Tuesday, September 23, 2014

King of Trios 2014 Review

King of Trios 2014 happened this past weekend. I think it deserves a thoughtful and insightful write up. You’ll get my word farts instead.

Instead of running down the matches and talking about each I think it is more useful to give a more impressionistic view. One thing to keep in mind is that my mind is wired in such a way that I find failures, or things I find fault with, more interesting than things that worked. I know this is kind of crummy, but instead of just rattling over all the things I liked (and there is a lot!) I’ll probably focus more on what didn’t quite work for me.

I enjoy Chikara. I don’t think it is perfect, but it has a unique voice and can deliver some really solid wrestling. I think Chikara is at its best when Chikara guys wrestle people outside Chikara, as we saw a lot of in 2012 King of Trios. One of the notable things this year is that Trios felt smaller, it didn’t have that same magic of 2011 or 2012, and that it was very much a big Chikara weekend. I’ve had friends mention that this weekend was a great Chikara show, but it wasn’t a great King of Trios. There were a few matches that were really solid, but few if any that I’ll revisit the same way I revisit most of night 3 of 2011 and 2012.

Trios didn’t start great this year. Night 1 wasn’t very good. The easiest way I can talk about it is to say that it was 8 variations on the same match. Every match had long, much too long, stretches of a face-in-distress. There were also too many false finishes. It just wasn’t great. There were a few interesting storyline bits, but the actual wrestling didn’t really grab me, and the night felt long. Luckily Night 2 and Night 3 got a lot better.

I sometimes feel like Chikara has too many tag matches. They all sort of blend together for me. Babyface gets beat up for a long time. Good guys try to come in and help but the ref stops them. While stopping the good guys the bad guys cheat and beat up the good guy even more. Every match goes this way. I get that tag team, and Trios, wrestling is a little limited in what it can do but it feels like Chikara goes to this well way too often. Sometimes it results in a payoff (2012 Trios where Sendai Girls make Team ROH tap but don’t get the win because of a distraction is paid off later when you think the same is going to happen to the Envoy against ROH in the finals) but it usually doesn’t go anywhere.

The highlight of Night 1 was Team LAX (Hernandez, Chavo, and Homicide) against the Golden Trio. Part of this is that the Throwbacks are great, but LAX was also super fun. Homicide and Hernandez were especially fun and had a good time messing with the crowd and the opposing team. The wrestling was fun as well. It’s easy to be really critical to those guys, but when allowed to show a little bit of personality I think they can be really entertaining. I know a lot of people who were down when that team was announced, but afterwards I imagine most people were on board with them.

Night 2 was very fun. The Trios matches felt more engaging. The Colony v The Flood was especially great and probably my favorite match of the whole weekend. The Battle of the Bow Ties was a little more comedy than I wanted, but still very entertaining. Yoshi Tatus v Smooth Sailing Ashley Remington was as charming and fun as I wanted. Some really good stuff went down and it was fun. I think the first Rey de Voladores qualifier was more fun than the second, but they were both solid.

I do want to touch on some positive things that I think are important. First, the Throwbacks are great. I’ve been big on Mr Touchdown for a while, I think that guy just “gets” wrestling, and Dasher has always been reliably good. Together they’ve managed to become one of my absolute favorite tag teams. Dasher has gone from reliably good, to just great and Mr Touchdown is still just really fun to watch. I can be a little down on Chikara’s wrestling, but the best guys in Chikara (including Hallowicked and Silver Ant here as well) are some of the best you’ll find.

The Flood team was also really fun. Jimmy Jacobs didn’t get to do a whole lot but he had a good presence. Eddie Kingston was more entertaining and engaging than I’ve seen in a long time. Even Volgar got to do some cool stuff, Samoan Drops are the best, and really helped to make that team and their matches feel important and meaningful.

That does lead to a bit of a downer, however. I really liked both of these teams but their match together on Night 3 was a little underwhelming. Not that it was bad, but I wanted more. A lot of matches had too many false finishes and too much drama, but theirs wasn’t allowed enough. I think a few more minutes, some more escalation, and a little bit more drama could have made that the best match of the weekend. It was still really good, but when the finish came it felt abrupt and not very satisfying. I wanted more.

Night 3 felt a little less good than Night 2. The first match was the aforementioned Flood and Golden Trio match. It felt as though that would be the final, having it on first just felt off. It was a very fun match, just not quite the emotional finale I wanted it to be.

