show, the Devastation Corporation were bad, bad boys. This time, the malfeasance was less a team effort and more Max Smashmaster snapping into a murderous rage. He took out poor junior referee Troy and retired, injured Director of Fun Mike Quackenbush, who to be fair initiated his end of the contact by hurling his cane at the beefy DevCorp member. Smashmaster's actions have right now resulted in his termination from the company.

The first thing that comes to mind is that Smashmaster will more than likely continue some kind of renegade action, but Quack's involvement raises questions. He didn't just take a punch to the face and go down on his own volition. He bumped. He's been out of the game since WrestleMania 29 weekend, when he teamed with Jushin Liger against the Pieces of Hate, but time heals wounds, even ones that heal more slowly when you admittedly don't have the gym rat mentality like Quack. He did just spend a week doing seminars and having in-ring sessions at the Performance Center. If this angle (and whether it's for a comeback or whether Smashmaster got himself a WWE Developmental contract, it's an angle) culminates in Quack returning to the ring, then I'll be watching with stern eyes.

For all those who weren't as fortunate to be at the Wrestle Factory on February 29, keep your eyes peeled to ChikaraPro.com or Smart Mark Video's site to get this show. And hey, if you're in North Carolina, get yourself some tickets for the March 19 doubleheader in Gibsonville.