Sunday, 14 August 2011 22:11
The Case of the Bulletproof Waldo
CHIKARA Pro Wrestling
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Apparently great wrestling had a convergence in Chicago this summer, and CHIKARA’s “The Case of the Bulletproof Waldo” is one more example, having first been displayed on June 24th, and now available on DVD.
I hate to act like CHIKARA pales in terms of wrestling action, because it does not. What CHIKARA does feature, however, is the total package of a product. (and no, there is no Lex Luger joke here.) What impresses me with any given CHIKARA Pro Wrestling DVD is that there is a show.
Sure, we can debate the merits of a folk singing announcer named Gavin Loudspeaker, but Gavin brings a level of engagement, passion and hosting the event to which most pro wrestling events are oblivious. What’s more fascinating is that the Loudspeaker vs BDK’s Jakob Hammermeier feud – in terms of a battle of announcers as a subplot of the Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes attempted takeover of CHIKARA – has more fully cemented the loud one as the friendly voice of this particularly entertaining pro wrestling promotion.
Loudspeaker is folksy, loud and actually rather endearing.
He opens the show with a song, and ends it with engaging the audience and promising bigger things, the ability to catch the next night’s action up the road, and a robust thanks for their support.
Add one more aspect of CHIKARA that isn’t just vastly superior to other promotions, it carves a role almost unheard of in the business.
(Ok, I’ll wait for the WSX references from Kleinrock or Dr. Keith)
Speaking of Dr. Keith Lipinski, my most favorite pro wrestling commentator does a stand-up job announcing a few matches on this DVD, and makes me insanely jealous, but then again, outside that 30 minute interview on Pro Wrestling Newz-n-Viewz out of Butler, I’ve got more of a face for writing.
“The Case of the Bulletproof Waldo” and the shield design immediately had me thinking Judge Dredd, but a quick internet search landed me on some YouTube show called C.O.P.S., and at that point I’m clueless about the reference other than the shared title.
Yet face/heel dynamics are one of the avenues of CHIKARA’s storylines, so why not a cartoon cop show reference?
This DVD isn’t exactly earth-shattering, as we’re long past the whole BDK/CHIKARA climax and into the denouement, but there are fascinations abounding, from the rise of FIST, Sara Del Rey and Da Soul Touchaz, to the establishment of the 12 Large Tournament, to establish a Champion and to reflect on the memory of the late, great Larry Sweeney.
Plus we have The Batiri in action, the always awesomely great Ultramantis Black and the always Old School awesome Eddie Kingston.
What’s there not to like?
Well, for the fear of double or triple negatives, there’s nothing not to like with CHIKARA, which is what makes the promotion easily the best professional wrestling in the world that the vast majority of the mainstream is clueless about.
So before I go negative, let’s get to the matches.
The Batiri vs The Throwbacks
There’s something equally amusing and annoying about The Throwbacks, this old school type of gimmick, featuring Matt Classic, Sugar Dunkerton & Dasher Hatfield as ancient incarnations of a wrestler, a basketball player and a baseball player. I guess putting Sugar’s afro under a hood was tried but failed miserably, as the other two are masked.
Colt Cabana is on the show?
Oh. Anyway, Dasher Hatfield has a particularly creepy look with that baseball inspired mask. Dunkerton is very large, and Classic is anything if not classic.
The Batiri – I’d call them green but their face paint here is black and yellow and those eyeballs are creepy. Well, the two (Obariyon & Kodama) that are painted up. The third is the typical smaller guy of the trio, Kobald.
Apparently they are under the lordship of Sinn Bodhi, aka Kizarny.
They are an interesting faction and one more clever example of CHIKARA’s boundless creativity. Here, there’s this visual clash of cultures and of gimmicks and of heels and faces. You’ve got the over-the-top ‘throwback’ faces with the various subtleties and not, against ultra-modern heels with aggression and rulebreaking, but it works in the CHIKARA universe and that’s what’s important.