The Rey de Voladores finale was really fun. I like Shynron and Senada, and they had a fine match. I wanted more high flying from that match, and from the qualifiers as well, but it was still really fun. I’m happy for Shynron as that guy has gotten better and seems to continue to get better. I always find myself cheering for guys who seem to improve and try new things and get better, at least.

The Tag Gauntlet was a little disappointing. I had to get up and stretch my legs during this match so I missed some of it, but what I saw wasn’t great. I think the Tag Gauntlet is like the Royal Rumble: the actual match isn’t the attraction, the build up of a new and unannounced participant is. 2012 had a fun Devastation Corporation beating up on people, for Warlord and Barbarian to come out, ended by Demolition coming in, and it all worked and had a really fun escalation. 2014 missed that and was much more of a Chikara match, so much so that Los Icecreams were probably the most cheered for team.

The comedy match was also pretty good. I’m not big on the Submission Squad, I don’t find them funny enough to be funny and they’re not good enough at wrestling (except Davey Vega, at least) to get me interested in the wrestling, but their match with the Gentlemen’s Club was really fun. I chalk most of this up to Davey Vega wrestling 90% of the match for the Submission Squad, and because Chuck Taylor, Orange Cassidy, and Drew Gulak are hilarious. Gulak especially seems like a guy who is great at everything and is always fun.

The finale was strong. Devastation Corporation are getting really good, and having them go against the Golden Trio made for a good match. It still felt a little anticlimatic, but I enjoyed it. The Devastation Corporation won (and they should win) and I’m happy for it, because my lizard-brain can’t handle them losing. Dev Corp are these huge jacked dudes who are super strong, but also smart enough and really agile. The characters are good at everything. The primal part of my ape brain has a hard time believing they’re going to lose to any team in Chikara, because Chikara dudes aren’t all that tall. It made sense and was a good match.

I’m still waiting for Icarus to turn heel. I really dislike his James-Franco-From-Your-Highness character, and I don’t buy his whole shtick. Maybe it’s because I don’t bleed Chikara, but it doesn’t work for me. He was really conspicuous this weekend, I felt as though he wrestled much less than the Throwbacks and I kept thinking this would turn into him being a bit of a heel. Something. Anything. I’m not sure.

One problem I have with Chikara, and one that is growing, is that Chikara seems to only want to play to Chikara fans. People who think about Chikara all the time. People wrapped up in Chikara. Diehard fans. I get that, I get that Chikara wants to be different and be its own thing but it starts to get really far into it being Chikara it starts to become impenetrable to anyone but the most diehard, and its stories start to fall on deaf ears.

I’m not overly concerned with Chikara’s existential problems. I’m not overly worried that Jimmy Jacobs is going to shut down Chikara. During their year off I basically quit the promotion until they gave me wrestling, so now that they are I don’t want to be teased with outside ruinous forces that want to destroy Chikara. Again. Wrestling invasion angles are never great, and once Chikara fights off the Flood what are they going to do? Tim Donst being a jerk doesn’t have quite the gravity that Deucalion killing wrestlers does.

There are emotional beats that fall flat to me. Chikara winning (again) against the Flood isn’t that exciting. Eddie Kingston becoming a good guy (again) is great and all, but if he was the difference between the Flood winning and losing what are we going to do for the rest of the season? Trios became part of Chikara’s larger story and instead of Trios being its own story to tell over a weekend (as I think it should be, or at least is most entertaining when it does) it became part of a bigger story. It became a piece. I missed having smaller stories being told, of Sendai Girls getting popular and everyone growing to increasingly hate Team ROH. Of Spectral Envoy winning the big one in a big cathartic moment that one needed only to see Trios to get. Trios got too far into being a big Chikara show this weekend that it felt like it missed a lot of the magic of 2012, and I kind of miss that.

Trios 2014 was still a fun show. I had a blast and will happily go again in 2015. Being around some of my most favorite people all weekend helps, but the show was fun. Chikara builds a good atmosphere and I don’t want the negative feelings I do have cloud the fact that Trios is fun and that you should go if you can. I just wish for the magic I felt in prior years, and feel there are reasons why it wasn’t there this year. A fun and very good show is still a good thing, and maybe it isn’t fair that I compare it so much to something exceptional and great.
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