365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
It would be easy when picking matches for this project to just look up one of the many “on this day in wrestling history” features or identify one of the highest-rated matches from that day, watch it, and go on to the next entry. Honestly, this seems too easy, and would lead to multiple write-ups essentially saying “You should watch this match you already know is good because it is good.”
While I have watched the occasional well-regarded match that I just happened to have miss, I’d rather go the obscure route. Give me a very good match that most people haven’t seen, or a look at a wrestler or team from the early days of their career. Or, sometimes, both. In this entry, I fire up the Wayback Machine to 2005, to see Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush face Kevin Steen and El Generico as part of CHIKARA’s Tag World Grand Prix.
You can watch this match and, I believe, the entire available CHIKARA catalog over at IWTV.
CHIKARA was known for its tournaments and had three that happened annually or almost every year: the Young Lions Cup, intended for wrestlers with less than 50 pro matches, and later those who were 25 or younger; the King of Trios, a weekend-long tournament of — you guessed it — trios matches that was one of the hottest tickets on the independent circuit in the early 2010s; and the Tag World Grand Prix. This is the second Grand Prix and has a whopping 32 teams. This match kicks off the quarterfinal round, on a night where the semifinals and finals also are scheduled.
Quackenbush is the promoter of CHIKARA and, at this point, co-head trainer of his Wrestle Factory school along with Hero. Before closing in 2020 after allegations were made against Quackenbush and CHIKARA as part of the #SpeakingOut movement, the Wrestle Factory produced a veritable plethora of talented graduates, several of whom have gone on to big careers in wrestling. Here, Quackenbush and Hero have joined forces as The Superfriends with the goal of winning the tournament. In a pre-match promo, during which Hero is sporting a sweet Kamala T-shirt, he promises he and Quackenbush will reach the finals.
Steen and Generico (you might know them better as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn) are billed here as Team IWS, representing International Wrestling Syndicate, the Quebec-based promotion where they got their start. They’ve only been part of the scene in America for a few months, and this weekend was the first time either had come to CHIKARA.
This is not what I’d call a “standard” American tag team match because it lacks that one segment where one team remains in control for an extended period of time, even though the match itself goes more than 15 minutes from bell to bell and is actually the longest of the four quarterfinals on the card.
Hero has always had a unique style, heavily influenced by European grappling with an abundance of chain wrestling, and he shows it off here, especially in the first few minutes of the match as part of a protracted exchange with Generico. He’s just not as vicious or arrogant about it as he was in his other installment in the project, when he was in pure dick-heel mode against Bryan Danielson.
If you’re a big fan of either Steen or Generico, or only seen them wrestle in WWE, this match is an eye opener. Both are 20 years old here and look every bit of it. Watching this match and surveying the rail-thin frame of Generico, he doesn’t even look like the same person.
The action is solid, and occasionally too cutesy for its own good — a common occurrence in CHIKARA, which worked comedy into its general wrestling style as much if not more than any other promotion in North America. Another hallmark of CHIKARA is having matches in unique settings. Several of their early shows occurred at a fire station in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, in a room that looked like the fellowship hall I frequented in various churches living here in the Southeast, usually for meals following funerals. Here, the venue is The Staircase — an intimate concert venue in Pittston, Pennsylvania, that now appears to be closed according to my Googling. Making a habit of holding wrestling events in venues that aren’t traditional for wrestling allows for all kinds of unique angles, entranceways, and even spots. Case in point: late in this match, Quack goes outside the ring and to the back of the stage, which has several rows of seated fans. He gets a running start and, while Hero holds down the top rope, delivers a senton off the stage onto Steen. It’s a great moment in a match where most of the additional value is historic in nature, as Quack and Hero march on in their drive to win the tournament.
Hero’s wording in the pre-match promo is key, as he betrays Quackenbush in the finals against Arik Cannon and Claudio Castagnoli (aka Cesaro). He’s been teasing a turn throughout the tournament and that continues here. After Quackenbush pins Steen, he stays in the ring for a show of sportsmanship with his opponents, while Hero quickly heads for the back.
–Watching this match reminded me that, aside from starting a podcast, Hero has remained on the sidelines since he was released from WWE in April of 2020. I think he’d be a great asset for any promotion with television but probably the best fit with ROH. Just my opinion.
—Bryce Remsburg, now part of AEW, is the referee here.
—Dave Prazak and the late Larry Sweeney are on commentary here. We’ll definitely get to Sweeney at some point in the project.
Final Rating: 5.5
There are a few moments ranging between good and great (Quack’s senton from the stage is pretty spectacular), but this match just felt too long. That said, it’s a nice snapshot of Steen/Owens and Generico/Zayn at an early stage in their career, and serves as a plot point for Hero’s betrayal in the main event, but not really a match I would say you should go out of your way to watch unless you’re a big fan of the wrestlers involved or watching CHIKARA shows in full to digest the twists and turns of their booking.
Prepare yourself… for the White Castle of Fear! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN!