It was weird. King of Trios this year was destined to be one of the great celebrations of professional wrestling, a tournament run for the fans by a veteran of the business who despite every reason not to be one is still a fan of it. Yet, there was this certain melancholy in the air. It was clear that roster was still feeling the effects of having lost their dear close and personal friend and extended family member Larry Sweeney. What effect would their mourning have on the event? Well, I'm happy to say that rather than sulk and let the tenor of the week bring them down, everyone involved in the event, from the natives who were so close to Sweeney and were effected the most to the guest stars who may not have been touched by Sweeney but who knew it meant a lot to the Chikara family went out and totally tore the roof off The Arena all three nights. This was more than a fitting tribute to a fallen friend, and it was a homage to professional wrestling, the way that Chikara is known to do it.
Night 1Night 1 started out with the entire locker room pouring out and surrounding the ring. When I say entire locker room, I mean the ENTIRE locker room with very few exceptions. There was a 10 bell salute, and the video wall played a tribute to Sweeney. Everyone was emotional, some to the point of tears. It was gut-wrenching to watch, and no matter how your feelings on the business of pro wrestling in terms of the lifestyles and the inherent risks involved, you only felt nothing if you were dead inside. I felt so badly for everyone, but perhaps this was something they needed to do to help cope with the loss of their brother.
When the arena floor emptied, it was a short while before Gavin Loudspeaker came out to kick the event off. Just the very announcement of the first match of the night was a huge reason why Mike Quackenbush and the rest of the guys laying out the show flat out get it. The tenor of the building was pretty somber, so what kicks off the show? The Osirian Portal vs. Team ¡3.Olé! This was exactly the match needed to start the event proper off on the right note, and it delivered big time.
Fun fact about this match - it's somewhat of a rematch from a 2009 first round match, where the Portal, then with Escorpion Egipcio in tow instead of Hieracon, took on El Generico and his then partners in Team PWG, the Young Bucks. This year, it was 3.0 teaming up with Generico. It seemed like every match of the weekend had the same starter template, an extended feeling-out process where two guys started out, tagged out to a different member and then tagged out again so that we had three distinct singles match-type feels to start. What made each match stand out was how those feelers worked out. Here, it was a platform for some comedic interactions between Generico, referee Nick Papageorgio and 3.0 on the outside, as Generico, having some problems with Amasis, got instructions from Shane Matthews to cheat. Papageorgio gave the "No cheating" instruction, which caused the fans to start chanting "CHEAT CHEAT CHEAT CHEAT". Generico, after feigning being above such tomfoolery delivered the eye gouge, Three Stooges style. Outstanding.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Portal match without a dance off. This time, it was Amasis challenging Scott Parker to get down with his bad self to "Everybody Dance Now", although Ophidian got in on the action too. At one point, the former Jagged and Generico started doing the Macarena, followed by a Generico chest bump to Ophidian and a "You got served" chant from the crowd. When the actual "real" wrestling started, the Portal basically worked the match rudo, as 3.0 and Generico were both super over with the crowd. Not that I blame my Chikara brethren because c'mon, if you saw a 3.0 match, you'd be fans of them too. There was another really cool spot where there was a daisy chain of all six guys giving each other wristlocks with the last guy actually holding hands with the crowd. It begat a sequence of chain wristlocks that induced the crowd to start doing The Wave. The match ended with Matthews eating an Osirian Sacrament (TR leg drop from Ophidian, frogsplash from Amasis) and the Portal advancing. Very fun opening match, one of the best comedic matches I had ever seen at that point in time.
Team FIST and the visitors from Australia were next. I have to say, the Aussies were a mixed bag. There was Percy T, who started the match off for the Land Down Under, who was solid if a little inexperienced-seeming. He at least felt comfortable as a wrestler, but I thought he could have used a little more seasoning. Kabel was pretty much a big stiff. I mean, he didn't feel like he was a wrestler. He was just walking around, using his size for intimidation, but not really putting any feeling into it. The third member of the team, though, Tama Williams, looked like he could join any top-level indie fed and be up to speed. I was very impressed by him.
Anyway, the match itself was pretty entertaining. The beginning of it was basically carried by Icarus teasing taking off his jacket. Because he has an awful, awful tattoo on his back, you see. The middle of the match was built around FIST heeling it up really good, doing anything and everything that they could do to bend the rules and piss off the crowd. The Aussies had a nice comeback at the end. Williams' Superfly Splash was really, really tight. However, it wasn't enough, as teammate Percy T got caught in FIST's new finisher, which involves Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano holding the victim, and then Icarus landing with a double stomp to the back. Then Taylor snaps down for a DDT, and Gargano holds on, drags up the victim and nails his Hurts Donut. Pretty impressive move.
Match number three of the night pitted the BDK team of Tim Donst, Jakob Hammermeir and Delirious against Da Soul Touchaz (Acid Jaz, Willie Richardson and Marshe Rockett). This was a super hot match, even if it was a bare-bones BDK crew. Basically, the match was centered around Hammermeir getting his ass handed to him and either Donst or Delirious having to clean up his mess. It made for great comedic and cathartic theater. Funny spot early on, as Delirious and Richardson had a grunting match. The match got bumped up a few notches in awesome at one point with Donst corralling Rockett in the corner and delivering a tittie twister to him. Seriously, wrestling needs more tittie twisters, however illegal they are.
