Chikara group shotAs Mike Quackenbush and Restless Youth kept working the indie circuit, they grew weary of being passed over by a bias for large performers and the dull, static wrestling of their peers (as promotions desperately wanted to imitate what the WWF was looking for in talent). So, the pair broke away from the routine and opened the Wrestle Factory to teach their dynamic hybrid style of performance that lent itself well to shorter, skinnier performers (though, they didn’t limit themselves to such students, taking on pupils that didn’t fit that mold). Within five months, the school had its first graduating class in Hallowicked, Ichabod Slayne, UltraMantis (a homage to Kamen Rider and Ultraman), Mr. ZERO, Dragonfly, and Zane Madrox (and soon after, DJ Skittlez). Chikara was created and its first show brought in indie wrestlers Love Bug, Kid Kruel, Marshal Law, and Blind Rage (Rage was a local talent with some training who would become an honorary student of the Chikara troupe) to match with their graduates. For the main event, Quackenbush and Youth teamed with their friend Don Montoya against CM Punk, Colt Cabana, and Chris Hero (aka the Gold Bond Mafia). Chikara would begin to take shape, basing itself largely on lucha libre as heroes and villains became separate stables (or, known in Mexico, Tecnicos and Rudos). Rage, Slayne, and Hallowicked formed the stable the Night Shift as Quackenbush, Youth, and UltraMantis became their sparring partners establishing another lucha libre tradition of three-man teams called trios. It would also be decided early on Chikara would be family friendly, nothing overtly sexual or violent with profanity explicitly forbidden. To this day, children twelve and under get in for free with a paying adult. As an aside, Chikara’s troupe would and continues to do extensive charity work.

 

The Second ShowChikara continued to grow as the luchador La Parka (made famous in the States during his run in WCW) started touring with the company and a sister promotion was formed of female wrestlers called Kiryoku featuring the likes of Queen Bee and Trinity Campbell. Sadly, Kiryoku never took off but its stars folded into Chikara. Dark days were ahead for the promotion. For reasons unknown, residents in Allentown organized to shutdown the Wrestle Factory (citing the building and promotion detrimental to the “complexion of the community”). They would eventually get their wish when a judge deemed its facilities were inadequate to handle parking for its live events. Chikara would begin circulating video tapes of their matches following the media coverage of the court battle as its performers started making a living wrestling for other promotions (notably Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South, IWA-MS). The Wrestle Factory continued to train students as a second class graduated. The occasion was marred a bit, however, when Reckless Youth decided to leave the business to help his wife in her fitness venture. Quackenbush was left with the decision of either buying out Youth’s half of the company or closing its doors. His faith in Chikara and the Wrestle Factory, Quackenbush became their sole owner and the chief creative force for the company moving forward. Making an agreement with St. John’s Lutheran Church a few blocks from the Factory to host live events in their auditorium, Chikara returned after almost four months of being shut down. The second class made their debut as Eddie Kingston, BlackJack Marciano, Gran Akuma, Melvin Snodgrass, Lester Crabtree, Jigsaw, and referee Bryce Remsburg emerged for the promotion’s rebirth.

 

Young Lions Cup 2002By the end of Chikara’s first tumultuous year, the promotion introduced its first major reoccurring event in the Young Lions Cup. A singles tournament intended for competitors who competed in less than fifty matches (later changed to twenty five years of age and under), the event was inspired by the Super J Cup which was an international tournament hosted by and within Japan (originally by NJPW) with talent from across Asia, North America, and Mexico. The first Young Lions Cup was held over two nights with Hallowicked defeating Mister ZERO to be its first winner. A month later, Chikara hosted its first Mascara contra Caballera (Mask vs. Hair) match, a Mexican tradition where the loser must either shave their head or publicly remove their mask (the latter considered career ending in lucha libre’s early history), between Blind Rage and Ichabod Slayne. Slayne would lose and unmask, returning later as the character Icarus, a Tecnico. Finishing out the year, the promotion took some months off as a third class was nearing graduation. The time off established the current tradition of operating in seasons, though as elements of science fiction and fantasy elements began finding their way into the promotion they may better be described as limited series of a comic book.

 

Tag World Grand Prix 20032003 saw the arrival of graduates Rorschach, Jolly Roger, and Private Eye as another major reoccurring event emerged in the Aniversario, an annual celebration of when Chikara was founded often bringing back faces from the past. Even bigger than that was the founding of the reoccurring event Tag World Grand Prix. The Prix saw two-man tag teams from various promotions come to Chikara to battle its own tag teams. Some participants like Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli (known today as Cesaro in WWE), and Skayde would soon become mainstays of the company (as well as guest teachers at the Factory). Quackenbush and Hero formed the tag team the SuperFriends and became a major force for the Tecnicos in Chikara (the pair drawing analogies to the World’s Finest, their symbols paying homage to Batman and Superman, respectively).