Picture Credit: Johnny Gee Photos
In less than two weeks, CHIKARA presents one of the highlights of the independent wrestling calendar when King of Trios takes place over three nights in Reading, Pennsylvania from October 4-6
Since 2007, KOT has been staged annually (with the exception of 2013, courtesy of CHIKARA’s infamous shutdown storyline) and has held the company’s hand through their peaks and valleys, including a spell as perhaps the must-watch indy and their current, more challenging times thanks to increased roster turnover and downscaling.
This preview is designed to help everyone from ‘Chikarmy’ diehards to lapsed fans to those who’ve never once watched CHIKARA, with a rundown of participants, info on how to tune in, a guide to what’s likely to happen, and more.
There are sixteen teams of three, as ever (2008’s unsuccessful experiment notwithstanding). It’s a straight-up single elimination knockout, and the tournament is generally spread across the three nights the same way each year.
Night one (Friday) features only the eight first-round Trios matches. Those who may be concerned that this leads to a repetitive show need not fear: KOT opening days in the past have been filled variety and personality, somewhat similar to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s knack for providing money’s worth on their ‘Road To’ events when almost every match is a tag.
Night two (Saturday) alternates between four quarter-final encounters and four non-trios matches. Two of those four are semi-finals for another annual tradition, Rey de Voladores (king of the flyers). Four junior-heavyweights will battle in an elimination four-way dance with the winner of each semi advancing to the final on night three. Completing the rest of the Saturday card are often matches of indy wrestling intrigue featuring wrestlers knocked out of KOT round one.
Night three (Sunday) is actually afternoon three in the US, and early-mid evening in the UK. The two trios semi-finals will take place early on, followed by a rangy midcard featuring a tag team gauntlet match, usually some sort of contest filled with unyielding comedy, the 1vs1 Voladores final and more. Finally, the last two trios remaining finish the weekend in the King of Trios final.
CHIKARA is widely regarded as being past their 2009-2013 peak. That being said, it’s a harsh exaggeration say the product no longer entertains.
Despite the mid-2010s shifting of the wrestling industry causing a lot of talent to move on at rates faster than had been the norm (and if you’re a BritWres fan, I’m preaching to the choir), CHIKARA’s motus operandi of digestible, inclusive, family-friendly entertainment and long-term, comic book-inspired storytelling hasn’t flinched. To assume there is nothing here worth watching would be to assume Arsenal’s drop from regular league trophies and Champions League football to where they find themselves now means they’ll soon suffer the same fate as Bury.
Though regarded by some as a white flag, CHIKARA’s cut-back on travelling (the majority of their shows are now produced at The Wrestle Factory, the training facility/streaming studio they own) and increased use of in-house trainees means they aren’t hemorrhaging money at a time when indy companies are dropping left, right and centre.
After several years sharing the same long weekend with PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles, you’ll have noticed BOLA went unopposed this past weekend. The separation of the two indy cornerstones should benefit everyone, and the nostalgic return to Reading – home of so many early CHIKARA events – adds another layer of positivity to the 2019 chapter.
All sixteen trios have been announced, and at time of writing two of the eight first-round clashes were also confirmed (more on that below).
Here’s a brief rundown of each participating team and their chances of going all the way:
1. Team Pump (Scott Steiner, Petey Williams & Jordynne Grace)
The first trio announced for 2019 many months ago are this year’s ‘buzz’ team: just knowing that they will be performing together that weekend grabs the attention of many indy fans, regardless of how far they go in the tournament. And though Impact Wrestling stole their thunder by having the three wrestle together recently, the announcement of their first round opponents has guaranteed some fun and intrigue on night one. ‘Buzz’ teams seldom go beyond the quarter-finals, and it’s highly likely that this trio is a one-shot deal.
2. The Four Nations (Mick Moretti, Adam Hoffman & Jack Bonza)
The Australian trio were runners-up last year, losing to The Colony in the finals. With their global profile (and bookings) increasing in the 12 months since, they have deservedly been upgraded from outside bets to a top seed.
3. The Carnies (Nick Iggy, Kerry Awful & Tripp Cassidy)
An oddball collection attempting to rise up the indy scene. They have trios knockout experience elsewhere – they lost in the finals of a BAR Wrestling tournament to SoCal Uncensored – but it remains to be seen what they have to offer events such as KOT.
4. The Embassy (Prince Nana, Jimmy Rave & Sal Rinauro)
It’s hard to envision the 2000s Ring of Honor heel stable winning King of Trios. But there’ll no doubt be some entertainment for the Northeast US fans. And who knows? They could serve as formidable foils for a serious contender as late on as the last four. Not to mention a toilet paper visual or two.
5. The VeloCities (Mat Diamond, Jude London & Paris De Silva)
Another Australian entry, one making their North American debuts. Widely regarded (and even by official CHIKARA releases) as the potential breakout trio, so soon after Quackenbush’s travels Down Under and one year after the Four Nations’ huge KOT run, you cannot sleep on the VeloCities.
6. F.I.S.T. (Icarus, Travis Huckabee & Tony Deppen)
Friends In Similar Tights is a villainous stable that has been in CHIKARA, on and off, since almost the very beginning. Gen 1 original and former Grand Champion Icarus is a constant. Huckabee and Deppen are his proteges in this new incarnation as well as the current Campeones de Parejas (tag champions). With the 2009 medals and the 2011 runners-up distinction on their resume, there will likely never be a year that FIST can be ruled out of night three at worst.
