For those of us who are fans of pro wrestling, we hear the jokes.
“How can you watch that crap? It’s just oiled-up men in bikini briefs.” or “Don’t you know it’s fake?” So on and so on. Time and time again you hear it until, to be perfectly honest, there are few things that you would rather be doing than to listen to it time and time again.
Usually we just stand there and take it like it’s no big deal. This is the life that we have chosen after all.
Do you want to know what the worst part is? The absolute thing that makes you wish you would die? It’s that you know it’s special, that it’s art. But the people you trust to defend the thing you love are morons, loud and obnoxious to the point where you wish that they would shut up some more.
Sometimes, just when you think it can’t happen, you get the guy who can speak for your sport. And today, after the jump, you get that guy. “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush is the patriarch of Chikara, one of the last truly innovative promotions that exist. Also he’s competed on 4 continents, wrestled some of the true legends of the sport, and trains the next generation of performers at his Wrestle Factory.
Okori Wadsworth: When did you start in the wrestling business? And what have been some of the highlights over your career?
Mike Quackenbush: My real start was in 1994. I’ve been lucky enough to wrestle men I’ve idolized – from Eddie Guerrero to Johnny Saint – and that sort of thing has provided me with my favorite moments of the last 16 years.
OW: Have you found that the mindset of your peers about the business has changed over the years since you first started?
MQ: Definitely. Things that used to be taboo don’t matter any more. It used to be a source of shame if someone had wrestled in their back yard with their friends before getting into the business. Now that’s true of just about everyone I meet. Perceptions of things like concussions are radically different in 2010 then they were in 2000.
OW: Have you found that those changes mean your enjoyment of this business has changed for the better or the worse?
MQ: I enjoy aspects of the business today that I never realized when I started out. My experience in wrestling nowadays is far-removed from what I knew in the 90’s.
OW: Do you have a specific regimen designed to keep yourself in shape? Do you address doing this with the wrestlers at the Chikara Wrestle Factory?
MQ: We have a pretty rigorous conditioning regimen that we do at the Wrestle Factory. You can’t conduct matches at the pace we do without having that in place.
OW: If there was one wrestler you wish you could work with, alive or dead, who would it be?
MQ: I think it would be very interesting to wrestle the original Tiger Mask when he was in his prime.
OW: What wrestling do you still watch and enjoy as a fan?
MQ: When I can, I try to stay current with CMLL and Dragon Gate. Stuff like WWE and TNA is dreadful to watch, and can only be stomached in “Botchamania” length doses.
OW: Also, if someone wanted to get into pro wrestling, what would you recommend for them as the best match to see to help them understand the beauty of the art?
MQ: That’s tough to answer. That’s like introducing someone to art and only showing them cubism. How can one match characterize so many diverse elements? Someone might find inspiration in a Johnny Saint/Jim Breaks classic, while others would find it dull. I love the Delfin/Naniwa/Hamada/Tiger 4/Yakushiji vs. Kaientai DX match from 10/10/96 in Sumo Hall, but I’m sure there are people who would find that to be 32 uninteresting minutes of wrestling.
OW: Have you noticed that after your 2-match series with the legendary Johnny Saint more or less wrestlers beginning to crib little things from the British lightweight style?
MQ: I think less people are studying that material now than just a few years ago. It’s novelty among independent American wrestlers has waned, sadly.
OW: What is your favorite CHIKARA venue to perform in?
MQ: Our new stop in Reading is tough to beat. Reminds me of the old Hellertown venue that we all loved.
OW:T2P or Michinoku Pro?
MQ: That’s the toughest question you’ve asked. I would hate to give up one, but if I had to, I’d drop T2P in favor of my old Michinoku collection.
OW: At its highest level, what differences do you find between the British and the Mexican style of mat work?
MQ: The shortest answer is: the Brits don’t plan anything in advance. It just happens. My experience with the Mexicans has been quite the opposite of that.
OW: X-Men vs X-Force vs. The Justice League: Who you got?
MQ: X-Force? Is this a rib? C’mon, now. This is a 2 horse race here. Bottom line is, if Batman can prepare for the fight, no one is beating the JLA. Unless he’s got the JLE backing him up or something, because we all know Crimson Fox isn’t good for much. In a straight up 8-on-8 Cibernetico of the X-Men vs. The Justice League, Batman’s team is going to win. That’s what I’m saying.
OW: And one last question, again thanking you so much for your time. Where can the people who have gotten through this interview and been intrigued by hearing more about you go to find more information about CHIKARA?
MQ: Watch us for free on iTunes or YouTube by looking for “CHIKARA Podcast-A-Go-Go,” or just visit our main site, chikarapro.com!