Listening to PWP newscast the other day and, despite my own difference of opinions on certain matters, I was bothered by their constant referral of CHIKARA as niche. Sorry to break this to you PWP, wrestling outside WWE is niche. WWE is first and foremost an entertainment company, they attempt to bring in all kinds of fans-not just wrestling fans. Wrestling companies like CZW, AIW, ROH, etc are wrestling companies that typically target wrestling fans. So a market aimed at a specific audience, in this case wrestling or indy wrestling if you prefer, is niche. So, yeah, Chikara is exactly that but maybe less so because of their efforts to branch out past just hardcore wrestling fans. Wouldn’t it be better to call them a specialty wrestling company because they choose to push to a different fanbase?
However listening to PWP and to other wrestling fans there is this “what about the hardcore audience?” mentality when speaking about Chikara. My answer to that is simple: “what about them?” You have so many wrestling companies wanting you to invest your time and money, having a few try things differently is important. Not that all the other indy promotions are same-definitely not. CZW and PWG are different entities in their appraoch but AR Fox mostly wrestles and acts pretty similar in both. Michael Elgin is a beast in whatever promotion and while the competition changes his attitude usually remains. Many of these companies share similarities with the differences being in roster and how they balance action and storytelling. Similar methods, atmosphere and goals but different execution. On top of which how do these companies reach new fans? Other than fans introducing friends and family? By going after fans of other companies. Book a Chikara wrestler against a CZW wrestler in AIW and that’ll bring some attention for sure because it’ll appeal to wrestling fans from different companies. Its wrestling to appeal mostly to wrestling fans. Chikara has a different aesthetic and feel which has kept them in business through good and bad times. That’s important. Their storylines and look set them apart. Its not for everybody, but knowing that why question them not trying to appeal to you? What we should celebrate is that Chikara goes and does things other companies would not. Soundtracks? eBooks? A movie? Sure the movie is tied to a storyline but that’s still a possible piece of marketing and something to add to their overall legacy? How about advertising in comics? It seems some of the non Chikara wrestling fans sort of dismiss this as “just appealing to their fanbase” and thats wrong. Its trying to broaden their fanbase with like minded individuals who may not be wrestling fans.
Also on the podcast it got brought up about comics and Dr. Who and that sort of storytellings influence on Chikara and some of the guys said they don’t get “that culture.” That doesn’t hold water guys. Comics is serialized story telling. Same as TV just in illustrated form. Yes superhero comics have continuity and crossover but judging comics based on two companies is like judging wrestling on WWE-it doesn’t work. Besides if you have watched TV or movies in the last 15 years you are somewhat familiar with super properties to some degree. May not be a big fan but you’re not some serious outsider who doesn’t know who the X-Men are. Besides-by referencing other companies continuity or even their champions you are almost exhibiting superhero storytelling. Tim Donst and Eddie Kingston started their feud in Chikara, bringing it to AIW in some manner is a bit of a superhero storytelling aspect.
As for Dr. Who or Lost-its genre fiction. The only way you can say you don’t understand it is if you’ve never seen any sci-fi/fantasy material ever. Dr. Who is not the first alien or time traveler in entertainment. I don’t know what Lost is about and I follow Chikara just fine without knowing it. Sure-you may not be big fans, but to say “I don’t know about that culture” in this day and age is not entirely true. You know enough just being fans of TV or movies. You might just be confused by cosplay but that has little bearing on storytelling method or plot devices or characterization. Three elements that wrestling companies employ-especially WWE. Chikara just chose to bring a different feel.
None of this I’m writing is about any criticism Chikara got on the podcast that has to do with the product-specifically the story and execution. There were bits I agreed with and others I disagreed with but understood. However calling a promotion niche in an industry that itself is mostly niche is just nonsense. Especially if they try to step outside the target audience every other company goes for. Saying you don’t get “comics” or “genre” fiction is an exaggeration because on some level you are well enough aware.
For the record I follow PWG, Shimmer and Chikara. NJPW when I can. After Chikaras hiatus I tried a few companies. I like CZW in general with their mix of styles and roster however the 3 and a half hour shows, mixed in with matches I just don’t like, and sometimes a very bad audience hurts the product. I like some of what AAW does but very few guys I was unfamiliar with beforehand appeal to me and once again I believe the length hurts it. Wrestling is time consuming so watching a 3+ hour shows and really only liking 2 matches bothers me. Even if the rest of the card is generally fine, fine doesn’t mean I needed to see a 20 minute match that probably would’ve worked in 12.