Speaking more on Donst, he's become one of the go-to guys on the roster for technical prowess. I'd love to see him maybe take on a similar role that Eddie Kingston has in wrestling all the big name stars, only totally cheat his ass off in the process as a counterweight to War King's big match respect. Anyway, DST had some good comebacks here too. Maybe the best spot of the match was Acid Jaz countering a power bomb by misting water into Donst's face, which led to Richardson wrangling Jakob into an almost impossibly long delayed vertical suplex. I don't care how much cooperation you get from the guy taking the hold; if you're going to do that spot and hold the guy up for as long as Da Bomb did there, you've got some strength. Anyway, finish came with Donst distracting the ref. Jaz ate a cross body from Tursas, and then he dragged Hammermeir's limp body over the fallen Soul Toucha for the cheap win. Afterwards though, the Spectral Envoy appeared in the entry way, setting off memories within Delirious of his former allegiances.
Last match before intermission was the first of the really, really awesome matches of the night for reasons other than entertainment value or comedic performance. SAT - The Maximo Bros. and Amazing Red - did battle with the dream team of Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw and Manami Toyota. The feeling out process in this was similar to the other matches, but I have to wonder how these guys felt being in the ring with a veritable Joshi legend. Toyota at one point had one of the Maximos in her bridging Indian death lock, and I have to wonder how hard it was to sell it instead of geeking out about "Wow, I'm wrestling Manami Toyota." I know I'd have a really, really hard time containing myself, but then again, that's why those guys are pro wrestlers and I'm a doughy fan who writes a blog.
This match was no doubt a spot fest, but it was a focused one, if you can get what I'm trying to say. Everything felt tight, but at the same time, it felt organic. I was really impressed by Red here. I left off with such a bad taste in my mouth with his TNA work, but here he and his cousins shone brightly. Of course, having three of the best workers in the world right now to work off as templates will help that a lot. There was a lot of team work in here, a lot of big spots. Finish saw Joel Maximo eat an elbow drop from the top from Jigsaw in honor of Sweeney. Afterwards, Quack and Jig started up a Larry Sweeney chant and were visibily emotional. This match was very much a symbol of the effort everyone involved was going to put up over the weekend.
First match back from intermission was the tilt between the Spectral Envoy team of UltraMantis Black, Frightmare and Hallowicked against the delegation from Dragon Gate, Akira Tozawa, whose hair and beard made him look like a Japanese version of Jacobin Mugatu from Zoolander, KAGETORA and Super Shisa. There were some cool spots early on in this one. In a cool visual, Shisa wrapped up Mantis and Frightmare in a simultaneous abdominal stretch, while later on, Tozawa countered a splash with a cool double double jumping knee spot. This match wasn't for the faint of heart, but given the Dragon Gate team on one side and the captain of the other team in Mantis who has Eastern sensibilities when it comes to stiffness, it's to be expected. At one point, KAGETORA busted out the Last Falconry way better than Shingo does. It's official, I like everyone associated with Dragon Gate Japan except Shingo. F'n hack. ANYWAY, Shisa wrangled Frightmare with the Yoshi Tonic and scored the upset win over a team that many thought would be advancing far in the tournament.
Osaka Pro made their returns in the next match, only with Ultimate Spider, Jr. replacing Tadasuke from last year's team (including Daisuke Harada and Atsushi Kotoge). I have to say that it was a definite upgrade. Spider was one of the stars of the weekend. Their first round match was against the Throwbacks, Dasher Hatfield, Sugar Dunkerton and Matt Classic. This match started out with massive amounts of antics. Spider ended up in the ring with Classic, and the good friend of Colt Cabana was playing up his usual shtick to which Spider classically replied "THIS IS WRESSERING?" I think the whole arena burst in laughter there. Anyway, Dunkerton tagged in and hit Spider in a questionable manner, at which the ref called for two foul shots. Dunkerton made a rim with his arms, and Spider grabbed a ball and shot twice, "making" the first one and beaning Sugar in the face with the second shot. Later in the match, Spider used invisible spider webs to his advantage, "webbing" both Sugar and Dasher and causing them to knock heads.
This was very much a comedy match, and one that surpassed the opener. Gotta love the comedic timing of all three of the Throwbacks, and the Osaka guys, especially Spider, were more the game. Classic did the same stuff he did last year, but I don't think he really needed to do anything different to be awesome. Match ended with Spider rolling up Classic in La Magistral.
Next up was a match between two favorites, the Colony and the Kizarnival. Much like Night 3 last year, the Colony was served up a bag of Domino sugar before the match, and much like last year, they cherished it, although crooked referee Derek Sabato made sure that it wasn't presented as a prize like last year, spilling it all over the canvas. Boo! The heel referee shtick was at work early, Sabato allowing himself to be distracted and Kobold, aka Evil Midget Hydra, coming in and spearing Green Ant. Greenie took a lot of punishment during this match, which was the theme all weekend, but after that face-in-peril work, there was some good back and forth. One of the Batiri - I couldn't tell who - made reference to the Craigslist ad for the bronze ant skulls. Yep. Awesome. Anyway, the ants got the win with the Ant Hill Splash on Obariyon.
Time for our MAAAAAAAAAIIIIN EVENT, which is what I had expected would be. The lads from Minnesota - Darin Corbin, Arik Cannon and the 1-2-3 M'FN Kid - took on Team Michinoku Pro, consisting of The Great Sasuke, Dick Togo and Jinsei Shinzaki, who made his bones as Hakushi in the WWF. They teased Kid and Shinzaki in the ring early, which elicited a hearty chant of "1995" from the crowd. Kid looked genuinely moved by the sentiment. Corbin and Sasuke paired off in their feeling-out stage, and they went into SUPER SLO-MO, which was a staple of the North Star Express in the past. That played well with the crowd, and Sasuke played along like a Champ. Here's a guy who made his bones in Japan and in the WWF working high-impact, Jr. heavy style, shown by all the scars on his body, and he's playing along with an indie guy's fringe comedic spot. Ladies and gentleman, THAT's way, way, WAY more awesome than any no-selling strikefest between two misguided indie wrestlers.
