New Alhambra Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Rorschach vs Reckless Youth
Ooof, less of these two in Chikara moving forward, please. Reckless specializes in a somewhat polished, sort of Japanese-influence, chaining-heavy junior heavyweight style and even if it didn’t feel dated more than a decade into the new millennium, Rorschach simply isn’t experienced enough himself to match the veteran. On top of the wrestling itself there’s barely anybody in this relatively large arena and along with Bryce Remsburg flying solo on commentary it all makes this match come across as rather soulless and empty despite the enthusiasm. After a bunch of silly moves, Reckless reverses a fireman’s carry on the top rope into a wacky avalanche reverse DDT and follows it up with the Kondo Clutch to win.
Backstage, UltraMantis Black and Hydra are cackling over some green concoction they both consume, seemingly to help them in battle tonight. It makes them all woozy and the camera lens unfocuses and refocuses several times throughout the promo to sell that idea. In the haze of this mysterious drug use, Crossbones joins the two masked men and says the three of them are taking over Chikara starting tonight as the reformed Dark Breed.
UltraMantis Black, Hydra, & Crossbones vs The Colony (Fire Ant & Soldier Ant) & Equinox
As fun as most of these guys are, this is fairly bad, lacking the energy it needs to be more than a bunch of sloppy guys doing moves back and forth. The lack of a crowd doesn’t help but choosing to do things like big dives off the support beams of The Arena when there’s no one there to cheer is a dumb decision anyway. Eventually Crossbones catches Soldier Ant with a Here It Is Driver and hands off the pinfall to UltraMantis Black.
The rudos beat down on their defeated opponents afterward and are saved by a mysterious man in a Chikara Wrestling Factory hoodie. He removes his hood to reveal an ant mask just like the Colony’s, but no one knows this newcomer. Fire Ant and Soldier Ant are slow to react when they seem him but before long they’re all hugging and celebrating together, which Bryce Remsburg describes as “a family reunion”.
Standing in a stairwell by an ominous WWF Over the Edge 1999 poster, it’s Excalibur! He’s happy to be back here in the home of Leon Spinks and um… oh, cheesesteaks, and uh, what else… an IKEA up the road with a Best Buy in the same complex, all the fabulous sights and marvels of Philadelphia. He only mentions Best Buy because they sell video games, which most assuredly melt your brain. Tonight he’s facing Player Uno or, more accurately, Player Oh No. Excalibur’s the future of wrestling in Chikara, whether he dominates in the ring, in the commentary booth, or by buying out all the stocks from Bob Saget. Along with close personal friends UltraMantis Black and Mitch Ryder he’s going to rid Chikara of all the filth and video game players. Fun promo per usual from the guy but tons of rambling for no real reason.
Excalibur vs Player Uno
Uno’s decked out all in green here and Excalibur makes a crack about Luigi always being player two in the games, to which Uno takes great offense. This is a fun little match between these two, with plenty of goofs and low key lucha stuff. Excalibur stays on top most of the time by way of cheap shots, which includes crotching Uno on the top rope in a surprisingly brutal fall that nearly sends him tumbling down to the floor. Uno does what he can but can’t sustain any offense and Excalibur stuffs him with a gross Jay Driller for the win.
Shayne Hawke comes out here with a healed up Shane Matthews and says he’s been looking for a hot young talent, introducing the third best-looking guy in Quebec, Shayne Hawke. Dude gets a shockingly tiny reaction and the same is true for his opponent, fellow IWS wrestler Twiggy.
Shayne Hawke vs Twiggy
Hawke and Matthews start this off with a rendition of “O Canada”. As the crowd boos UltraMantis Black admits that they do have a far better healthcare system than the United States. Twiggy, also a French Canadian, responds by leading a “USA” chant, to which UMB responds by calling him a carpetbagger. Love UltraMantis, hate bastards. Hawke and Matthews are fun loudmouths and Twiggy’s fairly endearing as a goof but this ain’t much. Hawke shouts out a bunch of his move names and it gives Twiggy the heads up he needs to roll his opponent up and steal a victory.
