Princess KimberLee crowned Grand Champion of Philadelphia-based wrestling promotion Chikara
On Dec. 5, Philadelphia-based professional wrestling promotion Chikara held its Season 15 Finale in the city’s 2300 Arena. The event saw the conclusion of Chikara’s year-long Challenge of the Immortals four-person team tournament. Crown and Court, a team captained by Princess KimberLee, won the tournament and its prize: an opportunity to challenge for any title within the Chikara promotion at any time. Princess KimberLee chose to cash in her opportunity that same night and, after forcing Chikara Grand Champion Hallowicked to submit, became the first woman to hold the top prize in a non-female wrestling promotion.
“In Chikara you need to have three consecutive singles wins to challenge for a title, but since she won the tournament she got what was essentially a golden opportunity,” 32 year-old Chikara Senior Official Bryce Remsburg said. “She came to the ring to have her title shot right away, so I authorized it, rang the bell and the match started.”
The match lasted for less than five minutes Remsburg said, but he wanted the celebration to last as long as possible.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 and a half years and sometimes we’ll do 50 or 60 shows a year, but Saturday was a night where I stopped to look around; Saturday night was special,” Remsburg said. “Usually you raise the champion’s hand and show the cameras and that’s it, but when I was raising her hand we went to all four sides of the ring. I wanted the moment to last as long as possible for everyone there, especially for her.”
“I don’t even know if I can describe the feeling of hearing him tap out and the bell ring,” Kimberley Ann Frankele said about her victory. “I’m so humbled and privileged to get to be this person who did this. I’m not only the first woman to hold the Grand Championship in Chikara, but it was pointed out to me by (fellow professional wrestler) Drew Gulak that I’m the first woman to hold the premier title in a wrestling promotion that’s not a women’s company.”
While there are numerous wrestling promotions worldwide, a look at the records gives Gulak’s claim weight. Every WWE, WCW and NWA champion has been male and prominent independent promotions like Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla follow that pattern. Frankele’s status as the top champion in a promotion that isn’t all-female is historic; according to record, she’s wrestling’s first female world heavyweight champion.
A native of Seattle, Washington, Frankele became fascinated by wrestling at a young age. Her mother didn’t approve of her watching the violent, suggestive product that WWE was producing during its Attitude Era, but Frankele would sneak viewings on her bedroom television or at friend’s homes.
“I didn’t really know anything about it other than the little bits I caught when I was a kid,” Frankele said. “I was always kind of drawn to it but didn’t know how to go about becoming a wrestler until I moved over to the East Coast for college.”
While pursuing a dance education degree from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, Frankele began working seasonally at a haunted house called Fright Factory, which was attached to 2300 Arena. She made friends at Fright Factory who took her to a local independent wrestling show where she met Combat Zone Wrestling owner DJ Hyde.
Frankele made her Combat Zone Wrestling debut as Kimber Lee in 2011 and has since wrestled for a number of other promotions, including the all-female organizations Shine Wrestling and Shimmer Female Athletes. Frankele debuted in Chikara in 2014 under the name Princess KimberLee and returned to the promotion full-time in 2015. Chikara’s family-friendly brand of wrestling exists in stark contrast to the violent promotion that gave Frankele her start, and she has embraced what it allows her to do as Princess KimberLee.
“I love how it can play to young kids and it’s also so entertaining for the adults too,” Frankele said. “I wanted to be a dance teacher, so I was already drawn to little kids. I love what I can do with all my little princesses and princes.”
Remsburg has only known the promotion’s new champion for a little over a year, but he described her as a talented, intelligent athlete. He said he’s looking forward to Princess KimberLee’s reign over Chikara; a sentiment Frankele echoed.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Frankele said. “When I started I said I wanted make a change and show that we’re just as good as the boys; it’s everything I’ve wanted to do and I’m getting to do it. It’s a great feeling. I plan on keeping this for as long as I can.”
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts