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Chikara: An Education in International Wrestling

Chikarasaurus Rex: King of SequelThis past weekend, Chikara held two shows under the banner of Chikarasaurus Rex: King of Sequel. In addition to the homegrown natives who appeared on the card – standout wrestlers like Mike Quackenbush, Eddie Kingston, Jigsaw, UltraMantis Black, Sara del Rey, Green Ant and 3.0 to name a few – there were several choice guest stars as well.

In addition to the American standouts like Colt Cabana and El Generico, Chikara Pro Wrestling managed to bring us imports from various other lands in Mima Shimoda, Johnny Saint, Johnny Kidd, Rey Bucanero, Atlantis, Makoto and Tsukasa Fujimoto. Tacking onto that, they’ve made some pretty big announcements to future guest stars, including current Japanese sensation Kana to appear for the fed in October, and Joshi legends Manami Toyota (making her third appearance for the promotion) and Aja Kong in December for Joshi-Mania.

If you think this influx of international talent is no accident, you’d be correct.

Chikara has had a deep tradition of exposing its fanbase to all kinds of different styles of wrestling over its history. This is no accident, as Quackenbush, the co-founder and head trainer, has explained in a blog this week that was his goal all along. This is an incontrovertible sign that Quack is one of the best promoters in all of indie wrestling, in addition to being a talented wrestler himself. Anyone can run a company and solely use local guys or shoot for the big indie names or WWE/Impact castoffs. You see it all over the country, be it in the super-local promotions or the bigger, closer-to-national stages. Chikara is not unlike those promotions in some ways, and really, it’s not all that bad to feature those kinds of wrestlers. The local/up-and-coming crowd deserves the exposure, and the bigger guys bring in the fans. I would also say that Chikara probably utilizes both those categories the best in the country as well, but that’s besides the point.

Where Chikara excels is the width and breadth of international wrestlers and styles of wrestling they have brought in over the years. Whether it’s the hard hitting classic Joshi, modern junior heavyweight puroresu, traditional lucha libre or even British mat wrestling like what was presented to us with Kidd and Saint, Quack has exposed it all to the Chikara faithful. As a fan of the promotion, you may not have gotten the kind of exposure that longtime fans of those styles have, but you at least got a taste, and more often than not, that taste was from the best that style had to offer.

This approach has created probably the most textured, layered and full-service wrestling experience around today. You go to a Chikara show, and literally there is the potential to see something different with every single match. That’s not true for most other promotions out there, and I’m not just talking about the mainstream feds that people like to bash. Just look at the second half of the card from Saturday’s Night One event in Reading. The first match after intermission pitted Saint against Kidd in a “World of Sport” match, one that heavily featured British mat wrestling and was separated into six rounds of five minutes apiece. The match that immediately followed was a six-woman tag match that was stylistically heavy on the hard-hitting Joshi style from Japan.

After that came the “Flex Express” match, pitting Green Ant against Tursas in what turned out to be a souped-up version of a classic WWF/E main event. Finally, the main event between Quack and Claudio Castagnoli was a classic Chikara staple, a “lucharesu” encounter, mixing traditional Mexican grappling with the Japanese strong-style made famous in the mid-’90s by the stars of All-Japan Pro Wrestling.

All of this means that Chikara really is the ideal venue for the well-rounded wrestling fan, or at least a wrestling fan who is open-minded enough to try new things. It really is a credit to the American indie scene, as it offers a place where everyone is theoretically welcome to work in their own style and not have to worry about pleasing a certain niche fanbase. This niche potentially contains an almost infinite desire to see new and exciting things.

And all the credit for that cultivation goes to Quack and his team behind the scenes for bringing in so many wrestlers who have differing backgrounds, especially those from lands outside the United States. This melting pot has produced some of the finest shows in recent memory, and if pattern holds, especially with their recently announced Joshi-Mania to close the year, then they’ll continue on blazing their path as the best wrestling company in America, bar none.

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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