Welcome wrestling fans, and join me as I introduce you to the fantastical universe of CHIKARA Pro Wrestling.
I want to start by introducing myself, and explaining my background with professional wrestling. I’m a child of the late 80s, being a wee tyke in the early 1990s meant that I caught just the end of Hulk-A-Mania and was captivated by the The Ultimate Warrior. After a small accident involving a toy wrestling ring, professional wrestling was persona non grata and forbidden in my home. Professional Wrestling was always in the pop culture periphery, but it was something I had forgotten. Instead, I became a comic book fan, drawn in by DC Comics and Batman specifically. My childhood was filled with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, the DC Animated Universe, the Marvel Animated Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and the countless…homages), and so much more. Something changed in the year 2000, though. My cousin obtained WWF SmackDown 2: Know Your Role for the Sony PlayStation. Many an hour were spent, the two of us playing together, and with that I was reintroduced to Professional Wrestling. My attention became focused on The Undertaker, this tattooed biker, his entrance music introduced by some sort of scene from a horror movie with little girls asking “Are you scared?”, and him storming his way to the ring on motorcycle. Over the coming years, I became a fan of Professional Wrestling once again, and a die hard fan of the WWF/WWE product.
My love for the WWE really began to change in the last several years, though. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment, when the WWE was good…it was REALLY good. The WWE had a flair for production values from top to bottom that has always managed to propel their storytelling to new heights, but when it was bad? It was REALLY bad. I was always willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt, and kept coming back to the relationship, but then things took a turn at WrestleMania XXX, and with the loss of The Undertaker’s streak, the magic was gone.
Around that same time, a wrestling company from Pennsylvania was taking risks in storytelling, the likes of which Professional Wrestling may never see again. From my good friends at Panels On Pages, and one of their fine podcasts; PoPCast Wrestling (PCW), I heard first about CHIKARA. There was time travel, an evil antagonist, an almost year long shut-down of the promotion-that the promotion adhered to for the purpose of the story, and a DeLorean. This? This was commitment. Commitment to story, a commitment to nerdery, and above all, a commitment to the promotion’s fans. Suddenly, the magic was back.
I’ve since subscribed to CHIKARAtopia, and taken a class taught by the incomparable Mike Quackenbush, but CHIKARA is so much more than that. Below are the things that make CHIKARA an invaluable promotion in the world of Professional Wrestling and worth your time.
CHIKARA as a promotion has a roster full of unique wrestlers. Looking at CHIKARA standbys like Dasher Hatfield, and Ophidian for example (and believe me, there’s much more), who feel like they’ve been ripped from the pages of Silver Age Comic Books in the best way possible. Their very existence is a love letter to the very things that make comics fun. As performers, their characters have a way of drawing you in beyond wrestling and the action in the ring. When you watch someone like Ophidian use his hypnosis to gain the upper hand against an opponent, it doesn’t feel like wrestling. It feels like you’re a child reading something out of Lee & Ditko. CHIKARA has its own universe and mythology rich with trolls, demons, and mad scientists. Other wrestlers in CHIKARA have found a way to capture what made wrestling fun in the 1980s and 1990s, and the highlight of all this is just how they’re able to breathe fresh air into this level of story and its characters without ever feeling derivative. When you’re blessed with a bonus match that involves Mr. Azerbaijan, it’s a fun nod to the ‘evil foreigners’ characters of the 1980s without being harmful or stereotypical.
I’ve watched WWE for 18 years, and for The Wrestling Time Machine, I’ve now watched a LOT of World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, and let me tell you…Some of it is NOT GOOD. I’ve watched CHIKARA for 3 seasons (and yes, I’m also watching past seasons), and I’ve yet to see a bad match. Mike Quackenbush and his trainers at The Wrestle Factory impart their massive knowledge to their passionate students, and the result is matches that leave you breathless.
Above, I mentioned the commitment that CHIKARA has had to storytelling. While the above story, ‘Ashes’ may have been the promotion taking storytelling to the extreme, the promotion still commits to storytelling in a way that is genuine above all else. You’re made to feel for the characters and the gamut of emotions that come with the stories. Recently, CHIKARA introduced Merlock, a monster of the sub-oceanic depths to its roster. Since his introduction, Merlock has run roughshod over the ranks of the promotion, an unstoppable behemoth that doesn’t care about points, wins or losses, but only about destruction. Through his rampage, Merlock rattled the fins of resident tag team, The Sea Stars (Ashley Vox & Delmi Exo) and their dear friend Jawselyn. Without spoiling too much, what followed was an intense story about the depths one will go when facing monsters from the abyss, and the rise of a new, dark and dominant force in CHIKARA.
Season 16 saw the rise of Hallowicked and his HeXed Men reigning supreme over CHIKARA’s roster with the help of an otherworldly and ancient demon by the name Nazmaldun, the effects of which are still rippling through CHIKARA today, in season 19. Their reign of terror saw the demise of The Colony, CHIKARA’s resident insect population with the sole survivor, and hottest property in Professional Wrestling, Fire Ant. Fire Ant now deals with the loss of his former compatriots, and is now having to come to terms with new Ants popping up in CHIKARA.
What makes CHIKARA especially easy to get into, is jumping on points. Look at Marvel & DC comics, they’re constantly rebooting their lines & universes in an effort to create these points for new readers. CHIKARA has concrete seasons that you can access at any time through CHIKARAtopia.
These are all just some examples of the fine storytelling in CHIKARA. The stories of the CHIKARAverse are emotional, but don’t rely on hackneyed writing and lazy broad tropes. The wrestlers and crew of CHIKARA able to bring a level of depth and fantasy to their stories that most others simply can’t compare to.
CHIKARA is a family friendly promotion, and they’re able to do everything we’ve already talked about without curse words, or overly adult themes. Many die hard WWE fans have been disillusioned by the fact that the WWE has since gone “PG”. This decision, to many, has flown in the face of what in their minds made The WWE great, and allowed The WWE to prevail as the victor from The Monday Night Wars. The other side of that, is that many WWE characters and stories are cringe-worthy, and don’t always age well in today’s climate. Many WWE characters as recently as 2015 (and even still moving forward) have been based on bad, and broad stereotypes. WWE still toes the line between kid friendly, versus edgy, and at times tries to please too many people at once. You may have segments or stories directed at mature fans, followed by something that’s clearly for their younger fans. When put in such close proximity, this can mean that neither is very good by comparison to the other, and can often times make portions of the product feel forced. CHIKARA on the other hand has prided itself in being family friendly, and has always been about creating an open and safe environment, in which Professional Wrestling is meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
I can’t stress enough that you don’t need to be in an abusive relationship with another Professional Wrestling promotion. You don’t need to be spite watching a certain wrestling, because that’s what you’ve always done. You’re free to try other wrestling, and CHIKARA is a good place to start.
If you’re a comic fan, who’s looking for something new, something different, and you’re tired of grimdark edgelord storytelling in your comics and comic book TV, CHIKARA is worth your attention. CHIKARA is magical and delightful.
You can sign up for CHIKARAtopia with a 7 day free trial and figure out if it’s right for you. Beyond the trial, it’s an affordable $7.99 per month. CHIKARAtopia gives you access to their entire library and exclusive content.