Though I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, there was an odd excitement in the air as I approached their somewhat unassuming Wrestle Factory in Northeast Philly for my long overdue first live Chikara show, Counting Backwards this past Saturday, November 5th. The enthusiasm continued to be palpable as I entered the arena and took my seat.
Wrestle Factory trainer, Philly native and recent WWE CWC standout Drew Gulak wowed the crowd with strength and stamina in the opening bout against Lucas Calhoun.
Chikara founder Mike Quackenbush addressed the crowd before the first match with an impassioned speech about how longtime fans of the misunderstood art form deserved a better class of wrestling. A bold statement indeed, but by the show’s end I was made into a firm believer.
The afternoon’s main event was a technical submission war of attrition between Zack Sabre, Jr. and Juan Francisco de Coronado. The audience was nearly silent, in awe as the international rising stars twisted each other into unnaturally painful positions, de Coronado gaining the upper hand and forcing the charismatic Englishman to tap, though Sabre still garnered a “Thank you, Zack” chant from the crowd as he exited the arena.
The villainous Big Deal (formerly WWE’s Hornswoggle) made short work (no pun intended) of the virtuous Officer Warren Barksdale.
Other standouts in the card were Heidi Lovelace suffering a huge amount of intense punishment but rebounding to achieve victory alongside Dasher Hatfield against the nefarious Icarus and the former Mr. Touchdown, Mark Angelosetti, and Thunderfrog retaining his Young Lions Cup in a fast paced contest versus unhinged crustacean, the Hermit Crab.
I had so much fun at Counting Backwards that I doubt I’ll miss another show at the Wrestle Factory, and I’m kicking myself for not checking out Chikara in person sooner. Did I say fun? That’s right, fun. Wrestling can be fun, and for all ages (the kids in the crowd being super into everything was one of the most entertaining aspects) without being dumbed down or pandering.
The Sea Stars barely survived their encounter with Closers powerhouse Rick Roland in a four corners tag match.
Team N_R_G_ turn the tables with a devastating double drop kick.
Chikara has tapped into the stunning athleticism and over the top characterization that make pro wrestling great with none of the foolishness and repetition that renders WWE and TNA an embarrassment 90% of the time, and I’m absolutely hooked.
Enjoy this and other awesome shows, and keep up to date with their touring schedule at www.chikarapro.com.
Photos by Megan Hawkey, Words by Kevin Hawkey