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Cook: Two Strikes, CHIKARA’s Out

In the wake of allegations against Mike Quackenbush, CHIKARA has been shut down. Steve Cook offers his perspective on wrestling’s (former) fun zone.

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In the wake of allegations against Mike Quackenbush, CHIKARA has been shut down. Steve Cook offers his perspective on wrestling’s (former) fun zone.

CHIKARA was supposed to be a different world from pro wrestling.

It was many things to many different people. For parents, it was a family friendly show that they could feel comfortable taking their children to. There wasn’t blood & guts or offensive language or stories to deal with. For kids, it was a fun world of outlandish characters, many with colorful costumes & cool masks. As for people in their 20s without kids, as I was during the time CHIKARA became an Internet favorite, it featured some really fun wrestling matches with some interesting storylines.

I have some very fond memories of CHIKARA. When they finally came close enough to my residence in 2012, I went to a show with a fellow offtheteam.com poster. It was a great time, and an opportunity to see some of my favorite wrestlers that I hadn’t seen live before. The wrestlers were very friendly, I even remember striking up a conversation with Dasher Hatfield due to my Reds hat. I also remember the venue being nice enough to serve mixed drinks. It was a good night of wrestling.

I also remember hearing Larry Csonka’s stories about his daughter’s love of CHIKARA. She wasn’t much into the other five hundred wrestling promotions that Larry would review for 411, but CHIKARA really struck her fancy. If only I had a car capable of making the trip down to Kingsport, Tennessee, my first meeting with the Csonkas could have been at a CHIKARA show. Sadly, I did not. I still don’t, as wrestling writing isn’t the most lucrative of careers unless you’re Matt Brock or Elizabeth Hunter and have written for the same magazine for fifty years.

Unlike most wrestling promotions during the late 2000s & early 2010s, CHIKARA was steadily growing. Their events were getting bigger with each “season”. More and more of pro wrestling’s best made their way to the fed. The King of Trios events were full of wrestlers you never would have expected to see in a CHIKARA ring when Quackenbush & Reckless Youth opened a wrestling school in 2002. Whatever Quackenbush was doing, it was working. He seemed like he had his finger on the pulse of his audience more than any other independent wrestling booker/promoter out there.

Then it all ended. The first time.

June 2, 2013 saw CHIKARA’s fourth iPPV, and their last event for nearly a year. The main event saw CHIKARA’s “Director of Fun” Wink Vavasseur shut down the show, and that was it. No more CHIKARA. Well…kinda. Suddenly, all these “Wrestling Is” promotions popped up. Wrestling Is Cool. Wrestling is Heart. It continued with Intense, Art, Respect, Awesome & Fun. They featured various CHIKARA wrestlers along with local wrestlers from the areas where the feds were promoted.

I can’t tell you a lot about what happened there because I didn’t watch any of them. A large part of it was laziness. Who had the time to follow all of these new promotions? I sure didn’t. I liked CHIKARA, but quite honestly it was easier to fill that void with something other than seven independent wrestling feds.

And as it turns out, once that void gets filled, the previous owner can’t take it back. When CHIKARA came back, I was happy that people had somewhere to work. Did I get back into it? Not really. I had other stuff going on. A lot of us did. It wasn’t out of a place of hate, though I must admit that the circumstances behind CHIKARA’s disappearance seemed a little fishy. I must also admit that I didn’t buy the story fed to wrestling media that it was a big storyline, and felt somewhat insulted by Mike Quackenbush’s insistence at the time that the people that didn’t get it and tuned out weren’t a big loss.

I’ve interacted with Mike Quackenbush a number of times via social media. Can’t say anything bad about the guy from my personal dealings. Very insistent on kayfabe. I was a huge fan of his in-ring work. Dude was as solid a wrestler as there was back in the day. I can’t personally speak on anything past that, but have I heard some weird stories? You betcha.

There were some interesting rumors floating around back in 2013 when CHIKARA closed the first time. Reasons there wasn’t as much money available to CHIKARA. Nothing that was ever confirmed, but, as it turns out, pretty similar to the type of stuff we’re talking about here in 2020. And, to be honest, those stories seem more plausible now as we’re able to connect more dots.

