Hallowicked, Arik Cannon, Claudio Castagnoli, Gran Akuma, Chris Hero, Icarus, UltraMantis Black, & Blind Rage vs Mike Quackenbush, Milano Collection AT, Shane Storm, Eddie Kingston, Skayde, Sabian, Jigsaw, & Mister ZERO
American Legion Hall, Hellertown, Pennsylvania, United States
(reviewed 05/18/2019) As always with cibernetico matches, these teams are listed in their batting order. This one’s famous for its length. How long is it, exactly?
104:26. That’s one hour, 44 minutes, 26 seconds. Long, long match. As far as I’m aware there hasn’t been a traditional match longer than this anywhere in the world in several decades. Chris Hero had a three hour match for charity back in 2015 but it was a gauntlet, which some folks prefer to think of as several matches in a row (and with him repeating opponents there that’s fairly reasonable). The infamous Ganryujima Island Deathmatch was reportedly over two hours long but it was clearly a real languid affair that has never been seen in full. This is a single match that stays fairly active all the way through, so outside of a handful of cases it’s kind of an unprecedented thing in the modern era of wrestling. It might not appeal to everyone but I think it’s great, being both an ambitious feat and one of the best matches in Chikara history.
How’s it come together so well? Lots of careful planning but also the ability to call things on the fly. With two teams of eight there’s plenty of permutations here in regards to one-on-one matchups, so they blow through a bunch of time in exploring many of those. The first thirty minutes or so are dominated by matwork, the sort of lucha/European/American hybrid that many Chikara guys excel at. After a brief meeting between Kingston and Hero things heat up, as the next twenty minutes are a lot speedier and spottier. There’s plenty of stuff that’s clearly pre-planned but there’s also a lot of improvisation and playing to the crowd, ensuring that this match doesn’t sink into choreographed monotony and people losing track of what comes next. Certainly helps that these guys all know each other well and have a clear understanding of what the vision of this match is meant to be.
Another thing that helps is how this match is structured in regards to credibility. Since day one Chikara’s always been a student-led show and that’s especially true at this point in 2005. Over half of this match consists of Chikara students who only have a few shaky years of work on their resumes. Guys like Cannon and Claudio might have been trained elsewhere but joined this promotion fairly early in their careers and have been defined by that experience. Outside of Quack, Hero, Skayde, and Milano most of these guys are very rough around the edges, so this match works around that. No one’s in the ring very long and largely they stick to what they do best, which, on top of ensuring that no one shows their ass too badly, also explains why this match goes so long.
Lemme frame it this way: ROH ran an eight man tag elimination match back in December 2011, with Eddie Edwards, El Generico, and the World’s Greatest Tag Team taking on Roderick Strong, Michael Elgin, and the Briscoes. That match is about 80 minutes long in total. The first elimination took place about 47 minutes in, when Shelton Benjamin, who had his ribs worked over for much of the match, goes down to Mark Briscoe’s diving elbow. Shelton Benjamin isn’t known for having superlong matches, especially not when he’s getting whacked in the ribs with a steel chair, so why’s it suddenly take 50 minutes to finish him off? Because that match wanted to go long and had no real idea of how to get there other than working slower and everyone getting pinned later than usual. In that way it’s pretty dull, even with a bunch of talented wrestlers getting enough room to really stretch their legs over the course of a long match.
The first elimination of this cibernetico likewise takes place about 47 minutes in, when Skayde wrestles circles around the stringy Blind Rage and catches him in a pinning predicament. While being just as (or more so, really) ambitious as that ROH tag, this match is far less obvious and aggravating, as it makes up for its logic gaps. No one’s in the ring very long and no one’s getting worked over for a significant amount of time, so it takes 50 minutes for a nobody like Blind Rage to get pinned. Down a man, the rudos switch gears and manage to isolate Sabian long enough to eliminate him, followed shortly thereafter by Jigsaw and Mister ZERO. This is the point where we get the first control segments of the match, the first time anyone ever finds themselves on the wrong end of a series of spots for minutes on end, so it stands to reason that this is where people start dropping like flies. Up until now most of the match has been in-and-out lucha-flavored stuff, so nobody’s lasting an inordinate amount of time in spite of lots of big offense or pointed injury work the way Shelton and his bum ribs did. This match might be exponentially longer than the average Chikara match but everything still carries the same sort of weight.
