Chikara has developed somewhat of a reputation in the world of wrestling. While a proclamation such as this may mean negative connotations for most people, for this premier producer of American lucha libre, it's very much a plus. Since I started following the promotion in the spring of 2009, Chikara has this habit of announcing awesome cards, loaded with dream matches, feud progression, special guests and crazy stipulations. The date of the show rolls around, and with each match, that hype, that anticipation is paid off at level that either meets or exceeds the expectations. In a business where companies disappoint on the reg, that's more than an awesome feat.
High Noon, their long-awaited debut on Internet pay-per-view, was the latest personification of their dedication to overdelivering on their promises. They had been putting so much oomph behind promoting this event that it might have seemed like overkill. However, once El Generico and Jigsaw came out from the back to wrestle their first match, most people wondered if they had hyped the show up enough. The two masked warriors left it all in the ring, delivering a match that would have been lauded and praised on the upper card of most indie wrestling cards or even WWE pay-per-views, and they wrestled the match on the free pre-show.
When I interviewed Bryce Remsburg for my own podcast, he said that everyone was going to try to have the best match on the card. With every successive match, the effort and execution suggested that Bryce was indeed right. Everyone brought their A-games. The Young Bucks and Colony had a match that many people thought was the best match of the evening, and they went on first on the main show. Green Ant and Tursas duplicated their fine showing from Chikarasaurus Rex Night 1, with the resilient rookie of the Colony busting out a new variation on the Chikara Special to get the win. Sara del Rey and Jakob Hammermeier wrestled in maybe the most well-done variation on a role-reversed intergender match. Archibald Peck, Colt Cabana, Veronica and Colt Cabunny redefined comedic wrestling. Gregory Iron cemented his role as an inspirational icon while Icarus kept entrenching himself as the biggest bully and most hate-worthy character in all wrestling. Hallowicked, UltraMantis Black, Tim Donst and Ares channeled ECW better than any company ever could since the iconic hardcore promotion closed its doors in 2001. Even Ophidian and Amasis executed a between-matches angle and heel turn in a way where it felt like an event. The entire roster showed up with their A-games, and in wrestling, art, entertainment or sport, it's rare that an entire troupe or team fires on all cylinders for one event.
The biggest home run they hit was with the main event they had put so much effort behind. Eddie Kingston and Mike Quackenbush wrestled for the right to become the promotion's first ever Grand Champion. The story going in was a patchwork fix; all signs pointed to Claudio Castagnoli being the man across the ring from Kingston for this match, but he was signed by WWE between the beginning of the 12 Large: Summit round robin tournament and right now. For being the "next best thing", there was an incredible amount of mystique behind a matchup between Kingston and Quack. Kingston was part of the Chikara Wrestle Factory's first class and has been with the company since its inception. Quack was his trainer, and arguably, Kingston was his most gifted pupil. In almost ten years though, across all promotions but especially in Chikara, the two had never wrestled each other in a one-on-one matchup.
That alone made for an electric atmosphere. Jigsaw seconding Quack and Tommy Dreamer seconding Kingston escalated the specialness of the night. The match itself was an amazing story, Quack being ruthless with his student's bum right knee by design, partially as a way to be tough on him and partially because it was the only way he knew to put the tenacious Yonkers native down. Kingston, who was battling for his redemption, for his soul and for his fallen best friend, Larry Sweeney, would not quit, shouting at Quack at one point that he'd have to break his leg off in order to stop him. To heighten the aura even further, around mid-match, the locker room started pouring out. The current roster came out first, but then former luminaries from the promotion's history - Hydra, Mr. Zero, Rorschach, Dragonfly and Reckless Youth - came out to view the spectacle, to see history of a promotion that they were firmly entrenched in be made.
When Kingston landed the Backfist to the Future to the back of Quack's head and rolled him up for the 1-2-3, the arena exploded. It wasn't just because they had become invested in Kingston winning the match, even if most of the arena had. It was because it was the culmination of a journey, an entertaining, emotional journey with an eminently satisfying ending. When Larry Sweeney's brother and good friend came out to present Kingston with the Championship, I was overcome. When Kingston started crying and embracing people from Dreamer to Remsburg, I shed a tear myself. It was an unreal experience.
The thing is though, I expected to feel something like that going into the arena before the show. I knew I was going to be rewarded for my time and my ticket. That's the beauty of Chikara. It's as close to a sure thing as anyone can get in wrestling. That's something to think about the next time someone is about to order a WWE PPV with the feeling of dread that they might screw it up. It's something to think about when Chikara comes to town or the next time they come to iPPV or when someone has a few extra shekels to spend on wrestling DVDs.
Chikara has a reputation, and it's one that makes them the unquestioned leader in professional wrestling in America today.