I know, there are some out there who read comics but don’t like wrestling, and vice versa – but I’m here to tell you that those two worlds have far more in common than one might think. And if those two worlds collide in more perfect form, you’d find Chikara Smack in the Middle of that collision.
First of all – some history. I fell in love with wrestling around 1985, when Hulk Hogan’s Rock and Wrestling Connection was running strong. Professional wrestling, at least in the WWF, had become essentially a live action cartoon or comic book, with larger than life characters, compelling stories where good battled evil, and evil rarely triumphed. It was a perfect escape for any kid.
And then the 90′s hit. And the steroid scandals, followed by the explosion of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), whose popularity singlehandedly ushered in the Attitude Era of professional wrestling – where good guys did bad things and bad guys did worse things. The language got more coarse, and the storylines were more adult soap opera than melodramatic kids cartoon. The bottom line is – The Attitude Era killed any chance I thought I would have had to introduce my own children to professional wrestling.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I caught wind of Chikara Pro wrestling, an independent wrestling company based out of the greater Philadelphia area. They had podcasts, DVDs and a YouTube page full of clips from their shows. However, because of their location and limited touring, it seemed impossible for me to actually get to experience a Chikara show live and in person.
Fast forward to earlier this year – Chikara announced that their theme for the year would be “You Are Chikara!”, and they began to expand their tour stops, including one just a short drive away from me – in Syracuse NY.
I’ve watched Chikara on video, but there is something about the live show experience that changes your perspective a bit. All pro wrestling feds have their own culture, and Chikara is no different. There are chants a’plenty there, not unlike any other fed, but none of these chants have curse words in them. This isn’t because all of the fans don’t curse, but because Chikara goes out of their way to tell their fans to refrain from foul language at the beginning of the show. The point is – there are kids here, so don’t swear. It’s not cool.
And it works – for the most part. In fact, if someone gets close to the edge or crosses the line of decency, they get called out on it. I watched this first hand, as two rather rowdy, and somewhat intoxicated guys were threatened with extraction if they continued to behave in a way that was not family friendly. Chikara doesn’t mess around – they are what they say they are – a family friendly wrestling organization.
And the action? Non stop, pedal to the metal, from opening bell to final bell. These guys are really good at the craft of professional wrestling, and the coolest part for me at least, was how self aware that they are of how ludicrous pro-wrestling is. They know that we know that it’s choreographed, so they’re not afraid to use that knowledge to elicit laughs from the crowd. They are masters at the dance, and aren’t afraid to show us what’s behind the curtain from time to time.
They’re also not afraid to be a little bit goofy. At one point, during a four way, Young Lions Cup X Match, instead of shaking the hand of his opponent, Mr. Touchdown, one of the fastest rising stars of Chikara (and 1/3 of the trio The Throwbacks) decided to fart at his opponent instead. This turned into a much longer bit, using the fart as a weapon, with one worker even selling the fart smell by falling backwards.
In the ring we saw everything from high flying to grappling, to a giant, four man Boston Crab/Camel Clutch combo. There were even guys chicken fighting at one point.
So not only is there great in ring action and comedy, but the fan interaction is unmatched. TNA usually does a good job at this, but Chikara takes it to a completely different level. During intermission, I bumped into Sugar Dunkerton, who was just hanging out in the back of the room.
And just after that, they offered for anyone who wanted to, they could come up and get a picture taken in the ring with Dasher Hatfield. For free. This is normally a minimum of $20 at any other show. But they did it for free. That’s a way to really get fans to love your product. And of course, I took advantage of the offer.
So I got to speak to two of the three members of the Throwbacks. (I’m not sure if Matt Classic still counts. If he does, I guess it’s two of the four….). The only interaction I got with Mr. Touchdown though, was a picture of him celebrating his victory in the Young Lions Cup X Match. He’s at the beginning of a pretty strong heel turn, so I’m okay with that.
My only regret for the show itself was the lack of my hero, Archibald Peck AKA Mixed Martial Archie, who recently lost a “Loser Leaves Town” Match. But they were still selling his shirt, which I bought with zero hesitation.
So if you’re a disheartened former pro wrestling fan, whose fandom waned for whatever reason, check out Chikara. If anything, I can compare Chikara to ECW for this reason only – It’s got a wildly devoted fanbase and its own culture. Without the vulgarity and ultraviolence that ECW offered. And hey, some say that ECW ushered in the attitude era. Maybe Chikara can help usher in a new, fun, family friendly era into professional wrestling that’s been lacking for a long time.
Either way, Chikara has made a fan out of me, and it should make a fan out of you.Chikara regularly updates their YouTube Channel with a TON of content. Check it out for a taste, but stay for the meal. You won’t regret it. You can also check out Chikara’s website for blog posts and more.