Picture Credit: Michael Langan
A little over a year ago I travelled from Leeds to Wolverhampton to get my taste of the weird and wonderful world of Chikara live. Having watched from afar for quite a while, I was incredibly excited to see some of the craziest characters and wrestling in the world in front of my eyes, and it didn’t disappoint. It was with this in mind, and the knowledge that a group of friends were making the trip up to the Linskill Centre in North Shields for the show, I booked my tickets well in advance for Sunday 29th May 2016 – Anniversario: The Two Towers.
Whilst we didn’t get the “marquee” matches – the likes of Mark Andrews vs. Ophidian or Mike Quackenbush vs. Johnny Kidd in a World of Sports rules match – of the tour, the scheduled matches still promised a lot of action and entertainment, and it didn’t disappoint.
Our compere for the evening, “The Party Tsar” Vlad Radinov got the crowd in the mood for things to come with his fine sense of humour, and told us we would have four different promotions on show during the afternoon!
First up was a brand new promotion, North Wrestling, who put on their first EVER match (their debut show is coming up in July) pitting The Sons of Ulaid against The New Nation. As expected from any match with Jason Prime in it, this was hard hitting and violent, and Bryce Remsburg had his hands full. The New Nation picked up the win after The Primate hit a vicious looking spear on Bas.
Absolute Wrestling stepped up to the showcase next, sending “The Gimmick Killer” HT Drake out to face an unknown opponent, who turned out to be none other than Chikara’s own Soldier Ant! Drake put up a great showing against the Militant Mat Mite, even if he was frustrated at the salutes and forced to drop for 20 push ups. Drake’s Dragon-to-Delayed-German Suplex is a sight to behold, and looks better every time I see it. Ultimately, Soldier Ant’s experience gave him the win with a variation on the Michinoku Driver.
Pre-show over, Chikara’s opening contest saw Heidi Lovelace facing off against “That Ol’ Juke Joint” Lucas Calhoun. Calhoun’s Rockabilly gimmick is really beginning to settle into the comic-like world of Chikara, and really made him stand out on the show. The match itself was a fine contest, with the dip at the end of a 50’s style dance section being wonderfully adapted into an arm drag by Lovelace. Calhoun worked over Heidi’s midsection with Samoan Drops, a pump handle backbreaker and an abdominal stretch before Heidi dodged a spear in the corner and hit three running Savat kicks for a near fall. Lucas eventually contributed to his own downfall however, when Heidi countered a third Samoan Drop into a crucifix pin for the 3.
After a cheap pop for announcing he loved UK crowds for the “1 Fall” call back to ring announcers,
The Party Tsar announced our second match, with “Top Shelf” Slim Perkins (the artist formerly known as Chuck Taylor) facing Officer Warren Barksdale. Slim wasted no time in calling out police brutality during the pre-match frisking by Officer Barksdale, and demanded that Bryce Remsburg be checked as well, due to long standing corruption in Chikara. Barksdale obliged, and managed to remove both a wrench and a butter knife from Bryce’s possession before the opening bell! Not-Chuck Taylor’s battle with not being Chuck Taylor (including frustration that half of the crowd won’t even know why), and using any of his signature moves was a nice touch in the match, abandoning Soul Food and letting Barksdale counter with a backdrop. Remsburg was involved at the end of the match again, with a dispute over jurisdiction inside a Chikara ring. After Officer Barksdale produced his credentials, a crestfallen Bryce was pushed at him by Slim, hitting a tilt-a-whirl head scissors allowing Perkins to roll up Barksdale with La Majistral for the win.
Next up was “The Velvet Teddy Bear” Chuck Taylor™ against Soldier Ant. I must point out at this point that Chuck Taylor ™’s ring attire is THE WORST I’ve ever seen… and I remember Mantaur! Soldier Ant, showed no sign of fatigue from his previous match and took the early control, only for Chuck to hit a slam and some fierce looking head-butts. After countering a saluting clothesline into a neck breaker, Taylor™ serenaded the ladies in the audience with a rendition of “My My My”, a song he wrote in 1989, and succeeded in distracting himself allowing Soldier Ant to trip him and lock in a knee bar for the submission win. The submission ended up being locked on a little too long, as the ring bell was delayed, which meant that Taylor™ suffered longer than needed, and ended up having to crawl out of the arena following the match!
After the interval, Eddie Kingston came out only to be confused by the layout of the building’s stage not having steps to ringside centrally. Spotting Maffew (of Botchamania fame) in the crowd, Eddie won his first bout of the evening in quick time, choking him out at the Absolute Wrestling stand, and declaring he should be awarded 10-points towards championship contention for it. Bryce was having none of it, and out came Kingston’s opponent The Hermit Crab. Hermit originally took the advantage, with a painful (and possibly illegal Bryce?) double pincer hold, but Kingston fought back with chops in the corner and one hell of a powerbomb. After a mini, non-violent confrontation with Bryce, Kingston was shocked to be choke slammed by The Hermit Crab, but only stayed down for 2 and 7/8. After forcing a rope break on a double crab and a single crab, Kingston declared he’d had enough, and hits The Backfist To The Future for the 3 count.
