Chikara The Renaissance Dawns
May 25th, 2002
St. John’s Auditorium in Allentown, Pennsylvania
I’ve become a big fan of Chikara recently and have been watching through all of their Season 13 shows at a quick pace. Prior to that I have seen a handful of matches from the promotion online and attended the Season 12 show, “Watchmaker”. I love the well-developed storylines, interesting characters, and mix of lucha libre, technical, and high flying wrestling quite a lot and so I’ve decided to go back and start watching the promotion from the beginning. Having read up on the promotion I already know it doesn’t really get its footing until the 3rd or 4th season, but I’m going to make my way through it all and I hope you’ll follow along with me. I will be reviewing the digital Smart Mark Video version of the first show which can be purchased here: http://www.smartmarkvideo.com/digital/chikara-pro/chikara-may-25-2002-the-renaissance-dawns-allentown-pa-download.html
The promotion started as a way for students of Mike Quackenbush and Tom Carter’s wrestling school, The Wrestle Factory, to get some experience working in front of a crowd. The first Chikara show, “The Renaissance Dawns”, would be held in the St. John’s Auditorium in Allentown, Pennsylvania on May 25, 2002.
Dragonfly vs. Mr. ZERO
These two get the honors of opening up the very first show for the promotion. Both students of The Wrestle Factory, they would both wrestle on and off for Chikara throughout its history. Sadly I can’t quite understand the name of the referee for the match, sounded like Mike Pollrad, but I have no idea if that is right. Another interesting thing about Chikara is how as it’s evolved over the years, long term referee’s in the promotion have even developed their own personalities and usually receive quite a welcoming each time they enter the ring.
The “middle aged business tyrant”, Mr. Zero enters first. A 5’7” man wearing a rubber mask to look like a mostly bald, glasses wearing businessman. He comes to the ring in a business suit, carrying a big coffee mug and a newspaper. Quite the interesting choice for the first character to appear in Chikara. “The high flying masked marvel,” Dragonfly, enters next, a 6’1” skinny guy in a Blue and Green costume and mask somewhat resembling Jushin Thunder Liger.
The match starts with some very basic chain wrestling, headlock, arm bar, headlock takedown, etc, Mr. ZERO does add a nice touch by adjusting his tie as Dragonfly has him in an arm bar. I just noticed this show has no commentary, at least during this match, will have to see if that continues throughout. Dragonfly gets off a nice arm drag and dropkick on Mr. ZERO, before the business man resorts to an eye rake and powerslam. More arm drags and dropkicks by Dragonfly follow before it’s back to a headlock for a bit. The match continues in this fashion, a couple power moves from ZERO, a couple quick moves from Dragonfly. You can definitely tell this is a match between two debuting wrestlers. Zero gets Dragonfly in a camel clutch and precedes to read the Wall Street journal he brought with him in a bit of a cute spot.
His obsession with his Wall Street Journal leads to Dragonfly almost pinning him with a roll up a little bit later in the match. Dragonfly gets another near pinfall off a nice hop up onto Zero’s shoulder into a roll up. Eventually Dragonfly gets punched off the ring apron (which is only about 2 feet off the ground), and this leads to a bit of brawling outside the ring. Back into the ring and a missed top rop dropkick by Dragonfly leads to another near pinfall. Some running dropkicks and leaping elbows lead to Dragonfly regaining control and hitting a tornado DDT onto the top rope, followed by a leaping bulldog from the ring apron back into the ring. The finish comes as ZERO gets an overhead suplex, followed by a nasty looking hat rack crack on Dragonfly to win the very first match in the promotion (11:29). These guys were green, very green, but there weren’t any real botches although the action moved very slow and tentatively at times. I’d say about a 1/2 star, you can see shades of the kind of action that Chikara will be known for in the future as it had comedy, high flying, and technical wrestling, just not very well put together.