What’s fascinating is that in some places, a WWE reject (for lack of better description) would be slightly repackaged and put out with little introduction. Here, someone peered into the soul of Kizarny and pulled out a supporting cast and a raison d’etre for his being in CHIKARA.
Ophidian vs. Isaias Velazquez
Ophidian I know from the Osirian Portal. Velazquez I don’t, but I believe he’s from Vanguard Wrestling. Ophidian has that crazy snake mask, has been known to practice hypnotism, and has one of the weirdest wrestling approaches of all time, with this slinky, snaky, charming mannerism and agility.
What would Ophidian do with the Cobra?
Who cares, as he has his own death grip, the Bridging Cobra Clutch Death Grip
Velazquez looks like he can fit in, and it will be fascinating to see what CHIKARA does with him down the road. For now, he’s in the second match and looks like he can go.
Johnny Gargano & Chuck Taylor (F.I.S.T.) vs The Colony (Green Ant & Soldier Ant)
This match is the epitome of what makes CHIKARA’s wrestling work. The Colony is one crazy gimmick – ants. Yeah, ants with names that explain their personality. Green Ant is, of course, the newbie. Soldier Ant has a penchant for saluting and military themed moves. But The Colony has been on the top of the tag team food chain, contending for those Campeones de Parejas.
Taylor & Gargano are two of the up-and-comers in the indy scene.
Chucky-T is a blue-chipper, and Gargano wore the gold in AIW for a year, and these two can go. As a tag team they definitely mesh well, and the creativity of the in-ring action in this match is what makes it work. From the gimmick-oriented Colony to the heelishness of F.I.S.T., with that doubling of the action, it’s fast-paced and technical and the best of the CHIKARA style.
Frightmare vs Heiracon
This is a battle of the smaller guys of two factions, actually two face factions: The Spectral Envoy and The Osirian Portal. Frightmare is sort of the little buddy of Hallowicked, bedecked in green, confused with Delirious at times, but he’s the current Young Lions Cup holder and a vastly talented individual.
Heiracon is the newest guy in the Osirian Portal – that Egyptian styled team – and he’s more than just a gimmick as well. Both are masked, fast and can go, but this one’s all about The Spectral Envoy.
Sara Del Rey vs Icarus (12 Large: Summit Tournament Match)
I’m not the biggest fan of women wrestling men, but if you’re going to name gals who can go against the opposite sex, then Del Rey is at the top of that list. With commentary from Tim Donst, the situation with Sara Del Rey seems to be progressing to a potential break-away by Del Rey from the BDK, or at least some internal leadership battles, but maybe that’s just me reading too much into this. But then again, Del Rey in a block where she will eventually wrestle Claudio Castagnolli seems like something is being set up.
Icarus is one of the long time CHIKARA veterans, a leader of F.I.S.T. who is being overshadowed by his newer charges.
There’s a lot of interplay involved and it turns into a strong match, and turns Del Rey babyface at least for this one, in a twist since the Rudo vs the Outsider dynamics should make her the bigger heel. But who’s booing a girl against a guy anyway?
I’m also not huge on the revolving door commentary, but CHIKARA also masters that concept – the wrestlers on the mike are not just going through the motions. Tim Donst does an amazing job of staying in character, commenting on his BDK peer in the ring, all the while positioning himself as a BDK leader. That’s a level of cleverness that should be applauded.
Claudio Castagnoli vs Hallowicked (12 Large: Summit Tournament Match)
In terms of talent and expectations this is very well the main event, but CHIKARA is more about delivering a show and a product. Of course, having a card so deep that two of the top names in the promotion are in the fourth match from the finale is telling.
Castagnoli may very well be WWE bound, and it’s a few years later than he should have gone. Hallowicked is everything that CHIKARA does well: take a gimmick, a talent and blend them together and drive the role with the gimmick, meshing the ability and the clever gimmick and doing it seamlessly.
