Shimmer: Looking Back on 10 Years of Awesome – Part 3

 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.

Singles Matches

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.

Honorable Mention

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Japan Crate October 2015 Review

October’s here and my usual box of varied and unique snacks from Japan has arrived.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a mini-manga that explains what each item is, has instructions for the DIY kit, and various additional context, pictures and promotion. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but a Food Dog Gashapon. Yes, little keychain figures of puppies inside food items. So odd, but it’s a suitable inclusion that will amuse some.

Now let’s look at the 11 edibles.

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The Excellent

As I’ve mentioned before I adore soda flavored candy, and this month provided me with a lot of it to enjoy. Mysterious Soda Balls (gotta love that translation), one of the Premium exclusives, are like soft Skittles flavored like various Japanese sodas. Poifull Soda Beans are excellent soda flavored jelly beans.

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Another great Premium exclusive is Sour Fruit Gummies. There was just a hint of sour to these, and the flavor and texture was fantastic. Vitamin C Lemon Drops are exactly what they sound like – a lemon flavored hard candy loaded with Vit C. Interesting and cool  inclusion.

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Moving on to the savory side of things, Tohato Caramel Corn is what would happen if Cracker Jack replaced the popcorn with carmel flavored cheese puffs. Quite tasty. Chocolate Mini Pancakes is another snack exactly as advertised. Tastes just like two tiny pancakes with chocolate filling between them.

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The Decent

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Bireley’s Orange. The book explains it’s a drink that originated in California but was discontinued and is now only made in Japan. The origin makes sense, as this kind of tastes like a soda version of Sunny Delight. Rich Cheese Scones are exactly as described – essentially Cheetos with a more creamy and buttery cheese taste.

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I got Strawberry Soft Candy (Rum Raisin was the other possibility), a pleasant chewy candy in the described flavor. Grape Gummy Ribbon has a nice, slightly tart grape flavor and a very unique soft, almost dough-ish texture.

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The DIY kit this month was Chitto Soda DIY, which is intended to create mochi with a ramune flavored glaze. This was an intriguing one and I had fun attempting it. The texture was a bit odd, but that was likely due to me having some trouble mixing all the powders properly (my candy certainly didn’t turn out particularly pretty). It was a little bit bland, as the glaze needed a stronger flavor, but a neat experiment with a fine end product overall.

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The Meh

I give  Gyutan Umaino Stick points for trying, and letting us sample the cow tongue flavor is exactly the type of absurdity I want from Japan Crate. But while the airy corn stick did actually manage to capture the flavor of cow tongue, I found it an odd combo and these were also way too salty for me.

Conclusion

Still really enjoying my Japan Crate shipments. Even the snack I didn’t like was interesting to try, and there were a lot of great things in this month’s box. The Premium exclusives continue to provide some of my favorites, and the upgrade is easily worth the additional $5. I continue to be impressed with the variety of selections, not only within each box but across the shipments I’ve received. Highly recommended.

Shimmer: Looking Back on 10 Years of Awesome – Part 2

As 10th Anniversary weekend draws near I’m continuing to take a 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. This time I’m looking at matches with teams of two or more wrestlers pitted against each other. Part 1 featured multi-woman matches, and part 3 will finish up with singles matches.

Tag Team Matches

Tag team wrestling is a particular art, and when done correctly can tell different stories than those available in singles matches. These selections were especially difficult to narrow down, as I ended up going with only one traditional 2 on 2 tag match, and Shimmer has had a number of excellent traditional teams over the years. There’s a lot more to look back on than what I’m able to present in this format.

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Shim-vivor Series:  Ayako Hamada, Ayumi Kurihara, Cheerleader Melissa and Serena Deeb vs Daziee Haze, Tomoka Nakagawa, Madison Eagles and Sara Del Rey – Volume 36

Shimmer capitalized on Serena Deeb’s return from her time in the WWE with a number of angles involving heels calling her out and complaining about her coming back to “their” promotion. Early on volume 36 Sara Del Rey comes out for a scathing promo claiming she a has a “big problem that is Serena Deeb.” Nice exchange when Deeb comes out to answer and Del Rey says “no one wants you here,” prompting a “yes we do” chant from the crowd. Shimmer Champion Madison Eagles comes out to agree with Del Rey, but it quickly draws Cheerleader Melissa and Ayako Hamada to reverse the odds. Out comes Daziee Haze and Tomoka Nakagawa to join Del Rey’s side, and finally Ayumi Kurihara evens things up at four apiece as several refs try to keep them apart. Head ref Bryce Remsburg plays the voice of reason, and sets up an elimination match for the main event. Deeb wants a preview brawl, but of course the heels decide to choose their own spot and bail for now.

