There was a time when Chikara was, by far, my favorite brand of wrestling. I got into it when Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro) and Sara Del Rey were full-time roster members, Colt Cabana, the Young Bucks and El Generico were regular guest stars, and before they even had a singles title. It was way different and more fun than most wrestling I had watched prior to that, but it was also just as good. I would put this era of Chikara up against just about any other “great” wrestling out there, it was that good.
My first DVD was King of Trios 2011, which remains one of my all-time favorite events. There was just so much fun stuff that weekend. Great nostalgia with guest stars like The 1-2-3 Kid, The Great Sasuke, Dick Togo and Jinsei Shinzaki mixed with new favorites like The Colony and El Generico and some great comedy wrestling with Matt Classic and the Osaka Pro guys. It was a perfect event to be introduced to what Chikara is and what it could be.
They came to Chicago later that year and I went. They came back the next year and I went. They came to Milwaukee and I went. If they were near, I went. My dad went with me, my nephew came and I eventually took Sam as well. A Chikara show is actually what Sam and I went to on the day that we went from “dating” to boyfriend/girlfriend. I’ll never forget our anniversary because I can simply google “Chikara Milwaukee”.
Some of my favorite wrestlers left and the guest stars changed, but it didn’t matter to me. I was in. Chikara was fun and what I imagine my ideal wrestling event would be like. I’ve been to ECW, WCW, WWE, Wrestlemania and everything in between; some of the best times I’ve ever had watching wrestling were at Chikara.
Then they did this storyline about the company being taken down and I was all-in. At my old wrestling blog, Ole! Wrestling, I wrote thousands and thousands of words about the “Chikara conspiracy”. I did podcasts about it and I felt like I was a big part of keeping people informed on the minute details. My writing was even recognized by the company and they sent me a prize package with shirts and DVDs. It was cool, but then the storyline reached it’s logical end: the company was shut down.
I didn’t really get it. It was gone for a long time. I appreciated the craftsmanship, but I really just wanted to go to another show or watch an iPPV.
Rumors were everywhere about behind the scenes reasons. I wrote about those once and got an email from Mike Quackenbush (one of the founders/stars) asking me to take it down, to not spread ugly internet gossip about his personal life and I did. That was kind of gross when I thought about it. I didn’t know, I just wanted some answers.
As the months went on, there wasn’t much to go on and I slipped out of it. There were Wrestling Is Fun (and Wrestling Is Respect and Wrestling Is… another word and like four more like that) events, but I never really got into them. It wasn’t the same.
There was eventually a #IAmChikara thing led by Icarus, who I was never a big fan of, that led to them slowly coming back. The Wrestling Is… promotions started being destroyed by the same people who destroyed Chikara and then at National Pro Wrestling Day 2014 Chikara fought back. This was an awesome moment and I’m glad I got to watch it. I might’ve even cried. (It seems to be missing from YouTube or I’d post it here.) It was a tremendous payoff and soon Chikara would be back.
When they came back, I was excited. I watched the first event and then… that was it. I kind of kept in touch, but it was just too different. I didn’t understand why they did certain things, I missed the guest stars and my old favorites. I didn’t go when they came to Chicago and I eventually just stopped keeping up. King of Trios came, an event that I had on my wrestling bucket list, and I didn’t even really think of going. The teams seemed too weak to me. The Chikara that I thought I knew, was gone.
What I understand now is that they were simply rebuilding, not unlike the Brewers. A lot of people moved on and a lot of people graduated the school. In my mind, Chikara was just some money away from being a product with national appeal. The “comic book come to life” combined with family friendly action is a great idea that works and it could be really be something if they just wanted it to be. In reality, I don’t think they do and I’m probably wrong. They just want to have a school and help young wrestlers get a place to showcase their talents. They don’t want to be the Rolling Stones, they want to be the cool indie band. They want to be the niche. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but they survive and I guess that’s what matters.
Two years later and I’m ready to enjoy it again. Chikara started a podcast with Mike Quackenbush and Bryce Remsburg that has really reminded me why I liked them to begin with. This year’s King of Trios was a huge hit and I signed up for their VOD service to watch it. The show is living up to the hype and I’m ready to love it again. I probably won’t ever watch like I once did, but it’s nice to know that it can be there for me when I need to put a smile on my face while watching some wrestling. Who knows, maybe I’ll even catch another show.