Heart is an indescribable term when taken out of the medical context. I say I like my products with “heart.” My family knows that I appreciate products with “heart,” and they say “heart” because they don’t know what else to say. My tastes are eclectic. I do not like all the same television shows that the average Comic-Con attendee likes. Scrubs is garbage, and just because I like some typically nerdy things does not mean I also settle for garbage. I need “heart” in my things, and not bland, vapid emptiness. Also, I abhor that false “heart” with an emphasis on being too twee and too quirky for its own good. Sincerity is my bag. Do you understand how much harder it is to explain my interests than “anything but country and rap?”
Chikara, you know, the professional wrestling company, has the heart I look for. Past this point lie spoilers for the company’s most recent show, Aniversario: Never Compromise. The event ended with a no-contest finish for the great main event and the established director of the company, Wink Vavasseur, ordered Condor Security to both forcibly escort wrestlers and referees from the building and also to tear down the set. Despite the finish being essentially the same noncommittal crap that WWE will pull when Vince McMahon can’t make up his mind, this was anything but noncommittal. Chikara loves to stick the landing. It, perhaps, relishes in it. It extends the joke further than it needs to be extended. Good wrestling isn’t all they trade in. They establish underlying storylines filled with homages to comic books, film, and real-world events. They generally don’t announce these homages directly, but opt to let the most hardcore of Chikara fans piece stories together from hints scattered throughout the canon, including blog posts and Twitter feeds. The first half of Chikara’s 2013 events were named after lines from Watchmen, but they weren’t “RORSCHACH” or “GIANT ALIEN SQUID,” they were “The Shoulder of Pallas” and “While the Dawn is Breaking.” As the consumer, you are respected.
Of course, professional wrestling also peddles in fiction and, depending on deeply you take the fiction, downright lies. As part of the shocking conclusion to Never Compromise, Chikara has cancelled all of its shows for the rest of the year. There are still the Wrestling Is… shows (which may play into a greater storyline), but there is no place to purchase tickets for the listed Chikara shows. Social media is still buzzing over twenty-four hours later, which means Chikara has (or had) a bigger reach than even I thought. A lot of people are shocked and overjoyed by the twists and turns that the underlying story of time travel and alternate realities has been on, but another lot of people genuinely cannot fathom what’s happening. There are at least hundreds of tweets that establish the tweet-er never watched Chikara, but is still respectful enough of the business to give his condolences. Possible customers are confused, if not totally turned away.
I have little doubt that Chikara will be back and bigger than ever.
This is committal to the bit. This is a joke that was funny, stopped being funny, and starts being funny again when the joke seemed like it would never end. I speak to myself at length about how other wrestling companies like WWE or Ring of Honor are oddly self-alienating, but that’s for sexism and “mature” immaturity, not the most elaborate time travel hoax in the medium. This is the “heart” that I’ve always wanted out of my material. I want dedication. I want sincerity. I want depth and patience and a concern for the most hardcore of fans. I want to be able to immerse myself in the product itself. A lot of wrestling companies put on good wrestling, but few go to these lengths to grab people. Few even go to so many lengths to turn away those who don’t get it.
I’ve been a fan of Giant Bomb since the website launched in 2008, but I’ve followed its staff for a decade. They’ve been on their own travels, once being a part of a corporation, then becoming independent, then reselling to their own previous corporation, but along the way they’ve remained (mostly) intact. Ten years of watching hundreds of hours of these same people, eight years of falling asleep to their yammerings on a podcast, has inadvertently created an insular fanbase. Jokes will survive for years. Names for fake t-shirts are made up on their shows, and then, months later, those t-shirts are made and I buy one. I say some things the same way the Giant Bomb staff says them. It’s not that I aspired to copy, but I did aspire to be the best. And I think they’re the best. For their commitment. For their longevity. For their willingness to look completely foolish when compared to some more self-serious, higher-budgeted peers. For how funny that foolishness is.
The same things can be said for my favorite band, mewithoutYou. Last year, at the release of their fifth album, Ten Stories, I remarked that I am fully bought in to them at a personal level. They have written music (again for ten years) that may not always sound the same, especially as the members grow older and form families, but has an internal structure. Aaron Weiss’ life has an arc to it, and his emotional struggle, one he has seemingly always been open and frank about, can be witnessed through five albums. That’s not to say that the lyrics are products of concept albums, as there’s no story to the…story (no “I went to the store today” jingle). But as a young man growing up, what he has written about is very raw and real feeling. He has accidentally constructed a narrative that I am hooked on. As solipsistic as it may sound, when I meet him after the show and he talks to me about God and gives me a hug, it contributes to my own perspective of whom he is and what it means in relation to lyrics. In a way, I don’t know anything about anybody, but with mewithoutYou I am made to feel like I do.
Watching the end of Aniversario: Never Compromise not only made me realize that Chikara is right in that territory with my most favorite of products, but its fallout has made me understand what it is I love in the first place. It’s “heart,” but I can’t keep saying “heart” and expect others to understand what I mean. I need to be more descriptive, and I have found enough beautiful things with similarities to form descriptions. I need to tell others that what I really enjoy is depth and commitment and self-awareness and a sense of humor and the care for me, Patrick Kay, the individual, a unique consumer, rather than an across-the-board universal appeal. I’ll like a lot, but most of that lot won’t give me pages to write about.