I woke up this morning in Wolverhampton. I left my hotel room, got the train back to my corner of northern England and went immediately to work. When I came home after my post-5pm commitments, I was exhausted, but I needed to talk about King of Trios.
Wrestling shows tend to leave you tired; they’re emotionally and physically draining, especially if they’re done right. But while most shows leave you with little in the tank, a Chikara show does the opposite: for all the energy you spend on their comic-book characters and primary-coloured heroes, you get more back than you give. After three nights of quality wrestling at the King of Trios tournament, I don’t need a day or two away from the graps as usual – I want to do the whole thing again.
There’ll be plenty of blogs and articles giving you breakdowns of the matches, so I don’t want to focus on results. I want to tell you that pro wrestling is one of the most powerful, poetic art forms that we have and while there’s room for all styles and approaches, Chikara does something very special with it.
From the minute I walked into Starworks in Wolverhampton, I felt like I was being welcomed to somebody’s Wonderland. High-fives from the delightfully sparkly ring announcer Vlad Radinov (The Party Tsar, because he knows where the parties are) and Razerhawk (a masked robot bird from the future) didn’t exactly hurt. It sounds like the characters were born from an acid trip, but they make perfect sense within Chikara’s own logic. It’s a place where a hermit crab, a lobster and a fish can form a stable and you’ll just nod and go with it.
The bright colours and outlandish concepts obviously appeal to kids, but the wrestling never suffers for them. Every performer is taken seriously, from indie stars like Chris Brookes to the ancient Egyptian snake possessed by a demon, so you know that who or whatever might be squaring off in the ring, you’re in for a good match. A child watching Chikara today will grow up to appreciate other styles of wrestling, except that they’ll wonder why the storylines aren’t as consistent or compelling. It was wonderful to spend a weekend watching kids stare in awe at their heroes (a toddler in a lucha mask is never not adorable), and then to see their faces as those performers came to talk to them.
Fan interaction is easily one of Chikara’s biggest strengths. Before and after every show, there were performers working the floor to induct fans into their world (special recognition goes to Razerhawk, who made friends for life by simply wandering round talking to anyone who would listen). King of Trios is unique for the Saturday afternoon Fan Conclave, where my friend’s daughter won a crab-walking competition against Hermit Crab, and my boyfriend lost to Kid Lykos at Fire Pro Wrestling. We played Pictionary with Solo Darling against reigning champion Kobald, and Dash Chisako learned to play Uno with a circle of hairy men.
It’s obvious Chikara welcomes and appeals to kids, but the primarily adult audience appreciates moments like these too. No other promotion allows you this much access to its talent, let alone opportunities to bond with the characters. It’s far more than meeting and greeting: it’s immersive theatre, which means you’re thoroughly invested when the first bell rings.
Nearly every match delivered, and they all brought something new to the weekend. Night 1 was the strongest in-ring overall, but Night 2 had Mike ‘Retired My Ass’ Quackenbush wrestling Johnny Kidd, which was fantastic (I have been a huge fan of Quack for years and their last match was quite special too). The last day saw a very fun tag team gauntlet match won by reigning champions Los Ice Creams (yes, a pair of sentient ice creams are champions and I lost my voice cheering for them), and the King of Trios final itself. I screamed, I squirmed, I gasped when Chisako took a dive from the top of the set, and when it ended, I sat exhausted and dejected that one of the wrestlers I love most in the world had been pinned by the one I hate most. Match of the year, but a shame about the finish.
A Chikara show, especially a giant fiesta like King of Trios, has an atmosphere that cannot be replicated. Everyone is your friend; everyone is happy to be here; everyone is happy that you’re doing this together because everybody loves pro wrestling. There’s a genuine joy born of the camaraderie among people of all ages, genders and walks of life who jump into a wrestling fantasy land, some of whom have matches to entertain the rest of us.
I’m at home right now, but my head is still in that world. When I make it back, I’ll be so grateful for my stay there.