Shinzaki and Kid ended up in the ring together, and the former Hakushi did his praying rope walk within the first couple of minutes of their interaction. Kid teased doing the Bronco Buster; however, he had the tables turned on him as Shinzaki hit him with one of his own. At one point, Kid tried to do a crotch chop, but he was stopped by the ref, apologizing to the crowd. Kid was such a great sport all weekend long, a real treat to watch. Sasuke and Corbin made their way back into the ring, and yes, they went into SUPER SLO-MO a second time, which elicited a "STOP SCREWING AROUND" command from Cannon.
The end of the match was full of high spots. Sasuke went for a senton atomico on Corbin while he was seated on a chair, but Corbin moved and Sasuke ate the chair. Kid landed a wipeout spin heel kick from the top rope to the floor. Not to be outdone, Sasuke went to the floor with a big plancha. The finish came when Togo caught Corbin isolated and nailed him with a Pedigree and a leaping senton bomb from the top rope for the pin.
That put the great cap on Night 1, which was the best of the three Night 1s that I've appeared at over the last three years. It seemed like everyone was on point all night, and whether it was adrenaline, the desire to make this the best year ever, the memory of Sweeney driving them or a combination of the three, it all worked like a charm.
Fan ConclaveConclave kicked off Saturday afternoon, and this was my first time attending the big convention. I'll tell you, it was a pretty sweet time. For one, EVERY wrestler who was there came out at least for a short while. All the Chikara natives, Team M-Pro, Manami Toyota, even Stan Bush, whose concert set sounded really good, stuck around to sign autographs and take pictures. All the wrestlers were super approachable and friendly when you wanted to take a picture with them. I got my picture taken with several guys there, including one with NWA World Champion Colt Cabana and his title belt. Talk about a photo op of a lifetime. The fans weren't the only ones taking pictures, as friend of TWB and photographer extraordinaire Zia Hiltey set up the cheesy '90s backdrop and took professional-grade school portrait spoofs of several wrestlers and any fan who wanted to get snapped.
Photos weren't the only attraction of the day. They had a mock Commentation Station set up where people could go call matches. The only drawback to this was that it was just for a short time and they called the opportunities by ticket (Free, of course), so they only had time for four or five fans to call matches. However, it was only a two hour event, and they had to cram a lot of stuff in. It was just cool of them to let fans call the action with Loudspeaker, who was ALL over the arena all event long, playing guitar and putting the different vendors, wrestlers and other stuff over.
There was also a body slam competition, where several wrestlers and fans tried to slam Tursas. Among the wrestlers who attempted were El Generico, Akira Tozawa and Matt Classic, although the last one of that pod tried to turn the tables and get Tursas to slam him. Of course, the big Viking refused, and Classic wrote it off as a waste of his time. Quite the surly ponce that guy is, isn't he? Needless to say, no one came close to getting Tursas off his feet, fan or wrestler. Anyway, just as Hammermeir was about to close up shop, who comes out but Green Ant, wearing the cloth Stars 'n Stripes pants that Lex Luger wore when he slammed Yokozuna on the USS Intrepid. For those who don't know, they were running the surgically-loaded-forearm angle with Green Ant (it was a legit injury and I think he does have a plate in there). He got right up into Tursas' grill, and they got into a shoving match. Greenie hit him with two forearm shots, which got the big guy woozy. He got Tursas off his feet until Hammermeir low bridge tripped Green Ant, and the poor resilient rookie got splatted underneath Tursas' hulking frame.
The body slam competition led into the Bush concert, which again sounded really good. He seemed really happy to be there, and I thought it was a great fit for the proceedings. After that, there was a dance competition which I didn't get to see much of because I got over to that spot on the floor late. All in all, this was a really awesome accentuation on the weekend, and it was great getting to see all the wrestlers and actually thank them. I actually got to talk to Quack, and of course, I was in "I'm not worthy" mode like right out of Wayne's World. That's when he told me that people told him breaking in that to be a wrestler, you'd have to strip your fandom away from yourself. He said he never had to do that, and that's why he's got so much passion to bring people like 1-2-3 Kid and Toyota and, even from years past, Al Snow, Christopher Daniels and Tommy Dreamer among others to the Chikara ring. I can tell you, in my 2+ years of being a fan of Chikara, I know he's not blowing smoke up my butt when he says that. His actions speak in lockstep with his words.
It was also great seeing all the different fans, especially ones that I interact with on social media. AS well as Zia, I met up with a few Twitter pals, including Sean Williams, Keith (@RoboDuke) and "Winthrop Chesterton" (@IronyNOW). It really is an event that brings like-minded people together, and it served as the perfect appetizer for Night 2.
Night 2The Night 2 proceedings started off with Archibald Peck's open challenge. Peck, the payoff for those "The Band" videos, was making his second appearance since debuting in Williamsport last month, and I have to say, the guy absolutely is money. His gimmick is that he's literally in a marching band. It's great, just totally campy and fun and yeah, it works in the context of Chikara. I had my doubts, that it might be corny even for Chikara, but it worked. And yeah, a lot of it was that he was so awesome in the execution. I mean, for a guy in his second appearance, presumably EVER, he carried himself like a five year pro. I liked his valet as well, the lovely Veronica. I also think it rocked how far she's come. For those who don't know, she spent as long as I could remember being part of the ring crew for shows at The Arena for a lot of fed's shows, and for Chikara anywhere they would travel. She's finally getting her chance to shine, and I'm legitimately happy for her, because she plays her role well.
