Fear of a Ghost Interview: UltraMantis Black

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Perhaps more than any other professional wrestler, UltraMantis Black is a walking contradiction. He has competed in violent death matches, professed his goals of world domination, and torn other wrestlers asunder with his deadly intellect and an arsenal of finishing maneuvers whose names—Praying Mantis Bomb, Cosmic Doom, and Cosmic Disaster being but a few of them—sound like the sort of things Dr. Doom would deploy against the Fantastic Four.  But the former Angry Insect Evildoer also has a soft side, as indicated by his love of animals, his veganism, and, perhaps most tellingly, the Christmas-themed sleeve tattoos running down both of his arms.

If you’re one of the dozens who read Blogamania, my first attempt at blogging about the weird and wonderful corner of pop culture known as professional wrestling, then you know that my first CHIKARA show, 2010’s We Must Eat Michigan’s Brain, was my foot in the door to the world of independent wrestling, which, for so long, had been a stop-gap measure for wrestlers who weren’t suitable for the WWF, WCW, or ECW. A lot has changed since then, and UltraMantis, a nine-year veteran of the squared circle, is indicative of a dramatic shift in the medium. While huge, larger-than-life narratives were once the bread and butter of the WWE, those are slowly being fazed out in favor of a parade of generically tattooed musclemen arguing over a title that changes hands every three weeks. While there’s still some fight in that old horse, wrestling’s most satisfying stories are now being told in the recreation centers, flea markets, and bingo halls of this great land, the very venues that were once mocked and derided by the likes of Eric Bischoff and Jerry “the King” Lawler on broadcasts of Monday Night Raw and Monday Nitro. The underground is thriving, a veritable phantasmagoria of personality and athleticism the likes of which you won’t find on cable TV, and the devious, megalomaniacal UltraMantis Black is the very picture of indie wrestling’s something-for-everybody ethic. I dropped into CHIKARA in the middle of UltraMantis Black’s war with the Bruderschaft Des Kreuzes and was immediately hooked. He returned a year later, and I’d convinced a sizable group of friends to check out the product, and bake UltraMantis a vegan peanut butter cake.

I’ve written a little about the privilege of being an indie fan, and one of them that I’ve only just recently discovered is that guys like UltraMantis are pretty open to being interviewed. He is a mere two days away from the biggest weekend of his career, a weekend where he not only joins forces with seven other wrestlers to take on the combined powers of the BDK and the Batiri in CHIKARA’s annual torneo cibernetico, but, at the company’s debut internet pay per view, he teams with Hallowicked and puts his mask, his very identity on the line against BDK kingpins Ares and Tim Donst. This still-relevant clip from late last year explains part of UltraMantis Black’s vegan beef substitute with Ares, the Swiss god of war:

The feud between Mantis and Ares—not to mention the one between Hallowicked and Tim Donst, the other half of Sunday’s luchas de apuestas—is far too complex to be recapped in whole here, but UltraMantis is putting his very career on the line in his effort to obliterate the BDK and liberate his and Hallowicked’s former ally Delirious from the influences of the Eye of Tyr, an ancient artifact said to grant the bearer unspeakable powers. The tag team match may look tawdry compared to the headlining clash between CHIKARA founder Mike Quackenbush and Eddie Kingston, but this, friends, is the culmination of two years of bitter hatred, heated confrontations, and unforeseen backstabbings. This is pro-wrestling at its best, and is a huge reason why CHIKARA’s High Noon event is, for many wrestling fans, larger even than WrestleMania. Following the video is the interview UltraMantis was kind enough to accept.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: At Sunday’s High Noon event, you partner with Hallowicked to take on the BDK contingent of Ares and Tim Donst in luchas de apuestas, where you have pledged to unmask if Ares or Donst can defeat you by pinfall or submission. On old telecasts of WCW Monday Nitro, esteemed nerd Mike Tenay often spoke of the luchadore’s mask as his identity. Would you say that the same is true for you? What does the mask mean to you? What would it mean to lose it?

UltraMantis Black: Absolutely agree with Mr. Michael Tenay. In the old tradition of Lucha Libre, a wrestler’s mask is his most valued asset  and indeed his or her entire identity and to lose the mask at the hands of another is a most shameful fate. My mask is who I am and without the mask, there is no UltraMantis. As I have said before – if my mask is taken, my career within the squared circle will end.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: In your nine year professional career, I’d be willing to guess that no wrestling fan has seen your face. You’re putting all of that on the line for the Eye of Tyr. Can you give some background on the Eye? What do you plan to do with it?

UltraMantis Black: The reasons I would put my mask and identity on the line are few and far between. I am doing so in order to possess the Eye once more. The Eye has a very ancient and storied history. It has long been believed to hold powers beyond the realm of human comprehension. Some would refer to this power as “mind control”. Ares stole the Eye from me and used it to gain control of Delirious, a former ally of the current Spectral Envoy stable. By taking back the Eye, I will fulfill a promise to my “Nightmare Warrior” Hallowicked to liberate Delirious from his mental enslavement to the BDK. I then have other plans for the artifact…

Once, UltraMantis Black used the Eye of Tyr to bend Delirious to his will. At High Noon, he hopes to use it in freeing Delirious from the tyranny of the BDK.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: You’re a CHIKARA original, one of the first graduates of the WrestleFactory, and the war between the BDK and CHIKARA quickly escalated to the point where you and your cohorts were fighting for the soul of the promotion. You’ve put aside old grudges and forged a few new ones in your effort to get to Ares, and it seems like High Noon is, to date, your best chance to vanquish the BDK for good. What would that mean for you, going forward?

