As 10th Anniversary weekend draws (very) near I’m finishing up my look back at great matches over the course of Shimmer’s history.
As a reminder, this is NOT a top 10 matches of Shimmer list, but rather a look at chosen matches I feel gives a good representation of both the quality and variety Shimmer has to offer. Part 1 featured multi-woman matches, and Part 2 focused on Tag Team encounters.
In this last part I’m looking at variations on perhaps the purest form of pro-wrestling: one wrestler against another to see who’s better.
It’s impossible to list everything, and there are plenty of worthy matches I’ve left out, but one in particular I wanted to spotlight is Tomoka Nakagawa vs Saraya Knight from Volume 63. The heat Saraya generated with her promo and disdain for Tomoka combined with the crowd’s love for the latter made this one of the hottest, most intense matches I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely electric live and that energy comes across nearly as well rewatching on DVD.
Falls Count Anywhere: Cheerleader Melissa vs MsChif – Volume 4
Melissa and MsChif had a intense match on Shimmer’s first volume that saw MsChif victorious with the Desecrator. Melissa wasn’t satisfied and cost MsChif a match against Lexie Fyfe on volume 3. This rematch is under Falls Count Anywhere rules. MsChif puts the ref in his place before the bell: “This is no DQ, you got it?! You don’t need to check me for anything!” Great background context on commentary about how Melissa is the world traveled veteran with a reputation to protect and was embarrassed by the upset loss to MsChif on volume 1.
Heated exchange of strikes to start. The animosity is palpable, always nice to see for feuds like this. Both trying to be aggressive without allowing the other any openings. I really like the fact that this starts in the ring with Melissa and MsChif trying to outdo and wear down each other before escalating into the outside of the ring stuff. Back and forth submission holds, including the usual mind-boggling display of MsChif being bent in ways the body’s really not meant to go. More great, informative commentary as Dave explains the Falls Count Anywhere stipulation arose from so much of their original match taking place outside of the ring which really pushed Shimmer’s ten count.
Melissa begins to target the leg with holds and strikes, including a vicious looking surfboard variation in the turnbuckles. Nice spot to reenforce the stipulation and remind the audience that the ropes don’t preclude a submission/pin here. MsChif with a couple of quick roll-ups, but Melissa gets her down and fights her way into hitting the curbstomp. MsChif fights off the inverted cloverleaf for the fourth time this match and sends Melissa to the outside. She tries to shake off some of the damage done to her back and leg and follows, dispensing with any restraint and just biting Melissa on the forehead.
Melissa rolls into the front row and the crowd rightfully run for their lives as MsChif follows. She chokes Melissa over the back of a chair as the ref checks for a submission. Melissa grabs MsChif’s hair to break and starts slamming her with and into the surrounding chairs. They head towards the exit and the stip is coming into full play as Melissa bounces MsChif off the walls and covers for two. MsChif is busted open in one of the very few instances of blood in Shimmer. They proceed outside and a slam on the concrete gets two for Melissa. MsChif’s being established as one of the most resilient wrestlers alive here. MsChif gets some shots in as well as the crowd surrounds them outside then it’s back into the Eagles Club.
MsChif tosses Melissa down the entrance steps and covers for two. Prazak and Danger appropriately treat MsChif’s bleeding like a big deal and wonder about the effect of the blood loss as time passes. Whip into the chairs and MsChif’s in full control as she goes for another chair assisted submission hold. She switched into multiple covers to make Melissa expend energy. Back and forth pinfall attempts throughout the crowd. Melissa goes under the stage and removes a wheeled platform. Hard slam onto it, then she slides it back under the stage and sits in front of the flap to trap MsChif. As Prazak points out she can’t beat MsChif this way, but Melissa is very pleased with herself regardless. The struggle stops and a confused Melissa crawls under the stage to investigate, only to have MsChif come out from another section drag the platform back out with Melissa on it.
Melissa escapes and grabs a chair. Swing and a miss and MsChif goes for the green mist, but Melissa blocks that with the chair (great spot). Melissa abandons the chair and they trade strikes. Melissa escapes a Desecrator attempt and retrieves the wheeled platform. She slams MsChif onto it and then send a seated MsChif rolling right into/under the ring apron. They’re making such great use of the stipulation’s potential and presenting an incredible amount of unique spots. MsChif rolls all the way under the ring to the other side and hits the guardrail. Melissa kicks away on her groggy opponent and takes things back into the ring. MsChif gets a choke and again reenforces the stip by yelling at the ref to count Melissa’s shoulders down. Gets a couple of two counts on that. Back outside and Melissa trying to crawl away, but MsChif slams her into the ringsteps.
