DVDs - VGames - Books DVD Review: Chikara Pro "Best of Chikara," with Quackenbush, Hero, Castagnoli, Jigsaw, Gran Akuma, Sweeney
Nov 20, 2007 - 4:11:19 PM
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By Chris Vetter
Full disclosure: this DVD was sent to me to review.
Chikara Pro, the lucha and family-friendly comedy promotion from Pennsylvania, has recently released “Best of Chikara Pro.” This DVD features nine matches from some Chikara shows in 2005 and 2006.
Big Vision Entertainment has compiled this collection of matches. As with prior B.V.E. releases, all entrance music is cut, so viewers go straight from one match to the next. I was a bit disappointed that none of the goofy and fun promos were included.
I am a big Chikara Pro fan (I’ve written many Chikara Pro reviews before!), and this collection of matches is a good way to introduce wrestling fans to the top Chikara wrestlers, of Jigsaw, Larry Sweeney, Gran Akuma, Icarus, Eddie Kingston and Hallowicked. And of course, the top three well-known Chikara wrestlers of Mike Quackenbush, Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero are a bit more well-known and well-traveled.
One note on the DVD cover – no picture of Chris Hero. That surprised me, as he is arguably the most well-known wrestler, and he is in several matches as well.
As I noted, Chikara Pro stresses family fun, and some of these matches are irreverent. Smart Mark Video originally recorded these matches, and they do a good job with lighting, using multiple cameras, and editing it together. Chikara Pro does not have a set commentary team; it is usually whoever is available. Sometimes, this is really fun, particularly when the heels of UltraMantis Black and Larry Sweeney are BOTH doing commentary.
* An opening video aired. I REALLY liked that the date of each of the nine matches on this disc are listed in an on-screen graphic. A nice, simple touch.
(1) Jigsaw & Mike Quackenbush & Shane Storm defeat Icarus & Gran Akuma & Claudio Castognoli at 23:44 via DQ. (June 25, 2006). This was in “ECW Arena” in southern Philadelphia. The crowd was a bit small in this venue. Chris Hero and Larry Sweeney provided commentary. This was excellent lucha-style action. The match began, and it’s obvious right away that Icarus and Jigsaw want to tear each other apart! Storm started with Akuma, and Akuma hit his quick kicks. Storm hit a headscissors takedown. Jigsaw and Claudio tagged in, and Jigsaw hit a nice armdrag, then a takedown on Icarus & Akuma, and this is lots of quick lucha action. Storm hit a spin heel kick on Icarus. Quackenbush entered at 5:00, and he hit a nice headscissors takedown on Claudio, then a springboard summersault dive to the floor on Claudio.
Akuma and Jigsaw traded kicks to the thigh, and Jigsaw hit a cool headscissors takedown. Icarus, then Akuma, hit sentons on Jigsaw. At 8:30, Icarus began trying to remove Jigsaw’s mask! The heels began to work over Jigsaw. Claudio hit some European Uppercuts. Akuma hit some kicks to the chest, and he applied a modified Cattle Mutilation/double armbar. Icarus hit a DDT for a nearfall. Storm made the hot tag at 12:00, but Icarus hit him with a snap suplex for a nearfall. Akuma hit some kicks to the leg and he applied a modified Figure Four Leglock, but Storm reached the ropes. Claudio & Akuma slammed Icarus onto Storm. Quack entered at 14:30, but Claudio pounced on him, and he slammed Quack’s head repeatedly into the mat.
Icarus bent Quackenbush over his knee. Akuma applied a single-leg crab. Claudio nailed a diving European Uppercut on Quackenbush. Akuma applied a Camel Clutch. Storm made the hot tag, and he hit a flip dive to the floor at 18:30. Jigsaw nailed a top-rope clothesline on Icarus. Icarus came back with an inverted DDT on Jigsaw for a nearfall. Quack hit a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall on Icarus. Claudio nailed a modified Angle Slam on Quack for a nearfall. Storm hit an Air Raid Crash on Claudio for a nearfall! Akuma hit a 450 Splash on Storm for a nearfall. Jigsaw nailed a jump-up hurricanrana on Akuma for a nearfall. Claudio hit an uppercut, and Icarus immediately hit a Lungblower on Quack for a believable nearfall at 21:30.
