By now, readers of The Mandible Claw are well aware of how Chikara’s Anniversario iPPV ended last week. Condor Security swarmed the ring, ended the main event and on Wink’s orders, tore down the set itself: the entrance on stage, the curtain, barricades. Condor then started shouting at the audience and entering the crowd. When they got to the balcony, the security guards began barking “no pictures” and marched us all out of the Trocadero. When it really got surreal and exhilarating was when we all went down the stairs, only to see a barren lobby. Just 90 minutes earlier at intermission, the lobby had been full of t-shirts and DVDs and even Icarus’ skeevy “great x 10” photo for sale. Now those tables were completely empty.
When we all ended up outside on the sidewalk, it hit me what this whole Chikara/Titor/Condor/No Private Army storyline (or whatever you want to call it at this point) reminded me of: Nine Inch Nails’ build-up to their 2007 album Year Zero.
In early 2007, NIN began planting a series of mysterious clues while on tour. It began with a secret message on a t-shirt that lead to an ominous website, and famously continued with the band planting Flash drives in concert venues for fans to find, that contained brand new songs from the upcoming Year Zero, as well as more clues to different websites. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. (It should be noted that Year Zero was a high-concept concept album about a not-too-distant future, complete with a fascist government, time travel and a drug called Parepin. And of course Trent Reznor has been working to develop it as a TV series for years.)
This type of project became known as an “Alternate Reality Game” or ARG. Lost had done one the year before, to help expand its massive mythos. It was, of course, dreamed up by a marketing team working closely alongside Trent himself. The crowning achievement was a surprise NIN concert in L.A., where fans had followed a series of clues leading them to the show. However, before the concert ended, a black-clad SWAT team swarmed the stage and shut the whole thing down (sound familiar?).
By the time we got to Anniversario, it became pretty clear that Chikara is in the midst of an ARG, enveloping the fanbase and the Internet. What began as hints, allegations and things left said by Robert Newsome evolved into instances happening at live events and on iPPV. (And my apologies for a Collective Soul reference in the midst of a NIN-centric column.)
When ex-Chikara ref Derek Sabato came out to the ring and told us to check his Twitter for the mysterious photo exposing more secrets, it was perhaps a smarter use of social media than WWE has ever attempted. (Sabato didn’t insist on “trending worldwide,” he just wanted to disseminate information. You can’t stop the signal. Condor Security has gone from a vague, nebulous presence at live shows to having its own Twitter account and following fans.
The lasting image at the end of “Never Compromise” was a smug Wink Vavasseur in a ripped suit, eating an apple on stage while his empire fell into ruins. But the ARG aspect of “Never Compromise” was far from over, as the ‘show’ spilled out onto Arch Street. While numerous fans were on the sidewalk, trying to make sense of what just happened, beloved ref Bryce Remsberg appeared in tears, carrying a duffel bag and making his way through the crowd, storming down the street. Then a mystery man wearing a NPA (No Private Army) hat and a Watchmen button on his jacket materialized at the edge of the crowd, with a few of us spotting his hat from afar. He was, of course, planted out there for someone to find, knowing that would happen. And the game continues…
So what’s next? I highly doubt this is truly the end of Chikara, especially since there is so much story still to be told and so much of this ARG to play out. Mike Quackenbush is doing a fascinating job blurring the “work”/”shoot” line with it all. The next chapter may be unfolding around us already, on websites that are lurking out there yet to be discovered…
Then again, maybe Wink is The Great DESTROYERRRRRRR!!!!
Joey O is a Philadelphia radio veteran who believes NIN’s 2008 “Lights In The Sky” tour was the greatest audio-visual concert experience he’s ever seen. Sorry, John Cena at the TLA in 2005. He can be heard on Y-Not Radio.