Arik Cannon (c) vs Max Boyer
Young Lions Cup
Sadly this just sort of stinks. What these guys are doing isn’t bad mechanically but it has no real structure and it doesn’t entice this sparse crowd at all or establish Boyer as a real contender. UltraMantis Black and Excalibur are delightful on commentary but only serve to cause distractions from what should be the primary focus. Towards the end Cannon’s unloading great, gross suplexes the likes of which we’ve seen a lot over the last few months but no one cares because they weren’t made to care. Boyer survives it all and hits his wrist-clutch fisherman driver twice to win the Young Lions Cup and end Cannon’s serious Chikara career.
The new champion offers his hand after the match but Cannon, sour about the loss, bats it away. He tries to grab the Cup as Boyer turns to leave but Boyer whirls and cracks him with a punch, sending Cannon down immediately. Boyer yells at him in an indecipherable tone before storming off. Holding his jaw, Cannon gives the silent crowd a few lingering looks as he leaves and after that we cut to him frustrated backstage. He says that after losing the Young Lions Cup, he’s got nothing. In 2005 he debuted tagging with Claudio Castagnoli, becoming half of the most dominant duo in the company and winner of that year’s TWGP. Then he figured he could go his own way and stand up for what he believed in, away from Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli. He wanted to help out Mike Quackenbush and Reckless Youth, but they wanted no part of him, and in the process he alienated a group of guys who always had his back. 2006 started rocky with the TWGP but he made it through the Young Lions Cup tournament and won the trophy all by himself. But now that’s gone too and no one will give him the time of day. What’s left for Arik Cannon in Chikara? The fans can’t tell him. Smart Mark Video can’t tell him. Who knows. The man storms off, saying he’s done, and that’s all we get.
Elsewhere in the arena, Larry Sweeney struts his stuff. He hasn’t slept a wink in the last week and he should be dead tired but he’s not. Last night he defeated Eddie Kingston up in Ontario to reclaim the ICW/ICWA Tex-Arkana Television Championship. He beat Kingston like the dog he is in that strap match but the job isn’t finished because the dog’s here in Philadelphia tonight. Sweeney says he’s compiled the greatest cibernetico team ever and what he loves about this team is their singular purpose: putting Eddie Kingston out of the wrestling business. Kingston was stupid enough to drag his fat butt into the New Alhambra Arena but he’s not gonna be able to drag it back out. Love Larry Sweeney.
We also hear from Kingston, who’s facing off to the side, the camera focusing on his profile. Last night he lost the ICW/ICWA Tex-Arkana Television title because Larry Sweeney broke his face and he turns to reveal the bandages covering his left cheek. He’s got a great team here tonight but they better stay out of his way because tonight’s about him and Sweeney. He’s busted the man up before and he’ll do it again. Tonight, Larry Sweeney dies.
So, before anything else, the cibernetico rules:
1. You’ve got a pair of team captains, Larry Sweeney and Eddie Kingston, who have picked their teammates and determined the batting order.
2. Unlike in regular tag matches, there is a strict batting order for entrants here. After entering the ring, the designated first wrestler will remain in the ring until they are either eliminated or tag out to the designated second wrestler. The designated second wrestler then is either eliminated or tags out to the designated third wrestler, and so on until the final wrestler in line is either eliminated or tags out to the first wrestler and the cycle beings anew. Breaking the batting order will result in a disqualification.
3. Per usual in Chikara lucha rules are in effect, meaning that physical contact does not have to be made to necessitate a tag, as wrestlers can merely leave the ring in order to call the next wrestler in.
4. Outside of the two wrestlers in the ring and the designated wrestlers on deck to enter the match next, none of the other participants are allowed to be on the apron during this match and must stay on the floor.
5. If a team has more than one wrestler left on their team after all their opponents have been eliminated, the remaining teammates must eliminate each other until there is a sole survivor.
6. There are no time limits but count outs and disqualifications can still occur.
I’ve listed the teams here in their batting order for the sake of simplicity.
