Written by Kenny Pete
Most people spend their Labor Day weekend doing traditional 3-day weekend things. Maybe a BBQ with friends and family, or a trip to the beach, or maybe take in an outdoor concert while the weather still allows it without scorching heat and before the cold, dark, frozen winter sets in. This guy did none of those things and instead traveled the rolling foothills of northern New Jersey and over the river to Easton PA and spent three days watching independent professional wrestling and couldn’t have had a better time if I tried. This was my experience at the Chikara Pro King of Trios 2015.
King of Trios is a three-day mega-event hosted by the American lucha-libre company known as Chikara based out of Philadelphia PA. King of Trios started many years ago as a way to showcase the best independent wrestling talent the world has to offer over a multi-day tournament. This year the #KOT15 consisted of 16 teams, each made up of 3 individuals and saw participants from across the USA, The United Kingdom, Mexico as well as the stars of New Japan Pro Wrestling to compete in this year’s edition. There is no gender bias here in Chikara as men go to battle with women who then both go to battle with a dragon, or a group of ants or in one very odoriferous case, a Swamp Monster — all for the spectator’s entertainment. If you’ve read that last sentence, you can surmise that this isn’t your dad’s pro wrestling show, but its also not a wrestling show peppered with salacious stories and is capped off by an angry bald man spilling domestic beer in-between flipping off the audience to thunderous applause. This is Chikara Pro, where everyone is included: kids, teens, adults, parents and one very special ‘Wrestle Granny,’ who all came to smile, laugh, cheer, boo, throw streamers, have fun, enjoy the show and most importantly, celebrate community with a group people who love the same things they do.
Most pro wrestling shows are organized very similar to an evening at the circus, in the idea that there is something for everyone. If you don’t like the lion tamer or the clowns, you may enjoy the trapeze act, or the human cannonball or the freak-show. Chikara barrows some from that ethos, but also takes that ethos to a much more progressive storytelling narrative. The first show of the three day tournament was the 1st round of the Trios tournament, so there were eight different six-person tag team matches for the evening, split by a brief intermission. It was an onslaught of fast paced, multi-person, high flying action complete with all the elements used to tell a fantastic story. The entire ensemble cast knew that this was a big weekend and their performances delivered in a big way. The only real miscue came on the first day during the main event when former IWGP champion AJ Styles attempted a top-rope springboard into the ring and slipped off the rope as he made his ascent. He recovered from the spot, but gave the crowd an unintentional comedy spot in the process as they were laughing at his happy accident. Being the consummate professional, AJ would go on to tease the same move a few times throughout the weekend, garnering a huge reaction from the crowd every time he did. It was also Team AAA consisting of Drago, Fenix and Aerostar, who burst on to the US scene this year via Lucha Underground on the El Rey Network that really heated up the crowd on Night 1 both with their exciting ring work and their spectacular entrance. By the end of the evening the crowd was exhausted, but simultaneously excited for what Nights 2 and 3 would bring.
On Saturday afternoon, there was a special Fan Conclave event for two hours before the evening’s night of matches and had lots Fun activities on deck. There was “Name That Wrestling Tune” as participants battled it out as to who could guess the early ’90s wrestler’s theme first. There was auditions to become an honorary member of the BDK, everyone’s favorite WrestleGranny was on a special episode of The Dating Game hosted by Bryce Remsberg that saw her win a date with super manager Sidney Bakabella. You could even battle your favorite wrestler in the latest 2k15 video game, as at one point I watched Jacob Hammermier use former BDK partner Cesaro to win a virtual wrestling match against a fan playing as Sami Zayn who also performed many times in a Chikara ring. That was another awesome reminder of the family/community atmosphere that you can only find at a Chikara show as we’re all happy and proud of those who have spent time here with us and then gone on to become global superstars. The best part of the Fan Conclave is not only being able to walk around and chat or take a photo with your favorite wrestler, but its also meeting people in person that you may only interact with online. It’s really cool to put a name and a face with a twitter handle and it was great to see so many people we can call friends in one place.