Hallowicked’s costuming alone is worth note: a jack o’lantern face menacingly cut out from a black T-shirt. Indy level, indeed, but it’s vastly more than that.
I believe Quackenbush was on color here, and he played well the heel aspects of Castagnoli and the potential for Hallowicked to revert to his roots. It added a nice layer of tension underneath what is otherwise a strong match. It even removed my typical cynicism about back-and-forth action… well, almost anything is fine on a match by match basis, it’s when every match looks the same that I scream about it.
Ultramantis Black vs Fire Ant (12 Large: Summit Tournament Match)
How many times, and in how many ways, can you provide yet another example of CHIKARA’s excellence?
It’s not just the overall character of Ultramantis Black, or that overwhelmingly awesome promo he delivers beforehand (We are both members of the Insect Kingdom!) but the layered storytelling that goes from the introductions and Gavin Loudspeaker to the commentary to the story of the match.
This is no back and forth match in the traditional indy sense. Instead, there’s a flow of the match, from one guy coming out strong to the other taking over. It’s not hold or series switching around, but telling a story in the ring and it is done well.
But let’s get back to the opening, where Loudspeaker extols the accomplishments of the combatants, and with Ultramantis Black he gets philosophical (I’d say metaphysical but some would scoff) and talks about the lack of material displays of UMB’s accomplishments, but that he has amassed passionate followers.
But the interesting thing is the reaction by a masked man to that comment, then the theme being taken up by the announcers, and the strong undercurrent that after a decade in the ring and being first generation CHIKARA, that the devious one really does have to deliver in this tourney.
Well, after a hard fought battle he does here, using both the Cosmic Disaster and the Praying Mantis Bomb but let’s see how the rest of the story plays out.
Eddie Kingston vs Colt Cabana
We are told this is a match made in remembrance of Larry Sweeney and considering the guys in the ring and a very definitive clash of styles, I wondered how it would all work out.
Well, I shouldn’t have worried about it.
They did play out the clash between the ultra-serious Kingston and the overly comedic Cabana. Just how is it that A) Cabana couldn’t catch on with the WWE and that B) the WWE can’t be ½ as creative in laying out matches as CHIKARA?
Ah, there is a unifying reason.
Anyway, there’s nothing more telling than having a mocking at the front end of a match that delivers into the ultimate finish. There’s also a weird cameo by Vin Gerard.
The post match respect, despite all the mocking, comedy and brilliant professional wrestling, was truly a deserving shout-out to the one and only Larry Sweeney.
Da Soul Touchaz (Acid Jaz, Willie Richardson & Marshe Rockett) vs Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes [BDK] (Tim Donst, Jakob Hammermeier & Tursas)
Gavin Loudspeaker’s Main Event introductions are off the charts. Actually, all his introductions are of the sort that more people should be doing it like this, but why expose a good thing?
At first, I’m thinking why Da Soul Touchaz, but they’re from Chicago, and that’s what working with the audience is all about. To be fair, Da Touchaz are equal parts awesome gimmick and green, but they are well protected here and one day they will be playas of epic proportions.
Willie Richardson plays face in peril, which is ironic since he’s built more like Mark Henry than the beanpoles that dominate this scene. Jaz & Rockett thus spend most of the match outside the ring, and get to display some awesome aerial work at the end.
Just when the typical BDK stuff with the foreign objects and outside interference looks to kick in, out comes C-Red, the not quite so Richardsonian manager of the group, to exact his revenge on the BDK. Well, they did promise as much in the pre-match promo.
It’s the sort of send the crowd home happy match that I can’t complain about. And it doesn’t just fade to black, but ends up, again, with the Gavin Loudspeaker thanks and wrap-up of the show.
There are few promotions today that deliver as a product, that impress with their overall approach, that present themselves as a wholly satisfying professional wrestling show, and CHIKARA is the one that does it best.