Anyway, Peck came out and cut a money promo, and he bade for someone to come out and challenge him. Who would answer the call but one Colt "Boom Boom" Cabana. As with the night before, they led with comedy, and while I thought it was a bit awkward in spots, it was still an entertaining match. It started with Peck challenging Cabana to a duel, slapping him with his glove. Cabana answered by taking off his boot and smacking him with it. At one point, Peck demanded Cabana lay down so he could hit his finisher, the diving headbutt. Of course, Cabana moved the second Peck leaped from the top. Peck would attempt his finisher three more times unsuccessfully. Cabana would go to the top, only for Veronica to nail him with her baton. Peck landed a fifth attempt at his headbutt, and he got the win.
Next match was a rematch of a quarterfinal match from last year, Team FIST, minus Gran Akuma and plus Gargano, against Team Osaka Pro, minus Tadasuke and plus Spider. Rather than teasing for most of the match, Icarus just took his jacket off, much to the dismay of the crowd. Spider worked as a face in peril for a huge portion of the early match. FIST was just relentless in their team attacks here. Osaka made a nice comeback. The web shooters came out again, with Spider using them this time to latch onto the ringposts and work as a slingshot into a dropkick. Kotoge was also impressive here, as he was able to do an Asai moonsault off the top rope. That's athleticism.
This match was full of great counters and back and forth. Osaka Pro was way over, and that wasn't punctuated more than when Harada saved Spider from taking the combo move that put down Tama Williams the night before. However, FIST's revenge would still come as Taylor countered a plancha attempt with a spear into a school boy rollup.
Our first Rey de Voladores qualifier featured Pinkie Sanchez and was reffed by Derek Sabato... yeah, you could see where this was going, although the rampant cheating didn't come right away. The other three men in the match were Zach Sabre, Jr., El Generico and Marshe Rockett. Sabre and Sanchez started things off, and lemme say, Sabre was very impressive. He had a good buzz coming in, but he totally lived up to it, working the English ground game with the kind of aplomb that gets you noticed as a good worker by a near consensus of people who know what they're talking about. At one point, he had Sanchez in an abdominal stretch and took gum out of his mouth to put it in Sanchez's and then back. I don't think I would have made the same choice, but no one said that pro wrestlers weren't insane at heart. Also noticeable were Rockett's thunderous chops. I mean, this guy brought the pain with his chops.
Towards the end, Sabato's chicanery reared its ugly head, and it caused the direct eliminations of two of the participants. Sanchez hit a DDT on Rockett, something that the member of Da Soul Touchaz would have kicked out of if not for an extremely fast count. Sabre got railroaded equally, as he got Pearl Harbored out of battling with Generico, hit with a splash and then fast counted again. Sanchez looked to get a third cheap elimination on Generico, as Sabato fast counted on a BRAINBUSTAAAAAHHHH attempt. It allowed Sanchez to knock Generico off the top into the tree of woe and for him to hit the Generic Luchador with a butt thump from the top. Generico would recover and hit Sanchez with a THUNDEROUS Michinoku Driver II, but Sabato slow-counted the pin attempt. By this time, Director of Fun Wink Vavasseur had seen enough. He came out and made Sabato change his shirt from the white, BDK ref shirt to a standard issue Chikara navy blue ref shirt. Under Wink's watchful eye, Sabato could only watch as Generico gave the Chikara faithful something that we had been waiting for for two long years...
...a successful BRAINBUSTAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. The arena came unglued as Sabato reluctantly made the count, and Generico advanced to the Rey de Voladores final.
Last match before intermission was the second of the quarterfinal tournament matches, the Portal taking on Dragon Gate. One thing I noticed during introductions was that Tozawa was mega, mega, MEGA over, and for good reason. He's pretty awesome. This was a very different match by the Portal than their Night 1 affair, a more serious (well, serious by Chikara standards) match where they were able to shine as well, a very versatile trio. Even though the DG trio were over as faces, they heeled it up, probably because that's what the tenor of the match dictated. The Portal are among the smallest guys on the Chikara roster, and both Tozawa and KAGETORA fit the cruiserweight bully mode by nature. This led to a lot of FIP from Amasis.
Even though DG played heel more during the match, I did like that all three members, Tozawa especially, were active on the apron, leading cheers for their team. I guess that was one of the pitfalls of having so many tecnico trios coming in and only really three truly rudo stables participating. Then again, it's not like the face/face matches fell flat. I really credit the crowd for being vocal for the people they liked in their matches. Many matches, including this one, had split crowds for them, and I think it made for a very unique atmosphere. The match ended up devolving into a big spot-a-palooza, but they were all well done. Ophidian countered the Yoshi Tonic from Shisa and got Amasis to help him deliver a tandem one of their own, and then Amasis finished the job with a 450 splash.