On deck for the Saturday night show was the 2nd round of the KOT tournament consisting of four trios matches, as well as two ‘fatal-four way’ elimination matches in a mini-tournament to crown the 2015 Rey de Voladores which translates to “King of Flight.” To the uninitiated, it’s four guys doing an uncountable amount of flips, dives and spectacular moves that anyone can watch & be impressed by in the same way people are impressed with the X-Games or the Winter Olympics. These unique competitors are completing remarkable feats of athleticism that very few people would even think about attempting. A personal highlight for me was seeing NBC’s American Ninja Warrior star Matt Cross do his thing in a rare East Coast appearance. Much like many others, Matt Cross is another special breed of talent that major US wrestling companies just don’t know what to do with in order to make him a household name. His story is cut from the same punk rock, DIY attitude that has made so many others superstars in this industry, and its to our benefit that we still get the chance to see him in this kind of intimate setting. Before the second match of the evening, show host & ring announcer Gavin Loudspeaker let us know that King of Trios Night 2 was an official sell-out of over 1000 people, who came to see the action, right here in Easton PA.
Another memorable moment on night 2 came from Team Fight Club Pro, who came into the weekend with very little fanfare, but stole the show & had everyone raving about them by Sunday afternoon. All 3 members of Fight Club Pro – Trent Seven, Dan Maloney and Tyler Bate – looked like the classic strongmen from the carnival days, from basic black trunks and boots to the impressive facial hair sported by Seven & Bate (known as Moustache Mountain as a tag-team) were huge fan favorites going into their 2nd round match on Saturday vs. the United Nations. At one point, Trent Seven held Juan Francisco de Coranado up for a vertical suplex. He held him up in that position and tagged his partner, Tyler Bate who then locked up JFDC for the same suplex on the opposite side. Bate released the hold & now JDFC was being held upside-down & walked around the ring. As Bate came back to his corner, he tagged Maloney who then did the same thing. After a full minute of being held upside-down by all of FCP, he came crashing down to the canvas and Team Fight Club were made men in the eyes of the Chikara family.
At this point, I realized the show was sold out & it was time to play RaffleMania. At every Chikara show, they run a traditional raffle for a prize of a T-shirt, Mask, or special Event Poster signed by the roster. I own more lucha masks than a non-wrestler dude my age probably should, so I didn’t want to outright purchase one, but reasoned “If I WON the mask, it would be a cool addition to the collection.” I don’t usually go for it at smaller, regular shows for whatever reason, I’m more compelled to go for it when its a bigger/special night. $5 dollars got SIX tickets for RaffleMania and “I was in it to win it” as the carnival barkers say. As the evening continued, it was awesome match after awesome match and I was trying to keep up with live tweeting results along with the best photos I could take. Gavin Loudspeaker called for RaffleMania right before the main event & I was mid tweet when they began the announcement. I frantically reached for my tickets as Gavin announced “144…6…4…9!”. I looked down to check my tickets and low and behold to everyone else’s chagrin, I had Won RaffleMania!
As I woke up Sunday morning in my two-star, smoking, frigid, Allentown PA hotel room with the leaky fridge and a bed with the wicked curve in the middle, I thought to myself “What an amazing weekend, I can’t believe its almost over.” I got all my stuff together & headed over to the Easton Fun-Plex around for the final show that kicked off at 3pm. There was already a line at the front door, as everyone was out to stake their claim for the best seat possible to watch the culmination of the tournament.
