In an alternate universe timeline, all of the WWF’s cheesiest gimmicks – from Mantaur to the Brooklyn Brawler to the Goon – left the company and started their own bizarro world of professional wrestling, adding in cartoon and video games characters, who pull off insanely impossible moves with an unrelenting dedication to the kayfabe and absurdity of professional wrestling.
But here in our own world, the closest we can get to that is CHIKARA. Recently featured in a great piece by Rolling Stone, CHIKARA is one of the professional wrestling’s greatest underdog cult phenomena. CHIKARA was founded in Philadelphia in 2002 by two of the late 90’s biggest indie wrestlers, “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush and Reckless Youth. Ironically, despite competing in some of North America’s most violent and bloody promotions, CHIKARA is perhaps the most kid friendly and PG promotion you’ll find. Their effective use of humour, off the wall characters, and stunning American indie and lucha libre wrestling feels like if Robert Crumb and Hunter S. Thompson got together after a long night of hallucinogenic binge partying and decided to write a legitimate kids story about wrestling. Quackenbush is one of the world’s most respected trainers and industry minds – earlier this year, he was invited to be a guest speaker at the WWE Performance Center to talk to the new recruits. Ricochet, arguably one of the best wrestlers on the planet right now (who also performs as Prince Puma in Lucha Underground), was trained by CHIKARA legend (and current Evolve Tag Team Champion) DUSTIN (aka Chuck Taylor – don’t ask. It’s a long story.), and earned his early dues in the promotion before emerging as a bona fide megastar.
In 2007, CHIKARA presented the 3-day event known as King of Trios. The premise was simple. For three days at the end of the summer, they would host a trios team tournament featuring 3-people units from CHIKARA’s roster, plus guest squads featuring some of the best independent talent from around the world. Over the years, King of Trios have attracted an impressive list of both indie and former WWE Superstars to the tournament, such as AJ Styles, The Young Bucks, Motor City Machine Guns, Tommy Dreamer, X-Pac, Jerry Lynn, Sami Zayn, Daniel Bryan, and Haku, amongst others. And don’t think that CHIKARA relies on this outside talent. They’re merely bonuses for one of the most entertaining roster of characters on any show period. From the mesmerizing malleability of Ophidian, to the years long saga of The Colony (a collective of wrestlers dressed as ants), to Mantaur’s distant relative The Proletariat Boar of Moldova, to Los Ice Creams (a team of ice cream cone enthusiasts, that once harboured a young Cesaro). In CHIKARA, there isn’t a women’s division because the women wrestle right alongside the men, long before Lucha Underground did it. In December of 2015, CHIKARA became the first major (non-female only) promotion in the world to crown a woman it’s highest championship, when Princess KimberLee (an indie star who cut her teeth in CZW, Shine and Shimmer) beat CHIKARA Grand Champion Hallowicked for CHIKARA’s top prize.
This year’s King of Trios once again promises three days of mirthful mayhem, when KoT returns to Easton, Pennsylvania this weekend, kicking off on Friday September 2 with Night One. Lots of great CHIKARA match-ups (or is it mismatch-ups?) as the opening night throws all 16 trios teams into the first round of the tournament.
One opening round match-up features former CHIKARA Grand Champion Princess KimberLee teaming with Oleg the Usurper and ThunderFrog against Team CWC, a solid trio featuring recent WWE Cruiserweight Classic standouts Johnny Gargano (NXT, Evolve, PWG), Cedric Alexander (Evolve, Ring of Honor), and Drew Gulak (Evolve, PWG). One of Johnny Gargano and Cedric Alexander’s final indie appearances, as they’re both now heading to WWE and Raw‘s new Cruiserweight Division, as announced on last night’s edition of Raw.
In a test of New Era vs. Old School in women’s revolutions, Shimmer sends a trio featuring Crazy Mary Dobson (who is also now NXT bound), Candice LeRae (the vagina plex partner of Joey Ryan) and Solo Darling to face a unit of former WWE Women’s Champions Mickie James, Victoria and Jazz. This has all the potential to be the sleeper match of the first round.
Night Two continues Saturday September 3 with the trios tournament as well as kicks off the Rey de Voladores tournament, a singles competition that begins with two 4-Way Eliminator matches. While all 8 entrants haven’t been fully revealed yet, they do include some exciting names.
One of Lucha Underground and AAA‘s most sensational aerialists, Aerostar, as well as another WWE Cruiserweight Classic stand-out, current Evolve star Anthony Nese. Oh, and this guy.
Third night wraps up the tournament on Sunday September 4 with the crowning of the 2016 King of Trios Champions.
WWE has it’s Wrestlemania, NJPW has Wrestle Kingdom, PWG has Battle of Los Angeles, and CHIKARA has King of Trios. If you’ve never experienced CHIKARA before, this is the perfect weekend to get on board.
Main Photo: chikarapro.com