One trend that keeps popping up in this movement: the people that professed to be the most in favor of equality, fairness & inclusiveness keep being revealed as the opposite. CHIKARA was all about Equal Rights & Equal Fights. Kimber Lee even won their Grand Championship at one point. CHIKARA helped influence women to get into the business, gave women a platform, and trained a number of women.

Now, we find out that CHIKARA wasn’t as different from the rest of pro wrestling as we thought. On-screen, it was a magical world where the strangest things could happen in a pro wrestling ring and it all made sense to its audience. Off-screen…well, things were strange, but not in a magical way. A lot of the same things we’ve been hearing about the past few days happened there, and the owner was either the cause or part of the problem. No matter how well-spoken or knowledgeable Mike Quackenbush may be, it’s going to be tough for him to squirm his way out of this one.

CHIKARA is dead. Presumably for good this time.

While its creator & some of his students may have been bad actors, the company still produced a lot of great talent. Hopefully that great talent will be able to produce something better for the wrestling business going forward. Now that people are Speaking Out and being heard, hopefully CHIKARA’s demise can lead to something like what Mike Quackenbush claimed his promotion to be all along.

Wrestling needs a fun place.


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NXT Minus 6: I Agree With Ciampa

From Ciampa & Thatcher to Kushida, from Joe to… Imperium? This week’s NXT Minus 6 has it all. So read it. And enjoy!

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WWE NXT KUSHIDA Kyle O'Reilly

From Ciampa & Thatcher to Kushida, from Joe to… Imperium? This week’s NXT Minus 6 has it all. So read it. And enjoy!

Leave it to Old Man Ciampa to say what we’re all thinking.

WWE NXT: Samoa Joe Returns as William Regal's Enforcer | WrestlingWorld
6. I’m really hoping Samoa Joe is eventually cleared for an in-ring return. If he isn’t, then teasing matches with everybody from Pete Dunne to Johnny Gargano is cruel and unusual punishment. Don’t get me wrong. His start as William Regal’s enforcer was great, but that’s not why he came back. It’s not Joe Will Threaten You And Make You Leave The Room. Joe…Will…Kill…You.  

WWE NXT on Twitter: ""We are hereby officially challenging for the #WWENXT #TagTeamTitles. We are IMPERIUM, and to us the mat is 𝙨𝙖𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙙." - @Marcel_B_WWE & @FabianAichner Hear that, @SuperKingofBros & #TimothyThatcher?…

5. Is anybody else upset that Imperium is stuck in tag team no man’s land? They are such a non-factor right now it feels like they are on the edge of a breakup. That would make me sad. I’m a big fan of Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel. I think they would do fine as individuals, but as a team they still have a lot to accomplish. 

MSK Win Vacant WWE NXT Tag Team Championships | Cultaholic

4. Dear MSK, I’ve booked your July. You say tag team wrestling is the best division in NXT and the best tag team division anywhere, and you are going to prove it. Each week in July, you put the belts on the line against a different team. But wait…There’s more. After you defeat everybody, those four teams get to compete in a fatal 4-way, winner gets a rematch at Takeover.   

Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher vs. Grizzled Young Veterans – Tornado Tag Match: WWE NXT, June 15, 2021 | WWE

3. After Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher put the boots (more on that in a minute) to Grizzled Young Veterans, Ciampa looked at the camera and growled “This was my Takeover.” I agree. That match was my Takeover, too. It was better than anything In Your House. Just a crazy, brutal match that I’m giving 4.7 stars. But it doesn’t stop here. There’s only one way to end this feud…the first ever tag team match in the Fight Pit.

Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher, Grizzled Young Veterans trade barbs: WWE NXT, May 25, 2021 - YouTube

2. Now about those boots. One of my biggest wrestling peeves is when a tag team doesn’t have a proper name. It’s clear that Thatcher & Ciampa are not a passing fad. They deserve a name. None of this half assed Thatcher-Ciampa Connection. I’ve always wanted to name a team The Boots, as in “We are going to put the boots to you boys.” Honorable mention goes to Pit Boss. If you have something better, drop it in the comment section. 