Speaking of carrying weight, Hero does a lot of heavy lifting in this one. Obviously he’s one of the most polished and experienced men in the ring, so that’s one thing. Even more than that he’s the primary source of heat for this rudo team. There’s lots of bad blood between these two forces but Hero’s feuds with Quack and Kingston (and to a lesser degree Skayde and Milano) are at the forefront of everything. What’s more, he does a lot of legwork to establish that he’s the leader of his crew. Between constantly shouting orders, encouragement, and warnings to his guys and counseling the ones who get canned, he’s a coach as much as a teammate. His leadership gives their domination and downfall more weight than they’d have otherwise.
That’s an important factor as the major theme of this match is the young guys stepping up. Not all of them last until the end or make huge eliminations but the likes of Kingston, F.I.S.T., Storm, and Hallowicked all make their presence felt here in varying ways. King gets eliminated “early” at 79 minutes but he clearly has Hero shook, as the big man flees the ring a few times to avoid him. Hero likewise does everything he can to avoid the foreigners gunning for him, pulling all sorts of dirty tricks to overtake them. He gets cocky against Milano and calls for the man’s AT Lock, which Milano avoids and then applies for a huge elimination. This throws the rudos off entirely, as Icarus is gone seconds later and Cannon follows him, finally evening the teams again at three men apiece. Even then Milano’s out less than a minute later and Quack’s nearly dead after a few big control segments, so it’s not looking good for the tecnicos. Claudio, thinking that he’ll have his way with Chikara’s founder after Storm takes himself out with a dive, taunts Quack and takes his time setting up for a move. It gives Quack just enough time to recover and hit a beauty of a hurricanrana to eliminate the Swiss giant before a Yoshi Tonic sends him packing too.
Just before the 100 minute mark it comes down to Shane Storm, Gran Akuma, and Hallowicked. The first two have been going at it hard all night, each ripping at the other’s mask to set up an apuestas match next month. Despite being Young Lions Cup champion, Storm is pretty easily the worst guy on his team and struggles to hold his own against Chikara’s star student and a killer coming into his own. However he’s popular and endearing, drawing the loudest responses this tired crowd has given in half an hour. Hallowicked, being larger, faster, and more powerful, has his way with Storm but his cockiness costs him, as Storm survives Hallowicked’s attempt at putting him away with a stolen That Japanese Move before the real deal cuts the big man down. Despite his resilience Storm can’t hang with a well-rested Akuma, who bloodies him with a number of mean kicks and yanks out some of the hair from his mask. It lights a fire under Storm’s ass, as he hoists Akuma up to the top for an avalanche Air Raid Crash, but he can’t pull it off before Akuma slips into a Yoshi Tonic that seals the deal.
It’d be really easy to call this match anything other than great, because long stretches of this are fairly bad. I’ve said time and again in my 2006/2007 writeups that most of these guys are works in progress and this is earlier than any of those reviews. That leads to this being a pretty inconsistent match, as it’ll bang for a few minutes and then falter at the hands of guys who can’t always hit hard and struggle to fill time. I don’t think the latter ever outweighs the former, whether in quantity or in impact, but it leaves us with a stop-start quality that most other matches don’t have.
But that’s the thing, this match isn’t like other matches. I’ve mentioned the word ‘ambitious’ a few times already and that’s the core of this match, this big, lofty idea to have a historically long match that avoids the common pitfalls and shortcuts of other marathon matches. They pull it off for the most part and it’s because they focus on the story of these sixteen individuals instead of the other stuff similar matches get hung up on. Something like, say, Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega’s two out of three falls match might center itself around a narrative but only as it relates to impressive moves and dramatic acting. For that and so many other matches the story is merely the excuse for the so-called cooler bits and I think that kinda sucks. Even if it’s way rockier than those matches in a dozen different ways, I appreciate this cibernetico for keeping me invested in a bunch of sloppy rookies hitting each other with goofy moves. And I appreciate it for being actually ambitious. It’s certainly not easy to do a sixty or seventy minute match but this is both way bigger, way more complicated, and has way more of a margin of error than almost any other superlong match and I think that’s worth keeping in mind. The only thing longer than this is another match from one of these men and the only thing even in the same ballpark is a match from David Starr. Pretty good company to be in, methinks.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: Really pulled a Shawn/Taker with this review, as I blew my load in the lead-up to the conclusion and saved nothing interesting for the end. Like I said, Shawn/Taker might be so much smoother than this cibernetico but it fails to hook me in any particular way. It’s sort of infuriating, too. I love love love aged gunslinger narratives, which is essentially what that match is based around. Leaning into that more in front of one of the most receptive crowds in wrestling history would’ve resulted in the easiest of home runs. Instead what they did alienated me so much that my dumb ass is still writing about it a decade later. This cibernetico ain’t perfect but it gets the nod almost solely out of spite.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25