Melissa sent into the guardrail as they head towards the back. Melissa veers of to the side, places MsChif on a stack of tables, and gets a chair. MsChif fighting back, but Melissa knocks her in the head with the chair to end the strike exchange. Inverted cloverleaf finally locked in. Melissa takes it up a notch by placing the chair over MsChif’s head then making her kick herself in the head (through the chair). MsChif forced to tap. Another innovating spot providing a fantastic finish to an equally impressive match. This set an extremely high bar going forward and remains one of Shimmer’s best matches to this day.
Sara Stock vs Sara Del Rey 2 of 3 – Volume 16
Rematch of Del Rey’s victory in the Shimmer title tournament. Stock brings a unique style to Shimmer and is incredibly quick and fluid in the ring. Prazak sets the stage highlighting the history of these two, the tradition of the 2 out of 3 falls match in Mexico, and the time both wrestlers spent living and wrestling there. “Lets go Sara” chant from the clever crowd.
Mat wrestling to start and Prazak and Danger add more context reminding viewers that Del Rey was not able to hit the slam portion of the Royal Butterfly on Stock in their previous match and needed to pull out a new finisher the piledriver to defeat her, as well as that Stock has defeated top competition in Haze and MsChif with her Tiger Driver. The commentary is perfect throughout, talking about strategies for this match format, strengths of the individual wrestlers, and of course the action as it’s happening.
Stock and Del Rey are putting on an amazing display of technical grappling and counters to open, drawing applause from the crowd as they wrestle to numerous stalemates. The pace quickens and Stock pulls ahead a bit with a flying arm drag, headscissors, and a bulldog, but Del Rey surprises her with a wheelbarrow suplex to earn the first fall. In a great touch, Stock continues to sell having the wind knocked out of her after the fall and rolls to the outside to recover. Little things like that add a lot to the believability of the pinfall and the maneuver that caused it.
Del Rey comes out aggressively to start the second fall, having the comfort of being up one. She maintains the advantage and just beats on Stock for a while, cutting off Stock with vicious kicks any time the challenger tries to increase the pace. Stock’s timing on providing a bit of hope by trying some punches, hitting a takedown, etc is just perfect, as is Del Rey’s precision in cutting those attempts off. Effectively all Del Rey though in this second fall so far. Stock eventually avoids a charge and is able to start stringing offense together, using quick strikes to counter Del Rey’s size and power advantage. Del Rey takes back over with a body block though and resumes Stock’s beat down. Enzuigiri turns the tide again, then Stock hits a big cross body followed by a modified sunset flip pinning combination to score the second fall and even things up. This was only Del Rey’s second pinfall loss in Shimmer, and a great way to further build up Stock. Prazak and Danger appropriately emphasize this on commentary, stressing what a big deal it is and wondering how it might get into Del Rey’s head going into the third and deciding fall.
Del Rey upset and charges Stock with running boots, but the third is caught and Stock fires away with chops. They exchange rollup variations and then Del Rey attempts the Royal Butterfly, but Stock with a great reversal into a cross armbreaker. Del Rey shows incredible power and lifts Stock in what looks like a powerbomb counter attempt, but Stock goes up and over for another sunset flip for a nearfall. She follows with an inside cradle for another close count, then attempts the Tiger Driver. Del Rey counters with a back body drop attempt, which Stock tries to convert into another sunset flip, but Del Rey blocks this one by dropping down into a sitdown splash. After two Stock hits the pinning part of the sunset flip anyway for two, then Del Rey with a float over jackknife cradle for two. Fantastic exchange.
Dueling chants resume again, and Stock with a beautiful handstand into a headscissors takedown after Del Rey elevated her into the corner. However she charges and Del Rey grabs her in an innovative roll-up, gets her body weight over Stock’s shoulders, and retains her title. Phenomenal story told by two great wrestlers, as they had each other so well scouted it never came down to their preferred finishers, but rather innovative wrestling and surprising their opponent. Stock motions that she was “this close” after the bell, but shakes Del Rey’s hand and shows respect in defeat.
Kana vs Ayako Hamada – Volume 50
In the co-main event of volume 50 two of my favorite wrestlers faced off in what’s still my favorite Shimmer match of all time. Nice touch on commentary – Portia usually “leaves” to get ready for her matches, but she mentions that even though she’s in main event number two she “wouldn’t miss this match for anything” and prepared with her teammates early so she could watch this. Handshake before the bell. Kana looking less aggressive than normal, almost in respectful awe of Hamada as they eye each other across the ring.
