Mike Quackenbush is the cream of the crop of the indies.
The owner of Chikara Pro, debuting in 1994, he has seen it all.
And now I am pleased to present an interview with him!
Was it hard getting into wrestling since you are a smaller guy and did
anyone ever refuse to train you?
When I first started working the indy circuit, I was always the smallest guy on the show. In contrast, there are times nowadays where I'm among the biggest guys on the show, so times have changed. I've never had anyone that I asked for help refuse to share their knowledge with me or anything like that.
Obviously the Lucha Libre and Puroresu Junior style has really
influenced your wrestling. Who were some of the people that stood out
to you and made you really say, I want to wrestle like that.
Jushin Liger, first and foremost. Later, Tiger Mask Satoru Sayama, Great Sasuke, guys like that.
What is your opinion on the death-match style that has taken over the
indies that seems to put a lot of less-talented people over more
technical wrestlers like yourself?
A lot of death-match wrestlers really aren't wrestlers at all. Granted, some of them actually can wrestle, but for many, it's an inroad to a business they otherwise aren't talented enough to be part of.
Obviously, there's an audience for it, when you look at some promotions that haven't been relevant in years that hang on thanks only to the revenue of blood-thirsty fans that will pay to witness the sideshow.
You can justify, or apply whatever weak rhetoric to it you want. Bleeding isn't a skill. Really getting hurt requires no talent or grace. A stunt show isn't wrestling. Masochism isn't a sport.
When you founded CHIKARA as a place for your students to wrestle the
resemblance between Osaka Pro and Chikara is pretty obvious. Was that
on purpose or just coincidental?
We are heavily influenced by the likes of Osaka Pro, T2P and Michinoku Pro, obviously.
What's your favorite Lucha Promotion currently?
CMLL by miles. AAA is like the WWE—when you're done watching an hour of it, you think to yourself, where was the wrestling? You can sift through two or three hours of the weekly AAA show and see maybe one match—or only a few minutes of a match—that is entertaining.
The rest is flashy garbage. Entrances and pyro to distract you from the fact that there's barely anything resembling wrestling going on. CMLL is really the opposite of that; even their lowest-rung talents can really go.
What is your favorite Lucha Promotion ever?
I really like the CMLL stuff during Mistico's rise. I think I've seen every Arena Mexico show from 2005 and 2006 (well, what was televised, anyway.) I have pretty complete collections of CMLL from the years 2001 and 2002, and a lot of that seems dreadful compared to the 2005 and 2006 stuff. Beware Las Dinamitas!
What is your favorite promotion in Japan currently?
I don't follow any Japanese groups from month to month anymore, I just don't have the time. I like to watch Dragon Gate, or Michinoku stuff if I have the time, and the one-off New Japan match if it catches my eye.
What is your favorite Promotion in Japan ever? (Name era and promotion
if necessary or different from the question above)
Michinoku Pro in 1995 and 1996. Awesome stuff. Wish I had all my VHS stuff from that era on DVD so I could still watch it all now. Never get tired of it. The 10-man tag from "These Days" (10/10/96) is my favorite match of all time, I've probably watched all 35 minutes of it at least 100 times over the last 13 years.
Dragon Gate wrestles a very fast paced style and I find it interesting
with their affinity to Gaijin workers that you haven't worked there.
With your active CHIKARA schedule is a tour with Dragon Gate out of
the realm of possibilities or has it just not been thought of yet?
Dragon Gate and CHIKARA are basically family, when you factor in the influence of Jorge Rivera in the training of us all. Especially since becoming NWA World Junior champ about two years ago, there has been a lot of demand for me to visit Japan semi-frequently, but scheduling is a big hurdle.
I have a lot of stateside obligations that cannot be ignored just so I can enjoy myself for a five-week tour in Japan. CHIKARA isn't the kind of operation that can be run on auto-pilot.
What is your current opinion of the product that the WWE has right
now? Their workers seem to be better then ever but the angles are
still the same. Do you watch it?
Until two weeks ago, I could not have answered this honestly. But, for the last two weeks, I have sat/suffered through two full episodes of Monday Night Raw. If you think their workers are better than ever, of course you are entitled to your opinion. To me, the work is unremarkable, as are the workers themselves.
Simply put, the WWE is boring. The biggest crime of entertainment—even "sports entertainment"—is to be boring, and that is exactly what the WWE is. It feels like the same uninteresting players in the same go-nowhere angles with conflict you don't care about, twists and turns that don't heighten the dramatic tension, and closure that is either unsatisfying or is simply erased at the next PPV or TV episode.
Stylistically, with the possible exception of what Evan Bourne/Matt Sydal brings to the table, the WWE is stuck in 1998. They haven't evolved.
And maybe they don't feel they have to. They are very profitable, even now. They are the top dog in the most important commercial market on Earth—the United States.
For the last 25 years, we've all been subjected to the Vince McMahon model of pro wrestling, his "sports entertainment." TNA is just a watered-down, mixed-up version of that same crap. The time is really ripe for a new company to come along and change the game, to re-invent the genre for a new audience.
I'm sure, like me, there are plenty of people out there that only pay attention to the WWE because it's their weekly habit, or because there's simply nothing else to watch.
What about TNA?
I watched an episode of Impact last week. Most of it. I couldn't sit through all of it. But it's the most TNA I've watched in a few years.
Dear TNA, give me something that makes me want to suspend my disbelief. Give me something to care about, and leave it on the screen long enough for me to care about it. Understand that "pushing the envelope" doesn't have to mean being tasteless, unpredictable, low-brow or stupid.
As a wrestler, apart from the security of a regular paycheck, I can't imagine what's attractive about accepting an offer to work at TNA. As a writer, I would want to go screaming as fast as my feet could carry me in any direction that leads away from the TNA writer's room.
As a viewer, I thank the gods of Panasonic for a quick-responding remote control.
You worked a short stint in Michinoku Pro. What was it like? Were you
disappointed that there wasn't more to it?
I was really pleased with how things went. I was there just under a week, and only one of my matches was even taped during my stay, but all things considered, it was great.
On the third day, I got a real kick out of seeing the Great Sasuke arrive in his personal car, and step out in his mask wearing a CHIKARA t-shirt. It had a lot of fun, little moments like that.
Well, in closing...for all the people who watch WWE or TNA but don't know
much about CHIKARA—why should they check you guys out?
CHIKARA is as far removed from what's happening in the big leagues today. If you need a change of pace, a change of style, something fun, colorful and new in your wrestling diet, check out our free, weekly video podcast.
Search for it on YouTube or in the iTunes store (free download!) under CHIKARA Podcast-A-Go-Go. We have a style and sense of humor all our own, and it won't insult your intelligence. Wrestling can be fun, really. We'll prove it to you.
Thank you once again Mr Quackenbush. If you'd like to know anymore about this man you can check out the weekly Chikara podcast
. You can also see a little bit of Mr Quackenbush in this YouTube video
Any questions you can email me at punch999(At)gmail.com or MSN me at Alex.firstname.lastname@example.org