But… Kingston isn’t done, and wants to face Bryce! After a collar-and-elbow tie-up, and a schoolboy, Kingston fast counts a 3 on Bryce, giving himself three victories in the space of 10 minutes… although I’m not sure these will all count for points.
Following this was my match of the night, as Ophidian put his 3-points on the line against Fire Ant. This was spectacular from start to finish, and rightfully deserved the standing ovation it received. Opening with some excellent counter wrestling, including Ophidian going for the Cobra Clutch Death Grip early on, both men quickly score 2-counts on each other, including Ophidian bridging over a backslide on Fire Ant. I’m not going to try and describe every aspect of the match, but highlights include some crazy double-knee strikes from Ophidian; a 619-esque spin kick on the apron by Fire Ant to the back of the head/neck of an upside down Ophidian; and a huge Frankensteiner. The finishing sequence was equal to, if not better than what had gone before it, with Fire Ant spiking Ophidian on the top of his head from a hurricanrana, and following up with a brainbuster for 2, then hitting the Beach Break for the winning pinfall. The crowd were into this match in a BIG way, and neither man disappointed. This was an excellent showing of the Lucha Libre styles on display in Chikara.
Following that was a challenge, but the players in the 10-person tag match came very close to the level set. Hallowicked led his team out first, comprising of Frightmare, The Batiri and Icarus. The black-and-red colour scheme adopted by both The Batiri and Icarus to fit in with The Nightmare Warriors was a great touch, and really promoted the unity in the team. Following them, Princess Kimberlee led out N_R_G and Los Ice Creams.
El Hijo del Ice Cream and Ice Cream Jr. had fun with the crowd pre-match, with Jr. hiding under a cap and El Hijo almost putting a fan into to start against Hallowicked. One quick resolution later, and our main event was underway. Hallowicked immediately questions Kimberlee’s knee, after events on last night’s show, but Kimberlee quickly took Hallowicked down, who immediately tagged out to Frightmare. El Hijo hit a hip attack on Icarus who was on the apron, following up with a seated senton to the floor. Los Ice Creams made the save for Kimberlee, sacrificing themselves in the corner to allow her to hit a 2nd rope hurricanrana. The Rudos team hit consecutive elbow drops on El Hijo, before kneeling over their opponent and praying to Nazmaldun. Icarus attempted to remove El Hijo’s mask. The Tecnicos managed to isolate Obariyon, working over his left arm with questionable tactics (as Ice Cream Jr. distracted Bryce), only for El Hijo to grab the wrong arm and attack his partner. Kimberlee hits German Suplexes on Obariyon, Kodama and Icarus. The Rudos worked over Kimberlee’s injured knee. Kimberlee kicked Hallowicked over the top rope and followed with a tope suicida. The Batiri hit Red Rum on someone (possibly Race Jaxon). Kodama hit a diving headbutt, just before Frightmare hits a diving double stomp. The Rudos hit consecutive corner attacks on Kimberlee. The Tecnicos hit consecutive corner attacks on Kodama.
Then… MOVEZ~!!! This part was hectic, and a breather was granted only when Hallowicked and Kimberlee managed to knock each other down with stereo roundhouse kicks. After the recovery, The Batiri lock a double crab in, only for El Hijo to grab them in front facelocks and drag them into a corner. A few attacks and counters later, Ice Cream Jr. and Race Jaxon hit a double superplex, allowing Kimberlee to get the winning fall.
All in all, this match was crazy, and had everything you’d expect from a multi-person tag in a Chikara ring. The energy from the crowd fuelled the participants, and whilst nobody took any huge risks, the storytelling around Kimberlee’s knee, and Los Ice Cream’s desire to work as part of a team were really well done, and a nice touch within the wider context of the match. A fitting way to end a show.
… Or was it!? As has become almost customary now, Chikara deliver an encore match. This one fulfilled Vlad Radinov’s promise of four promotions, as Fight Club: Pro delivered the competitors for this one. Travis Banks vs. Dan Moloney vs. Drew Gulak stepped up, and delivered a short, but emphatic finale to the day’s proceedings, full of chops (seriously, remind me to never annoy Drew Gulak – his chops sound like frying pans hitting a side of beef) and suplexes, including a double back suplex from Moloney. Drew took the win, submitting Moloney with a dragon sleeper.
Chikara’s recent history has been somewhat hit-and-miss following the “closure and rebirth” storylines, but based on the evidence of tonight’s show, they’re definitely getting back into the groove. All in all, this was a very good show. It ticked all the boxes for a Chikara show – it was fun, it was energetic, and it made people feel good about wrestling. The Fire Ant vs. Ophidian match was superb, and a definite match of the night, but every other contest gave us something to smile about, laugh about, or applaud. This was what indy wrestling should be.