“Spitfire.” “The Ace of Anarchy.” To independent wrestling fans living in the Midwest, Davey Vega wears a lot of different masks (well, not literally), but in Cleveland’s Absolute Intense Wrestling he’s a newcomer, a man predominantly known as one half of the Sex Bob-Ombs with his partner Mat Fitchett. This Friday, he steps out of his role as a tag team specialist to take on the phenomenal ACH in round one of the J.T. Lightning Invitational Tournament. Fans who’ve been paying attention to AIW know that ACH is quickly becoming a focal point of the promotion. He recently had a mind-bending 30-minute Iron Man Match with AR Fox at Straight Outta Compton just a month ago—a match that should be in contention for many “Match of the Year” accolades—and, in a post-match speech, ACH made it clear that it is his intention to walk out of Turners Hall this weekend with the JLIT Trophy and a shot at Absolute Champion and TNA stalwart Shiima Xion. Many fans predict that ACH will go far in this weekends tournament, but those same fans may in fact be underestimating Vega. Read more
Most of the time when wrestling fans talk about “underrated wrestlers,” they’re talking about guys who maybe didn’t get much exposure on TV or, if they did, guys who never won WWE or WCW World Heavyweight Championships. Guys like Carlito Caribbean Cool and John Morrison are frequently tagged as underrated because the man upstairs didn’t hand them the ball, preferring the tried and true over something new, but the fact of the matter is that those guys aren’t underrated, not really. It’s tough to be underrated when you’re on TV every week, when you have a company’s second most prestigious title, when you’re doing flashy, show-stealing moves on pay per views and at WrestleMania, and it’s hard to say that somebody hasn’t been given the ball when they’re enjoying the relative fame and fortune that comes along with all that.
To me, the word “underrated” doesn’t apply to anybody unless you’re talking about somebody working the bingo hall circuit, somebody sweating and bleeding and putting their body on the line before a packed house of 150 people paying $20 for ringside seats. You can look up and down the rosters of CHIKARA and Ring of Honor and debate who among them is most deserving of the crown, but, for my money, Rickey Shane Page may be the most underrated wrestler in America. Read more
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:
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…
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.
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.
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!
Jakob Hammermeier is a man of many hats, a loyal wrestler/ring announcer/manager of the Bruderschaft Des Kreuzes, perhaps the most dastardly stable to have graced the squared circle. He’s been a presence in the Philadelphia-based CHIKARA promotion since January of 2010 as the BDK’s personal ring announcer/ringside attendant, but, after a year of abuse an injury at the hands of CHIKARA’s technicos, he decided to take matters into his own hands, seeking out training from recent WWE-signee Claudio Castagnoli and Ares, the Swiss god of war.
While perhaps not as feared or respected as BDK stalwarts Tursas and Tim Donst, Jakob has nevertheless made a name for himself as an in-ring competitor, having scored victories over the likes of Gregory Iron, Dasher Hatfield, Da Soul Touchaz, and Green Ant, building an impressive resume and maneuvering himself into contention for CHIKARA’s Young Lions Cup, currently held by Tadasuke, of the Osaka Pro promotion in Japan.
While it may not have come across to Jakob from the way this interview went down, Mr. Hammermeier is one of my favorite personalities in indie wrestling. His self-announced ring entrance is fantastic, his shilling of his Team Jakob t-shirts was a highlight of intermission at the three CHIKARA events I’ve been to this year, and the man is as fashion forward as they come, unafraid to wear a tie and a vest without a shirt. In one week, he faces maybe his biggest challenge at CHIKARA’s High Noon iPPV, which takes place Sunday, November 13, live from the former ECW Arena in Philly. In one on one action, he takes on Sara Del Rey, just one of many matches that are well worth your time and money. Jakob was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the event, which you can order at gfl.tv. Now, the interview…
Q: I suspect most people assume that Sara Del Rey might kill you at Chikara’s High Noon iPPV, but, as you’ve proven in matches against the likes of Eddie Kingston, you’re a resilient competitor. What’s the secret to your strength?
Jakob Hammermeier: Well put mein freund. I am resilient. Sara Del Rey is going to underestimate me just like everyone does, this along with the fact that I am more resilient than anybody on the CHIKARA roster. Bone density is the secret. I drink more milk than the average bear, that’s for sure!
Q: As some may be aware, you’re the first graduate of the BDK WrestleFactory. What advantages do you feel that has given you over a graduate of another wrestling school?
JH: Ares und Claudio Castagnoli are bar none the BEST trainers in all of profressional wrestling. I feel this gives me an advantage because they honed in to train me all by mein lonesome as opposed to one teacher training a whole class. It is comparable to the private schools versus the deplorable U.S. public school system. Assisted lessons by the rest of the BDK (including the aformentioned “homewrecker”) I received a melting pot of different styles from which to pick und chose.
Q: Your in-ring career has been relatively short. What would winning Cibernetico or defeating a world-renowned competitor like Del Rey do for somebody in your position? Do you think about taking matches outside of CHIKARA—a Team Jakob World Tour, maybe?
JH: Mo’ money! Mo’ recognition! Mo’ Jakob merchandise as a result! Also, don’t think for one second that I have taken mein eyes off of the YLC. So a big win may get me in a YLC match.
Q: Being a member of the BDK must make you quite a catch at the local biergarten. Who is a better wingman—Tim Donst, or Tursas?
JH: Tim Donst. Tursas consumes women almost as quickly as he consumes mead and venison. Not much of a conversationalist. Tim on the other hand, usually talks about himself so much that the women just need someone to listen to them, we usually talk about hair products.
Q: Your role in the BDK has evolved rapidly, from ring announcer to manager to in-ring competitor. What do you see in the BDK’s future? What role will you play in it?
JH: I see the BDK turning things around. We obviously did a number on a gaggle of technicos in CHIKARA’s southern excursion. At the Cibernetico und High Noon, we will ride that momentum into next season. I plan on being a soldier for the cause, with always keeping the YLC in the back of mein mind.
Q: If you could call your finishing maneuver anything besides the “Rude Awakening,” what would it be?
JH: Although mein finishing maneuver is indeed inspired by Rick Rude (one of mein childhood favorites) mein variation already has a name, “Gute Nacht!” it truly is devastating.
Q: As a ring announcer, a match’s presentation must be very important to you. If you could hand pick a two-man announce team to call your match at High Noon, who would man the commentation station?
JH: JH: Good ol’ JR und LFC [CHIKARA' s own Leonard F. Chikarason] .
Q: You’re a frequent presence at ringside, particularly during the matches Tursas is competing in. What philosophies do you bring as a manager, and how does somebody as wise and battle-tested as he respond to your suggestions?
JH: I don’t really have philosophies of mein own. I just take mein orders from Ares and remind Tursas of the battle plan. Sometimes his rage gets in the way of strategy, und I am there to keep him on track.
Q: What, right now, is a bigger threat to the BDK: A unified Spectral Envoy, or the free radical, Sara Del Rey.
JH: I had no idea that this interview would have such loaded biased questions. This is horribly unprofessional. This interview is over!
And that’s how my e-mail communique with Jakob ended. I did not get any tips on hair care, and I did not find out which IKEA the BDK plans to storm if they’re successful at Cibernetico: The Animated Series and the High Noon iPPV. For more information on High Noon, Jakob Hammermeier, and CHIKARA itself, head on over to chikarapro.com.