Mike Quackenbush Interview
The crowd is pretty large for an initial show for a promotion. Mike Quackenbush heads to the ring to give a brief introduction to the promotion before building for the main event of the show. The Gold Bond Mafia (CM Punk, Chris Hero, and Colt Cabana) are apparently being disruptive in the back, and out comes an angry Punk, jawing with the fans in the audience as he gets in the ring and proceeds to talk about how much better the Midwest is than the East Coast. Punk lures Quackenbush in for a handshake and then Hero and Cabana jump him from behind and the beatdown is on until Don Montoya and Reckless Youth come to the rescue and The GBM rush out of the ring and to the back of the crowd. Montoya talks about the super bowl and how an East Coast team apparently won that year, and this leads to the setup of the main event and what will be the first Chikara Trios match. Reckless Youth gets some mic time as well, pumping up the crowd by telling them they will beat the GBM for their East Coast honor. The Chikara team leaves and Punk grabs the mic again for some more talk about how they will win the match. I guess this was fine to set up the first main event in Chikara and did give the most well-known names on the show a bit of mic time, but it did drag at times. Punk was not the master of promos in those days, but whatever the match should be good.
The Beauty and the Beast (Marshall Law & Love Bug) vs. The Night Shift (Hallowicked & Ichabod Slayne)
Marshall Law and Love Bug are a couple of indie wrestlers who didn’t wrestle for Chikara much, while Hallowicked and Ichabod Slayne of course are still with Chikara today (Slayne now known as Icarus). “The Dark Minion of the Underworld” Hollowicked and “The Evil Zombie from the Grave” Ichabod Slayne enter first. Hollowicked has a green demonic mask with a green pumpkin stem coming from the top of it, pretty much the same as he wears today, while Slayne has a black mask with a ghostly white outlined mouth and eyes on it. Marshall Law and Love Bug are two big boys with shiny red shirts, Marshall Law having a state trooper hat on as well. Sadly they take off the shiny shirts for the match and we are underway. 26:10.
Law and Bug start off in control with some double teaming on The Night Shift, forcing them to regroup outside the ring after stereo atomic drops. Slayde reenters the ring and Law and Bug continue to double team him with attacks. Law eventually leaves the ring, and then The Night Shift get the opportunity to double team Bug for a bit. Nothing too memorable happens for a while. The Night Shift continue to work over Bug behind the refs back as Law jaws with him. Slayde gets a leg scissored ankle lock on Bug for a bit, and then Hallowicked works on him some more before Law gets the hot tag in. He takes out both members of The Night Shift, before tagging Bug back in for some power moves. Law gets tagged back in but The Night Shift escape out of the ring and use their speed to lure Law near the ropes for a double team drop along the top rope and some out of the ring beating up of Law follows. Slayde and Hallowicked take turns running the ropes and jumping on law with foot stomps for a bit until it’s back to one on one with Slayde in control of Law. The camera is in a pretty bad spot for this match as most of the time it’s just staring at Bug’s back as he blocks the view of whatever is going on in the ring. Hallowicked drops Slayde in a burning hammer across Law in a nice spot and then some more tugging at limbs on the downed opponent. Finally another hot tag, this time to Bug who gives each member of The Night Shift running elbows, his offense doesn’t last too long before The Night Shift catches him in the corner with a spear from Hallowicked followed by a leaping elbow off Hallowicked’s back by Slayde, but Bug catches Slayde in the follow-up hurricanrana attempt and sets him up for a powerbomb. Hallowicked tries to save but Law interrupts and ejects him from the ring, and then Law goes up top and knocks Slayde off Law’s shoulders and then Bug puts him in a bow and arrow for the submission victory (12:50). No comedy to be found, but a bit better worked match, probably due to Bug and Law having a bit of experience to lead the match. They looked like the stars of the match, both were pretty agile for men with big guts and Hallowicked and Slayde were incredibly green and didn’t even show shades of what they will become. I’d say * star for the match.