Storm nailed a German Suplex on Icarus. Akuma hit a Ghana Rea/spinning back slam on Storm. Claudio tossed Jigsaw into the air and hit a European Uppercut as Jigsaw came down. Quack hit a satellite headscissors takedown on Claudio for a believable nearfall, and the crowd was going nuts! Several wrestlers fought on the floor, leaving Jigsaw vs. Icarus in the ring. Icarus yanked off Jigsaw’s mask, which meant an automatic disqualification for the heels! Jigsaw hid his face in his hands until he got his mask back. Excellent match, even with the non-finish.
(2) Chris Hero defeats Shane Storm at 12:06. (July 22, 2006, Hellertown, Penn.) Good match. Storm wears a goofy mask and a black T-shirt, and he’s lost a LOT of weight in the past three years. Storm opened with some quick reversals, and Hero bailed. UltraMantis Black was solo on commentary here. Storm missed a dive to the floor. Hero nailed a big boot on the floor and some stiff forearms. In the ring, Hero hit some stomps on Storm’s head. Storm hit a headscissors takedown at 4:00. Hero hit a powerslam and a senton for a believable nearfall. Sweeney joined commentary now. They fought to the floor, and Hero dropped Storm head-first on a stage. Hero hit a doublestomp, leaving off the state, onto Storm’s chest as Storm was lying on the floor; Hero rolled Storm into the ring for a nearfall.
Hero was in charge, and he jawed at the crowd. Storm got a schoolboy rollup for a nearfall. Hero went for a senton, but Storm got his knees up to block it at 7:00. Storm hit some stiff forearms and a spin kick, and Hero fell to the floor. Storm hit some armdrags. Storm hit a headscissors takedown off the ring apron to the floor. (Keep in mind, Chikara uses a shorter ring than most promotions). Storm hit a spike DDT in the ring for a nearfall, but he couldn’t hit an Air Raid Crash. Hero hit a high back suplex, then a chinbreaker over his knee for a believable nearfall at 10:00. Storm hit a basement dropkick on the knee, but he couldn’t hit “That Japanese Move”/Shining Wizard. Storm hit a German Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall, and the crowd was hot. Storm hit another basement dropkick on the knee. However, Hero NAILED a hard forearm shot, got a quick rollup, and scored the pin.
(3) Chris Hero & Claudio Castognoli defeat Milano Collection AT & Skayde at 17:32 to win the “Tag World Grand Prix” and become Chikara Pro tag champions. (Feb. 26, 2006) Very good match. This also was in “ECW Arena” in Philadelphia. Quackenbush is on commentary with “Chikara owner” Larry Chikarason. The referee displayed the sharp, brand new tag belts that will go to the winners. Milano and Hero traded armbars, as Quackenbush described this match as “the most important in Chikara’s history.”
Milano tied up Hero’s arms in the ropes. The crowd was hot. Milano tied Hero’s arms & legs on the bottom rope, then he his a basement dropkick, and the heels regrouped on the floor. Claudio entered at 5:00 to face Skayde. Skayde hit some nice armdrags and got some cool nearfalls. (Skayde is significantly shorter than Claudio, but they really mesh well in the ring.) The heels worked over Skayde, and Claudio hit a slingshot elbow for a nearfall at 9:00. Hero tied up Skayde’s legs, and he bridged backward, then he applied a cravat. Skayde made the hot tag at 12:00.
