A small personal confession before we start. I have met Mike Quackenbush and seen him perform exactly once; I have met Chris Hero and seen him perform exactly twice. You would think that there is not enough info there to base a column there and you would probably be right.
But I can not stand by and see Mike Quackenbush be unfairly maligned on what should be the most important, the most triumphant week of his wrestling career after winning the fifth annual Combat Zone Wrestling “Best of the Best” tournament. Some wankers are suggesting that Mike won because of his friendship with Mike Burns of Smart Mark Video.
Obviously, these are people who weren’t caught up in the moment of Viking Hall, because the crowd who were there understood that only Mike Quackenbush could have won that tournament. Even those cheering for other wrestlers, suddenly realized instinctively that only Mike Quackenbush made sense as the winner of this tournament. That feeling in their gut was the real power behind Quack’s victory, the real puppeteer: the power of the parable; the might of myth; the force of fable; the strength of the story. Wrestling – good wrestling - is all about narrative and the narrative of Best of the Best 5 was the narrative of Mike Quackenbush’s career.
Oh and I may have only met Mike Quackenbush once and Chris Hero twice, but I notice things…
When We Were Marks Enter a Hero… Quacking
1. Mike Quackenbush
The first thing that you notice about Mike Quackenbush is that in a crowded locker room that he sits alone, perfectly still, in the centre of the room and for a minute you might think that he is the most lonely man that you have ever seen. Then you realize that every one else in the room is aware of Quack, respecting him, leaving him his space, but staying in touch with him and every so often singly or in groups consulting him: Where are the best strip clubs in Montreal; What should we eat before the match; Should we eat before our match; What’s the best way to escape a side head lock when it is applied by a south paw; When you eat your Smarties do you eat the red ones last; Why are all these Canadians rolling their R’s; What’s the deal with this Ass Punch; and so on.
You realize that Mike Quackenbush has authority, presence, gravitas. He sits in the centre of the room dispensing wisdom and all the other wrestlers, not just from Chikara, pay attention to him. He listens to the questions, to the problems quietly and calmly and he solves them and people accept his solution. Normally, take any three wrestlers with one problem and they will have four different solutions none of which anyone can agree on. Miraculously, this doesn’t happen with Quack in the room.
And I am wondering why this is. Is it because he is the trainer for Chikara? Is it because he is the owner of Chikara? Is this the respect that you give to your mentor and your boss?
And then while I am watching the Chikara match and Mike Quackenbush wins the match with a palm strike that it hits me: people respect Mike Quackenbush’s authority because he is an authority. Because when you see Mike Quackenbush hit a palm strike, the simplest of moves, it is like you are seeing a palm strike for the very first time, like Quack is inventing the palm strike in front of you. This is what he does. He knows the art of professional wrestling so well that he reduces it to his simplest of elements. Here you are, he seems to be saying, you can win a match with any hold, any strike, no matter how simple, as long as that hold, that strike is delivered by a wrestler who knows what they are doing.
2. Chris Hero
Here is what you notice about Chris Hero: he can’t sit still. He is always moving, jittering, touching things. It is like he was dropped in a vat of espresso as a child and he has never come down off that caffeine high.
And that energy comes out in his matches as well, as he wrestles with the tweaked intensity of a meth addict who takes apart every mechanical device in the house because he has to do something to occupy his time. Chris Hero does not so much wrestle his opponents as he deconstructs them. You look at his cravate finisher, a move so complicated it makes your eyes hurt. Seriously, it looks like you need a doctorate in sports medicine, with a minor in chiropractice, as well as supplemental degrees in applied physics and molecular biology just to explain the move, let alone apply it.
Not to mention his most famous match, his 93 minute match against CM Punk. Isn’t there a touch of machismo there? Look at me, he seems to be saying, I can go 93 minutes. I am better than you.
There is also the element in that match that Chris Hero is a cat toying with his prey. I can finish this match any time I want to, is his message. I am better than my opponent, I am more than my opponent; I am better than my fans, I am more than my fans; I am better than human, I am more than human.
Which is when it hits you, when Chris Hero says that he is “the Saviour of Wrestling” it is not just a catch phrase. Chris Hero believes that he is more than human; he believes that he is a God. And you look at his chest and you see his logo, that yellow shield with the CH intertwined and you realize Chris Hero believes that he is Superman.
And if Chris Hero is Superman, than Mike Quackenbush has to be Batman. And THAT explains everything.
3. Chris Hero vs. Mike Quackenbush
They call the relationship between Superman and Batman as being that between Apollo and Dionysus. The analogy between Chris Hero and Superman and Apollo is perfect. Apollo was the God of the Sun, filled with energy like the over-caffeinated Chris Hero, like the human Solar battery, Superman. He was also the God of arcane knowledge, like the arcane, mysterious moves that Chris Hero uses in the ring or the arcane knowledge from the planet Krypton that Superman has access to.
It also helps explains the Highland Curse. In much the same way that Superman has a weakness to glowing red or green or blue or white or black or fuschia coloured rocks that fall from the sky – debris from the exploded planet Krypton, Chris Hero is weakened by exposure to Highland. Probably too much pure Southern wrestling happened there.
The comparison between Dionysus and Batman and Mike Quackenbush is not so apt. Dionysus or Bacchus represents the Earth, the Moon, the Dark. Black to Apollo’s White. Simple to Apollo’s Complex. Perfectly fine contrast, only Batman and Mike Quackenbush are not Gods, they are all too human. The proper comparison is with Odysseus or Ulysses. The man, the warrior, the scientist, who ended a battle early and was punished for it, forced to wander the Earth, kept from his family on a seemingly unending journey.