After intermission, they showed a video pimping the crowning of the Campeone del Mundo. It'll be 12 wrestlers and one survivor, with the proceedings beginning Aniversario weekend (May 21st and 22nd in Easton and Union City, respectively). After the video, we got a bonus singles match between Arik Cannon and Eddie Kingston. This was a shortish match, but it was well-structured. The action spilled to the outside, and Cannon delivered a stump neckbreaker to Kingston from the guardrails. Kingston sold the neck for the rest of the match, and Cannon spent a lot of time working it over. However, Kingston would make a final comeback, using his adrenaline to hit two Backfists to the Future and a Sliding D for the win. Afterwards, he and Cannon embraced and Kingston hung a "Sweet 'n Sour" Larry Sweeney shirt from the top rope.
The third of four quarterfinal matches was up next, as the BDK team took on the Colony. This was your typical Colony/BDK match up, only Hammermeir was there for the exploitation. Green Ant sold his rib injury from Conclave throughout the match, which was an ingenious bit of selling and a bonus for the folks who went to Conclave and paid attention. The beginning of the match was total fanservice for the crowd, with the ants going buck wild in laying strikes on the BDK, and it elicited one of a few Ant Hill senton atomicos to the outside of the ring. There were attempts all match long for cheating, but the Colony was pretty savvy about them. At one point towards the end, Donst looked into the Smart Mark camera and dedicated an attempt at Ragnarok to the erstwhile Claudio Castagnoli, who was wrestling in Japan this weekend. In the Claudio and Tursas roles were Donst and Delirious, and the one driving the slam was Hammermeir. The only problem was that Hammermeir isn't Ares and thus was too feeble to send Fire Ant around into the impact. This led to more interference and Tursas coming into the ring...
...only to have Green Ant finish what he started at Conclave, scooping up the hulking Viking and slamming him to the ground. To complete his Lex Luger oeuvre for the evening, he hoisted up Hammermeir in the torture rack for the submission victory, gaining a measure of revenge for the ants for last year's KoT finals travesty as well as the traveshamockery of a win Jakob got over Greenie last month.
The next match up was the second of two Rey de Voladores qualifiers. The first three competitors announced were Amazing Red, Frightmare and Obariyon. We were all left wondering who the fourth would be, but once the music hit, the arena exploded again. 1-2-3 Kid, in Rey de Voladores. Nice. There was a lot of hand-shaking to start by Kid, again who seemed very grateful and happy to be there. Obariyon was the only one who refused, which was revisited several times during the match. There was a three-way Rock/Paper/Scissors match among Kid, Red and Frightmare to see who'd start. Kid threw paper, and Red and Frightmare threw scissors, so there were your starters. Again, I was impressed with Red here, and again, Kid stole the show with what he was willing to do at his age as well as his demeanor. Again, Kid went for a crotch chop but the ref had to stop him, which elicited a "That's not PG!" chant from the crowd. At one point, Obariyon got the upper hand on Frightmare and put him in a sleeper. Red took the chance to put a sleeper on Obariyon, and not one to feel left out, Kid locked one in on Red. Frightmare got the last laugh as he countered with a stunner, sending all the other three flying.
Despite the protestations that it wasn't exactly the most PG-rated of holds, Kid did get his Bronco Buster, which elicited a raucous cheer from the crowd. From here, the match went into eliminations, which were all pretty quick after each other. Obariyon eliminated Red with his leaping DDT from the top rope. Kid got the X-Factor on Obariyon, but in an uncharacteristically rudo move, Frightmare made the save, delivered the Kneecolepsy on the demon and got the pin. Kid would get the last laugh though, as he put Frightmare down with a SUPER X-Factor to move onto the dream match RdV finals for Sunday against El Generico.
In Night 2's MAAAAAAAAAIIIIIINNNNN EVENT~!, it was a veritable legend-palooza. Team Michinoku Pro took on the BEST CAR DEALERSHIP EVER in QuackSaw Toyota. In this match, you had four veritable Japanese legends, one American indie all-timer in Quack and a guy in Jigsaw who in ten years barring injury or retirement will almost certainly be counted among the best the indies had to offer, all in the same ring. I think this was further hammered home when Toyota entered the ring for the first time in the match, staring down Togo. For the better part of two decades, the two had plied their trade in Japan, but because there isn't really a place like Chikara over there that has this kind of outlook on intergender entanglement, this was probably the first time they were ever in the same ring as adversaries. I don't know about you, but I thought that was damn cool. What was even cooler? The fact that Togo, one of the stiffest mofos of all-time, probably was less known for brutality than his female counterpart. Just goes to show how insane those Joshi girls can be.
Much like in the DG/Portal match, there was no true rudo team here, but much like in that match, the grizzled veterans from M-Pro played heels-by-proxy, all the while still getting cheered by the crowd in a substantial manner. I thought Toyota was the star of the match here. After being in the business as long as she has, you'd think she'd be grizzled by now, but my God, every time she's in the ring, she looks like she's having so much fun in there. Always a smile on her face, always trying to engage the crowd. The big pop of the match was when she wrangled Sasuke for her Octopus Roll on the canvas. She did well when getting paid back too, as she sold one particular Togo clothesline like she was just hit by a car.
Like the night before, Sasuke put himself through a chair on a senton atomico, but actually, the biggest high spot of the night belonged to Jigsaw, who went coast to coast on Togo. However, the M-Pro army would not be denied. Sasuke kicked out of Quackendriver III, usually a match-ender, and then after that, the M-Pro guys just started unloading on Quack. Sasuke hit him with Nodowa Otoshi (basically, a chokeslam done by a non-giant), Togo nailed him with a diving baseball slide from the top, and Sasuke got the pin with a BRUTAL folding powerbomb while Jig and Toyota were helpless entangled in Nagata locks from the other two team members.