Milano entered and he hit an enziguri on Hero, then a flying forearm on Castognoli. Milano hit a top-rope crossbody block on Claudio for a nearfall. Claudio hit a nice reverse suplex, dropping Milano stomach-first to the mat. Hero hit the slam off his shoulders on Milano (the way he won the semifinal match!) for a believable nearfall here. Milano came back with a superkick, then a twisting Lionsault for a nearfall on Hero. Milano applied the AT Lock, but Claudio made the save.
Milano wouldn’t let go of the AT Lock, even with Claudio hitting him! The crowd was HOT. Hero finally made it to the ropes. Skayde hit a satellite headscissors takedown on Claudio at 15:30. Skayde applied an inverted Figure Four Leglock on Claudio. However, the heels hit a team Pyramid Bomb, and Hero pinned Skayde. The crowd was disappointed that the heels won.
(4) Allison Danger & Ranmuru & Rain defeat Sumie Sakai & Daizee Haze & Mickie Knuckles at 7:18. (Feb. 26, 2006). Good, fast-paced women’s match to open the show! The commentators of ref Bryce Remsburg and UltraMantis Black talked about the buzz surrounding Shimmer women’s wrestling. Danger and Mickie started, and they immediately traded some stiff forearms and headbutts! Haze entered to face Rain, and the announcers talked about how these two women were a team the night before, but developed problems during their match.
Haze hit a Thesz Press on Rain, threw some punches, then she put Rain in a Camel Clutch. Rain came back with a nice crossbody block on Haze, and they traded chops. Ranmuru and Sakai squared off at 2:30, and Sumie hit a nice dropkick. Ranmuru hit a “kangaroo kick,” which is an inverted dropkick, and they traded some fun quick action. Sakai applied a cross-armbreaker on Ranmuru. Ranmuru hit some kicks to Knuckles’ thighs. Mickie hit a spinning uranage on Ranmuru.
Mickie hit a nice Northern Lights Suplex on Danger for a nearfall. Knuckles dove to the floor on all the heels at 6:30. Haze hit a top-rope crossbody block to the floor. Sumie hit a Northern Lights Suplex on Danger in the ring, as the other four women brawled on the floor. Danger got a rollup on Sumie out of nowhere to score the pin! This was quick, nonstop action.
(5) Hallowicked (w/UltraMantis Black) defeats Jigsaw at 11:23. (Sept. 17, 2005). For whatever reason, this match is NOT listed on the DVD package. This was a first-ever singles match, which really surprised me, as these two have both been wrestling for a while. Larry Sweeney was on commentary. This venue is a bit different, and the hard camera is high above the ring, almost looking straight down at the action. They opened with an intense lockup, and Jigsaw hit a big chop. Jigsaw was a LOT scrawnier two years ago! Jigsaw applied a cross-armbreaker and some quick armdrags, then a hard slap to the face at 3:30.
Jigsaw stayed in charge early with some unusual armdrags, then a headscissors takedown, and Hallowicked bailed. Hallowicked hit a flip dive to the floor on Jigsaw. UltraMantis Black choked Jigsaw. In the ring, Hallowicked hit the “Go to Sleepy Hallow”/fireman’s carry kneestrike at 5:30, then some knife-edge chops. Jigsaw hit a clothesline in the corner. Hallowicked hit an Iconoclasm and some punches to the face as they fought on the mat. Jigsaw hit a nice jump-up enziguri in the corner, then a jump-up Rana at 8:00, and they were both down, and the crowd was hot!
They traded chops. Jigsaw hit a Mafia Kick to the side of the head, then a running knee to the head for a nearfall. Hallowicked fired back with a HARD Mafia Kick and a powerbomb for a believable nearfall. Jigsaw hit an enziguri on the ring apron. Jigsaw hit a doublestomp off the top-rope onto Hallowicked, who was lying on a stage next to the ring. In the ring, Jigsaw hit a doublestomp to the face for a nearfall, and he even hit UltraMantis Black! However, Hallowicked hit a Reverse Rana for the pin. Good match.
