EDITOR'S NOTE: CHIKARA Pro is a professional wrestling company that incorporates a strong comic-book influence in its storytelling. Yep, that pretty much makes this growing independent promotion a perfect fit to start receiving some coverage here on Gonzogeek.com
The way Sara Del Rey sees it, the town of Kingsport, Tenn., will have a new name this weekend.
Kingsport -- or, as the "Queen of Wrestling" calls it, Queensport -- is hosting "Klunk In Love"
, the Tennessee debut of CHIKARA Pro Wrestling on Saturday night from the Civic Auditorium. It's the ninth state in which CHIKARA Pro has run a show thus far during its 2011 tour.
Bringing a new wrestling product, and especially one that pushes the common concepts and boundaries of the sport like CHIKARA does, can be risky. Especially in a market that was once a cornerstone of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and has primarily been exposed to Southern-style independent promotions of varying quality within the past several decades.
From Del Rey's perspective, the appeal of CHIKARA is universal.
"I would describe CHIKARA as what every wrestling promotion should be and everything you want in a wrestling promotion," she said. "There’s a lot of fun, there’s a lot of jokes, there’s inside jokes, there’s outside jokes that everyone can get, and it’s family friendly. Me being a woman, at a lot of wrestling shows, it’s a very interesting environment but one I would never want to bring my friends to or kids to. CHIKARA, it’s just the perfect place to wrestle and the perfect show to watch.
"Whoever comes and checks it out, there’s a lot of colorful characters," Del Rey said. "Wrestling has evolved since the Smoky Mountain days but they try to stay true to the fundamentals of true storytelling, interesting characters and good matches. If you weren’t a fan before … it’s really simple and easy to get involved, and you can go back and find out more history and little things about it."
Del Rey finds herself in one of the evening's featured matches. After recently completing a tour of Japan -- her fifth trip to the Land of the Rising Sun since becoming a professional -- she's bringing a little bit of Japan to Kingsport when she takes on Kana. In what was discussed earlier this year as a potential dream match
in women's wrestling, Kana and Del Rey faced one another just a few weeks ago at a live event for SHIMMER
, an all-female promotion that features some of the best independent talents from America and around the world.
The relationship between Kana and Del Rey goes back several years, though.
"In 2004, when I first went to Japan, I stayed there three months and trained and lived in the dojo and she was one of the young girls that was there as well," Del Rey said. "So three months then, and then in 2005 for six months we lived together and trained together. She was probably my closest friend in the dojo as well."
Del Rey said she is eager to bring her brand of women's wrestling to Kingsport. Most American fans may associate all women's wrestlers with the WWE Divas. Del Rey, however, was trained by the likes of Bryan Danielson (now known as Daniel Bryan in the WWE) in addition to her time in Japan. She's also been a semi-regular wrestler for Ring Of Honor. Seeing her hard-hitting style in person should be an eye opener for the Kingsport audience.
"I think girls in our (American) system are attracted to a different thing," she said. "There (in Japan), it’s really thought of as a sport and a fight and presented that way and treated that ay by the public. Here it’s not so much that way for the women. I don’t know that they get by on just their looks or just doing basic basic things.
"It’s definitely gonna be different. I think it’s an exciting style. A mesh of her personality and mine. The match will be really exciting and different and I just really hope the audience understands and appreciates what’s going on. Just gives it a chance, because I'm sure it will be like nothing they’ve evr seen before. I hope they enjoy it."
Del Rey doesn't just compete against other women in CHIKARA. The promotion founded by Mike Quackenbush and Tom Carter is very much an "equal opportunity" wrestling company. Women have competed against men on a fairly regular basis, whether it be in a tournament or an individual match. Throughout the year, in fact, Del Rey is one of the wrestlers competing in the 12 Large Summit, a round-robin tournament that has been going on all year. The tournament will culminate with the crowning of the first Grand Champion in CHIKARA history -- the first major singles title in the promotion, which will be decided at "High Noon"
, the 2011 season finale which also will be available streaming live on iPPV.
"CHIKARA’s always prided itself on the in-ring work of the talent … they saw the decdication, and it’s really unfair because there’s not enough female talent to have the kind of quality matches we deserve. Myself and Daizee Haze, especially," Del Rey said. "CHIKARA was good enough to give us a spot wreslting against the men, proving we could do it and not just treating us as girls. And also bringing in quality talent from all around the world."
Talent like Kana.
"Klunk In Love" takes place from the Civic Auditorium, at 1550 Fort Henry Drive in Kingsport, this Saturday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and general admission tickets are still available at $15 apiece. Sara should have some of her own merchandise available in Kingsport, and all of her merchandise is available at www.saradelrey.com
The interview with Sara Del Rey didn't merely touch on her time with CHIKARA. Check out these comments on a variety of additional topics.
On training and living at a Japanese wrestling dojo as an American ...
DEL REY:It’s really whatever you make it. I know girls that have gone over there and not really embraced the culture, the style or the experience and did their own thing. I really wanted to go thru the system thre way the Jap girls do nit. You can’t just pay money, sign up and get trained to wrestle. Youy have to try out and show your dedcication and really really pay their dues in a different way from what we know. … I really wanted to go thru the system the way they did it. I’d been wrestling like a year. I didn’t need to do the laundry, or help clean the gym out but I did. It’s a much harder style than it is over here, and the girls tried out, got a special spot, and paid to be there. ... They can just dedicate everything they have to doing it. Everything resolves around pro wrestling, which is how it should be, I think.
On Claudio Castagnoli, her former cohort in ROH with the Kings Of Wrestling and friend-turned-enemy in CHIKARA, signing with WWE ...
DEL REY: I think it’s great. Ever since knowing him or seeing him, it’s like he was built for that. To have him there, it’s not a surprise or anything. I just can’t wait to see him oin TV. To see CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, it makes me want to catch Raw more often. Having Claudio will make it a point to watch, too.
On her must-have item for every wrestling road trip (besides gear) ...
DEL REY: For me personally it’s my food. I bring all my food with me. I never have to compromise my diet or my training for being on the road. It’s a comfort thing. I get really grouchy if I can’t eat. I eat every six hours. I have a road diet that I prepare. Oatmeal and egg white patties and tuna, chicken, that kind of stuff.
On her recent removal from the ROH roster page ...
DEL REY: I actually don’t even know. I moved into the Philadelphia area and when I talked to Ring Of Honor they were obviously in the transition with Sinclair (Broadcasting, the promotion's new owners). For me to have a contract it would prohibit me from doing SHIMMER and other type of things but I would still be part of the company. I just wouldn't appear as often. When I got back from Japan I wasn’t even on the roster page. I spoke with the office recently and we’re going to speak further. Right now I’m not under contract with them but I’m still on friendly terms and I hope soon I’ll be back in more of a wrestling role.
And finally, at Gonzogeek, our motto is that everyone's a geek about something. What does Sara Del Rey geek out about?
DEL REY: I am a geek about the Golden Girls. I just love them. It’s like the best TV show ever made. Exactly my humor. I just think everything they do is hilarious.