With CHIKARA presenting its first ever, iPPV, High Noon next month, I felt as though it was appropriate to talk to the man behind the organization, Mike Quackenbush. Quackenbush has been world renowned for his in ring ability, mind for the business, and his work as a trainer for some of the up and coming stars of this generation.
Earlier this week, I was able to get in contact with Quackenbush to discuss a plethora of topics in regards to his career, CHIKARA's future, and several other topics. Hope you enjoy reading this very informative read! Big thanks to Mike for taking the time out of his busy schedule.
Rallo: First off, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview. My first question is going right off the bat with CHIKARA's first ever iPPV, High Noon, which will take place on November 13th, in Philadelphia. Could you tell us, as the patriarch for CHIKARA, your personal feelings in regards to CHIKARA holding their first iPPV event in the promotion's history? What do you believe this means for the future of CHIKARA as a whole for the future? What are you looking forward to the most in regards to the event and what does the future hold for the promotion?
Mike: This is a big step forward for us. CHIKARA has always been on the forefront of emerging technologies, but the iPPV medium, in its infancy, did not really deliver the way our fanbase demands. We had to bide our time, wait for the right moment, and make sure we could give the kind of product to our global fanbase that they deserve. And that time arrives on November 13th. It will be interesting to see how the reception of High Noon impacts Season 11, and what lies ahead.
Rallo: One of the marquee advertisements for the event is on the promotional poster for the event, as it reads, "Someone has a date with destiny." There is also an advertisement on the site, claiming a champion will be crowned on the night of the iPPV. Presumed to be, the Grand Championship, could you give us any hints of how the champion will be determined? Also, how do you feel this new championship affects CHIKARA? Many are highly anticipating the event taking place next month, but could you give us some insight on what exactly the future holds for a new champion and how you feel it affects the company as a whole?
Mike: I can tell you quite specifically, actually. Our season-long round robin tournament, the "12 Large: Summit" will have its final on the iPPV. The winner of the tournament final will be crowned the Grand Champion of CHIKARA. When we started out in 2002, the crew was, for the most part, all rookies. Here we are, 10 seasons later, and the crew aren't really rookies anymore. They are the most in-demand talents out there. There was a time when the Young Lions Cup was probably the best barometer for CHIKARA. That time has passed. One single champion that represents us all must emerge.
Rallo: Moving away from High Noon for a little bit, next week it is officially confirmed that you will be taking on, Sara Del Rey in one on one action. As of late, Del Rey has been on quite a roll, breaking gender barriers in wrestling, as she has defeated the likes of Claudio Castagnoli recently as well. Could you tell us your thoughts on your upcoming match up with Del Rey, as well as your input on women facing men in wrestling, something that has really been a rarity, especially in the United States. Some dislike men on women violence and some have distaste for women getting the same spotlight as men get in wrestling. What are your thoughts on Del Rey's recent streak as well as your thoughts on not only Del Rey partaking in matches against male wrestlers, but your feelings on womens wrestling as a whole in this modern day and how it is received? Overall thoughts on this?
Mike: This is the sixth interview I've given this week, and probably at least the 100th this year, and I can say, without a doubt, that this is the most intricate question that has ever been posed to me. Let me answer all of these questions like this: it's 2011, people. C'mon now. This isn't Saudi Arabia. Women read books. Women vote. Women fight. Women can wrestle men. Women can beat men. In fact, they do. And while Sara Del Rey won't beat me this Friday in Burlington, she deserves the chance to try. She deserves the competition. Land of opportunity and all that good stuff, right guys?
Rallo: Another hot topic in Pro Wrestling, lately has been WWE's acquisition of the Kings of Wrestling, and assignment to their developmental territory, FCW. Although Chris Hero has yet to be officially placed on the roster, Claudio Castagnoli has been put on the roster under the alias, Antonio Cesaro. You have had a very decorated past with Claudio, as you have been in countless bouts with each other and have even been responsible for the success of the Chikara Wrestle Factory, which has trained some of the best talent out there today. Could you tell us your thoughts of the Kings headed to WWE and how you feel they will be treated, so to speak on television? Especially seeing Claudio go, what are your feelings on the move as a whole? Do you feel they could revolutionize tag teams in WWE again or do you feel they would be better off as singles competitors? What are your thoughts on WWE, as a whole, today?
Mike: I may have spoke too soon. This is the most intricate question that has ever been posed to me. Please understand that I really do not have the stomach for much WWE, but I can tell you what I know to be fact. Claudio Castagnoli has been signed by the WWE, reported for duty at their farm league FCW in Tampa, and has been rechristened Antonio Cesaro. He has already had some singles match in FCW. In terms of in-ring talent, he is light years ahead of basically every other person in the FCW system, and is as good, if not better than 95% of the on-air "talent" that populates WWE programming. Claudio is imbued with a tireless work ethic, and given the chance, he'll outshine, or simply overshadow, any but the very highest-caliber wrestlers walking the planet. Doesn't matter what they call him.