While the finish of this match didn't have the emotional catharsis of the BDK B-team tapping to the Chikara special last year, it had its own feeling of specialness, and it was a great cap to a second of two great nights thus far. I thought it would have been difficult to top Night 1, but they did. Would Night 3 be even better?
Night 3They certainly kicked off the third night with a bang, as the Colony and Osirian Portal clashed in the first semifinal. This was pretty much one of THE feuds from 2008 and 2009, back when Ophidian and Amasis were rudos. They hit the mat game hard in this one, doing the chain wrestling thing and breaking out some neat submissions. The Portal wrestled like they were ahead of the Colony all match long, which was a great, great touch. As two rivals who wrestled against each other a lot, it was great to see that history come back up in the form of smart counters and preemptive strikes against big moves.
There were some good big spots in this one too. The Portal broke out a stack superplex at one point, but not to be outdone, Green Ant, still feeling his Lex Luger oats from the night before, scooping up Ophidian and Hieracon at the same time and slamming them. There was a bit of sloppiness in the match - Night 3 seemed to be punctuated by botches although ones that I didn't think detracted too much thanks to the way they were handled - but it was ultimately a fun but heated match. The Colony got the win when Soldier Ant hit Hieracon with an inverted Super TKO. It took til the third night, but my prediction jinx finally caught up with the Portal. And I thought I'd finally be right this event!
The second semifinal match was next, as after two nights of main eventing, Team M-Pro wrestled in the second match of the card against Team FIST. It's so funny how over Icarus is as a heel with the Chikara faithful, and that was punctuated early with Sasuke placing him in a simple side headlock and the crowd LOUDLY chanting "Tap! Tap! Tap!" It was ridiculous and sublime all in one fell swoop. As a member of the fanbase, I won't change if the rest of my brethren promise to do the same (although there was a rogue group of fans sitting near me who decided they would be super ironic or that they felt sorry for the guy and started cheering him... THERE'S ONE IN EVERY GROUP). Basically, this match was M-Pro brutalizing the FISTies and FIST cheating their asses off, even moreso than usual. There was one point in the match where Shinzaki drove Icarus into the M-Pro corner, and Icarus, all dazed, reached up for the tag. Sasuke obliged, and once Icarus realized whom he just tagged, he shrieked like a little girl. Okay, maybe I see why the people cheering him cheered him. Then again, as much as I boo him, or really anyone whom I see fit to boo as a rudo, I still respect the hell out of him, because hey, they're doing their job if you boo them.
Anyway, speaking of rudo tactics, there was one point where Taylor was snacking on Sasuke's mask. Then, when Sabato went in to stop him, Taylor started biting his bicep. In a rare moment of unforced objectivity, Sabato threatened to DQ him, and later on, he waved off FIST shenanigans instead of condoning them, shouting "YOU BIT ME" to Taylor. At one other point in the match, Taylor took a bite out of Sasuke's boot, which was just weird. As with all the M-Pro matches, there were some epic high spots, including Sasuke diving with the senton atomico to the outside, wiping out all three members of FIST as well as his own partner Shinzaki. It looked as if M-Pro would get the date with the Colony in the finals, as they kept kicking out of FIST's big moves and hitting their own, including a big Pedigree from Togo. However, as he was going for the senton bomb to finish, Taylor hit him with a chair as Sabato was distracted. The finish came when Sabato, intentionally forgetting that Taylor bit him earlier, allowed himself to be distracted by Icarus long enough for Taylor to throw powder in Sasuke's eyes. Icarus rolled him up and FIST got the cheap win.
The third match of Night 3 was a bonus singles match between Jigsaw and Spider. This was a fun if short sprint that served as a nice palate cleanser between the trios matches and the tag gauntlet. Spider started the match mimicking everything Jigsaw was doing to warm up (flips and tumbles). It went into Jig going in on the offense for a good chunk of the match, although Spider made an exciting comeback at the end, including his trademark invisible web shooter-assisted dropkick. Jig got the duke though with a superkick -> brainbuster -> double stomp sequence. Afterwards, the two celebrated in the ring, Jig put Spider over, and the crowd chanted "Please come back!" To our delight, Spider said he would be back, which I am now really, really looking forward to when that happens. Spider was one of the star performers this weekend.
Next up before intermission was the big Annual Tag Gauntlet. It started with Acid Jaz and Willie Richardson taking on Arik Cannon and Darin Corbin. Corbin was the star of this first fall, as the dude just knows how to entertain a crowd. He's so exaggerated in his movements and hes' got great comedic timing. At one point, he was trying to do a shiranui on Richardson, and he called out to Cannon "I need your help", which he got. SUPER SLO-MO made an appearance in this match, and yes, Richardson nailed Corbin with his trademark POUNCE~! while the slow motion was in effect. However, Cannon snuck in with the very heelish school boy roll-up to eliminate Da Soul Touchaz.
Next in was the Batiri, and in this fall, we got the spot of the night. Corbin sent Kodama into the corner chest first and ran in after him. Kodama went to flip over him in a standard looking spot, but on his way down, he performed an ABSOLUTELY INSANE twisting neckbreaker on Corbin. Seriously, the amount of growth I've seen from the Batiri this weekend was just amazing, and that was the capper. They got the basics down, and now they can do the spectacular stuff. I'm really excited to see where they're going. The demons got the win as Obariyon hit the leaping TR DDT on Cannon.
Team #4 was the Throwbacks, and this was very much a shortish affair, as the Batiri got themselves disqualified for a blatant kick to the groin. They attacked the Throwbacks after the decision, allowing Team #5, Daizee Haze and Sara del Rey to pick the bones quite easily. No sooner did del Rey hit the ring than did she hit Dasher with the Royal Butterfly for the quick decision.
