(Yesterday, I focussed on Anarchy Championship Wrestling as an alternative to the lack of female wrestling in Ring Of Honor. As it turns out, the article was pretty well-timed, as Portia Perez won the ACW Heavyweight Title, if only for an hour. Today, let’s look elsewhere…)
The other promotion that has done equally well by it’s female talent is Chikara. Started by Mike Quackenbush and Tom Carter in 2002, it started integrating female wrestlers right off the bat. Its sixth show, which took place June 28th, 2002, was one that featured talent from their sister promotion Kiryoku Pro in an almost all-female show (there was a ten person tag team match that came as a result of interference in an earlier women’s match). After that all-female show, there were two other regular shows that had women’s matches billed as “Kiryoku Pro Showcase” matches.
Eventually the overall ethos of the promotion changed. They no longer saw gender as a wall – rather, the company wanted wrestlers to wrestle each other, regardless of sex. This started in 2003, at the first annual Tag World Grand Prix on July 5th, where the Kiryoku Pro team of Mercedes Martinez & Sumie Sakai took on The Wild Cards of Eddie Kingston and Blackjack Marciano. On October 18th, 2003’s International Invasion Of The International Invaders Sumie took on Jigsaw.
Granted, 2004 saw less female v female or female v male matches than 2002 or 2003 but 2005 was a sort of rebirth for women in Chikara. You had a slew of talent that made for some interesting matches (Chris Hero v Sumie Sakai? It happened at Running in the Red on November 13th, 2005). This also coincided with the birth of SHIMMER in November 2005 and the high point of IWA: Mid South‘s women’s division. It felt like women on the independent circuit had more choices than ever before. In 2006, two women debuted that would become Chikara mainstays: Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze. These two would also become part of Chikara’s biggest storyline to date in late 2009: The Bruderschaft des Kreuzes versus the rest of Chikara.
Daizee and Sara not only teamed together – they also teamed with members of the BDK to take on various male opponents. If 2005 opened the door to the possibilities of male v female matches, then these two tore down the walls, helping create the Chikara we now see today. They were booked strongly, smartly and although at first glimpse it would seem improbable that someone of Daizee’s size could beat larger opponents, it happened on several occasions. It was believable, which is why it worked.
2010 broke new ground in the promotion for women. Not only did you rarely have a show that didn’t see Daizee, Sara or both taking on any and all comers, but later in the year there was a surprise. In September 2010, a woman was brought in from Japan to make her American debut with Chikara. The announcement created shockwaves among fans in America and world wide: the woman in question was none other than Japanese legend Manami Toyota. Anyone who was familiar with Toyota’s work in the 1990s knew what to expect. For those who weren’t…they were in for a pleasant surprise.
On September 18th, Toyota faced off against Daizee Haze at Eye to Eye. On September 19th, she teamed up with Chikara founder Mike Quackenbush to take on BDK members Claudio Castagnoli and Del Rey at Through Savage Progress Cuts the Jungle Line. With the crowd chanting “Please come back”, Toyota had won over a whole new set of fans, taking on the larger Claudio as well as Sara, and putting on a stellar match.
As it was, Toyota opened a door in Chikara. She not only returned to compete in 2011’s King of Trios tournament in April, teaming with Quackenbush and Jigsaw, but you also saw some familiar faces return, and some new faces debut. In January, then-SHIMMER champion Madison Eagles took on Daizee in a losing effort. She lobbied successfully to become part of the Chikara roster (before an unfortunate injury caused her to move back to Australia), was the first person to take on another debut from Japan in March in Toshie Uematsu and also faced off in a singles match against Toyota on the third night of the King of Trios weekend. July’s Chikarasaurus Rex: King of Sequel saw quite a few debuts and returns: Night One had Sara and Daizee teaming up with then-Ice Ribbon member Makoto to take on the returning Portia Perez, Ice Ribbon’s then-ICEx60 champion Tsukasa Fujimoto and CMLL‘s Mima Shimoda. Night two featured Makoto facing off against Fujimoto in a non-title match, Daizee taking on Shimoda and, as part of the 12 Large: Summit tournament, Sara faced fellow BDK member Castagnoli.
Quite a packed card. The visual of Sara versus Claudio was intriguing, but moreso the backstory: Claudio expected Sara to lay down for him so he could advance in the tournament. But Sara refused and wound up beating him with a crucifix to advance. After the match, he proceeded to beat both her and Daizee (when the latter entered the ring to defend Sara) down, effectively ending their membership in the BDK. Daizee hasn’t been seen since, but Sara went on to declare war against her former teammates, taking on and beating Ares and Tursas, as well as being the sole survivor in last night’s Cibernetico which saw her face the five BDK members as well as the combination of the Batiri. At Chikara’s first iPPV later today she will celebrate her birthday by facing another BDK member, Jakob Hammermeier, who interfered in her match against Tursas.
Meanwhile, on October 8th, the “World Famous” Kana wrestled Jessie McKay (also making her return to Chikara). She was originally scheduled to wrestle Eagles but the 6’1″ Australian had to bow out due to injury. The next night, at Klunk in Love, Kana was defeated by Del Rey. Their match was given the highest honour – it was the main event. From all accounts, these two blew the fans away.
Going back to Chikarasaurus Rex: King of Sequel for a moment, it was here that Chikara made an announcement for an upcoming event in December. More and more details have unfolded as the month approaches, and every detail has gotten fans more and more excited. It was announced that a show called JoshiMania would be held between December 2-4 in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York. Two names were announced in July that immediately raised interest: the returning Manami Toyota and the debuting legend Aja Kong (of OZ Academy). As the weeks progressed, more names were announced:
-Toshie Uematsu (WAVE)
-Commando Bolshoi (JWP)
-Meiko Satomura (Sendai Girls)
-Mayumi Ozaki (OZ Academy)
-Sara Del Rey (Chikara)
The first match to be announced was Del Rey v Satomura on December 4th, followed by Kong v Satomura on December 3rd, and just this past week a dream match: Kong v Del Rey on December 2nd – not only a dream match for fans but also a dream come true for Sara herself.
Much like ACW, Chikara is about equality. It is also about opportunity, as it has opened its doors to several female talents abroad and nationally and given them a chance to show that great wrestling is great wrestling – regardless of gender. From it’s humble beginnings in 2002 it has progressed to become a hot spot for women who want to prove themselves. Chikara is unique in that it provides top notch wrestling as well as intriguing and intricate storylines, but it also has quite a bit of humour in its matches. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it never tries to insult the fans’ intelligence. Mike Quackenbush has created a hybrid promotion – he has shown that you can combine several different elements to make a successful product. In the process, he created a place that women can not just stretch their boundaries but demolish them. Who knows how many people have been exposed to great female wrestling through Chikara?
ACW and Chikara have created unique promotions that give equal time and respect for women. On an interesting note, at the ROH tv tapings on November 6th, Mia Yim wrestled MsChif in Collinsville, IL. Also, the ROH newswire for November 11th announced that more women of honor matches are to come. However, even if ROH chooses not to have a full fledged women’s division in the future, as long as there are promotions like these ACW and Chikara, the future looks very bright indeed.
– Jennifer Logsdon