Team Sweeney (Gran Akuma, Larry Sweeney, Icarus, Sal Thomaselli, Vito Thomaselli, Brandon Thomaselli, Chris Hero, & Claudio Castagnoli) vs Team Kingston (Darin Corbin, Ryan Cruz, Hallowicked, Shane Storm, Cheech, Mike Quackenbush, Cloudy, & Eddie Kingston)
If you weren’t aware, the cibernetico is a big tradition in Chikara, being mostly annual (missed it only twice since 2003) and always a culmination of stories and feuds. Likewise it’s always a long match, as you might imagine. There’s been a pair that have only run a bit over 30 minutes but the vast majority of them end up somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes long, with the longest being the storied 2005 edition that went 105 minutes. This one clocks in at 71 minutes so there’s a lot to dig into here and while I won’t take it move by move or anything I’ll try to cover all the important points.
Lots of cool storytelling before the match even begins. Firstly, Hero runs afoul of all the Thomasellis, who he’s quite familiar with from the Midwest indie scene and one of whom (Brandon) he’s defeated here in Chikara. Their partners try to calm them down as Eddie Kingston storms out to the ring right as his music hits, bucking the entrance order despite being listed last. Also worth noting that along with Bryce Remsburg in the ring, there is a second referee for this match with Derek Sabato holding things down on the floor. Despite Sweeney being the captain of his team, Hero is such a natural leader that he often takes control by default in a way Quackenbush doesn’t in spite of Kingston.
As you might imagine, they run through each team’s lineup with minimal fanfare, exploring the various personalities and styles for a few minutes before tagging out to the next pair. At various points the guys on the floor look to be on the brink of all out gang warfare but the officials keep things straight. Kingston and Claudio come in last, with Kingston immediately dashing over to the opposing corner to take a potshot at Sweeney, but Claudio grabs him and wrangles him down for a headlock to make him simmer and lose what little cool he may have left. Kingston’s one of the only guys around who can match Claudio for strength, though, so he’s able to send the big man packing and likewise floors Gran Akuma with a slap that sends him to the outside, forcing Sweeney to enter. Sweeney wants none of his blood rival and Kingston won’t back down whenever it looks like the guy might finally get in the ring, but eventually as a count out is threatened, Kingston yields and tags out to Corbin and the cycle continues. The rudos cheat and take all sorts of shortcuts as the tecnicos show of all sorts of fun luchamerican action, the rudos are almost always the first to tag out, etc etc. Real basic stuff from both sides but plenty of fun.
Eventually the batting order leads to Hero and Quack meeting up and they have a great sequence that this small crowd pops big for, and the pairing of Claudio and Cloudy right after them is just as good. Could watch a tiny guy like Cloudy fly around for that massive European all day. The rudos are able to isolate Cloudy for a while and it’s great stuff (Akuma hitting a pair of GRUESOME kicks to the face, Sweeney doing his thing) and just as soon as it looks like he’s able to tag out and let Kingston get his hands on Sweeney, the Golden Palomino dives out of the ring and Icarus tackles Kingston into the corner, cutting off the chase.
Things get really good toward the end of each batting order, as Quack, Claudio, and Hero are just undeniably great in a match like this no matter who they’re in there with. Quack, knowing full well that it’ll lead to a tag out, hits a beauty of a tope con giro on Gran Akuma half an hour in that leaves Cloudy and Sweeney up at bat. Cloudy, realizing that Kingston’s right behind him, subsequently pulls off a great tornillo on both the men on the floor, allowing the King of Diamonds to stomp his way into the match. Sweeney, scared for his life, goes to hit a dive too to get out of here but KINGSTON JUST FUCKING TACKLES HIM AND STARTS SWINGING YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH. FUCK YES, THIS IS PRO WRESTLING. They roll to the floor and everybody out there gets involved, leaving Icarus in the ring with Darin Corbin and pretty soon the Pedigree sends the redhead packing as the first elimination.
First elimination, 33 minutes in, and this match hasn’t dragged a bit. Like shit man, long matches have come back in style in a big way recently with the popularity of NJPW and almost universally they’ve bored me to tears. But by giving you more than two overacting dullards in the ring doing their best rendition of La Sylphide and giving you more than a single story to focus on, this match manages to avoid nearly every pitfall of going long and manages to be memorable without selling the farm.
