Here's What Happened at Chikarasaurus Rex

More eyes than ever are on the indie wrestling league. Here's why.

While the mainstream wrestling world is going through a considerable shake-up in the wake of the founding of All Elite Wrestling, perhaps the first legitimate challenge to WWE in decades, the independent wrestling underground continues to be a showcase of underappreciated talent and unbridled creativity. Chikara—an eccentric and fantastical Philadelphia-based lucha libre league taking aesthetic inspiration from comic books and Japanese puroresu—has been a dependable force of imaginativeness since 2002. Either despite of or because of its kid-friendly ethos, the small federation has served as a pipeline of rising talent, with several WWE and AEW fighters having made their way through Chikara. Now, as the company’s luchadors gear up for the brand’s biggest event of the year, King of Trios (to be held in October), new feuds were established as many complex narratives continued to develop at this weekend’s Chikarasaurus Rex event.

Chikara’s unique postmodern storytelling has created epic rivalries that have at this point spanned nearly two decades. At the Wrestle Factory on September 7, Ophidian the Cobra, a masked head trainer at Chikara with a long history as a respected hero, continued to foment dissent against figurehead Mike Quackenbush. After he essentially stole the victory at the Infinity Gauntlet battle royale earlier this year, it seemed clear that Ophidian had shadowy support from a new crop of students, who have since revealed themselves as an insurrectionist movement within Chikaraknown as the Crucible. The up-and-comers of this stable challenged Chikara personnel including Thief Ant and Still Life with Apricots and Pears to a series of experimental and vaguely ceremonial no-ropes matches in an attempt to assert dominance over the rest of the roster. Crucible member Tunku Amir was unexpectedly trounced by an eager young student named Jawbreaker Josue, leading Ophidian to reprimand his disciples.

After claiming victory over Solo Dyne Darling, former Grand Champion Princess Kimber Lee (at one point known as Abbey Laith during her brief stint at NXT) apologized for her shadowy past with regard to her time-displaced knight, Lance Steel, a recent Crucible recruit. Realizing he needed to strengthen his ranks, Ophidian lured a reluctant Kimber to his team with promises of redemption, and perhaps out of fear, Kimber accepted and will now be joining her new master in the King of Trios.

Later, Ophidian was able to reassert his paramountcy in the main event, trouncing Green Ant with shocking ease and thus claimed victory in the Johnny The Kid Invitational Tournament.

Chikara wasn’t immune to the recent snatching of indie talents by AEW: Longtime referee Bryce Remsburg was signed by Cody’s new brand, as was Penelope Ford. Ford did not emerge as the victor in her months-long feud with Chikara star Blank, who now has set his sites on his scion Still Life with Apricots and Pears. Joey Janela, a misbehaving icon of pro wrestling’s more outlandish side, was another poached superstar who had graced Chikara’s ring for years. Although he was scheduled to fight a much-anticipated match with Quackenbush himself, Mike woefully was forced to send Hallowicked in his stead for a technical masterpiece of a bout due to an injury he had incurred the night before.

The Oedipal struggles of the Hatfield clan remain at play: Boomer succumbed to the much larger power of Volgar in a one-on-one bout, while patriarch Dasher (now unmasked after a loss to his son at the Aniversario: Scotch Mist event) picked up a victory against the wiley Mick Moretti, thus retaining the grand championship. Boomer and Dasher remain at odds, making it unclear whether they’ll be able to resolve their filial differences before KoT.

Chikara audiences, populated by older die-hard wrestling fans and kids alike, remain easily the most respectful and enthusiastic crowds perhaps in the United States: Curse words are banned, but in-jokes with the wrestlers who playfully interact with fans are plentiful. In one heart-wrenchingly wholesome moment, Blank accidentally misgendered his nonbinary rival, prompting the crowd to chant “They!” until he corrected his course. Amidst larger, industry-wide conversations about the need for more distinct policies around harassment at shows, Chikara crowds show that if the right tone is set from the start, spectators don’t necessarily need to be policed. So much energy is spent attempting to appease hardcore fans that it’s easy to forget wrestling’s early roots as entertainment for children.

The unexpected standouts of the afternoon were Tony Deppen, a member of the nefarious F.I.S.T. faction, who perfectly embodied an obnoxious high school bully mid-sugar rush, and the aforementioned Moretti. One would think the Joker-inspired goofball gimmick would have exhausted itself in the same year the Joaquin Phoenix film is debuting, but Moretti’s trickster shenanigans felt both fresh and energetic, even or especially against a formidable, serious opponent like Dasher.

More eyes than ever are on Chikara as the brand continues to amass a cult following from fans looking for more experimental presentation than is normally seen at indie shows. The quality of the wrestling at Chiraka continues to surpass much of the patently tedious wrestling regularly seen on TV. With homegrown talent within the league stepping their game up to account for the loss of certain athletes to bigger companies, Chikara’s season finale event, Tug of War, coming down the line in November, will likely be explosive.

Related: How Mike Quackenbush Built Chikara, an Indie Wrestling Empire

Related: What Happened at AEW’s “All Out” PPV?

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