The promo was a great way to set up the teams, allowing a central thread to align several wrestler who had differing issues with each other. It made the groupings seem somewhat less random, which is nice for this type of match. Both sides come out together as teams, which is another great touch. Hamada was her usual awesome self during the intros, leading chants for her teammates and acting like she had been punched in the face when grazed by a streamer one of the heels threw at her.

The combined talent level involved is amazing, and they really took advantage of the benefits of an elimination match. Things started out with fantastic exchanges between previously established rivalries, then transitioned into newer pairings and multi-women spots. Just great use of the format. Prazak and Perez were spot-on on commentary as well, stressing the uniqueness of this type of match in Shimmer and the significance of the history between the wresters. Early highlights included simultaneous dives to the floor from the top turnbuckles by Kurihara and Hamada on opposite sides of the ring and a seven woman headlock spot ending with Melissa attacking Eagles on the end and effectively DDTing the whole line (which did not please her teammates).

The eliminations were a very quick in the middle, going from eight wrestlers down to four in a couple of minutes, but it allowed for a lengthy opening portion with all eight involved so worked out nicely. The eliminations were also different, believable, and set up some future rivalries. Unusually the faces technically had all the numbers advantages once the eliminations started, but it was well done and never lasted long until the end. We come down to four of the best wrestlers on the planet at the time squaring of in Eagles and Del Rey vs Melissa and Hamada. As expected it was great while it lasted, until a surprise jackknife pin by Hamada eliminated Del Rey and left the Eagles all alone to face two of her toughest rivals. This allowed Melissa’s quest to win the Shimmer title to continue in a natural way and the Shimmer champion was able to show vulnerability without looking weak. Commentary again underscores the issues perfectly as Dave celebrates Melissa pinning Eagles while Perez points out it was two on one. Kurihara and Deeb come back out to celebrate with their teammates (and Hamada poses while standing on Eagles for fun). Strong end to a fantastic match.

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Shimmer Tag Team Title Match: Ayako Hamada and Ayumi Kurihara (c) vs Ray and Leon – Volume 47

After a lot of consideration I chose to feature this particular match not only because of its incredibly high quality and the wrestlers involved, but also because it really shows how effective it can be to deviate from the tried and true tag team formula when done right. All four wrestlers involved are veterans with incredible ability and awareness inside the ring. Hot, somewhat unusual start right away as Ray and Leon jump the champions during the handshake, which leads to a great sequence of both teams whipping each other into the corners and each other. Kurihara and Hamada get the better of it and drop rapid fire elbows on Ray, but Ray cartwheels through a double clothesline attempt and the challengers stereo dropkick the champs outside. First high flying of the match sees Ray do a slingshot dive out onto both Ayumi and Ayako.

Back in and Ray just wears Ayumi out with chops. Her chest is bright red already. Ayumi counters a corner charge with her hanging armbar, but Leon dropkicks her on the apron to break it. The challenger’s renewed advantage is short-lived though, as Ayumi whips them both into the corner, leading to Ayako nailing Ray with a leg lariat and Ayumi then charging in with the double knees (all with Leon sandwiched between Ray and the turnbuckles). The back and forth approach to the match is working wonderfully with these four. Ayumi holds her own for a while in a chop exchange with Ray, but the latter eventually prevails and hits a handspring elbow followed by a slingblade. Ray makes everything she does look smooth and effortless. Timekeeper announces five minutes have passed and it seems likes it’s been much longer given the action seen so far.

