We’re back for more of that secret season, featuring an “Infinite Gauntlet”… that wasn’t infinite!

Weighing in at over 90 minutes, this was the longest episode to date, and we start with DUSTIN in the barber shop. Outside of CHIKARA and EVOLVE, DUSTIN is Chuck Taylor… but here, Chuck Taylor™ is “legally owned” by the man better known as Stokely Hathaway. Confused? Great!

Apparently Chuck Taylor™ is recording an album and also has a girlfriend, so DUSTIN doesn’t know what he’s up to these days. Perhaps it’s managing champions?

Juan Francisco de Coronado has a promo at the start announcing that he’s in the Infinite Gauntlet. We’ve got Spanish and English subtitles, which is a cute touch, and he proclaims that he’ll be the next Grand Champion of CHIKARA. They’ve repaired the set since last time out, by the way…

Silver Ant vs. Sylverhawk
Well this is going to be bloody confusing to call… Sylverhawk has the poise of a more established pro, whilst Ant looks like he might be out to catch a point with this match. They both grapple for a waistlock at the start, before a long exchange leads to a roll through for some near-falls as ‘hawk ended with a grounded hammerlock.

This action is fast and furious without being too flippy – a sunset flip gets ‘hawk a near-fall as they finally stand off. Ant lands a leg takedown and grabs a leglock, before ‘hawk comes back with a lucha armdrag off the ropes. A crossbody from ‘hawk is rolled through as Ant blasts him with a Michinoku driver for a near-fall.

Ant takes over for a while until the crowd gets behind ‘hawk in a chop exchange, before he leaps off the top rope and finally hits a big splash for a near-fall. A Stinger splash follows in the corner as ‘hawk tries for a superplex, instead taking a release front suplex as Ant countered it, before missing a frog splash, as Sylverhawk stole the win with a prawn hold! A pretty good opening match, and I’ll say it now, no way is Sylverhawk a rookie – that’s gotta be a more established guy under the bodysuit. ***

We’re taken to Officer Warren Barksdale and “new guy”. They’re put on parking duty, which Barksdale isn’t pleased with.

We learn next that “set For Action” is CHIKARA speak for jobber duty…

Obariyon vs. Hiptoss Hank
Obariyon is now fighting alone after the Batiri split up, and his first match back is against perennial CHIKARA light inspector, Hiptoss Hank. Black, blue and silver are Obariyon’s colours of choice, and he starts by taking Hank into the corner and breaking cleanly.

Hank boots Obariyon in the gut, but he’s leapt over in the corner and met with some uppercuts, then a diving knee for a near-fall. Some chops light up Hank’s chest, who’s then sent flying with forearms, clotheslines and a knee lift, before a knee to the back of the head sends Hank flying into a Mike Quackenbush concussion joke.

The end quickly comes when Obariyon flies off the top rope with a DDT, and that’s the squash complete. I’ve always said wrestling needs squash matches, and this proves my point. (NR)

Lucas Calhoun gets a promo to build himself up for the Infinite Gauntlet…

Max Smashmaster vs. Fire Ant
Smashmaster’s accompanied by Sidney Bakabella, and Ant flies into him with a forearm and kicks in an attempt to keep the much larger Smashmaster at bay.

Max shoves Ant into the ropes for a shoulder block, but he gets caught with a headscissor takedown as he tried to pull Ant up for a move. The offence continued with a Fire Ant dropkick, before Sidney Bakabella tripped him in the ropes, leading to a huge clothesline that sent the Ant down.

Max gives Ant a biel out of the corner, then a legdrop for a two-count as Sidney yet again gets in a cheapshot to anger the fans. An avalanche splash in the corner flattens Ant, whose comeback ends when he eats a big boot for a near-fall. There’s more crappy officiating as Ant’s thrown to the outside so Bakabella can attack him some more whilst Smashmaster has the referee tied up, before he’s thrown in to take a slam and a big splash for a near-fall.

Ant side-steps some more avalanches, then does a back roll up into a DDT for a two-count. A crossbody gets a similar result, so Ant goes for a PK… which gets caught and turned into a Smashmaster powerbomb that just flattened the ant. Max head up and apparently does a senton bomb? Oh my god he went for it and missed!

