There were small clues that something fishy was going on, though almost no one put them all together. At Chikara’s National Pro Wrestling Day 2017 on Saturday, announcer Vlad Radinov welcomed everyone to the beginning of the company’s 18th season, a curious mistake seeing as Season 16 ended just two months ago. When Race Jaxon came out with a new, vain heel persona, you’d be excused for thinking it was a simple gimmick swap. And when newcomer Officer Bruno Meloni celebrated his third point in the rankings for the company’s tag team titles in what appeared to be only his first match, some fans assumed they’d just missed something.
But it was when the returning UltraMantis Black unveiled a major surprise toward the end of the show that it became clear something was up, and afterwards, Chikara announced precisely what it was: Billed as “wrestling’s first binge-able season,” the first three episodes of Chikara’s “lost” Season 17 were now available to watch on Chikaratopia. The company somehow filmed nine episodes in secret, and the Chikara universe just skipped ahead one year.
Suddenly, clues and Easter eggs could be found sprinkled across Chikara’s website. Jaxon’s former tag team partner, Hype Rockwell, was now listed in the company’s “alumni” section, among others. Icarus, last seen as a member of the villainous heXed Men, was now listed with the site’s trademark blue font indicating a heroic técnico. The former referee Travis (Last Name Unnecessary), who we believed to have just debuted in a Season 18 match under the name Travis Huckabee, had already secretly wrestled in a Season 17 episode called “Left Behind.” And the names of those Season 17 episodes—”Left Behind,” “Tabula Rasa,” “Orientation”—are also the titles of episodes from the ABC television show Lost. (Yes, the lost season is the Lost season.)
Chikara is an indie wrestling promotion known for taking big storytelling risks, often inspired by the world of comic books. Indeed, the concept of skipping ahead one year feels reminiscent of DC Comics’ “One Year Later” storyline from 2006, with the binge-able Season 17 filling in that missing year much like the weekly 52 comic book series). And this isn’t the first time Chikara “lost” one of its years. In 2013, at the end of the Aniversario: Never Compromise event, the show came to an abrupt close when the company’s on-screen “Director of Fun” Wink Vavasseur sent in security and forced fans out of the arena, shuttering the promotion for about 11 months. For those months, Chikara did not schedule another show. It was effectively shut down. The company’s return was finally announced at the next National Pro Wrestling Day in February of 2014, after an epic encounter between heroes and villains that included a time-travelling DeLorean.
But this is different. In the Chikara universe, Season 17 actually did happen. We just haven’t seen it yet. And now, fans can watch it all in one sitting, or at their own pace, even as Season 18 gets underway with as-of-yet unanswered questions. It’s another piece of artful storytelling from Mike Quackenbush and the Chikara team, once again expanding the boundaries of what pro wrestling can be.
You can watch the season 18 premiere for free on Chikara’s Facebook account, and the preview for the “lost” Season 17 is below. To check out the first three episodes of Season 17, subscribe to Chikaratopia.
Paul DeBenedetto is Paste’s assistant wrestling editor.