Ayako comes in and downs Ray with several running boots, but after some crisscrossing Ray hits a flying headscissors and goes up top. Ray  cartwheels along the rope (!!!) in a kick attempt, but Hamada rushes in to avoid it and nails Leon on the apron. Things keep going back and forth in wonderful sequences that look fluid and logical. The challengers start building momentum after Hamada misses a moonsault, and Ray transitions from being elevated onto Hamada’s shoulders into a hurricanrana for a close nearfall. Leon in and Hamada reverses her attempt at a powerbomb into a backdrop, but Leon right back up and springs off the ropes into a bulldog. A subtle but important point is on glorious display in throughout this match – the disadvantaged wrestler NEVER stops fighting back. Sometimes it’s just a punch or isn’t very effective and thus the other team stays on offense, but every second of this match genuinely feels like everyone involved desperately wants to win.

Leon spears Hamada against the ropes, and Ray hits here rope cartwheel dropkick. Not to be outdone Leon goes up, then walks the ropes into a dropkick of her own on Hamada. Leon continues the assault with a spear in the corner, then goes up top after a close pin attempt. She hits a missile dropkick, but Hamada kips up and takes over with Ayumi’s help. Ray gets by Ayumi to save Leon after a huge kick to the face by Hamada. Ayumi successfully holds Ray back as Hamada plants Leon with a sitout powerbomb, but Leon kicks out just before three. The energy is off the charts and I’m captivated watching even though I’ve seen this match several times. And somehow we’re still only at ten minutes passed. Picture perfect missile dropkick from Ayumi, but she gets caught in a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and the challengers apply stereo submission holds. Hamada frees them both, only for Ayumi to eat a 619 from Ray followed by another missile dropkick by Leon.

Leon hits a frog splash on Ayumi and Hamada just barely makes it past Ray to save the pin and the titles. Ray rewards her with a release German and the challengers go up top in opposite corners. The champs move and Ray misses a moonsault as Leon misses a somersault. Now the champs go up but they’re intercepted. Ayumi’s knocked down in the corner by Leon and Ray hits superplex on Hamada. Leon goes up to capitalize, but Ayako nails her with a dropkick on the way down. Ayumi with the uranagi, but Ray dives in to break up the pin. Cartwheel bomb counters another uranagi attempt on Leon, and then Leon wipes out Ayumi with the spear. Kurihara gets her shoulder up a fraction of a second before three. Ray holding Hamada in the corner as Leon scoops up Kurihara, but Ayumi breaks free and ducks a clothesline, Ayako hits Leon with a spinning kick then grabs back onto Ray, and Ayumi small packages Leon for the win. Just phenomenal from start to finish.

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3G and Mia Yim vs Tsukasa Fujimoto, Kaori Yoneyama and Akino – Volume 67

Faced with the debut of three incredible Joshi stars, Shimmer decided to go all out and put them in the ring with three of the most technically proficient (and most beloved) regulars and let them tear the house down. And of course they did. In anticipation of the insane pace to be set, Prazak and Perez give up on play by play commentary before the match even starts.

Crowd is on fire from the get go, with loud dueling “Yoneyama” “Mia Yim” chants. Prazak with more helpful context explaining how much experience Kellie and Mia have in Japan, and that all six wrestlers have familiarity with each other. I love it when matches like this open with rotating pairs of opponents, and it was very well done here. That section ends with the first of many triple-team attacks of the contest, as Fujimoto whips both her partners into Nakagawa in the corner, then Akino and Yoneyama form steps for Tsukasa to run up and dropkick Nakagawa. Great spot.

The Joshi trio with extended domination of Nakagawa, which establishes them as the threats they are for a crowd that is somewhat unfamiliar with them. They culminate with the pyramid picture pose on top with Tomoka tied up at the bottom. The Shimmer trio then gets control and takes turns showing their own skills against Fujimoto (including Mia and Kellie calling out Akino in the corner as she kicks Tuskasa as counter mindgames).  The requisite everybody involved submission hold was an amusing chain headscissors, and later on the Shimmer contingent hit all of their opponents at once with a triple suplex.

Things keep picking up, including some amazing back and forth multi-woman sequences and vicious exchanges of kicks between Akino and Mia. It’s a pleasure to watch masters of their craft build a technical core of the match and then appropriately work in double and triple team spots, high risk maneuvers, etc on top of it. The timing and execution of everything here is just fantastic. And as an aside, I immediately love anyone who uses Chaos Theory. Yoneyama picks up the win for her team after hitting a gorgeous top rope senton on Skater, which sets up her and Tsukasa for a future Shimmer Tag Team title shot.
Great action, booking, and use of the format. Amazing debut for three top stars. Words really can’t properly do this match justice. You have to watch it for yourself.
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Thanks for joining me for part 2  of my trip down memory lane. Part 3 to come.