Fire Ant hits that PK, but gets distracted by Bakabella again. He shakes free and goes for that back roll into some headscissors, but Smashmaster catches him and spikes him with a tombstone for the win. A competitive squash that underscored Max as a monster here – something CHIKARA has not yet displayed! **½

A promo from the Closers follows as they promise to be the first ever co-winners of the Infinity Gauntlet.

Infinity Gauntlet
So, this is a 33-man Royal Rumble, with elimination by pinfall, submission and by going over-the-top-rope. We’ve got entrances every 88 seconds. Back to the Future! There’s kids surrounding the ring, banging the canvas to make sure we can’t hear the MC.

We’ll not list everything that happens here, for the sake of our sanity, but your entrants (in order) were: Rick Roland, Sloan Caprice, Ice Cream Jr., Worker Ant, Ophidian, Heidi Lovelace, Wani, The Proletariat Boar of Moldova, Rock Lobster, Juan Francisco de Coronado, Solo Darling, Hermit Crab, Ashley Vox, Lucas Calhoun, El Hijo del Ice Cream, Nytehawk, Cajun Crawdad, Razerhawk, Donald Kluger, Travis Huckabee, Jeremy Leary, Jasper Tippins, Delmi Exo, Oleg the Usurper, Bullet Ant, Mark Angelosetti, Dasher Hatfield, Officer Warren Barksdale, Kobald, Icarus, Missile Assault Man, Hallowicked, UltraMantis Black

The Closers started out, which was interesting on several levels, including kayfabe – as you’d have thought that these two tag team partners would have asked each other about their numbers! They start with a thumb wrestle, before Ice Cream Junior entered the lion’s pit. Or at least he would have done had he not spent time on the apron avoiding getting into the ring, rather waiting for the clock to run down so someone else could join with him. Stupidly, he joined as the clock ticked down, and was instantly thrown out!

Ophidian managed to hold off the Closers until Heidi Lovelace came out, making for a more even battle until Wani came out and was recruited by the Closers as the bad guys seem to stick together. The arrival of the Proletariat Boar of Moldova didn’t help things for Ophidian and Lovelace, but at least Rock Lobster took down the Closers before aiming for Lovelace.

Juan Francisco de Coronado and Wani teamed up after Juan’s lengthy entrance, before Solo Darling rushed to the ring ahead and tried to go after the Closers… but instead she got used as a battering ram before turning it into a DDT. The Boar targeted Solo again, before Hermit Crab came in and took down Rick Roland with a double DDT, with the help of Rock Lobster.

Ophidian backdrops Rock Lobster off the apron across the corner for the next elimination, as the story Mike Quackenbush told was one of how you had to form an alliance to succeed in this match. Lucas Calhoun enters and karate chops everyone until he ran into the Closers… but he ended up backdropping Sloan Caprice onto the apron, then sidestepped a big boot as Rick Roland knocked his partner off. Calhoun got rid of Roland seconds later as the Closers were done for in this match.

El Hijo del Ice Cream shoulder charges Nytehawk in the corner then gives the camera a thumbs up to declare “I’m winning”, only to scream like a banshee seconds later as he fights away from an elimination. All of a sudden, Ashley Vox gets eliminated when Juan Francisco nails her with a Tiger driver out of nowhere for the pin. Razerhawk slingshots in and takes down Juan with a headscissor takedown before the two Xyberhawk members take down the crabs for a near-fall.

Hermit Crab eats a load of near-falls as poor Bryce Remsburg has to count in an overly crowded ring, before our next elimination occured when ref-turned-wrestler Travis Huckabee made a beeline for the Boar of Moldova, eventually landing a Cactus Jack-esque clothesline that sent both men out of the match.