The show began with a huge match pitting Team AAA vs the current Chikara 2014 Kings of Trios, the Devastation Corporation. With a menacing presence and Demolition-esque face-paint, the giants of the DevCorp had been saying for months they were going #Back2Back this year to anyone who would listen to their rhetoric. The match went back & forth with Team AAA dishing out as much high flying offense as they could muster against the surly giants & the DevCorp giving it right back to them with their hard hitting, brawling style. After a miscommunication between team members, Blaster McMassive got caught in a roll-up from Aerostar and was pinned for the three count, moving Team AAA to the finals. The entire Building came unglued with cheers as the evil, trash talking, bullies were defeated with skill & technique from Mexico’s finest. When the villains realized they had lost, they were already being showered with “Back To The Back” chants from the Chikara faithful, rubbing salt in the fresh wound of their defeat. The next match was a fantastic display between Team Fight Club Pro who were bonafide heroes at this point as they went against New Japan Pro Wrestling’s hottest faction, The Bullet Club consisting of The Young Bucks & AJ Styles who are arguably the coolest thing in independent pro wrestling right now. After an absolutely tremendous match it was the Bullet Club who secured the victory over FCP and set up an inter-promotional dream match for the #KOT15 finals against Team AAA in a match that won’t happen in any other company, in the world, anytime soon.
Night 3 also had other Great matches on deck as multiple teams battled it out in the yearly traditional Tag Team Gauntlet match – which is a series of consecutive traditional tag team matches, with the winners staying on to battle a new team, as the last team is defeated. During this match was a moment which is becoming a rare appearance, of my favorite tag team in modern day history of Ophidian and Amasis known collectively as The Osirian Portal. You may be familiar with a viral video titled “The Most Illegal Move in Professional Wrestling” (If you’re not, go watch it now, I’ll wait…, See? Wasn’t that Awesome?!) and it was the first time they had teamed up together in quite some time. It was Tremendous to see them do their traditional double team offense that makes them the most unique tag team presentation ever seen in the industry. Side note: If I was running a pro wrestling company on national television, I would not only sign The Osirian Portal, but I would then dance on the table used for the contract signing immediately afterward, in homage to Vince McMahon when he first signed the British Bulldogs away from All Japan in the early 80s. They had a fantastic exchange from Team ATTACK Pro from the UK and better than that, were victorious as well, marking the first time The Osirian Portal (proper) defeated a tag-team in quite some time. Unfortunately, that victory did not last long as Ophidian & Amasis were bested by the duo of Missile Assault Man & ‘That Ol Juke Joint’ Lucas Calhoun known as “Kevin Condron presents….BattleBorn”
There were a few singles matches as well, as Heidi Lovelace successfully defended her Young Lions Cup vs The Proletariat Boar of Moldova, as well as the finals of the Rey de Voladores tournament which saw the UK’s Mark Andrews defeat the 2014 RdV winner ‘the Spirit Dragon’ Shynron in a fantastic match to claim the title of 2015 Rey de Voladores. Intermission was the last chance for anyone to sample some of the special concessions that were created just for KOT weekend, like Ice Cream Jr’s Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream sandwich courtesy of our friends at Weckerly Ice Cream based out of Philadelphia. There was also Jervis Cottonbelly themed cotton candy and Dasher Hatfield “The old timey king of swing” had his own baseball themed CrackerJacks. Its these kind of extra details that make Chikara so special and makes KOT weekend a travel destination for independent wrestling enthusiasts from all over the world.
It was time for the main event, in what was being called a Match Of The Year Candidate before it even started. Team AAA vs The Bullet Club. The best of Mexico vs the best of Japan on American soil. My phone was blowing up with people from overseas who were following along on twitter and virtually jumping for joy that they were going to see these two teams go all out with everything on the line. That emotion was matched inside the building as the crowd chanted “Match of the Year’ before they had even locked up. After 17 minuets of phenomenal high flying action that has to be seen to be believed, the dust had settled and Team AAA had taken the victory & the title of 2015 Kings of Trios. An Amazing weekend was capped of by an Amazing day of completely unique professional wrestling action on a level that no one else can deliver.
For my Twitter retrospective of KOT weekend check out @TheMysteryMen and download our our free EP “Lucha Rock Leftovers” here.
Chikara Pro returns to NYC on Friday, October 9th at Stage 48 in Manhattan during The New York Comic-Con. Tickets are available here.