A Suitably Marvelous Follow Up

October 6, 2015 in Queens, NY

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Legend Chigusa Nagayo humbly thanks the crowd for attending.

I thoroughly enjoyed Marvelous Puroesu USA’s first event at the Queensboro Elk’s Lodge in August was quite excited for their second show. I’ll admit a little bit of reservation when I found out Iroha wouldn’t be back for this one and Chigusa wouldn’t be wrestling (in fact of the five wrestlers introduced at the first show as the “core roster” only Penelope Ford wrestled), but a variety of great talent filled out the card nicely and the show delivered. Chigusa also explained during the show that Iroha and others were training, learning, and performing in Japan and she promised to bring them back for the next show in 2016.

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A screen was set up to show highlights of Chigusa’s recent exploding barbed wire match before the show.

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To open there was a ceremony introducing everyone who would be wrestling.

As with the debut show there was a lot of fanfare, which helps set these shows apart from the normal US indie shows and adds a lot to the atmosphere. After showing highlights of Chigusa’s recent exploding barbed wire match in Japan, there was a ceremony in which the entire roster was introduced in the order they’d be wrestling on the card. After that was a MMA demonstration by a local dojo (there was also one before the first show). As I said overall this was a unique and interesting way to start the show, although the MMA demonstration was a bit out of place. You could tell the participants were excellent, but honestly pro-wrestling is about people coming to see professionals who are experts on making “fake” combat look real, so opening with experts on real combat doing a practice version of it complete with soft phantom punches doesn’t really fit. But it was short and the grappling was quite good, so no real harm done.

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The first wrestling match was a fantastic back and forth affair between “The Man of Steel” Mike Verna and “Wrestling’s Only Male Gymnast” Timmy Lou Retton. Verna’s gimmick is amusing, as his t-shirt bares a Superman style symbol on the front with an “M” instead of an “S,” and “Steel your hopes, Steel your dreams, Steel your girl, Steel your protein” on the back. He was very good in the ring and I’d like to see more of him. Same goes for Retton, who owns his gimmick well and moves amazingly for his size. Every cartwheel, handspring and flip had the crowd oohing and aahing. This started the show strong and was a perfect choice for the opener.

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I was extremely pleased to see Nate Carter and David McCall back in tag team action after their impressive showing on the first Marvelous Puroresu USA event. They were just as good this time, and their opponents Paco and Curt Stallion stuck right with them in competitive match. Paco and Stallion also provided some well done dissension among themselves, adding the match’s story.

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The rest of the undercard was also quite good. The Fellas Twins are extremely impressive as heat magnets, and they had a decent match with Penelope Ford and Vanity. There was a hard hitting three way between Kevin Lee Davidson, DJ Hyde and Rex Lawless. They took great advantage of having three big, powerful guys in there with the match structure and spots. Crowd favorite Cheeseburger and partner Takaaki Wantanabe faced Rory Gulak and Ultimate Security in another strong match heading into the brief intermission. Coming back from intermission we saw a solid tag match pitting Veda Scott and Willow Nightingale against Brittany Blake and Deonna Purrazzo.

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Carter and McCall are such friendly, approachable guys. They were just hanging out having a blast with fans at intermission.

During intermission it was time for the second “ceremony” of the evening, this one featuring Chigusa’s singing debut. I wasn’t sure about this when they announced it ahead of time, but it ended up being phenomenally fun. Chigusa gave some context about how this is common for a lot of female wrestlers in Japan and seemed to be having a lot of fun despite some nervousness as she sang.

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For the encore the singing debut became a singing and dancing debut. as Chigusa called Carter and McCall into the ring. Highly amusing stuff that got more so when a fan called for one more song and Chigusa shooked her head then “fainted.” She then motioned for someone to cover her, and the crowd counted along with Carter as he counted his own pin. I’m pretty sure pinning Chigusa has to make him champion of something. 

