“Oh cool, CHIKARA is doing another UK tour!”
“Ah man, the nearest show to me isn’t a proper CHIKARA show.”
“Oh wow, this show has a great line up!”
That was the internal conversation I had with myself as the various details about CHIKARA’s 2016 tour were unveiled. The London show they put on last year was my first live wrestling show since 2007, and ironically that show by an American promotion convinced me British wrestling was worth following.
Prior to that my last live show was the PWG European Vacation event in 2007, and at that time I pretty much only went to shows to see the imports. I enjoyed watching a lot of the British guys, but in my mind they weren’t stars in the way the wrestlers I’d watched on tape were. So I’d buy a ticket when I saw Great Muta was on the bill, or SUWA, or Bryan Danielson. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a great wrestling show, I just wanted to see the stars. The PWG show seemed perfect, I was looking forward to getting the genuine PWG experience. As it turned out only a couple of the matches felt like they were ‘properly’ PWG, in particular the excellent main event. Meanwhile a couple of matches were made up of entirely British wrestlers, which wasn’t what I wanted from the show. Obviously I was aware that bringing an entire card’s worth of wrestlers all the way over to England was expensive, but I wanted to go to an event that could stand alongside the ones they put on in the US. A show American fans would be envious of, in the same way I was envious of them for all the great shows they got.
I drifted away from wrestling as my burgeoning interest in MMA started to eat up my time and money, and it wasn’t until the advent of the WWE Network that I started to get back into wrestling, coincidentally as my interest in MMA was waning. When I saw that CHIKARA was touring the UK I immediately bought tickets, as they had been one of my favourite promotions to watch. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be a ‘proper’ show? Or would it be a few of their stars, bolstered by UK wrestlers I hadn’t heard of?
As it turned out it was the best of both. We got a main card that was entirely genuine CHIKARA action, matches that played into the ongoing storylines, and even a title change in the main event. The show felt important. But it was the pre-show, presented by Fight Club:PRO, that really fired me up and ignited my imagination. Whether it was the insane reaction to the surprise appearance of FSU; the charisma and aura of fear projected by Jimmy Havoc; or the crazy high flying of a masked wrestler who may or may not have been the current crown jewel of British wrestling, the wrestlers on this show felt like stars. They felt like they were worth following, worth me investing my time in.
Fast forward to a year later and I’ve been to almost as many live shows in the intervening months as I had in the first seven years of my fandom. I’ve still seen a lot of stars from overseas, but I’ve also seen so many wrestlers from these shores that can stand toe to toe with them, and often outshine them. I watch far more UK events on tape than I ever did before, as there are so many promotions putting on great matches that are worth my time. I see fans from America asking for recommendations for UK shows to check out, which would have seemed crazy to me ten years ago, as my view of the UK scene (rightly or wrongly) was that it was a pale imitation of the boom period occurring in the states. The UK guys have been making huge waves in places like PWG, where they seem every bit the equal of the established stars over there, and they are just a small sample of the incredible variety of talented wrestlers working shows up and down this country.
So although I was initially disappointed I wasn’t going to be getting the ‘genuine’ CHIKARA experience this time round, I am now really looking forward to seeing the show. It has several matches that I couldn’t even consider ‘dream matches’, as even in my most fevered dreams I’d probably never have imagined them! Pete Dunne vs Ophidian? What a crazy clash of styles and personalities. The Batiri vs Moustache Mountain? Sign me up! CHIKARA run lots of shows where you can get the ‘genuine’ CHIKARA experience, but only a few where their crazy cast of characters can mix it up with some of the best of British, and I’m very excited that I get to see it.
I am a proud fan of UK independent wrestling. It just took a show from an American promotion to make me one.