Rallo: Speaking of WWE, one thing people have been very critical of has been their training facility and how they need more expansion territories throughout the world. It was even recently stated, by Jim Ross that WWE could use some international training grounds to make more talent. As a trainer, yourself, what are your thoughts on the importance of expanding a wrestling territory for a company as large as WWE? Do you feel it is a necessity or rather, something that would just be more convenient than anything else? Again, as a trainer, what are your feelings on diverse training grounds and the training regiment itself? From any FCW you have seen or heard about, is there anything you see that could really use a tune up?
Mike: How you could assemble 76 prospects under one roof and think any appreciable progress could be made is beyond me. But then again, I don't have a billionaires money to play with. Even with some of the finest minds in all of wrestling stationed at FCW - Ricky Steamboat, Joey Mercury, Dusty Rhodes, Steve Keirn, Norman Smiley - the numbers have to overwhelm them. If they only had to train the most passionate, hardest-working prospects out there, that would be one thing. But they also have to convince bikini models and bodybuilders to become pro-wrestlers as well. It is an unenviable task. No wonder the new people that get called up to TV stumble around the ring like rank amateurs.
Rallo: In past interviews, you have often referred to CHIKARA as, comic books coming to life. It is especially an impressive spectacle, seeing as it has been made out to be a family friendly product, which never hurts a company's ability to market themselves more often. How do you feel this comic-like wrestling promotion has grown and developed since its inception and what are your thoughts on where CHIKARA will go in the future? Do you ever feel it could vastly expand into a more renown promotion, or do you feel it is at its best on the Indy circuit? What do you see CHIKARA evolving into, going forward? High Noon seems to be a gigantic step up.Mike: CHIKARA has always been a kind of experiment within the pro-wrestling performance genre. In my opinion, wrestling has often just stayed within the confines of a very narrow sandbox, in terms of storytelling and such. Well, sometimes it's fun to play in a different sandbox. Whether that sort of thing will play to a larger audience than what we enjoy now, I cannot wager a guess. But when we tour - and this year we've been to PA, NJ, NY, MA, IL, MI, NC, OH and soon TN as well - we keep finding more and more people interested and enjoying what we do. So, to us, it feels like it's growing.
Rallo: Being as decorated of a wrestler you have been your entire career, you have been known for some phenomenal matches with some of the best in the industry such as Jushin Liger, Bryan Danielson, and Tiger Mask, just to name a few. Which of all your bouts do you feel you hold closest to your heart and feel was one of your favorite matches? Also, besides CHIKARA, what has been your favorite promotion to work for? Why? Lastly, if you were to choose three wrestlers, one from the past, one in the present, and one up and coming star you have never faced before and would/would have liked to face, who would they be and why?
Mike: I think my matches with Claudio Castagnoli represent some of my best stuff. I am most at home wrestling others from CHIKARA, and you'll see that come through in the ring. That's part of the reason why I rarely go outside the CHIKARA microcosm these days. If I had to choose three wrestlers, I would like to wrestle Tiger Mask I in the year 1982. Even though I would only be 6 years old, that's when he was in his prime, and that would be fun. Right now, I would like to wrestle Ultimo Guerrero from CMLL. And I do mean right now. I have my elbow pads on. I am ready for that. In the future, I would like to wrestle Max Moon, since he is from the future. That's the only way I could get to him. I have to go into the future for that match, but that would be fun. The match, and the time travel.
Rallo: Another question, I'd like to ask you, as a trainer is about the upcoming generation of Professional Wrestlers. Whether it be in WWE, CHIKARA, and anywhere in between, there seems to be a common generalization that there really has been a change of landscape in the business. We have heard stories of the Young Bucks not shaking hands with overzealous veterans, amongst many other stories throughout the past few years. My question to you is, what is your opinion on this up and coming generation? Where do you stand on overall talent compared to the past legends of yesteryear as well as your thoughts on the morale of the business and how attitudes differ? Of course, you are not an old wrestler, so to speak, but as a trainer, what do you see in the new talent that is good or even bad? Thoughts on this idea?
Mike: Every generation of wrestlers idolize those that came before them, and then look down their noses at those that come after them. This has been the case...forever. The old men weren't really all that tough. The young guys will figure it out in time. It's all going to be OK. Times change. Traditions change. Our business has changed. Those that don't change with it, will find themselves increasingly marginalized until they are on the outside looking in.
Rallo: Before, I let you go, Mike, is there anything you would like to plug? Facebook? Website? Twitter? Any last words in regards to any projects coming up you would like to talk about before the interview concludes? Any last words for your fans as well as those aspiring to be the Pro Wrestling stars of tomorrow? Final thoughts?
Mike: Check out our YouTube channel, please, filled with free stuff for you to watch. I think you'll like it.
And check out "High Noon" on November 13, streaming LIVE worldwide via the magic of iPPV thanks to GFL.tv. We appreciate the support!