When someone says “professional wrestling,” images of bare-shirted, trash-talking, muscle-bound guys smashing each other over the head with folding chairs tend to come to mind.

Then there’s Chikara, coming to the STRIVE Center in South Portland on Saturday with a show called “The Great Escape.” This pro wrestling organization emphasizes elaborate costumes, mixed-gender matches, no weight classes and — hold onto your hats — no rules in the ring.

Think “Nacho Libre” mixed with “The Avengers.”

“It’s more akin to comic-book storytelling,” said Chikara founder Mike Quackenbush. “There are more elements of science fiction and fantasy it’s definitely more of a fun reinforcement of what we think in terms of wrestling.”

Quackenbush formed Chikara (Japanese for “power”) in Pennsylvania in 2002. A pro wrestler and writer known as “The Master of 1,000 Holds,” he says he formed the company out of a sense of, well, boredom.

“I started in professional wrestling at age 15, and as I traveled, there was an increasing monotony in what I felt was out there,” he said. Whereas World Wrestling Entertainment is “an arena rock band like Journey,” Chikara “is very much like an acoustic guitar set that you would hear in a small venue.”

Chikara adopts the practices of the Mexican wrestling style known as lucha libre, including the use of masks to conceal identities and an emphasis on tag teams and mixed weight classes.

But the fun factor is also up front and center. How can it not be, with wrestlers dressing up as insects and superheroes and sporting stage names like Ice Cream Jr., “the delicious dairy deviant”?

“If you would feel comfortable allowing your child to watch the 1966 Adam West ‘Batman’ TV show, which had comic-book-style fisticuffs, you would very likely find Chikara acceptable,” Quackebush said.

“The Great Escape” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the STRIVE Center, 28 Foden Road, South Portland. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20, and will be available at the Chikara website through Friday and at the door Saturday night.

Children will be admitted for free with a paying adult, and will be able to have their photos taken with the wrestlers during intermission. For more information, visit chikarapro.com.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RHarmonPPH


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