Team #6 was the nostalgia special team, and boy, did this get the crowd in a frenzy. It was Matt Classic and his teammate... DARKNESS CRABTREE! Yes, the oldest member of the Chikara roster teaming with the oldest current professional wrestler active right now, and this was our comic relief of the evening. Very good comic relief, I might add. Crabtree hobbled to the ring in classic fashion and wrestled in a button down shirt, dress pants and wingtips. Classic immediately got into the ring and disrobed, giving his towel to del Rey and his jacket to Haze. The Ladies of the Bruderschaft were not amused. They tried to attack Classic, but he shrugged it off and teased spanking Haze in a so-not PG spot. He then proclaimed "WHO DO YOU DAMES THINK YOU ARE?" So unbelievably sexist, but so unbelievably hilarious. It's funny how Classic is such a dick and his good friend Cabana is so affable. I wonder how those two fell into the same crowd. Anyway, while the ladies could barely make a dent in Classic, they were able to take out Crabtree in short order, Haze finishing off the elder statesman of Chikara with a German suplex.
Team #7 would be the Roughnecks, who got a very surprising and robust face pop despite being as rudo as rudo could be. Brodie Lee especially got chants, but then again, if you're going up against the BDK, you're probably the face by default. Brodie worked the size advantage over the petite-by-comparison women pretty well, although del Rey was able to take the bearded giant off his feet with a rolling koppo kick. It would be Grizzly, however, to get the win for his team as he rolled up Haze and eliminated her with his feet on the ropes.
Team #8 was the dynamic duo from Team Osaka Pro, Harada and Kotoge. They came in and felt the wrath of Brodie's feet right away, in the form of a big boot and a doomsday big boot in succession. However, the Osakans would get the win with a Spanish Fly from Kotoge on Grizzly. 3.0 was the next team out. There were a lot of cool double team spots from both teams, although none of the comedic spazzing we've all come to love from the crazy Canucks. Kotoge took out Matthews with a roll-up.
Finally, the last team out was the Dragon Gate squad of Shisa and KAGETORA. The final fall saw a lot of exciting back and forth action punctuated by a confusing finish. Harada and Kotoge brutalized Shisa with a flurry that ended in a superkick to Shisa's grill by Kotoge. The pin attempt seemed like a kickout, but apparently, Papageorgio hit three before Shisa kicked out. I'm really not sure that was supposed to happen, because it left Harada and Kotoge with three points and a shot at the Campeonatos de Parejas. Everyone looked confused except Papageorgio, and it was a very weird ending to what was otherwise a really entertaining tag gauntlet.
Intermission came and went, and the first match back was one that I thought might have happened and was glad to have seen happen. Madison Eagles came out and took on Toyota in an intergenerational match for the ages. Toyota cycled through her spots early, ending in her signature bridging Indian death lock. Eagles escaped and in heelish mockery put Toyota in that same submission hold. Nope, Manami don't play that as she answered with a brutal looking hair-pull camel clutch. The interplay in the beginning really set up how the match would progress well. We saw the Octopus Roll again, but Eagles was also game, hitting Toyota with a sick German while she was on the top and her signature Hellbound. Toyota kicked out though, and hit Eagles with a desperation Queen Bee Bomb that led to a standing 10 count.
The two milked it until nine, both got up and hit each other with clotheslines. They really sold up the brutality of this match, and given that Eagles is going to be one of the torchbearers of the new women wrestlers, it was a pitch-perfect pairing for her. Eagles answered Toyota kicking out of her signature move by kicking out of the Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex. However, a second Queen Bee Bomb put Eagles down for good, giving Toyota the win.
The opener to the second half of the card was a good one and a tough act to follow, but when Akira Tozawa came out to answer Eddie Kingston's open challenge, well, yeah, I had no fear they could answer that with a great match of their own. And they did. The feeling-out process here was really, really entertaining. Tozawa is such a ham, and Kingston's no-nonsense veneer was dropped a bit as he engaged Tozawa in some playful jaw-jacking. The tone of the match got a bit more rough as they started to go into the worked disrespect that both guys are known to purvey. This led into a chop war between the two. Hell, much of the first part the match saw the two trade strikes with each other with a patent stiffness that you'd expect from guys of that caliber.
Tozawa really brought it in this match, both with his moves and with his mannerisms. He landed two consecutive planchas on Kingston on the outside, playing to the crowd to see if they wanted one more. They did, and he gave them a tope con giro on Kingston. Back in the ring, he engaged in his signature "trying to splash" the other guy while the other guy blatantly moved. He missed the first two splashes, then hesitated, pointed to his head and hit a senton on Kingston that led right into a brutal looking Saito suplex. It's not like Kingston was just going to take it laying down though, as he answered with a straitjacket suplex of his own. The jaw-jacking continued, as at one point, Kingston told Tozawa that he was going to die, to which the DG star replied with a kick to the dome. Tozawa went into an elbow flurry, but Kingston answered that with a Backfist to the Future out of nowhere, followed up with a backdrop driver and the pin. Afterwards, the two mutually bowed to each other out of respect. Excellent match.