Kid Kruel vs Zane Madrox
Kid Kruel would only wrestle for Chikara a couple times before landing a WWE Developmental deal where he’d wrestle as Mike Kruel. Looks like he got released from his deal in 2009 and has retired from wrestling at that point. Zane Madrox would wrestle for Chikara during the rest of the first season before bouncing around the indies as Skeeter McCoy for a couple years. No title for Kruel, a muscular guy with a buzz cut and black trunks. Madrox comes out to “Absolutely Bill’s Mood” by They Might Be Giants, which is just pur awesomeness as I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song by my favorite band used for entrance music before. He’s a tall pasty white guy with a black evil cowboy hat, and a blue and yellow leotard. He is also eating a small single serving bag of potato chips as he enters. (43:07)
Kruel quickly takes Madrox down and humiliates him with some quick slaps to the back of his head. He lets Madrox back up and they lock up after a bit of circling, leading to Kruel taking Madrox down with a fireman’s carry. Again he lets Madrox back up who catches him in a monkey toss and then clotheslines Kruel out of the ring. Kruel renters the ring and gets a rollup leading to an extended roll up reversal sequence that was quite fluid for the most part, eventually leading to Kruel getting an armbar on the ground on Madrox, before lifting him for a single arm suplex. Kruel continues to work on the heelish offense before Madrox turns things around with a spinebuster followed by a running splash for a two count. Kruel takes control back and hits a top rope elbowdrop, but Madrox kicks out at 2 after a cocky cover. Both men look pretty good throughout the match, with Madrox having a bit of charisma in the way he sells everything he does as hurting both him and his opponent. For example every time he hit a punch, he’d shake his hand out afterwards with a bit of a grimace on his face. The ending sequence comes as Madrox hits a powerbomb, pulls him back up for another powerbomb, lifts him for a sit out burning hammer and then he loses focus and returns to offer his left over potato chips to the ref and some audience members, before trying to offer Kruel them, causing him to get caught in a takedown armbar, leading to the submission victory (10:17). Best match of the show so far, both guys knew what they were doing and weren’t pure rookies. Kind of surprised this Kruel guy never made it past WWE Developmental and this Madrox guy was a lot of fun and would have fit right in with the current Chikara roster. I’d say ** for this one, quite a lot of fun.
Blind Rage vs Ultramantis
Blind Rage and Ultramantis are of course both still with Chikara to this day, although Rage only appears sporadically. Of course this means we have another match before two very green workers. Blind Rage is introduced as “Wrestling’s Goth Rock Monster, just having some drawn on stitches across his face at this point in his career. Ultramanits is introduced as “Part-insect, part-superhero” and has on an open mouthed red and white bug head mask, very different from his current look. That along with a red cape and baggy red pants make up his costume. So I guess Ultramantis is the first anthropomorphic character in Chikara’s history. (56:29)
A nice chain wrestling sequence to start, these two, although green, are light years beyond the other Chikara students on the show so far. The match continues quick and crisp with some lucha arm drags. Some more quick action, and Mantis is in control with a suplex after a blocked head butt. Rage regains control and hits 3 very quick somersault planchas for a 2 count. This match is very reminiscent of a lot of current day Chikara matches, and I’m quite enjoying the action. Back and forth the action goes, each man unable to really take control. Some nice moves throughout, including a very nice sitout double underhook powerbomb by Mantis. Eventually Rage picks up the win after a running sitout razor’s edge, followed by a gordy special (10:31). Quite a fun, quick paced match that would foreshadow what Chikara would become. I’ll give it **1/2.
The Black T-Shirt Squad (Mike Quackenbush, Reckless Youth & Don Montoya) vs The Gold Bond Mafia (CM Punk, Colt Cabana & Chris Hero)
Main Event time and I don’t think I have to give you background on many of these wrestlers. Quackenbush along with Reckless Youth founded the Wrestle Factory and Chikara, and both have wrestled all over the indies, including Ring of Honor. Don Montoya wrestled a lot of indies as well throughout the late 90s and into the 2000s. Of course you should know who Punk, Cabana and Hero are. The Gold Bond Mafia come out to Colt’s Copa Cabana theme music, while Quack’s team comes out to some peppy music that transitions into a weird Japanese samurai music, then back to the peppy music, sounding as if it was stolen from some 80s kung fu movie. As per their team name, they all wear black t-shirts. (13:05)
The GBM give each other all backrubs as the bell rings, and we start with Hero and Quackenbush against each other. Some chain wrestling, before tags bring Reckless Youth and Punk in. Punk charges at Youth before turning back and quickly tagging Cabana in. Some more chain wrestling, with Cabana throwing in a “Heyo” kip-up. Youth keeps coming out on top in the chain wrestling against Cabana, eventually tagging out to Punk after yelling out “This Guy’s Freaky”. Youth tags in Montoya, so everyone has now been in the match. Montoya, does not look like a wrestler, balding overweight guy in a black t-shirt and black tights, who could maybe pass for Abdullah the Butcher’s smaller brother. Somehow he outwrestles Punk to start as so far each member of the Black Shirts has outwrestled their matchup on the GBM. Punk tags out to Hero again, and Cobana talks some shtick in the corner to his partners. Punk tags back in before Hero confronts anyone only to get put down to the mat by Montoya and then tagging out to Hero once more. Quack tags in once more and we’ve got Quack/Hero again. They go for a test of strength, with Quack getting a monkey flip on hero, and then a suplex pin without every breaking the hand holds. Hero finally gets Quack down in a chin lock, but ends up tricking Hero into letting him out through some interesting body positioning. Quack knocks Hero out of the ring and then gets him with a big top rope splash. And we have our first use of lucha rules in Chikara as Youth and Cabana enter the ring to take over the match, Youth again getting the better of Cabana before Montoya and Punk are tagged in once more.