7. The Crucible (Ophidian, Princess KimberLee & Lance Steel)
The Crucible is 2019’s prominent CHIKARA storyline. Sick of constant invasions of the promotion (and the roster’s passive nature towards most of them), Ophidian used Quackenbush’s own words against him and formed a defence league in his own dark vision: an underground fight club of trainees shaped into the antithesis of Quack’s own values, thus ironically sparking a war from within. This particular trio consists of three tenured wrestlers who are considered senior members of this ‘fight club’. For that alone, they are one of the favourites. And yet, storyline (and their own students) could overshadow them.
8. The Creatures of the Deep (Oceanea, Merlok & Hermit Crab)
Ashley Vox was a smiling tecnico (good guy) terrorized by the monster Merlok and his associates until she went dark herself to defeat them, thus ‘becoming the boss’ and forcing them into her command. However, their win-loss record as a collective on regular CHIKARA shows hasn’t been very good, and her “any more big losses and you’re done” edict is often the kiss of death for wrestling stables.
9. The Colony (Fire Ant, Green Ant & Thief Ant)
Winner in 2011 with a different Colony line-up, Fire Ant became the first two-time medallist last year and finally accepted his rookies as the real deal in the process. Like FIST, the masked ant stable are a CHIKARA staple but while an unprecedented back-to-back achievement is possible, it isn’t likely.
10. The Crucible (Devantes, Matt Makowski & E.M. DeMorest)
Three of the products of the Crucible storyline have been very impressive in their appearances thus far. And although ‘B’ squads do not have a sparkling record at KOT historically speaking, this particular second string has a lot more to offer the actual tournament itself than top line singles star Ophidian and the storyline-entrenched Kimberlee and Lance Steel.
11. Solo Darling, Willow Nightingale & Freddie Mercurio
Established CHIKARA competitor Darling and relative newcomer Nightinggale’s ‘Bird and Bee’ team was on the cusp of tag title contention before Willow suffered an injury in February. Now, she’s back and Chichester’s own Queen enthusiast heads South from his recent successes in Canada to further establish Solo’s reputation of ever-changing KOT partners. Don’t expect them to go all the way, as night three’s comedy match and tag gauntlet seem far more suited for them.
12. Quack Attack (Mike Quackenbush & The Ugly Ducklings – Lance Lude & Rob Killjoy w/Coach Mikey)
Paired up for the novelty of their similar names, but no team featuring the heart and soul of CHIKARA (and a co-winner of the very first KOT) can be completely ruled out. That said, like Solo and co above, they will surely serve a different function on the Sunday – especially after being drawn against the defending champions in round one.
13. Legion of Rot (Hallowicked, Frightmare & Kobald)
Hallowicked and Frightmare won the 2012 edition alongside Ultramantis Black. These days, they are very much in the rudo (bad guy) camp and, to be honest, the LOR have flown under the main radar in CHIKARA as of late. It’s hard to see that changing when the tournament reaches the business end, but they’re exactly the sort of team to take out one of the favourites on the way.
14. Dasher Hatfield, Molly McCoy & Boomer Hatfield
Dasher Hatfield has for a year, both interim and undisputed, reigned as CHIKARA’s Grand Champion. And yet, at the big Aniversario event in May, he lost not his title but his mask to his own son Boomer at the end of a emotional feud based around Dasher’s increasingly-questionable actions in order to keep the belt around his waist. Nonetheless, blood is thicker than water and Dasher wants a KOT medal after years of failed efforts, so father and son reunite along with anarchist cousin McCoy (Hatfields and McCoys, geddit?) for another dysfunctional family outing. Storyline will surely surpass ambition here.
15. Lucas Calhoun, Stray Kat & Missile Assault Man
Lucas and MAM have had an intermittent ‘brothers in arms’ dynamic for several years, while Calhoun has also found a modicum of success as a tag team with Stray Kat on the side. He brings those two aspects together for what could be a dark horse tilt at the KOT medals. I’d be surprised if they didn’t cross paths with the Legion of Rot, considering the current feud between MAM and Hallowicked.
16. Team NDK: Nick Gage, Thomas Santell & Kris Statlander
Though this isn’t Gage’s CHIKARA debut, his reputation draws a reaction whenever he’s confirmed to appear for the family promotion. And after Beyond Wrestling’s sustained success whenever they stormed the CHIKARA castle last year, their 2019 Trios offering of ‘Nerder Death Kill/Nerder Death Kris’ (both abbreviated to NDK for the PG audience) are definitely strong picks for the last four at the very least. They have been confirmed as facing Team Pump on Friday, giving us Gage vs Steiner in a CHIKARA ring but more importantly, making their presence in the last eight look even more likely.
How can I watch?
Unlike their Wrestle Factory shows, King of Trios isn’t streamed live on their CHIKARAtopia subscription service. However KOT does have a sterling reputation for a fast turnaround, with a rough cut (no commentary, minimal post-production) of each night up on CHIKARAtopia as soon as the following day. You can sign up for a seven-day free trial when the shows land.
In addition to CHIKARAtopia, independentwrestling.tv offers a monthly subscription that includes access to several indies including CHIKARA and Beyond. Chikarasaurus Rex from September 7 is already up, so KOT shouldn’t take too long before it’s available to members.
Lastly, CHIKARA is also available for free to Amazon Prime members on the Prime TV app. Pretty much every event from 2011 onwards is up there, and new shows take as little as a few weeks to arrive.