Guest-Blogger Terry Willitts on Chikara Tampa – Just Shadows in the Fog

1Tampa TheFogHey folks, Glenn Walker here.  My buddy Terry Willitts is a huge wrestling fan, and a terrific writer, and since he attended the two recent Florida Chikara events, and we cover the sport here at BBP, we figured we’d let him tell you all about it.  Take it away, Terry! 

Chikara Pro wrestling is a promotion founded in 2002 and is based out of Philadelphia, PA. They describe their product as “American Lucha”, a blend of American Pro Wrestling and Mexican Lucha Libre. As such, there is a focus on technical wrestling, high-flying, over-the-top theatrics and characters, many of whom wear masks (a staple of Lucha Libre.)

For years, they have primarily toured the Northeast and Mid-West, but gradually have been extending their range. This was the first time they’d ever come to Florida and there was no way I was going to miss it! More after the jump…

4Tampa orpheum poster“Just Shadows in the Fog” – Tampa FL

They always have some of the neatest titles for their events and this is the perfect example. March 8th couldn’t get here soon enough, but it did and I made the approximately ninety-minute drive to attend the show.

Ybor City is the hot, happening entertainment district of downtown Tampa. A bunch of small streets with lots of restaurants and nightclubs and stores, with a large cineplex within walking distance. Doors were scheduled to open at 7:00pm, and by time I arrived at 6:40pm, the line was already one block long.

The Orpheum is a nightclub that hosts a lot of concerts and other events from food and music to cultural events to, yes, pro wrestling. While this was the first Chikara event, other promotions, such as Full Impact Pro and a new ladies’ wrestling company, Shine have regular events there.

6Tampa lineWaiting in line, I got a lot of attention for my Major League Wrestling shirt – a wrestling federation that visited Florida several times back in 2003, before closing in 2004. Conversation about MLW and other feds (including Chikara) passed the time as we waited til 7pm… then 7:15pm… it wasn’t until after the planned 7:30pm bell time that the line started moving.

Having purchased a “ringside” (rows 2-3) seat, I found myself seated on the stage; being in a nightclub, the ring was set up on the dance floor. Seats were arranged on the floor in front of the stage, as well around the other three sides of the ring. Though we were a little further from the area around the ring (thus harder to high-five the wrestlers as they made their entrances and exits), being elevated on a stage did give us a better view.

The crowd was rowdy and excited. Chikara is an all-ages show, so we had young kids, teenagers, and adults present. Once the seats started filling up, Brendan O’Donnell (the self-proclaimed “Chikara concierge”) came out to hype the card, running down the matches for us, and introducing Gavin Loudspeaker, the ring announcer.

7Tampa crowd at the merch tableGavin began listing the rules of the event, reminding us that Chikara is family-friendly, so watch our language, and to have fun. Then he kicked it off, as he does at every Chikara event, by playing a song for us. Many times it’s done to the tune of a popular song, but if that was the case, I didn’t recognize it – but it was about Chikara coming to Tampa, and the wrestlers and so on. Good fun and the crowd was having fun already.

Even the ubiquitous loud, obnoxious drunk guy in the crowd wasn’t that bad – in fact, he was a lot of fun. He was a fan, knew the product, and the group I was seated with on the stage had fun cheering with him when we did, and against him when we did. There was even a “You’re a drunkard” chant at one point!

Soldier Ant addressing the troops
Soldier Ant addressing the troops

There were eight matches, starting with a four tag-team elimination match, which was hot and got the crowd excited. Lots of high flying moves, fast action. The first fun chant of the night began when we chanted “This is awkward” as the final two teams were the “Dream Team” of The Shard and Jigsaw (who recently turned heel, or villain, by turning on perennial favorite Mike Quackenbush, so nobody was rooting for them) and the F.I.S.T. duo of Sugar Dunkerton (a face, or fan favorite) and the heel Icarus. The chant started up when Sugar, who had been taking a beating from the Dream Team, finally tagged in his partner and we found ourselves rooting for the usually-loathed Icarus!

I’m not here to spoil any more than I have to, but I encourage you to get the official mp4 or DVD releases at SmartMark Video, or watch them on demand at their VOD site, SMVOD.COM when they’re available (likely early April.)

Saturyne going high
Saturyne going high

All the matches were great, whether it was the return of Sean Waltman (former WWE superstar X-pac) against Chikara generation one wrestler Hallowicked, or the best out of three falls Campeonatos de Parejas (tag team championships) match where the massive Devastation Corporation challenged the newly crowned two-time champs of Scott “Jagged” Parker and Shane “Big Magic” Matthews (known collectively as “3.0”). Other matches highlighted the comedy antics of “Marchie Archie”, Archibald Peck (who spent half his match running from his opponent, the demonic Obariyon) and the high impact match between Johnny Gargano and Gran Akuma (formerly tag team partners under the banner of F.I.S.T.)

Max Smashmaster going for a moonsault
Max Smashmaster going for a moonsault

For me, the highlight of the night was the introduction of three new Ants; Chikara has a long-standing faction called The Colony that has had multiple members over the years, as well as a recent rival faction of Ants called The Swarm. Last year, Wink Vavasseur, the “Director of Fun” (the Chikara equivalent to the General Managers of the WWE, the DoF is the in-story person in charge of running the show) broke up The Colony of Soldier Ant, Fire Ant and Green Ant when he removed Soldier Ant and placed him in The Swarm! The partner of CombatANT and DeviANT, the blue-suited AssailANT, was transferred to The Colony in turn.

For the Tampa show, it had been announced that Soldier Ant was leading a team of three wrestlers of his choosing, but not whom they were. There had been much speculation if some previous performers were going to return, or someone new was joining the ranks of Chikara… and it turned out to be a new group of three Ants, the Colony: Xtreme Force of Arctic Rescue Ant, Orbital Adventure Ant and Missile Assault Ant! These three Ants stole the show with their antics (no pun intended), especially Arctic Rescue Ant, who had the crowd chanting his name, much to Soldier Ant’s dismay. (Soldier Ant is a bit more serious than his three new recruits.)

The main event was former TNA knockout Awesome Kong/WWE Diva Kharma, back to wrestling under her original name of Amazing Kong against the Chikara Grand Champion, Eddie Kingston in a non-title match. (Oh, yes, in Chikara, the women wrestle the men!) The match was good and hard-hitting, but I suspect due to the late start, it was cut short, as it seemed to end suddenly, almost unexpectedly. Even as it was, it was almost 11:30 PM by time we left The Orpheum.

~~~~

Terry Willitts has been a geek for over four decades and isn’t stopping soon. He lives in Florida, where he works at the West Volusia Humane Society, a non-profit no-kill animal shelter, and spends his free time reading, writing, role-playing and watching TV, movies, and yes, pro wrestling. You can follow him on Twitter here: @cr8dv8.

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