Monday, August 29, 2011

The Struggles of Green Ant: A Coming of Age Story

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Green Ant: Chikara's Holden Caulfield?
Once upon a time, there was a man named Kenta Kobashi. He still wrestles, yeah, and he's known very much today as one of the most legendary performers in puroresu history. He even no-sold cancer. That's badass. However, he wasn't always known for being perhaps the manliest wrestler this side of Stan Hansen. He was known as a loser. When he first broke into AJPW, his role was to lose a bunch of matches. I've written about the Kobashi Push in here. He lost and lost and lost and kept losing, but with each match, he looked more and more game. They turned this losing streak into a wave of momentum where crowds wanted to see Kobashi break through and finally win his first match. When he did, he was a made wrestler.

When I look at Green Ant's run in Chikara, especially in the last few months when he rode into the last two Chikara weekends a heavy favorite to stand tall, only to be knocked back a couple of pegs, I'm very much reminded of Kobashi. Semantically, the two aren't like each other because Greenie gets wins; he won four times Saturday in five matches. It was that fifth match, though, that was the defining one not only for the event, but for Greenie's oeuvre. He gets the fall in tag matches, and he's always competitive in singles matches, but it always seems to be in the big spots, he falls short. Whether it's because his spunk can only take him so far against an opponent who overmatches him like in the two bouts with Mike Quackenbush over the last two years, or whether it's due to underhanded tactics from people not scheduled to be involved in the match like at Chikarasaurus Rex against Tursas, he always falls short.

Regardless of this, Green Ant is very much one of the most supported members of the roster, and not just because of his association with The Colony. Actually, I'd say because of this inability to come up in big moments, Green Ant is verily one of the most supported members on the roster. See, everyone loves a good coming of age story. These stories don't unfold by the protagonist dominating and displaying his awesomeness. They're told though struggle and hardship. The main character suffers a lot, but he or she learns lessons and uses them to find some sort of triumph at the end.

To that end, the original Kobashi Push may have been the best coming-of-age story ever told in wrestling, at least through a journey of wins and losses. That's also where I feel there's value here for Chikara. Green Ant's failings have built him up as a man who is learning, who struggles and who comes painfully close before having something befall him at the end. He remains competitive, and thus people continue to pull for him. Whether it's winning Cibernetico, felling Tursas at High Noon (an obvious jump off point), defeating Quackenbush finally or even taking out Eddie Kingston for the Chikara Grand Championship1, when he finally comes through in the clutch, the reaction will be off the charts, provided they don't wait too long to pull the trigger.

People who say wins and losses matter only get it half-right. Winning all the time isn't the only way to build equity with the fans. Losses in the context of telling a story can be just as important as a winning streak can be. I think it was proven in Japan with Kenta Kobashi, and Chikara is attempting to prove it here. With each shortcoming, the initial disappointment is met with the tempering of the spirit of the fans to want to see Green Ant prevail hugely. When it does happen, no one will remember the failings, at least in a pedantic sense. They'll just revel in the glow of a kid who finally made it, who finally got the happy ending, who finally came of age.

1 - I intentionally left off defeating Tadasuke for the Cup in Japan. The common logic is that someone from Chikara will bring home the Young Lions Cup when they tour Osaka Pro later on this fall. If Green Ant is the one to do it, then it's a wasted opportunity, I think, given that it wouldn't happen in front of a Chikara audience

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

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