(6) Equinox & Angel de Fuego & Fire Ant & Soldier Ant defeat Crossbones & Rorschach & Los Ice Creams in an 8-man tag at 12:07. (June 25, 2006). This is comedy stuff, and all eight of these guys wear masks and colorful outfits. Soldier Ant hit an Ace Crusher and a hurricanrana early, on Crossbones. Fire Ant and Rorschach traded quick reversals. Angel entered, and he hit a hurricanrana and a plancha on one of the ice cream guys. Equinox entered and hit a hurricanrana at 3:00 on an ice cream guy. The Ice cream guy (the announcers had trouble keeping them separate) then hit a gutwrench suplex and a guillotine legdrop for a nearfall.
Crossbones entered and hit a spine kick on Fire Ant, and the heels began to work Fire Ant Over. The ice cream guys slammed onto Fire Ant, hitting a move that is appropriately called, “An Ice Cream Sandwich” at 6:30. One of the ice cream guys then hit a ‘scoop’ slam for a nearfall on Angel. Angel fired back with a springboard twisting body press on both ice cream guys. The heels worked over Soldier Ant, hitting repeated clotheslines in a corner. Fire Ant made the hot tag at 10:00. There is a fun eight-way spot, and the crowd seems to enjoy the silliness.
Fire Ant hit a summersault press off the post onto five guys on the floor. One of the ice cream guys pulled out a pouch! No, it’s not filled with thumbtacks; it’s filled with … ice cream sprinkles! He poured sprinkles on the mat. However, Equinox gave the Ice Cream guy a hurricanrana onto the sprinkles. “I didn’t realize this was a hardcore rules match,” Ultramantis Black joked on commentary. Equinox hit a standing Shooting Star Press on Ice Cream Jr. for the pin. Fun lucha with lots of comedy.
(7) Chris Hero & Claudio Castognoli (The Kings of Wrestling) defeat Darin Corbin & Ryan Cruz (The North Star Express) (w/J.J. Dillon) at 12:35. Sweeney is back on commentary, and he joked that Claudio needs to hit the gym to tone up. The crowd popped for the NSE. Corbin is a red head, Cruz is the Matt Hardy lookalike, and they are really becoming big fan favorites here. The crowd started taunting the heels with a slow “Heeerooo” chant. Ryan and Claudio traded armbars, and Claudio hit a shoulder tackle. Darin and Hero squared off at 2:30, and they traded stiff forearms and chops. Hero claimed that J.J. Dillon tripped him! Darin hit a satellite headscissors takedown on Hero.
The heels quickly began to work over Darin, as Castognoli hit some European Uppercuts. Hero tied up Darin and hit some chops. Claudio hit a basement dropkick to the face. Ryan Cruz made the hot tag at 8:00, and he hit some back elbows, and a uranage on Hero for a nearfall. Dillon tripped Hero! Funny. The faces hit a team Japanese armdrag. Corbin hit a flip headscissors out of the corner on Castognoli. Cruz hit a spin kick on Hero for a nearfall, then he hit a lungblower to the chest! In a cool spot, Claudio held BOTH faces, upside down, in his arms, and Hero hit double dropkicks on both faces! Darin came back with an Ace Crusher on Claudio at 11:30 for a believable nearfall.
The crowd was HOT! The faces went for the Cruz Control/team Alabama Slam, but Claudio broke it up with a European Uppercut. The heels then hit a double Pyramid Bomb/crossed-arm powerbomb, and Claudio pinned Darin. On commentary, Sweeney said, “That was a tremendous showing by the North Star Express.” The crowd gave the NSE a standing ovation.
(8) Mike Quackenbush defeats Claudio Castognoli at 10:37. (Aug. 13, 2005). Wow, this was a fun 10-minute match, and I wish these two had went longer! They traded some quick reversals, with Quack hitting armdrags, a headscissors takedown, and a plancha. Claudio planted some of his big European Uppercuts and a vertical suplex for a nearfall at 3:30.
