A little late, but we’re going to take a look at the first episode from CHIKARA’s “secret season”.

Unveiled last month, CHIKARA somehow managed to record an entire “season” of content without anyone realising. No spoilers, no hints, no nothing. Pretty impressive in today’s day and age.

Since the end of their 16th season in December 2016, CHIKARA switched the tag titles away from Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) – for reasons I’m sure will be explained in later episodes. Episodes I’ll be watching, but not necessarily reviewing in whole. I’m going into this with zero back knowledge of CHIKARA, so… shoot me if I get storylines wrong!

The show opened with Dasher Hatfield and Mr Touchdown- the latter of whom is apologising to Dasher for stuff he’d previously done. Touchdown’s got three points for him (as in actual discs, which CHIKARA give out to guys trying to qualify for title matches), but Dasher rejecting the offer and is going to work for his own three points. Touchdown just wants to reunite the Throwbacks, and they end up shaking hands as step-cousins in law. Huh?

We’re taken to the live arena – the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory – which is mostly full of kids, which now explains the lack of any heads up on this. Our un-named host gets us underway, as Mike Quackenbush is on commentary.

The Colony (Fire Ant & Silver Ant) vs. The Closers (Sloan Caprice & Rick Roland)
Quackenbush reminds us that another member of the Colony, Soldier Ant, retired at the end of the last season, but they’re carrying on without him.

This is a decent enough opener, with the Closers trying to use their size to bully the Colony, who flip around fairly well – although there are a few iffy flips in there. Roland blasts the Ants with a pair of big boots as the Closers shrugged off a comeback, before they hit a slingshot suplex with a pass-the-parcel gimmick in the middle. Rick Roland held onto a slam for way too long and ended up getting caught with a DDT by Fire Ant after Silver Ant spun his partner. A pair of diving dropkicks knocked down the Closers, before a pair of top rope dives are caught and turned into the Deal Breaker (powerbomb/slam combo) for the win. Decent, but this felt sloppy in parts. **¼

A backstage promo from Jeremy Leary tells us he wants to face Lucas Calhoun. No reason, just because. Good job that had already been booked!

Jeremy Leary vs. Lucas Calhoun
Apparently Leary has a point, whilst Lucas Calhoun – CHIKARA’s resident Elvis-inspired-wrestler – has two. These equate to winning streaks, so if you win three matches in a row, you get a title shot, I guess.

After a slap, Calhoun lays into Leary with punches and kicks, but the tables turn as Leary uses the ropes against Calhoun’s eyes to get some brief respite. Leary pushes away an eye rake, then takes down Calhoun with an uppercut off the middle rope, before the “Rockabilly Roughneck” resists a snapmare and goes back to the eye raking. Calhoun shoves down the referee… then both of them do, and this one gets thrown out. Leary punches Calhoun with his switchblade comb, and I guess that result means that both men lose their points? Not much of a match beyond the brawling, I’m afraid. *

Leary pulls out some hair, but when he goes to bag it, there’s clearly nothing there.

Team Sea Stars (Ashley Vox & Delmi Exo) vs. Benny the Biel & Hiptoss Hank
Benny and Hank are the jobbers of the day, complete with nondescript masks emblazoned with the CHIKARA logo. Delmi starts against blue mask and exchanges hammerlocks before landing a snapmare and a rear chinlock. Blue mask elbows out, but gets a series of chops and a step-up armdrag takes blue to the outside.

Red Jobber comes in, who’s identified as Hiptoss Hank, and he takes a neckbreaker before Vox comes in to help with a double suplex – with a double bridge – for a near-fall. Vox blasts Hank with uppercuts, before she reels him in (complete with fishing rod motions) for a dropkick for a near-fall.

Blue Jobber (Benny the Biel) breaks up the count and tries to get a double team suplex of their own, but Exo comes in to stop that as the sisters suplex both jobbers at the same time. A double superkick takes Hank out, before a Hart Attack takes down Benny for the win. A perfectly acceptable jobber match, and I kinda like how CHIKARA go out of the way to make the jobbers nonspecific whilst keeping the mask gimmicks going. *½

We’ve got a green screen promo from Ultramantis Black. Apparently he’s a target of Frightmare, a former stablemate, as the Legion of Rat look to take out their former friends.

Frightmare vs. Ultramantis Black
This was Ultramantis’ first match back from injury, and there’s a suitably wacky cover for it.

We start with a back suplex and a leaping neckbreaker from Ultramantis, who gets the Unprettier and a full nelson slam as this starts like you’re playing a video game! Black leaps onto the apron, but gets swept to the floor as Frightmare tries for a dive… it’s aborted, as he then succeeds with a Yakuza kick and a tope con hilo to the floor.

A missile dropkick back in the ring knocks Ultramantis down, as Frightmare seems to point to some kids to threaten them for some heat. A standing moonsault gets a near-fall, as Frightmare keeps following up with some Yakuza kicks. Mike Quackenbush tells us that this is a new mask for Frightmare, along with a new attitude, which seems to include chopping Ultramantis really really hard.