Ulysses has too much knowledge, too much human science and he uses that knowledge to finish a bloody, unnecessary conflict, to save lives. The same way that Bruce Wayne uses his human knowledge to save the lives of others while he is unable to quench his own personal demons. The same way that Mike Quackenbush uses his knowledge to train others for a victory that he can not have for himself.
That is why Batman and Superman or Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush make a great team, because they fill in the gaps of each other’s abilities. Is it any wonder that they were called the Super Friends? Because they are so different, there are able to help one another. But because they are so different, there is also a tension between the two partners, a imbalance that will eventually cause a conflict. And as Frank Miller realized in the Dark Knight Returns when the conflict finally happens, it will be Superman who is prepared to throw Batman under a bus in the name of his “higher purpose”. Which is exactly what happened during the Chikara Tag Grand Prix tournament. Chris Hero turned on Mike Quackenbush. Superman turned on Batman. Apollo turned on Ulysses.
The reason that Superman can turn against his best friend? To him we’re all just insects. Never forget that Superman is not human. He is not from the same gene pool, the same species, the same planet. Ever notice how Superman is always rescuing planes, trains, cars, buildings, tractors, stopping natural disasters? Superman saves property, not people. His big exception: his human pets, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Yes, I said pets. Go read Larry Niven’s “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” Lois Lane is not Superman’s Girl Friend. Superman feels about her the same way that you or I would feel about an attractive gerbil with an unfortunate tendency of falling out of her 40 story habitrail. Let’s assume that Superman was even physically compatible with Lois. I mean have you ever seen Superman’s genitalia? Do we even know what a Kryptonian’s sex organs look like or where they are kept? Further assume that Superman’s sperm - if that is even the right term - is genetically compatible with Lois’ eggs. The best one could hope for is that their offspring would be a genetic mule incapable of procreating. But none of that matters because if Superman ever did have sex with Lois, his orgasm would gut her like a shotgun blast. Think about it.
So, when you look at Chris Hero looking at the audience with his piercing stare… What do you think he is thinking? I will tell you. Ant. Ant. Fat Ant. Ant. Ugly Ant. Ant. Ant in a Hat. Ant. Fat and Ugly Ant. Ant. Ant. Green Lantern Ant… and so on and so forth.
When Chris Hero broke from Mike Quackenbush, from his best friend, did he feel guilt? Of course not. How can you feel guilty over the betrayal of someone who is not a God like yourself? No, Chris Hero was walking away from a man who was never going to win the big match, the big tournament. Mike Quackenbush would only ever be able to hold Chris Hero down. So the “Saviour of Wrestling” cut Mike Quackenbush loose.
The rub of course, the fly in the ointment, the ant doing the backstroke in Chris Hero’s soup today is that Chris Hero WAS WRONG. Mike Quackenbush did not just win the biggest match of his life on Saturday night, he won the Best of the Best tournament, the very tournament that Chris Hero forced CZW management to change the weight limit rules on so that he could enter. Chris Hero was supposed to win this tournament. The deck was stacked in his favour. But he didn’t win. The best friend that he betrayed; the partner that he abandoned - did.
Ulysses does make it home you see. Batman does find the killer of his parents. Mike Quackenbush does win the tournament. It just takes time. It takes patience. It takes the calm still centre that Mike Quackenbush has found.
And now that Mike Quakenbush has won that big match, that big tournament that has always eluded him… What’s next? Well, inevitably, Mike Quackenbush will face his former best friend Chris Hero. And when he does, Mike Quackenbush will beat Chris Hero. Simply, calmly, he will beat Chris Hero until Hero pisses blood.
When they meet, there will be those who will cheer Chris Hero, no matter what he has done; no matter how much he deserves to be hated. I understand this. I do not approve, but I understand.
Personally, my Hero… QUACKS.
********************************************************** Mike Quackenbush will be beating the living hell out of Chris Hero Friday, May 20, 2005 at the Riverside Beneficial Assoc. Building, 1742 Pear St., Reading, PA. The Main Event will be Jigsaw & Mike Quackenbush vs. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli [1 fall, 60 Minute Time Limit]
They will also clash on Saturday, May 21, 2005 at the Emmaus Fire Co. 1, 50 South 6th St., Emmaus, PA. The Main event will be Jigsaw & Mike Quackenbush and a mystery partner vs. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli & Arik Cannon [1 fall, No Time Limit]
And their first ever one on one match-up will be on Sunday, May 22, 2005 at The Staircase, 755 South Township Blvd., Pittston, PA. The Main Event naturally will be Mike Quackenbush vs. Chris Hero [1 Fall, 60 Minute Time Limit]
T.S. Quint: How is it that I go from the verge of hot Floridian sex with Brandi to man of steel coital debates with you in the food court? Brodie: Cookie stand isn't part of the food court. T.S. Quint: Of course it is. Brodie: The food court is downstairs. The cookie stand is upstairs. It's not like we're talking quantum physics here. T.S. Quint: The cookie stand counts as an eatery, eateries are part of the food court. Brodie: Bullshit. Eateries that operate within the designated square downstairs count as food court. Anything outside of said designated square counts as an autonomous unit for mid-mall snacking. Now, if you're going to wax intellectual about the subject...
NOTE: The above post makes no sense. We apologize for the inconvenience.
That's the one Kevin Smith that I have never actually watched.
We're both swiping from Larry Niven, as I indicated in the article. It's been a few years since I've read the Niven essay, but I expect that we both swiped the shotgun line in one shape or form from Niven.