Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Anniversary Party

The Anniversary Party

CHIKARA Pro Wrestling Celebrates their Fifth Year with a Pair of Shows

Mark Coale

Odessa Steps Magazine

Tope Suicida Blog

There are all kinds of wrestling companies out there on the independent scene. Some are based on the traditional old school territorial model and some are modeled on Japanese organizations. There are those that approach the business very sternly (like Ring of Honor) and those that do not. CHIKARA Pro Wrestling is one that decidedly does not.

If there was one word to describe CHIKARA, there is probably no better word that “wacky.” In addition to the usual collection of babyface and heel wrestlers, you can find the following workers have competed under the CHIKARA banner: a colony of ants, a mechanical mummy, a giant chipmunk, an 80-year old grappler, an evil farmer with an ear of corn for a head, ice cream clowns and wooden training dummy come to life named Ken the Box.

CHIKARA is the closest thing we have in American to Mexican pro wrestling, better known as Lucha Libre. The promotion is full of masked wrestlers who fly all over the ring doing all kind of flips, dives and crazy submission maneuvers. It seems that the motto of Lucha is “the crazier, the better” and the same can certainly be said for CHIKARA.

Leading up to CHIKARA’s two Anniversary shows this weekend, we had a chance to do an e-interview with Mike Quackenbush, who co-founded the promotion back in 2002, about a variety of topics relating to the company’s past, present and future.

Q: When we did an interview right before CHIKARA started in 2002, you said the following. Do you think you succeeded in this goal?

"CHIKARA will, by design, bend and break the imagined parameters of American independent wrestling. When we say the "wrestling renaissance is at hand," that's not just some slogan we dreamed up, without any real meaning. CHIKARA will usher in a period of tremendous creative growth, maybe not for the circuit, but certainly within the confines of the company. We will toss preconceived notions about the way an indy show should be done, the way indy characters should be presented, the way indy matches need to be wrestled. This will be true to a fresh creative vision, without compromise, and if we succeed or fail, it will be on our terms alone."

A: I absolutely do. And it's the mantra that defines what we're still doing today, in 2007.

Q: I was at CHIKARA's first show in Allentown, PA and not living in the

Northeast again until recently, haven't been to another one since then. How has CHIKARA's product evolved over the five years?

A: I think it took us a year or two to really decide on a single direction, and to pursue it relentlessly. There was definitely a time in the early days when we weren't sure if we would survive another month, if we'd get to the next show, and seeing the bigger picture under those circumstances can be nearly impossible. These days, we know exactly who our fans are, we know exactly what we're trying to accomplish, and for the most part, that's what we try to do.

Q: What has been the high point of CHIKARA's five years in business? The low point?

A: I think our February tournaments are often the high point. A year ago, I probably would have said Tag World Grand Prix 2006 (which took place Feb. 24-26, 2006) and this year, I'd probably say King of Trios (which took place Feb. 16 - 18, 2007). CHIKARA has had some dark moments, some I wouldn't even want to mention. Ultimately though, those rough patches - whether before the Zoning Board in the crosshairs of a small-town political brouhaha, or catching a thief in our midst - all ended up bringing the CHIKARA family closer together in the end.

Q: Has there been a gimmick proposed that you thought was too "wacky" even for CHIKARA?

A: Sometimes I get emails from guys that work for other companies, and they write things like "I've come up with this great CHIKARA gimmick!" And I laugh at all of them. Because it's not something you just invent. It's not something pulled out of thin air. It's a manifestation of some part of the man under the mask. Bruce Wayne can only be Batman. Bruce Wayne can't be the Red Tornado.

Q: How was it working with Tiger Mask a few weeks ago (May 11, 2007), in the match where you won the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Title? As a longtime puroresu fan, it must have pretty cool.

A: It certainly was. I made sure I got all my Tiger Mask dream spots in there, and he seemed to really enjoy the process and the match.

Q: How did the working arrangement between CHIKARA and Ring of Honor come about?

A: I think between Chris [Hero] and Claudio [Castagnoli] having worked their main shows for so long, and having sent CHIKARA talent to FIP [Full Impact Pro Wrestling] (where they seem to cultivate new talent), we won over all the right people to open the door.

Q: On a similar note, how did the deal come about to wrestle on the musical festival THE WARPED TOUR?

A: Pure luck. Our friend, Mike Rotch, hooked it up. We didn't know them, they didn't know us. Mike just made sure we were in the right spot at the right time.

Q: Has the new indy wrestling paradigm (where revenue seemingly comes from DVD sales and house shows may be loss leaders) changed the business and CHIKARA specifically?

A: That's very true. If not for DVD revenue, we would have gone under almost two years back. It's a whole new ball game. This is the information age we live in, and promoters that came up in the business pre-internet (re: industrial age) are less and less equipped to take advantage of what's out there today.

Q: What's the secret origin of the comic book cover homages that grace the CHIKARA DVD releases? Any one famous cover you haven't done yet?

A: Just a nod to our superhero roots. There's a Dark Knight cover in our immediate future that has been a long time coming.

Q: Are you ever going to do a third book, to complete the trilogy?

A: Not currently. The books I've been slaving over the last few years are totally unrelated to [Quack’s first two books] "Headquarters" and "Secret Identity."

CHIKARA Pro Wrestling returns to action this weekend Saturday, May 26, in Hellertown, PA and Sunday, May 27, in Philadelphia, PA. For more information, CHIKARA’s website is www.chikarapro.com. Thanks to Dan from the Chikarafans.com website for his help on this article.