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Afterward Chigusa shared her future hopes and plans for Marvelous USA, including the possibility of bringing exploding barbed wire matches to the states, her hope that someday she can give her students the opportunity to wrestle at MSG, and her promise to bring back the talent she’s training in Japan for Marvelous Puroresu USA’s next show in early 2016.

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The co-main event of the evening was Leo Rush vs the Amazing Red, and it fully delivered on its potential. It had everything – mat wrestling, high impact suplex and slams, and of course with these two high flying. This was my first time seeing the veteran Amazing Red wrestle and Rush was a perfect opponent for him. Outstanding job from both.

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Standing room only as the locker room emptied to watch Rush vs Red.

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The main event featured three debuts for Marvelous, as Kimber Lee and Patrick Clark faced Sumie Sakai and Davey Boy Smith Jr. Lots of anticipation for this, and again they paid off the potential. Smith has a big following from his work in Japan and the crowd was equally excited to see what Tough Enough contestant Patrick Clark could do.

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Kimber’s strikes didn’t work too well against DBS Jr…

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… and neither did the suplex attempt.

This was a much more traditional mixed tag match than the main event of the first show, with genders not really intermingling except a few (highly amusing) comedy spots with Kimber and Smith and a beautiful moonsault by Sumie onto Clark.

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Both Sumie’s opponents received a camel clutch kiss at different points in the match (after Sumie hit the ropes a few times for momentum).

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It made sense to keep the matchups male vs male and female vs female here, as Kimber and Sumie wouldn’t have been able to compete against the men in the same way Iroha and Chigusa could. It shows great instincts in how to keep things believable and entertaining in different situations.

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Sumie keeping Kimber at bay while DBS Jr hits a cradle piledriver.

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Kimber returning the favor during Patrick Clark’s ankle lock attempt.

The match was excellent showcase for all four athletes and a fitting end to a stong show.

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Respect shown after the match.

Another extremely fun evening of great action from Marvelous Puroresu USA. The undercard was again nicely varied, a high level of effort was visible from everyone, and the newer talents held their own admirably with the veterans. Top it all off with a pair of main events and the unique, casual and fun feeling ceremonies and Marvelous USA is certainly off to a fantastic start two shows in. Can’t wait for the next one.

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I had the honor of meeting wrestling legend Chigusa Nagayo.

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I also got to meet veteran Sumie Sakai, who was gracious enough to stop for a quick picture in the middle of overseeing show setup. Greatly appreciated.

The Future is Now 2

In addition to a high level of match quality and numerous talented wrestlers, I love watching independent wrestling to see people develop and get a glimpse of tomorrow’s stars today. I previously featured at Timothy Thatcher, Dalton Castle, and Nicole Savoy in my first The Future is Now blog, and here’s a look at three more wrestlers who show signs of big things down the road and all certainly have the potential to make that a reality.

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Su Yung: 

Similar to when I wrote about Timothy Thatcher it feels weird to include an eight year veteran of the ring like Su in a feature on “up and comers.” But as good as Su’s always been, she’s still shown new dimensions to her abilities in the last couple of years, and is becoming one of the most well-rounded wrestlers in the indies.

Most striking has been her exceptional character work, equally engaging as she’s varied from plucky babyface to her time as shrewish secretary Su to one of the most original and fascinating gimmicks I’ve ever seen – her Shine character which I refer to as “Psycho Su.” An insane character is extremely difficult to keep consistent, but Su does an excellent job of it. The reluctant, timid nature of her association with Valkyrie combined with a vicious, cruel edge once something sets her off is carefully and expertly executed and has tons of story potential. It’s something very different from anything else right now and Su keeps it on just shy of over the top, making her performance chilling and captivating rather than campy.

She also walks the line of having the character work integrated into the match without overdoing it or taking away from the action with a perfectly deft touch. The result is an engrossing, unique aura that makes her matches something special. Su’s excellent ringwork anchors said matches and brings everything together into a captivating whole. I’d love to see this character (or variations of it) outside of Shine, and in general I hope Su continues to get more opportunities to show the extremely well-rounded and versatile wrestler she’s become.

