I can’t remember being this absolutely thrilled by a wrestling show. I mean, I’m sure I must have been, but the sense of occasion combined with the show itself has induced a high that I fear it will be both tough and heartbreaking to recover from it.
The afternoon opened with some cross-promotional pre-show action, primarily staffed by British talent. (Incidentally, I’m fairly sure that ring announcer Joanna Rose didn’t bother actually giving the names of the wrestlers. Was everyone just supposed to know who the wrestlers were? What’s the point of a ring announcer?) It was terrific to see Mark Andrews and Eddie Dennis team together again (as talented as Mandrews is, I maintain he’s at his best when he’s alongside his pal); the one downside was the rather less-than-family-friendly final match of the section, with Jimmy Havoc and Clint Margera renewing their blood feud (thankfully without any blood, but with frying pans and the accompanying language). Good match it might have been, but just felt wrong when preparing to see a CHIKARA show.
It was a terrific show, as well. Some of the folk in the Americas are a little grouchy that they’ve already been spoiled for some of the key results, but as I’m not the type of writer who details every single move and rates matches out of five, I feel I have a little leeway to discuss the in-ring action.
The entire afternoon – and the appeal of CHIKARA – is perhaps best summed up by the fact that at one point I was watching two very handsome men (Drew Gulak and Chuck Taylor) talk to a swamp monster (er, the Swamp Monster) and nothing about it seemed weird at all. I loved seeing the members of the Colony there live and in person, I loved seeing Dasher Hatfield, I loved chanting “Oleg!” to the tune of “Ole!” and bewildering Oleg the Usurper, I loved laughing at Gavin Loudspeaker’s excellent endeavours to work in references to British TV programmes whenever he took the microphone.
The atmosphere for the main show was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before in British wrestling. I’m not sure if anyone else feels like this, but often at shows I have a certain sense of apprehension – of the people behind me being a particular brand of smark who enjoy calling moves before they happen, of people interrupting anybody talking with the timeless “WHAT?” call, of homophobia, of sexism, of some kind of personal insult directed at someone, face or heel, that takes one out of the suspension of disbelief and brings one shuddering back into the less-than-ideal world we live in.
When Mike Quackenbush took to the ring to outline his manifesto for professional wrestling – that it is a special kind of magical theatrical art, that wrestlers and fans alike create the performance – the room was entirely silent, spellbound by the philosophy, a philosophy that so neatly encapsulated everything I love about it that I nearly burst into tears.
And it was capped off at the end of the show when Quack and the roster – those who weren’t still inside the venue, signing autographs and taking pictures – lined up outside the Garage to shake everyone’s hand and thank us for coming – a remarkably classy touch.
Quack speculated whether or not they’ll return to Britain soon. I hope they will. And relatively soon, please.