Ultramantis Black comes back out of nowhere with a running Blockbuster neckbreaker and some chops of his own, before he just about gets another Blockbuster off the middle rope. Frightmare fights out of the Cosmic Doom and gets a Crucifix Bomb instead for a near-fall, before a pumphandle driver gets him another two-count. All of a sudden Hallowicked appears at ringside, but Icarus sneaks out and pulls him off the apron to end that run-in, as Ultramantis Black hits the Cosmic Doom (suplex into a slam) for the win. The best thing on the show so far, but I still can’t get over the weird setting here. ***

Juan y Wani (Juan Francisco de Coronado & Wani) vs. Xyberhawx 2000 (Sylverhawk & Nytehawk)
Francisco comes out really slowly with a flag… so slowly, the crowd yells “hurry up” at him. The Xyberhawx are, I guess, a modernisation on the Colony, in that their flavour of mask is their gimmick… we’ve got silver and purple here, the latter of which is meant to be darkness?

Juan and Nyte start us off, and it’s Coronado who uses a headlock takedown and a wristlock as he looks for an early advantage. Nytehawk frees himself and dropkicks Juan into the corner, before a lucha monkey flip takes Juan to the outside.

Tags bring in Wani and Sylverhawk, who trips Wani en route to a headlock, but Wani quickly counters into a hammerlock as they seem to cancel each other out. A series of armdrags puts Sylverhawk on top, before he tags Nytehawk back in for a stomp to Wani’s arm. The Xyberhawk just about succeed with a step-up rollthrough that sends Francisco into the corner, as Sylver leaps off of a bent-over Nyte to crash into his partner. The Xyberhawx abort a dive, but end up getting attacked from behind as Wani throws Nyte out, before throwing Sylver into the ropes. A double team back suplex into a facebuster takes out Sylverhawk, as Nytehawk gets suckered into a test of strength that just serves as a ruse for a kick to the gut.

Finally Sylverhawk succeeds with a dive as his tope to Coronado on the outside, but it’s not long before the heels take over as Wani scoops up Sylverhawk into a suplex as a tiltawhirl backbreaker gets a two-count. Sylverhawk’s lower back gets targeted for a spell, but Nytehawk manages to come in and rock Coronado with a handspring back elbow in the corner. Juan backdrops Nytehawk to the floor, forcing the worn-down Sylverhawk to return to the fray, and he has to kick out of a Tiger Driver from Coronado.

Juan y Wani go for a Doomsday Device to finish things off, before Coronado traps Sylverhawk in the Coronado Clutch (inverted cloverleaf) for the win. A decent tag match, some of the Xyberhawx stuff was a little off at times, but a lot of that has to be down to the masks and this being a new gimmick. **¾

There’s a backstage segment with Mr Touchdown – the former Mark Angelosetti, who’s gone back to his original name. Touchdown got four points, and he’s going to cash them in for a shot at the Grand Championship.

CHIKARA Grand Championship: Hallowicked (c) vs. Mr Touchdown
The Grand Championship is the only CHIKARA title that hasn’t had a phantom title change for this season – we’ll talk about that at the end!

Touchdown grabs a headlock early on, before a shoulder tackle knocks the champion to the outside. An armbreaker forces Hallowicked to reach for the ropes, but the champion comes back with a leg grapevine, only for Mr Touchdown (whose old name, Mark Angelosetti was used interchangably) to land another shoulder tackle as the pair spilled to the floor.

Touchdown hit a series of body splashes on Hallowicked before a leaping body splash got him a near-fall. A spinebuster out of the corner keeps Hallowicked down as he tried to mount a comeback, but the spinebuster looked to have hurt Touchdown’s knee, and Hallowicked leaps on that with a chopblock as he looks to tear away at the challenger’s knee with a toe hold. A low dropkick cuts off Touchdown again as Hallowicked picks up a near-fall, before he goes to a modified STF to wrench away further on the knee. Touchdown finally fights out and makes a comeback with a clothesline and a dropkick – which hurt the knee – as he went for a slam… but Hallowicked fought out, only for a leapover to get caught and turned into another slam.

A deadlift superplex attempt comes next from Touchdown, but he’s shoved down by Hallowicked, who then misses a senton bomb as a crucifix gets a near-fall… but Hallowicked again dropkicks the knee to get on the offensive again. Scratch that, Mr Touchdown manages to land that superplex for a near-fall, before he pops up Hallowicked over him… but that knee goes again.

The Flea Flicker nearly wins it for Touchdown, who now needs the ropes to pull himself up… and that just gets him cornered. Hallowicked grabs a leg and hits some Dragon screws before he tries for the Never Wake Up (spike DDT), and that’s enough for Hallowicked to retain. Easily the best thing on this show, in spite of going in blind. ***¾

Billed as “binge-able content”, that’s certainly what CHIKARA’s 17th season is. As a total newbie to their product, you could tell who was a more established character and who was a newby.

That being said, the switch to a TV-show format for this new season is a bit of a weird one, considering that CHIKARA’s previously grouped their live events into year-long “seasons”. What is going to hurt across the series is the crowd, as kid-heavy crowds tend to struggle when it comes to producing differentiating reactions – but lets see how this goes.