UltraMantis Black: By ridding myself as well as CHIKARA of the BDK once and for all, I can finally bury my enemies and old grudges once and for all and move forward with the mission of The Spectral Envoy – to ascend to the top of the CHIKARA food chain while simultaneously controlling the universe.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: Also on the docket for you this weekend, an eight on eight showdown against the BDK and the Batiri in CHIKARA’s eighth annual torneo cibernetico. You and Hallowicked have chosen an eclectic bunch—The Throwbacks, The Young Bucks, Green Ant, and Sara Del Rey—to face this unified front. What was your strategy in selecting a complimentary team, and what, do you feel, will be the key to victory on Saturday?

UltraMantis Black: I actually can’t speak too much to that question as it was in fact Hallowicked, the Cibernetico team captain, who chose these individuals. He is quite wise you see. However I can tell you that all of these individuals have either engaged in previous battles with our opponents or have scores to settle. The key to victory lies in our ability to function as a cohesive fighting unit. I have great confidence.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: To go back to the mask, I have several questions about it and the lifestyle associated with wrestlers who wear them. How many masks do you own? How has being lucha affected your ring presence and style? Has it changed the way you interact with people? Are you, after nine years under a hood, afraid to reveal your face, or is the mask your true visage?

UltraMantis Black:  I currently own around 20 masks – some I have never worn in a CHIKARA environment. I have adapted to life in and out of the ring under a mask quite easily. Do I fear revealing my face? Difficult to say. I fear very little in this world but the mere thought does indeed send a shiver down my spine.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: As the leader of the Neo Solar Temple, you often spoke of your goal of world domination through professional wrestling. Despite (or perhaps because of) that goal you don’t often compete outside of a CHIKARA ring. What is so alluring about your home promotion, and why don’t you take many extra-CHIKARA excursions?

UltraMantis Black: I still do on occasion. However, as you say, CHIKARA is indeed my home and after time, you always return home. In the United States, I truly feel that CHIKARA is the premier professional wrestling stage at this time.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: I’m sure that many people still don’t know what to do with the phrase “vegan professional wrestler,” but not only are you one, you’re quite passionate about animal rights. Rather than ask about the dietary aspects of the lifestyle (I’m sure you manage), I’m curious: How difficult is it to procure vegan wrestling gear? And, as a guy with a fair number of tattoos, are those vegan as well? How hard is it to find a tattoo artist who slings vegan ink?

UltraMantis Black: Wrestling gear can be difficult however at this time I have a dedicated fashion designer who custom makes all of my masks and ring gear to my specifications and he is aware of the materials I will and won’t wear so the problem has been alleviated.  As for tattoos, again I am lucky in the fact that my loyal prophet Crossbones does all of my work and fulfills my requests to use only pigments not derived from charcoal sourced from animal bone or glycerin based carrier solution and soaps. There are some fabulous all-vegan tattoo shops out there that I’d encourage people to support.

In the Black Tea Garden, every day is Christmas Day (photo credit: m-drop.com)

Fear of a Ghost Planet: Your taste in music is well-reflected by your merchandise, which takes influence not only from hardcore greats like Black Flag and Bad Brains, but groups like the Smiths. What do you find is the best music to get you ready for a match? What records keep you going for long trips in the car?

UltraMantis Black: Great question! Difficult to answer! I listen to EVERYTHING. Pre-match, the heavier and harsher the better – Integrity, Judge, Infest, assorted vegan death metal. Road trips to shows – lots of English music: new wave, no wave, neo-no/new wave, cold wave, early post-punk like Echo & the Bunnymen, Joy Division, of course the Smiths, northern soul, rocksteady/dancehall. Also, pretty much anything that emerged from Washington DC circa 1980-1995.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: You recently performed at the Secret Art Space (in Bethlehem, PA) with the Human Genome Project. How is performing as a member of a band different than performing in the squared circle? Do you plan on future musical endeavors? Perhaps a spoken word album?

UltraMantis Black: I played in a bands long before I stepped into the ring and even continued doing so incognito as I wrestled. This was the first time I merged both. It was something I felt like I needed to do and it was quite cathartic. If you’ve seen that performance, you’d probably agree that there was more spoken word than music. I have a tendency to rant a great deal when there are things burning on my mind. As for the future, we shall see. Some of the musicians involved perform in other bands that take precedence. Either way, the crossover was quite positive.

Warning: The audio on this video is far from perfect
Fear of a Ghost Planet: I asked Jakob Hammermeier an awkward question about his dating life, and it seems to be a popular one for wrestling fans to ask, so here goes: On top of your duties as a professional wrestler and color commentator, you happen to be the Mayor of Parts Unknown, a position, I’m sure, that requires a certain amount of image upkeep. What are you looking for in a First Mantis?

UltraMantis Black: One who isn’t afraid to unapologetically crush our enemies with one fell swoop of the universal hammer of karmic retribution. Must be a snuggler.

Fear of a Ghost Planet: Thank you very much for your time. Any last words before you go?

UltraMantis Black: Speak out – fight back! Go vegan – stay vegan! Buy some t-shirts – ultramantisblack.com! Gratitude to Fear of a Ghost Planet for the speaking platform!

Again, thanks to UltraMantis for taking the time to answer my fairly ridiculous line of questioning. If you’re on Twitter, follow him @UltraMantis. If you’re a wrestling fan, an ex-wrestling fan, a jaded wrestling fan, or a friend of mine who is tired of hearing me talk about wrestling and thinks that watching a show and making fun of it will get me to shut up, please consider ordering CHIKARA’s High Noon iPPV at gfl.tv. For $15, which is less than the price of a 3D movie, you will be treated to pro-wrestling the likes of which you never imagined possible, and will be supporting the little guy. The WWE’s a publicly traded company now, so ordering this show is a lot like occupying Wall Street. It’s more than fun–it’s a civic duty!