The fans get on Punk’s case with a “CM Chump chant”, and Punk exits the ring to confront them before finally catching Montoya with some stomps and punches in the corner. Punk gets cocky though, and Montoya takes control again with a series of slaps driving Punk into the corner, onto the top rope and half-way to the next corner. A big punch to Punk against the ropes causes Punk to get wrapped up in the two top ropes and an errant dropkick by Hero hits Punk as well. The Black T-Shirt Squad pose by the tied up Punk before Quack and Youth hit him with stereo dropkicks to the head. Cabana and Hero drag Montoya out of the ring and beat him down for a bit to gain control for the first time in the match. The 3 GBM members take turns beating up Montoya in the ring, Montoya gets back control by pantsing Punk, but it only lasts a moment before Cabana tags himself in and resumes control.
We end up with a goody multi-man submission hold involving all 6 entrants of the match submission each other until Montoya breaks out from his hold and just runs into the rest of them breaking the hold in a nice spot. The match has broken down after the submission spot with all 6 participants in the ring battling and the ref having no clue who was legal anymore. The action gets quite quick from this point on with different members taking turns getting near falls, reversing pins and roll ups and hitting quick power and high flying moves all over the place. The ref has given up on picking a legal man at this point as wrestlers just come and go as they please. At some point Youth gets a big tornado DDT outside the ring on Cabana onto the concrete and in a weird camera moment breaks kayfabe to say “I think I broke my back Chris.” Back in the ring Quack and Hero are going at it again, back and forth, bulldog by Quack, Alley Oop into the top turnbuckle by Hero, Sitout Piledriver by Hero, but Quack kicks out at 2.
Hero goes up to finish him but Montoya is back and tosses Hero off the top rope onto Punk and Youth. Cabana and Quack in the ring now, Quack goes for a reverse frankensteiner, but Cabana blocks, Cabana goes for a suplex but Quack blocks, Quack runs the ropes and hops back onto Cabanas shoudlers hitting the reverse frankensteiner and Youth follows it up with the Northern Lights 2K1 on Cabana for the win (30:54). Wonderful match, this match really set the precedent for what Chikara would become. Bringing in 3 of the top indie stars of the time to face off against the 2 co-founders (and Don Montoya) was a great way to end the first show. Quack and Youth really got to show how good they were in their prime, and you can see how their students have carried on their style to this day. I’d go **** for the match and aside from some shoddy camerawork and bad lighting I’d give the main event a recommendation to watch.
The fans give a nice “Chikara” chant after the match and Youth thanks the GBM for coming from Chicago for little pay to do the main event their debut show. He even calls the GBM “The New Shining Stars” of the independents. Cabana and Hero join the Black T-Shirt squad in the ring for the congratulations while Punk looks legitimately pissed at the breaking of kayfabe to end the show, finally though the fans chant his name and he gets in the ring and its handshakes and hugs all around to end the show.
Not a great show by any means but for just $5.99 probably worth it for the main event alone, coupled with the historical context. Overall I’d give this show a mild recommendation. Well I hope you’ve enjoyed this review, took much longer than I thought these things took. I look forward to continuing to watch through Chikara from the beginning, and would love to hear any constructive feedback anyone may have for my writing. Thank you for your time, Ripner.