"Lightning" Mike Quackenbush
All photos by David Falcon
Words will not fully express how impressed I was with the shows put on by CHIKARA this past weekend in Reading (Saturday) and South Philly (Sunday). I went for the Ice Ribbon girls and Mima Shimoda, but what I got was so much more than I imagined. There is a palpable culture when you enter a Chikara show and it begins while waiting in line outside. There is something friendly and wholesome about the crowd. Parents have confidence in the product that their children will see -- excellent wrestling and good, clean fun. I was totally unprepared to have a "Chikara Concierge" offer to explain the storylines and feuds to me.
Here's what I LOVED about my CHIKARA experience:
1) the group that attends these shows is clearly a community: they know one another, like one another, share enthusiasms and I even saw them sharing food they had brought for the wait in line. You got the sense that these were bright, loyal, humorous, grateful people -- about the best possible wrestling crowd one could assemble.
2) The shows were well-run. They started on time. The crowd was courteously and conscientiously handled. The setup in the room was first-rate: logical, fuctional, excellent from the ring itself, the seating, merchandise tables, and concessions. I was extremely impressed.
3) The fans saw a variety of excellent wrestling from the joshi girls, to the amazing stable of CHIKARA regulars, to the fabulous boys (well-seasoned men, really) from Britain, Johnny Saint and Johnny Kidd. They got a wrestling clinic at both shows, mixed in with fun and high impact action -- all in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Ice Ribbon star, Tsukasa Fujimoto, with some young South Philly fans4) There is an impressive mythology/culture that has grown out of this promotion: great animated artwork, sophisticated card games that revolve around wrestling matches, yearbooks, comic books, perhaps even a novel, t-shirts, fan clubs, videos, photo ops -- "getting on board the CHIKARA experience" is contageous -- one wants to be a part of this culture.
5) The love clearly went both ways: performers/wrestlers appreciated the audience; and the audience appreciated the excellence of what they saw in the ring, as well as the accessable nature of their heroes.
I was so impressed that when I got home I decided to do a little research and now I think I see the thread that runs through it all -- Mike Quackenbush. Mike was a part of the founding of CHIKARA, the driving force behind the wrestling school, a most articulate spokesman for wrestling as a writer and speaker, and his wit and intelligence are scintillating. When I saw Quack in the ring and at the mic, I "got" the CHIKARA experience.
Johnny Kidd and Colt Cabana Johnny Saint and Mike Quackenbush
Let me just say that the tag team on Sunday with Johnny Saint and Mike Quackenbush vs. Johnny Kidd and Colt Cabana was awe-inspiring. I've never seen so much intelligence and wit in a wrestling ring before and it will be a long time until I see it again. When that time comes, it will likely be in a CHIKARA ring.