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Leah von Dutch

It’s been a treat to watch LvD rapidly grow and evolve over the course of her short career so far. Starting with good presence and solid ringwork already, she constantly improves every time I see her. She is one of the most driven young talents in the business, often talking in interviews about her desire to succeed and improve and always thinking about how to make herself useful and attractive to promotions to help her get future bookings. To that end she has produced numerous incredibly creative and impactful promos for her appearances for Shine and other wrestling organizations. Her imagination and willingness to experiment serves her extremely well and her promos are always memorable.

Her Dino Hunter character and crusade to “hunt” older wrestlers is taking off, and Leah’s shown great versatility in adapting what started as and really is more suited for a heel persona into a fan loved face role. Things are really clicking for her overall and she’s showing even more fire and determination in her return after missing several months with injury. I have no doubt she’ll quickly regain the momentum she was building and that the remainder of 2015 will be great for LvD.

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Takumi Iroha:

I haven’t seen nearly as much of Iroha’s ringwork yet as I’d like, but I’ve seldom been so impressed in a single appearance as I was with her. She’s in beyond incredible physical shape, and her wrestling ability and instincts are far above the two years she’s been in the business.She moves naturally and looks extremely comfortable in the ring. She held her own with much more experienced wrestlers wonderfully, including fantastic exchanges against legend Chigusa Nagayo.

As impressive were her sequences with Greek God Papadon. Mixed tag matches are tricky, as it takes a lot of skill to make opposite gender exchanges believable. Again Iroha showed presence and ability beyond her experience, finding ways to convincingly attack her much larger opponent and selling his offense logically and believably. Given what’s she already showing, Iroha’s potential is off the charts and I’d imagine she starts making the most of it sooner rather than later.

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Hope everyone enjoyed my look at some more of the best on the indies, and definitely jump at the chance to see them if you get one.

Realms of the Fantastic Brought to Life

For years I’ve been a big fan of the art of Juri Chinchilla, as I wrote about in Beautiful Dreams. Last year I noticed she was doing art for an upcoming card set called Hallowe’en, and was introduced to the wonderful products of Perna Studios.

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Hallowe’en base set.

Perna Studios puts out high quality themed card sets in limited quantities. Base sets usually contain 20 cards and are from a variety of artists. Direct purchases always include complete base sets.

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Amazing hand drawn sketch cards from the Hallowe’en set by Francois Chartier, Kokkinakis Achilleas, and Liz Chesterman.

What sets Perna apart is the quality and quantity of their hand drawn sketch cards (and other inserts). EVERY set comes with a sketch card, a unique work of art drawn directly on a Perna blank prepared for that particular set.

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A few of the gorgeous sketch cards from Perna’s Classic Fairy Tales set. By Jessica Hickman, Richard Cox, Juri Chinchilla, John Monserrat, and Danielle Gransaull.

Besides the unique and collectible nature of such cards, the Pernas have numerous fantastic artists (many more than those involved in the base cards) do art for their sketch cards (including the Pernas themselves). The results are stunning. Many artists will also have a few artist proofs available – blank sketch cards they sell directly as commissioned art (requested subject has to match the set’s theme).

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Incredible Red Riding Hood AP by Ingrid K. V. Hardy.

Recent sets have also included a metallic variant of base cards with every set. In addition to the sketch cards, there are usually several limited “chase cards” randomly distributed. These have included more metal variants, exclusive art, lenticular cards, redemption cards, etc.

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Metal variants of some promo cards for the Classic Mythology set.

The production quality is top notch as well, with good thickness to the cards and excellent printing on the base sets. The selected themes are wonderful. They celebrate the supernatural and mythological, allowing lots of room for interpretation and imagination in each artist’s renderings. Past sets have included Classic Mythology (I and II), Spellcasters, Hallowe’en, and Classic Fairy Tales. Hallowe’en 2 just went on sale (and sold out) and will be shipping soon. Future sets include Spellcasters 2 and Elementals.

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A variety of Juri Chinchilla’s cards from Perna Studios’ sets. Rapunzel and Snow White are sketch cards, hand drawn directly onto the card.

Beyond the fun and quality of the base sets, Perna Studios provides a wonderful way to get original, unique art from a variety of phenomenal artists. I love their products and anxiously await each new release. 🙂