Lock up leads right into a sequence of counter mat wrestling to start, much to the crowd’s appreciation. Hamada establishes her strength advantage early, essentially deadlift German suplexing Kana out of a leg lock attempt. Back to the lock up and Kana single legs Hamada, leading to another outstanding sequence of holds and reversals. They’re fighting over every little thing and it’s a joy to watch. Good analysis on commentary explaining Kana’s experience with submission wrestling may give her an advantage on the mat and Hamada’s extensive training in Mexico gives her and flying advantage, both despite Hamada being the larger of the two. Both wrestlers known for their speed, Kana with regards to her strikes and Hamada again with her flying ability.
Hamada with a big headbutt and starts kicking away. Kana catches one and Hamada scrambles out of the attempted hold, but Kana hits a rolling takedown and gets the grapevine regardless. Hamada makes the ropes and lands some kicks to the same leg, but Hamada back to her feet and seems to be getting fired up by Kana’s forearm shots. One of her own downs Kana, then Hamada snapmares her and nails another big kick to the back of the head. Hamada adjusts her boot, giving Kana just enough time to shake off the kick, take Hamada down and nail one of her own.
Both holding the back of their heads and Kana’s up first. Ayako absorbs numerous kicks to the chest but then takes another to the side of the head and looks out in the corner. Hamada misses a leg lariat attempt off an Irish whip and Kana lays in with more kicks. Whip to the corner and Hamada barrels out with a running boot to turn the tide. Spin kick to the corner and up the turnbuckles for a top rope hurricanrana on Kana. Both up and they just destroy each other with alternating kicks and palmstrikes, then Hamada surprises Kana with a midair grapevine counter to one of Kana’s kicks. Just beautiful.
Kana selling incredible pain and DESPERATELY clawing for the ropes. She makes it and applies another rolling takedown into a grapevine of her own as Hamada tried to drag her to the center of the ring. Transitions into an ankle lock, then from that into a German suplex, but Hamada right back up. German of her own with a bridge for two, but Kana floats into a keylock. Hamada in trouble and trying to drag all of Kana’s bodyweight to the ropes. Ref doing a great job here checking both for the submission and whether Hamada’s shoulders are on the mat. Rope break and Kana immediately starts kicking the same arm. Hamada backdrops Kana to the apron to create some space, and lands a big kick to send Kana to the floor.
Hamada calls for the moonsault, but Kana intercepts. Strike exchange on the apron ends with Hamada DDTing Kana on the edge. Hamada goes up and hits the top rope moonsault to the floor. Both down for a moment, but Hamada reveals she’s in better shape of the two by clapping along to a “this is awesome” chant from the crowd. The perfect little touches of personality she displays during every stage of her matches is part of why she’s one of the best in the world. She sends Kana back inside the ring and goes up again. Missle dropkick hits, but Kana right back up with a shout and hits a spin kick, but Hamada cuts any potential momentum off with an enzuigiri. Hamada’s turn to just lay into Kana with kicks to the head as Kana defiantly keeps getting up. third one’s caught and Kana starts her strike combo. The backfist is ducked and Hamada with an openhanded strike, but Kana hits one of her own and then completes her combo, only to eat another huge spin kick and collapse to the mat. Both wiped out and selling exhaustion on the canvas. “Joshi” chant in appreciation from the crowd.
A couple of simultaneous dropkick attempts, then Kana with her own flying takedown variation into the cross armbreaker. Hamada rolls to fight, so Kana transitions into a different armbar. Hamada lifts Kana to counter, and hits the AP Cross Diamond. Kana looks absolutely spent, but blocks a kick and nails an overhand strike for one. Hamada spin kick and this time Kana kicks out at one. They simultaneously connect with kicks to the head, but in a fantastic touch Hamada’s has more momentum because of her size so Kana goes down while Hamada’s able to absorb Kana’s kick and remain on her feet. It’s the small details that elevate truly great matches.
Another openhanded strike exchange, Kana’s spin kick blocked, huge one from Hamada’s connects. AP Cross gets the victory for Hamada. Great show of respect and appreciation as they embrace afterwards. Kana looks legitimately choked up with emotion. Such a treat to watch such skill on display.
And that’s it for my retrospective (for now). As I’ve mentioned there’s much more to love about Shimmer than I could hope to capture in these features, but I hope I’ve hit some appropriate highlights and helped get everyone excited for the 10th Anniversary shows. I personally am very much looking forward to them!