When talking to legendary Stan Bush, we touched lightly on his new partnership with a wrestling group called Chikara Pro. I had long been a fan of the lighthearted yet dedicated group of wrestlers in this particular company and with their focus on comic book and video game influenced persona’s and design, and with their upcoming King Of Trios event on April 15th in Philadelphia, it seemed like a great time to have a talk. Today we have the pleasure of talking to Chikara founder Mike Quackenbush about the influences and importance video games holds in the world of wrestling today, and about the upcoming King of Trios, the largest wrestling tournament in the world.
Hit the jump to read our chat with Mike Quackenbush!
OSV: Mike, such a pleasure having the chance to speak with you! Now for those of our readers that might not be all too familiar with you and your company, could you tells us a bit about yourself and CHIKARA. And please, don’t skip on the romance.
Quackenbush: Sure. I’m a professional wrestler and trainer, author and podcaster, and in 2002 I founded Chikara Wrestle Factory. From this training center, came the wrestling organization known as CHIKARA.
OSV: What inspired you to take the steps into the world of wrestling?
Quackenbush: High-flyers like Jushin Liger, Owen Hart and the 1-2-3 Kid were a big inspiration to me.
OSV: You’ve described yourself and the locker room over at CHIKARA as avid gamers. Has video games always been a big part of your life? And what games are most loved in the CHIKARA family?
Quackenbush: I think because most of the crew is made up of younger guys, having gamers is inevitable. Everyone on the roster has grown up with video games as a regular part of their lives. Our guys play everything – on a road trip you are as likely to hear guys reminiscing about MYST as they are to chat about Angry Birds.
OSV: Were there any specific titles that ignited your love for video games that comes to mind? Any wrestling game in particular?
Quackenbush: A while back, when the SNES platform was popular, the Japanese equivalent (the Super Famicom) had a game out called Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special that was mind-blowing compared to the games you could get in North America. I remember having to buy a special converter that slid in the cartridge slot and we had to get translations of the instruction book just to play it. But it was totally worth it. That whole series of wrestling games by Human are unassailable in my mind. Still the best.
OSV: Having been a fan of your work and CHIKARA’s quality output for some years now, the influences from the 80’s are undeniable. Everything from the comic book influenced portraits and covers to video game influenced moves and characters. Where did the idea come from to merge these influences together to form a wrestling group?
Quackenbush: It was just a natural sort of thing. If anything, a wrestling group akin to those sensibilities and aesthetic were overdue when CHIKARA hit the scene.
OSV: Do you feel that the balance to keep things humorous and lighthearted while at the same time provide quality matches and storytelling is hard to maintain? Despite what it may seem like when discussed on paper, I would rank CHIKARA quite high when it comes to the quality of the matches, as well as the presentation and value of the shows, with the upcoming King of Trios bringing in legends from all over the world to compete.
Quackenbush: It’s really important to keep the balance right. You have to have a team of people dedicated to a single vision for it to work. Being passionate about the creation of that has really made CHIKARA into more of a family than a touring troupe.
OSV: On the subject of legends, CHIKARA will be bringing in Japanese stars such as Great Sasuke, Jinsei Shinzaki and Manami Toyota. For many of us, the way we were introduced to these great talents were through importing titles such as Fire Pro Wrestling and Virtual Pro Wrestling. Did you personally have any attachment to these games when growing up? At least in VPW’s case (which was released as WCW World Tour/Revenge/WWF No Mercy in the US), there seems to have been times in Chikara matches where people have directly referenced those games, by mimicking the exact movement of an animation or even blocking oncoming offense by sticking their chests out!
Quackenbush: I realize a lot of people first met those characters in that way. As a big tape-trader, when that was something to do, I got to watch many of these legendary figures in their primes, taking the world by storm.
OSV: Is it true that you actually coded a CHIKARA puzzle game all by yourself? I think that would be the first time where the founder of a wrestling company actually coded his own game.
Quackenbush: No, that is not the case. But, one of the wrestlers has coded several of the little games we’ve done over the years, and does so by himself. He’s quite talented in that regard.
OSV: CHIKARA also announced plans to release a console video game titled Rudo Resurrection. What can you tell us about this game and how it is coming along?
Quackenbush: It’s been a very slow go with CHIKARA: Rudo Resurrection. There is no room for error with this game, we must get it right. We had originally expected to have it out by the end of 2010, but the game has proven to time-intensive, and we had to move back the release. We don’t want to put something out there that fails to meet fan’s expectations.
