HERO IN A HALF SHELL Given to high flying and neon colors, Pennsylvania-based Chikara is a perfect lucha-libre antidote to the WWE's angry-white-male power fantasies.
When professional wrestling gets brought up in the mainstream media, it's almost always because something awful happened. And sure, it's impossible to credibly discuss wrestling while glossing over its dark side. It's also impossible to credibly write up Chikara's card at the Everett Recreation Center this past Sunday afternoon without noting that a dude wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas found himself counting spotlights after the ruthless contingent known as Los Ice Creams brutalized him with multi-colored sundae-topping sprinkles. At this dessert parlor of frozen, candy-coated ass-kickery, gloom and cynicism weren't on the menu.
>> SLIDESHOW: Chikara Pro Wrestling ''Give 'Em The Axe'' in Everett <<
It's been a 10-year-long slow burn to cult status, but Chikara — a Pennsylvania-based, lucha libre–influenced troupe of histrionic hell-raisers — has established itself as a viable alternative to the angry-white-male power fantasies championed by the likes of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and his former cable TV cohort at World Wrestling Entertainment. During one of the big-ticket co-ed bouts, the villainous porn-stache'd Icarus planted an unrequested smooch on his female opponent, Sara Del Rey (no relation to Lana Del Rey . . . I'm pretty sure). Some wrasslin' fans objectify women to avoid acknowledging how much they enjoy watching half-naked muscle-bound guys hug each other, but no one from Chikara's peanut gallery cheered Icarus on. One fan shouted, "Call the cops!"
More often than not, matches ended with moves along the lines of the 450 splash, where grapplers ascend the turnbuckles, perform a mid-air forward flip, and land torso-first on a prone adversary. Chikara presented three hours of colorful characters with names like Sugar Dunkerton, Jakob Hammermeier, and the Handsome Stranger engaging in acrobatic derring-do that invited comparisons to Cirque du Soleil.
In light of all the pageantry in the standing-room-only rec center, it was hard to maintain the illusion that the wrestlers were legitimately trying to hurt each other. Nonetheless, no one I interviewed (consummate professionals all) would break character.
"I'll accept that I lost, despite the red mist — or red Kool-Aid — to the face," said Dunkerton, regarding the spray his opponent, the masked Ophidian, spewed on his way to a dubious victory.
"I'm trying to decipher whether [the red mist] is Kool-Aid or some type of Tabasco hot-sauce mix. It was not delicious. It was rather messing with my vision. So I'm trying to find that out."