And just when I thought there was no way that anyone could follow Kingston and Tozawa, well, Generico and Kid came out for the Rey de Voladores final and yeah, they more than followed that match. Again, much like with most matches this weekend, the crowd was hot for both wrestlers. King of Trios really was a special event because of all the tecnico-tecnico match ups going on. It made for a really special atmosphere, and one that lent itself for a hot crowd, but one that actually felt "smart" without resorting to self-referential chants like "This is wrestling!" (Although Kid got a "You still got it!" chant all three nights... although in our defense, he totally earned each one.) Okay, maybe "smart" wasn't the right term, because we were all absorbed in the event. I guess organic is the right term, because there weren't matches where the guys who would be booed were all that obvious.
Anyway, Generico started out the match putting Kid in a wristlock, which he used Bryce Remsburg as a balance to help get out of. There was a lot of chain wrestling early, as with most of the matches in the tournament. Both guys were very adept at it, which made for a good bed to build the insane high spots that would follow. The action spilled to the outside, where Kid went for a seated senton on Generico, but missed, landing crotch first into the ringpost. OUCH. Kid bumped hard all weekend, which for a guy with that much mileage on his body was impressive. He went all out and the crowd loved him for it. Generico went back in to wait for the count out, but Kid got back in on 17 (remember, Chikara gives the wrestlers until 20 to get back in the ring before they're counted out). Kid just kept taking bump after bump, from hard kicks to tope con giros into the guard rail. They teased the BRAINBUSTAAAAAAHHH! midway through the match, but Kid countered it, snagging a Bronco Buster after Generico fell into the corner. He hit a X-Factor, but Generico kicked out, and then Generico returned the favor with a brainbuster in the middle of the ring that Kid kicked out of. Generico then hit a definite rudo move by nailing Kid with the Razor's Edge, but Kid kicked out. They went into the corner, another BRAINBUSTAHHHHHHH! tease, but Kid countered with a Super X-Factor that we were all sure would have won him the match...
...but Generico kicked out. Kid went to finish with a somersault senton bomb, but Generico moved, nailed a yakuza kick in the corner and then finally, the 1-2-3 Kid ate a BRAINBUSTAAAAAHHHH~! Generico won in what I thought was the match of the weekend. Seriously, both men left it all in the ring, and Kid especially went out there and busted his ass to put Generico over. That is what wrestling should be all about. Afterwards, Kid got on the mic and gave a very heartfelt speech. He thanked the crowd, said Philly was the pro wrestling capital of the world and that he was genuinely moved by the love and forgiveness shown to him by the fans, despite all the screwed up crap he'd done in his life. He then put over Generico, saying that if this was his last match (he intimated that this year would be his last active year), he couldn't think of anyone better to put over. I admit that I got a bit misty-eyed at the whole thing. He got a standing ovation, a well-deserved one, as he went to the back.
And just when you thought you couldn't follow that match... well, the King of Trios finals did have to follow it, and both FIST and the Colony tried their best to top it. Of course, there's no shame in not being able to top that match at all, and this final was red hot, surprising given the three ultimately draining matches that happened beforehand. This was one of the few matches that deviated from the formula at the beginning, but given that it was a match in what has been the most storied and heated feud in Chikara for the last three or so years, I'd say they had good reason. The Ants started off with a flurry of strikes, but FIST took the control back pretty emphatically, working over Green Ant's injured arm. They took the protective elbow pad off and tried to take the standalone sleeve he had as further protection. They were just brutal, and Greenie's FIP work was very well done. Fire Ant was able to tag in, but he got the brunt of a FIST assault as well.
Soldier Ant got a hot tag, but FIST made sure it was short-lived. At one point, Taylor set up a table and teased an Omega Driver through it, much like the one he performed in the lucha de apuesta from Aniversario Yang in 2009. He had to settle for piledriving Fire Ant on the apron as a consolation. Soldier later ended up wrangling Taylor for the Chikara Special, but as Taylor's arm was about to drop for the third time, Icarus yanked Bryce out of the ring to save the match. From here, finisher-mania set in, as everyone seemed to hit finishers on each other for kickouts. It really drove home the desire for each team to win the medallions, FIST for the second time in three years and the Colony as redemption for getting absolutely jobbed out of them last year. Just from what I could gather in my furious note taking: Icarus hit Soldier with the BluRay into the corner, Icarus locked Green Ant's bad arm in an armbar, Lawn Dart by Gargano on Soldier, Omega Driver on Fire Ant, Cross Crab on Fire Ant, loaded forearm by Greenie on Taylor, Super Combo on Green Ant... all kicked out of or escaped. Finally, Taylor went for the powder in the eyes, but threw it in Gargano's eyes. Gargano nailed Taylor with a blind superkick. Icarus kicked out of an Ant Hill splash, which led to Green Ant being hoisted onto the Ant Hill from the top rope, eliciting a chant of "Please don't die! Please don't die!" from the crowd. He didn't die, and hit the super high splash on Icarus for the one-two-three. The Colony are your 2011 King of Trios Champions as a cap to the finest wrestling event I have ever attended in my life.
In closing, if the Chikara roster and the guests wanted to tear the roof off The Arena in honor of their fallen brother, they certainly did. I thought last year's King of Trios was amazing, but this year, they topped themselves in a huge way. My hat goes off to every single person who made this weekend possible, and honestly, I give everyone, from Quack to the wrestlers to the ring crew to the announcers to Stan Bush and every single crew member who spent their time and effort making this weekend the best. Because it was. It certainly was.
And if this is what will be remembered as the tribute to Larry Sweeney, then Sweeney will have been memorialized in the most epic way possible. Sweet 'n Sour and 12 Large forever, and there ain't no doubt about it, brother.
Remember you can contact TH and ask him questions about wrestling, life or anything else. Please refer to this post for contact information. He always takes questions!