WWE NXT: Kushida Wins Cruiserweight Championship | WrestlingWorld

1. This week’s That’s Why I Love Wrestling goes to…KUSHIDA! Specifically, KUSHIDA’s floatover. I’m a big fan of any wrestler who can elevate a basic move into something special. KUSHIDA’s floatover is a helicopter propeller. He looks like he could spin on his opponent’s back until the end of the show. Mastery of the little things turns good to great. That is exactly why KUSHIDA is one of the greats. 


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WWE Hell In A Cell: The End Of Main Event Bob?

Could WWE Hell In The Cell signify the end of Bobby Lashley’s main event run? Read on to see if the odds are in Bob’s favor.

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Bobby Lashley

Could WWE Hell In The Cell signify the end of Bobby Lashley’s main event run?

WWE Hell In A Cell takes place this Sunday on NBC Universal’s Peacock, the former WWE Network (in the US), and on pay-per-view and other outlets all over the globe.

One of the highlighted matches features Bobby Lashley defending his WWE Championship against Drew McIntyre inside the demonic Hell In A Cell structure, keeping Drew within the WWE Championship picture for eighteen straight months now, a fact that isn’t lost on most fans or even Drew himself.

But the looming question in my mind doesn’t deal with Drew, but the reigning titleholder himself, Bobby Lashley.

Bobby Lashley’s ascension to the top of the WWE comes at what is obviously the tail end of a 20-year wrestling career that has seen this phenomenal athlete compete for WWE itself, Impact Wrestling, AAA, even MMA sprints including Bellator, and ultimately WWE once again. His most recent run included feuds with Sami Zayn, Rusev and Lana, and a stint being managed by the now retired Lio Rush that are most remembered for all the wrong reasons. Before WrestleMania 37, where Lashley basically beat Drew McIntyre clean, he was essentially quashed by Finn Balor’s Demon at WrestleMania 35 and lost to the since released Aleister Black at WrestleMania 36 (held in the WWE Performance Center, not the home of the Capitol Wrestling Center).

But at the start of the global pandemic, MVP entered the picture and created The Hurt Business, a vehicle that—at the time—helped the careers of Lashley, Shelton Benjamin, and Cedric Alexander. The Hurt Business was on top of the proverbial world, holding mid-card championships and being involved in high profile storylines. But it wasn’t until the end of the Elimination Chamber build where The Miz “made a deal with the devil” to set Drew McIntyre up for his Money In The Bank cash-in. Months and years of hard work finally paid off—Bobby Lashley was WWE Champion.

After taking the Fastlane pay-per-view off, Lashley was headed to the WrestleMania 37 showdown with the main who carried the WWE back at the start of the pandemic. Drew McIntyre won the title from Brock Lesnar in front of no one at WrestleMania 36, leading many to believe that Drew could emerge victorious in Tampa Bay as a “make good” for his push not culminating in front of a WrestleMania stadium crowd. Many, including myself, were pleasantly surprised when Bobby Lashley left WrestleMania 37 as champion, doing so in relatively clean fashion.

Hell In A Cell is now the blow-off point for McIntyre and Lashley, with the rule that if Bobby Lashley loses, Drew McIntyre cannot challenge Lashley for the WWE Championship again. That begs a bigger question: Is this the end of the road for Bobby Lashley as a top guy in WWE?

According to the odds from SportsBettingDime, Bobby Lashley (-250) is expected to retain his championship in his match against Drew McIntyre. And I personally hope they’re right!

I said it on this week’s Babyface/Heel Podcast, I fully expect the loser of this match to end up on Smackdown after the next WWE Draft and be used as an opponent for Roman Reigns. Drew McIntyre is the most logical choice based on the hero/villain alignment, and him feeling like he has “unfinished business” with Roman after the 2020 Survivor Series.

Personally, I’d be betting on the side of the odds, with Lashley retaining. WWE has two full time brands, and Lashley fits at the top of the card. Despite his age (44) I think Bobby has another 2-3 good years left, and he is peaking as a character in a character driven environment. Raw is the perfect environment for Bobby Lashley to build babyface challengers and still walk out champion. Much like Roman Reigns, the best scenario is for Bobby to walk into WrestleMania 38 the same way he walked into WrestleMania 37—as WWE Champion.


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