Over the past Seasons, there have been many important dates in CHIKARA history like February 26th, 2006, when the Kings Of Wrestling became the first Campeonatos de Parejas, February 18th, 2007, when Jigsaw, Mike Quackenbush, and Shane Storm won the first King of Trios tournament, or November 13th, 2011, when Eddie Kingston became the Grand Champion at CHIKARA’s first iPPV. But the most important is May 25th, 2002, the date of the first CHIKARA show, which is appropriately titled The Renaissance Dawns.
The first show featured five matches: Mister ZERO pinned Dragonfly, the Beauty And The Beast (Love Bug and Marshall Law) beat the Night Shift (Hallowicked and Ichabod Slayne), Kid Kruel pinned Zane Madrox, Blind Rage pinned UltraMantis, and in the main event, the Black T-Shirt Squad (Quackenbush, Reckless Youth, and Don Montoya) beat the Gold Bond Mafia (CM Punk, Colt Cabana, and Chris Hero) when Reckless pinned Colt after a Northern Lights 2K1 Bomb.
The second show was less than a week later on May 31st. UltraMantis faced ZERO and they would feud for the rest of the Season before teaming up in the next. The primary rivalry of the Season also started at this show between The Squad and The Night Shift (Rage, Hallowicked, and Slayne) when the two teams met in the main event. The Shift beat The Squad after Slayne hit Quack in the head with the pumpkin he brought to the ring with him, allowing Rage to get the pin and the win.
Over the next few shows, the Shift would continue to win, usually thanks to Slayne’s ever-present jack-o-lanterns (later revealed to be supplied by ZERO). Eventually, the interference begun to backfire and the Squad was able to turn the tide as the Season continued. At the sixth show on June 28th, Slayne took the losing fall in a 10 person tag featuring the Squad, Love Bug, Queen Bee, and UltraMantis against the Night Shift, Mister ZERO and Trinity H. Campbell. He had to wear a dress during the Atomicos match on the next show at October 12th, where Quack, UltraMantis, Dragonfly, and a masked Gran Akuma faced off with Rage, Wicked, Slayne, and ZERO. The stress and tension of constant losses destroyed the Shift from within. Slayne turned technico and lost his mask in CHIKARA’s first Lucha de Apuesta, a mascara contra caballera (mask versus hair) match, at the season finale on December 7th. He would return the next season as Icarus.
It’s impossible not to talk about the first season without talking about the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory (now known as just the Wrestle Factory) as CHIKARA grew out of it, as originally it was a way to showcase the Factory’s students. The Factory was founded in January 7th, 2002 and the first class included UltraMantis, ZERO, Dragonfly, Wicked, and Slayne. The first CHIKARA shows were held at the Factory itself, which was located at 1313 Linden Street in Allentown, PA.
This upset some neighborhood activists who didn’t want wrestling in their neighborhood and a lawsuit was filed against CHIKARA claiming that the Factory was not zoned to host large groups or events. The lawsuit also claimed the wrestling shows would ruin the “complexion of the community,” another zoning issue. The Courts agreed and ruled that the Factory couldn’t host CHIKARA events any longer because it didn’t have enough parking for their shows.
Because of the case, CHIKARA didn’t run any shows during the summer of 2002. However, that didn’t stop them from finding a new venue and starting to run shows again. CHIKARA’s new home was at St. John’s Lutheran Church, only a few blocks from the Factory. The first St. John’s show was on October 12th and new talent would join the roster, including Akuma, Kingston, BlackJack Marciano, DJ Skittlez and Lester Crabtree (later known as Darkness Crabtree). Later in the Season, Jigsaw and Bryce Remsburg would join them. Season One also marked the first appearance of Mitch Ryder and a special guest in La Parka during the fourth show on June 14th.
Before removing the gender wall entirely, CHIKARA had a short-lived sister promotion, called Kiryoku Pro. Kiryoku means willpower, inner strength, and vitality. The sixth show was made of mostly women’s matches, with the exception of the 10 person tag, which was made in the aftermath of the Bee versus Campbell match. It was the first intergender match in CHIKARA history. More Kiryoku Pro showcase matches would happen through the rest of the Season, featuring Mercedes Martinez, Alexis Laree (better known as Mickie James), and Sumie Sakai.
Season One also featured the start of the longest running tradition in CHIKARA, The Young Lions Cup tournament. It started as a way to highlight the best of The Factory’s students. The YLC was a two night affair, with Night 1 on November 9th and Night 2 on the 16th. The inaugural tournament included Skittlez, Akuma, Marciano, UltraMantis, Kingston, ZERO, Super Orka, and Wicked, who would go on to win it by beating ZERO in the finals with a super fisherman’s buster. Wicked’s first and only Season One defense would be at the season finale against Akuma.