Monday, February 1, 2016

Impressions from Chikara's 5 Senses

The end of the Chikara encore
Photo Credit: TH
So, I checked out the second part of the Chikara season premiere doubleheader Saturday at the new Wrestle Factory in Northeast Philadelphia, 5 Senses. The show was truncated with seven matches instead of the eight or nine that normally take place, and one of the matches was a squash to set up an angle. In essence, it felt more like a "Wrestling Is" show than a Chikara one, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I had some thoughts about the whole thing; please allow me to share them with you.

Home is where the heart is - A huge reason why 5 Senses felt like more a "Wrestling Is" is because the Wrestle Factory as a venue felt smaller, homier if you're being sentimental. It reminded me most of the Werewolf Dick Arena (note, not the official name, but the one I'm giving it) in Deptford, NJ, only with a far lower ceiling. The wrestlers performed far fewer moves off the top rope for what I can only assume was fear of banging heads on the lower top. However, unlike the Werewolf Dick Arena, the temperature inside did not match the temperature outside, which is good. The ambiance felt more intimate too, much like the "secret shows" at the CZW Wrestling Academy. Witnessing wrestling at a bigger arena, whether in the basketball arenas WWE runs or the larger indie venues like the ECW Arena, can be a spectacle, but something about having the wrestlers on top of you even in the second or third row is a sight to behold as well.

Devastation is not dead - Oleg the Usurper seemingly ended the career (and life... more on that in a bit) of Sidney Bakabella at King of Trios, and the Devastation Corporation seemingly fell off the rails. Blaster McMassive, Max Smashmaster, and Flex Rumblecrunch went on a slide that started with their semifinal loss in the tournament to Team AAA and culminated in choking the Challenge of the Immortals away to the Crown and Court. In a way, their slide set so many wheels in motion for the end of season 15 to finish as strongly as it did, but was their time as Chikara's big bads up? Juan Francisco de Coronado won cibernetico, and Kevin Condron seemingly clawed his way away from Snowflake's consciousness for a moment, putting his story into a different light. The final nail in the coffin came when the cards for Days of the Phoenix and 5 Senses were announced without them on either one.

However, the three largest active members of the Chikara roster made their presence felt in a big way, mugging Los Ice Creams before they could put the exclamation point on an apparent easy win over Burt West and Adam Ward and then returning in the main event to interrupt a Kimber Lee Chikara Special on Oleg, an attack begun with McMassive in disguise as the hossiest member of Los Ice Creams since Very Mysterious Ice Cream patrolled the ring. Additionally, Smashmaster, who cut promos on Oleg and Lee after beating both of them down, showed that the group didn't necessarily need Bakabella.

The DevCorp's angle on the show served two purposes. The first was to give the Wrestle Factory shows a bit of an old-school Superstars feeling. Mike Quackenbush wears his adoration for early-mid '90s World Wrestling Federation on his sleeve. One show may be an anomaly, but I certainly got a "promoting something bigger" vibe from the proceedings. The second, and more important of the two, was to show that reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. The trio may not be as rudderless as they seemed to be late last year without Bakabella. And hey, maybe they won't be without their manager for too much longer as lo and behold, his Twitter account has sprung to life five months later.

Things are about to get exponentially more interesting...

Hey, speaking of Kimber Lee... - Lee vs. Oleg getting cut short by the DevCorp was a crying shame, because it told a neat little story, a classic David vs. Goliath tale between a fearsome monster and a cunning Champion. Lee is not beloved by consensuses, whether because she's a woman as a Champion among men (which is bullshit for several reasons, but I'm tired of writing why), or because she's not a good wrestler. "Good" in wrestling is a highly subjective argument, but she proved again why she's been on my radar ever since she settled on the East Coast. The match was structured around building to big spots. Oleg was great as the big stupid brute, and Lee earned her big signatures later, bumping her ass off in the interim to help Oleg look like the world-killer he deserved to be. She won't have a whole lot of defenses akin to the Oleg match unless she ends up wrestling all three DevCorp members into oblivion, but she proved that she could conceivably hold a title belt and have a big reign in promotions where the average wrestler size is a couple of levels up from Chikara.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the little girl who shouted during the match "She's a princess who can save herself!" I'm as big a supporter of children in wrestling crowds as anyone without anecdotal evidence such as that, but she put a smile on nearly every fan's face in the place.

Who said funny can't equal money? - Pinkie Sanchez and Kobald opened the show with an ostensible comedy match, and they also had the stiffest and one of the best matches of the evening. That description might sound paradoxical, because talking points from old farts dictate that comic relief and funny wrestlers can't be integrated into a meaningful narrative, or that it has to manifest in things like various Colt Cabana matches in Chikara (at least ones that didn't also involve old English dudes #grapplefucking like bosses). Wrestling is at its best needs not exist in a singular box, and Sanchez exaggerated selling, oversurprised facial expressions, and the body language, oh the body language, all showed the full potential of wrestling's duality, how laughs and tension can exist side by side without awkwardness.

TRIOS!! - Ring announcer Vlad Radinov teased King of Trios before intermission by asking the crowd if it had heard of "a thing called" the annual event before rejoindering "So have I." The first rumblings were cryptic, as is the norm with the tournament, but one doesn't need an official announcement for the event to get excited for it. No, all anyone needs is a good, old-fashioned trios match filled with Chikara regulars to get hype. Not surprisingly, the fully reloaded and reunited Colony wrestling against the Snake Pit of Ophidian, Argus, and Shynron comprised the match of the night. Something about the frenetic pace of Chikara multi-wrestler matches is innately satisfying to the soul.

A punk rock encore - Ending the show with the Devastation Corporation wrecking shit, even if it was only a smaller Factory show, is not the kind of way to send the fans home, so Heidi Lovelace wrestled Juan Francisco de Coronado in an impromptu encore match. Of course, their match wasn't the first instance of Chikara going unannounced after the show proper had ended, and it won't be the last. Coronado and Lovelace also went pretty short, with the soon-to-be-former Young Lions Cup holder getting the duke with the Heidicanrana (basement hurricanrana). However, after the match, Lovelace showed a surprising lack of sportsmanship when she draped Coronado's Ecuadorian flag over him. Of course, she's always had a punk rock edge to her character, which may suggest some brashness without crossing over to the rudo side. She also has lingering beef with the leader of the United Nations over his role in tempting Mr. Touchdown with promises of cheating. But still, Chikara tecnicos mostly act like tecnicos. Might a shift in alignment be in Ms. Lovelace's future? Honestly, I wouldn't be opposed. Like I wrote above, she's got a punk rock spirit, and punk rockers don't always play by the rules.