Sweeney’s team doesn’t let up a bit, going right after Cruz and constantly tagging out to keep their man in the ring as fresh as possible as they dismantle the poor Minnesotan’s left arm and leg. He’s able to tag out to Hallowicked eventually and the masked man connects with the Graveyard Smash on Brandon Thomaselli to even things up and not long afterward a fancy sequence between Storm and Akuma ends with the baldie going bye bye off a sunset flip. As Akuma argues with referee Bryce Remsburg, Sweeney dashes right in and low blows Storm, following it up with a piledriver to get the elimination and take this down to 6-6. After a few short bursts of action the Iron Saints double team Cloudy in a big way, but as they go for a Doomsday Device Cloudy ducks under and clinches a victory roll to eliminate Vito. Hero’s right on him afterward, shutting down his comeback attempts and hitting the Hero’s Welcome: Championship Edition to even things up again.
Kingston’s in next and has a great little stretch with both the Kings, flattening them with a double clothesline, but as the two of them roll to the floor Sweeney runs in and low blows Kingston in full view of Remsburg, drawing a disqualification. This opens Kingston up for Icarus’ huge tornado Pedigree but somehow King survives it! The dives and nearfalls come fast and furious now as guys take wild shots back and forth. Larry Sweeney storms up to commentary briefly as Cheech stands up to the Kings in a huge way and has me salivating for an Up in Smoke/KOW match. A few more flurries lead to Sal eliminating Cruz with his horse collar driver before Hallowicked cracks him with a gross mafia kick to the back of the head, following it up a minute later with a moonsault to take this to 4 on 3 in his team’s favor. Hero takes immediate charge but runs afoul of Cheech yet again with Kingston cheering him on from the floor. Sadly no amount of cheerleading can mitigate the power of the Hangman’s Clutch and Cheech taps out. Kingston’s coaching from the sidelines here as his boys take on Hero is just awesome and in an even more awesome moment, Quack’s able to slink his way into a Hangman’s Clutch of his own and gets rid of Chris Hero!
Realizing that his team desperately needs to even things up again, Claudio muscles Quack up to the top and hits a crazy moonsault fallaway slam to eliminate the person who a fan earlier referred to as “the number one seed”. Claudio tries to similarly stuff Kingston with an Alpamare Water Slide but King kicks out, trapping the big man with la casita a minute later to leave Icarus all on his own. Claudio makes sure to attack Kingston on his way out and Hallowicked goes right after Icarus, finding himself on the wrong end of a hurricanrana that brings us down to our final two. Icarus, certainly the fresher of the two men, hits a pair of quick shiranuis that Kingston survives, first by getting his foot on the rope and then by clutching out a kickout. Kingston applies his strength game but doesn’t have a lot left in the tank so his usual repertoire of suplexes and strikes can’t put Icarus away. He goes big and drags his opponent up to the top rope but the rudo is the one who takes control there, hitting a huge second rope shiranui to win the cibernetico.
Weirdly this loses a lot of steam right at the end. Part of that’s for obvious reasons, as it’s over an hour deep into a match and everyone in the ring is tired and as hot as this crowd was for long stretches they’re still a tiny crowd. They’re a tiny enough crowd that you can hear individual voices and there’s weirdly this little anti-Kingston contingent who don’t really make their presence felt until the last few minutes of the match, in which they’re softly booing all of his offense. Along with the fact that Kingston’s puro legends cosplay is, in some ways, less exciting than the fast-paced lucha action that dominated the better part of the preceding 70 minutes, this sparse booing sucks a lot of the energy out of the crowd, who eventually resign themselves to polite clapping instead of staying invested in this great match.
And yeah, this is still a great match. It doesn’t match the previous year’s classic because it simply can’t and I doubt I’ll even call it the second best cibernetico ever by the time we’re done here. But it’s 70+ minutes of guys letting a number of great styles and personalities and ideologies shine while covering up for each other’s respective weaknesses. There’s just about no down time, no one exposes themselves badly, and each elimination feels fresh and nuanced, bringing an added layer to the action that follows it. It feels rushed towards the end with all these fast eliminations in just a handful of minutes when spreading them out over 15 or 20 could have been better, but I think they realized what sort of crowd they were dealing with and adjusted the plan accordingly. Furthermore, I don’t feel robbed of a full match because I still got over an hour of quality wrestling, you know? Even if this won’t end up at the top of my 2006 Chikara MOTY list, these sorts of matches are Chikara at its best and this cibernetico is a fine, fine example of that.