Claudio hit a Palm Strike (Quack’s move!). Quack hit his own Palm Strike, and Claudio bailed to the floor. Quack hit a forward roll dive off the top rope to the floor, then some Windmill Chops. Claudio hit an awesome roaring European Uppercut at 8:30. Claudio hit his Pyramid Bomb/cross-armed powerbomb for a believable nearfall. Quack got a hurricanrana for a pin out of nowhere. Fun, fast action.
(9) Eddie Kingston defeats Larry Sweeney at 10:12 to win the “ICW-ICWA Tex-Arkana TV title.” (July 22, 2006). Sweeney’s belt is a phantom belt that he supposedly defends across the South. Kingston attacked Sweeney immediately, and they fought on the floor. Chris Hero was on commentary. Sweeney hit a hotshot across the top rope, and he hit some punches and he choked Kingston, as he dominated early. Sweeney applied a sleeper on the mat at 3:00. Kingston slammed Sweeney’s back into the exposed turnbuckle. Sweeney hit a second-rope elbowdrop for a nearfall, then his Dibiase Fistdrops for a nearfall, and he was frustrated that he couldn’t put Kingston away. Sweeney hit some playful slaps at Kingston’s face! This fired up Kingston, and he hit several hard chops at 6:30!
Kingston hit a Yakuza Kick and a Northern Lights suplex for a nearfall. Sweeney hit a Gordbuster for a nearfall, and he catapulted Kingston into an exposed turnbuckle. After several attempts, Sweeny was finally able to hit a piledriver for a nearfall. However, he missed a top-rope elbow drop. Kingston hit some hard clotheslines at 9:30. It appeared that Sweeney was going for a sunset flip, but Kingston sat down on him, got a rollup, and scored the pin, to win Sweeney’s title. Solid match.
Final thoughts: DVD runs 2 hours even.
This was a very good DVD. I said this before, but if you are not familiar with the Chikara Pro roster, this is a really good place to start. The matches are fun, filled with quick action, and plenty of family-friendly humor. I say this in every Chikara review – this action isn’t for everyone. Fans of hardcore wrestling won’t ‘get’ Chikara humor. No, not every Chikara wrestler is tall or has a great physique. But the action is fast.
Best match goes to the six-man tag that opened this collection – it should be no surprise that a match given more than 20 minutes that features Jigsaw, Quackenbush and Castagnoli was really, really good. I’ll give second-best match to Hero/Castagnoli vs. Skayde/Milano. The crowd heat there was great, as fans really were into the match, and really wanted to see Skayde & Milano win the tag titles.
Third best goes to Hero/Castagnoli vs. the North Star Express. This was one of the best NSE matches I’ve seen; these guys traveled from Minnesota to eastern Pennsylvania to be in that tag tournament, and they busted their butts to have a great match with Kings of Wrestling. Good stuff. Quack vs. Claudio, while short, was good for the time given, and that earned fourth best. (Thus, Claudio was in the top four matches of this disc!)
No surprise that, with this being a “best of Chikara” DVD, that there was nothing below average here. The 8-man tag with Los Ice Creams earned an average rating; that match seems to be on here just to showcase the rest of the roster. The women’s match was good for the time given.
Negatives: I mentioned this already, but I was disappointed that entrances are cut (for music copyright purposes), so I understand that. But, Chikara tapes a LOT of promos, and some of those could have been included. With this DVD only being two hours, they could have put another couple matches on here, and showcase some of the Mexican and Japanese talent they’ve flown in, or included some matches with Arik Cannon and Delirious.
This is not the first “best of” Chikara DVD; a “Road Trip 2004” DVD is essentially a “best-of” collection, and that also is highly recommended. This DVD has earned a big thumbs up. Purchase it at www.bigvisionentertainment.com for $10.
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