OSV: You are also an accomplished and highly regarded trainer at the Chikara Wrestle Factory. Do you see any impact of wrestling video games on the young trainees, either positive or negative? I personally attended wrestling school for a bit in 2003 with the full intent of becoming El Hijo Del Star Man. I can still remember the cold stares I got when I tried to do a Star Man flying forearm…
Quackenbush: Video games definitely influenced generations of people to come up through the ranks. In both a positive and negative way, really. There was a time when it was a slur to be called a “video game” wrestler – that is to say, someone who mostly performed a pile of flashy moves that couldn’t tell a story or build to a climax for their audience. It is very much a part of the wrestling culture.
OSV: We touched a bit on it earlier, but on April 15, CHIKARA will present King of Trios, a 3-day-3-man tag team tournament. 16 teams from all over the world will be featured and surely this must be the biggest tag team tournament, or wrestling tournament period out there today. How hard is it to actually book and put on a show like this?
Quackenbush: You are correct. With 48 participants, it is the biggest pro-wrestling tournament of the year, and has been for the last 4 or 5 years now. It is the biggest undertaking CHIKARA mounts every year, and somehow, it seems to get bigger every time we do it. I don’t know why. I wish it would stop.
OSV: There is a similarity between King of Trios and the video game King of Fighters, with the way they both pit 3 fighters in teams from all over the world. Is this an intentional influence or just a coincidence?
Quackenbush: No, it is just a coincidence. Our love of the trios match comes from our admiration of groups like CMLL and Michinoku Pro.
OSV: Another very special guest on this show will also be performing at the event, though not with his incredible move-set, rather his incredible song list. How did your partnership with Stan Bush come about? I believe you used his “The Touch” song as an entrance theme some few years ago?
Quackenbush: That’s right, I did use “The Touch” for a while. That song emits such powerful positivity….it’s like you can’t fail when that’s your anthem. Stan was a guest on a podcast I host called “The Grizzly Bear Egg Café.” He told me he was close to releasing an album, and when it was about to launch, he’d send me the press release so we could plug it on our show. He even gave me a sneak preview of a few of the tracks on Dream The Dream. We just struck up a friendship from there, and have been in touch ever since. With the homage to Transformers being the theme for this year’s King of Trios, getting Stan involved was a no-brainer for us.
OSV: Do you plan on keeping Stan around and perhaps doing some original music for CHIKARA beyond King of Trios? Are there future plans in the works?
Quackenbush: It would be awesome to have Stan work with us again in the future, but right now, we’ve just got King of Trios on the table, and we’ll see where it goes from there. There is a very natural crossover between what he does and what CHIKARA does.
OSV: Though CHIKARA is definitely one of the first wrestling units to openly merge the video game and wrestling audiences, there is today a video series called Botchamania which uses humor and video game music to illustrate the funnier (or sometimes tragical) side of wrestling that has become very popular. What’s your thoughts on these videos?
Quackenbush: We appreciate the fact that wrestling has a lighter side to it. That’s why we sponsor Botchamania, as you can see on their official site.
OSV: What can the fans and the people who are discovering CHIKARA through this article expect from the company as 2011 continues?
Quackenbush: We’re going to get out and see more of the U.S. than we have in years past. We’ve got to find a bigger audience, and staying at home in Pennsylvania won’t get the job done. We need the world to hear about us.
OSV: Before we let you go, tell us a bit about wrestling your hero and idol, Jushin Thunder Liger.
Quackenbush: Sure. He was a real trailblazer in terms of style and aesthetic. Even though he was preceded by the original Tiger Mask, he is the definitive light weight wrestler of the past 2 decades, in my mind. I would not be a wrestler today if not for him.
OSV: Who has the best entrance theme in all of wrestling, past and present (except Liger since we both know that is really the only answer)
Quackenbush: Goofy though it may seem, I love the theme of “The Rocket” Owen Hart from the early 90’s.
OSV: Mike, best of luck for you and your team at King of Trios, and of course good luck to all the other fine wrestlers and Stan Bush. It is an event that never disappoints and I’m sure this year will exceed the previous ones as they always do.
Quackenbush: Many thanks!
Mike has written several books about his life as a wrestler, such as Secret Identity and the novel Headquarters. He also hosts the wrestling related Chikara-A-Go-Go podcast and the every day related Grizzly Bear Egg Cafe.
Tickets for King of Trios can be purchased at their website.Tags: Chikara Pro, Fire Pro Wrestling, HUMAN, Rudo Ressurection, Super Famicom, Wrestling