El Hijo del Ice Cream tries to undo the mask of Wani to prevent himself from being thrown out, and I guess that worked. Donald Kluger gets double teamed by Heidi and Solo in the corner, who poke him in the eye, but it wasn’t until Oleg the Usurper arrived when we saw mass clearings. The Xyberhawk were thrown out by the massive Oleg, who then mocked Solo’s attempt at strikes before booting her off the apron for the next elimination, as Oleg then scared El Hijo del Ice Cream into eliminating himself!

Bullet Ant comes in and immediately taps to a standing cloverleaf from Juan Francisco de Coronado – triggering an injury that needed the Ant to be carried to the back by crew members. Dasher Hatfield comes in and takes down Juan with a cyclone neckbreaker, before Juan recovered to turf out Lucas Calhoun after Jeremy Leary turned down a shot at his former rival.

After Officer Warren Barksdale eliminated Jeremy Leary, Dez Peloton were eliminated as Hatfield took down Kluger and Touchdown pinned Tippins simultaneously. Maybe a little far fetched, but a fun spot nevertheless as Icarus marched down to the ring for a reunion of Dasher’s Dugout… only for Heidi Lovelace to get thrown out quickly by Juan as Icarus, Touchdown and Hatfield were caught off-guard.

Hallowicked comes in and kills Officer Barksdale with Never Wake Up (cross-legged brainbuster), scoring a pinfall elimination almost immediately, before he was speared out of his boots by Ultramantis Black. The next elimination came when Oleg refused to strike Kobald, remembering a prior vow to not do him any harm… but Kobald turned the tables with a poke to the eye, before low-bridging Oleg to the floor. Seconds later, a Praying Mantis Bomb eliminates Kobald, before we ran into a parade of finishers and it looks like Ultramantis was the last man out as the infinity clock has stopped. Would have been nice of Quackenbush to have, you know, mentioned it… not everyone’s counting the wrestlers in the match!

Speaking of, Ultramantis gets turfed to the floor by Hallowicked for our next elimination, as we see a four-way chop battle in the ring between Hatfield, Assault Man, Juan and Touchdown. More eliminations see Missile Assault Man thrown out by Mr Touchdown, before Go To Sleepy Hollow from Hallowicked almost gets rid of Icarus.

Icarus lands a Pedigree for a near-fall, before dumping Hallowicked with almost a Burning Hammer. Juan gets rid of Icarus seconds later, throwing him over the top, before he turned around into a two-on-one beating from Dasher and Touchdown, who throw him out… but they claim that Juan isn’t out because only one foot touched. I guess that was an accidental elimination that they’re covering?

Juan Francisco seems to choke out the referee – so he can get back in with both feet – as we see Hatfield and Touchdown slug it out in the ring. A pop-up spinebuster takes down Hatfield… but Juan comes in and clotheslines Mr Touchdown out of the match, then tries to steal the win with a roll-up as we’re down to our final two! That doesn’t last though, as Hatfield immediately throws Juan over the top, and he’s immediately presented with three points as he’s got a Golden Opportunity at some point in the future!

This was a fun gauntlet in parts, but it took a while to get going. Once Oleg arrived things picked up; that being said, this was like a WWE Rumble, with a rather top-heavy entry list. There were a few things missing, like the grandstanding at the final four, or indeed, acknowledgments of certain key milestones on commentary, but it was fine for what it was. It’s fair to say that not of the early entrants certainly not being likely to be leaving with the “Golden Opportunity” ***

The show ended in the arena with Dasher Hatfield being swarmed by children, before Vlad Radinov signed off. Yep, we’ve got another post-show spot too, as Ophidian and Fire Ant are talking about forming an alliance since they’ve recently lost “brother” (Amasis and Soldier Ant). Mike Quackenbush walks in and asks what’s going on, but he’s told that his “contingency plan” against another invasion isn’t good enough, as the Ophidian/Fire Ant idea is a go.

Well, this was the longest episode of the season so far, but it wasn’t a slog. The Infinity Gauntlet didn’t drag too badly, but it could have done with a little reshuffle in terms of order of entry, but it was fine for where it was. I also would have preferred it to have been built up a little, rather than clicking on the show and *bang* hour-long Rumble match out of nowhere!

Still, the “secret season” has been impressive once I’ve gotten into it – and it continues to roll on!