Mysterium Board Game First Impressions

Mysterium is a game I spotlighted in my look at  new and different board games. The concept of having an asymmetric, completely cooperative game is intriguing, as usually everyone fills the same role (aside from player specific powers) or the asymmetric player is a game master / adversary. The setting and look of the game is also quite unique, so I was really looking forward to trying it out.

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Gameplay

The gist of Mysterium is that most players are psychics trying to solve the murder of a ghost who’s haunting an old mansion. The ghost is the asymmetric role played by one player chosen at the start. A certain number of people, locations, and objects are chosen (depending on the number of players and chosen difficulty level) and laid out to form the board. In secret the ghost randomly chooses a subset of copies of those cards to form the clue paths for each psychic.

Each psychic has a specific person, location and object that form their personal suspect path, and the ghost’s job is to give them clues to figure it out. This is done by sending the psychics “visions,” cards with abstract images very similar to something you’d see in a game of Dixit. The ghost gives each psychic at least one card per turn trying to match that player’s clue card for the round. The psychics can discuss what they think everything means, but the ghost must stay silent and not give any verbal or physical clues.

All of the psychics must complete their clue paths within seven turns or the game is lost. If they do, there is a final round where the ghost provides three cards pointing to one of the established clue paths (one each for suspect, location and object). This is the true murderer. The each psychics get to look at a number of these final three cards determined by how well they did in the earlier phase of the game, and there is no discussion here. The psychics vote and if they pick the right suspect the ghost’s soul is laid to rest and everyone wins.

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Thoughts:

This is a great game that really expands on the base of something like Dixit and turns it into a full blown deductive game rather than (an admittedly awesome) party game. I played as the ghost and found it quite challenging but a lot of fun. We did well for our first attempt, with everyone completing their clue paths, although we didn’t manage to have the majority finger the right suspect at the end.

It seems the game will scale extremely well simply by varying the number possible suspects based on player count and difficulty chosen. The difficulty impact on the ghost player is likewise well executed: the ghost is limited to the number of times he can discard cards based on the level. Choosing clues to give based on seven randomly picked abstract cards is tough and being able to discard once a round (on easy) was a big help. It will definitely be appropriately more challenging on higher levels by reducing that.

The production value is excellent here. The art is appropriately well done and has lots of little details to both make the cards flexible and open to interpretation and to challenge the player trying to decipher the clues. The theme fits perfectly and the various components enhance the atmosphere.

 

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Overall

I had heard good things about Mysterium and wasn’t disappointed in our first play. I love mystery based games and this is an original one with great twists on mechanics used in other games. Wonderful addition to the game closet and I”m excited to play again sometime.

 

Top 5 Matches of 2015 (so far): Live

I have a fair bit of wrestling to watch remaining on the 2015 calendar, but mid-December still seems like a good time to look back at the best 2015 had to offer. Here I’ll list the Top 5 matches I was lucky enough to see live, in chronological order. This was a great year and this was a tough list to make. There’s a LOT of great stuff that just missed the cut.

Match reviews copied from my show specific blogs when possible.

1. Aja Kong, Dynamite Kansai, Kyoko Kimura, and Mayumi Ozaki vs. 3G (Kellie Skater and Tomoka Nakagawa) and 3S (Misaki Ohata and Hiroyo Matsumoto)

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This match is not available on dvd yet and I will in no way be able to do it justice from memory. Legitimate legends making their Shimmer debuts, eight amazing athletes, and a bitter sweet goodbye weekend for Tomoka Nakagawa made this an amazing experience. I consider myself honored to have been there.

 

I just barely picked this over Nakagawa’s final match (with Skater) against the Canadian Ninjas, because while both were great this match was a touch better, where the aftermath and  Tomoka’s farewell were the larger part of the atmosphere for the Ninjas match.

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2. Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr.

This is the match I went to Evolve 47 to see, and it was everything I hope for. Thatcher is my favorite wrestler at the moment and what I’ve seen of Sabre so far has been extremely impressive, so to say I was psyched for this match would be a vast understatement.

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I think the term “wrestling clinic” is thrown around too much, but if ever it was appropriate it’s here. Thatcher and Sabre spent the entire match fighting over holds and reversals trying to get an advantage. And that was the key: they FOUGHT for everything. Nothing looked like a “sequence,” it always looked like two guys desperately trying to gain an advantage over one another and win the match.

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It’s extremely difficult to keep an entirely grappling based match gripping throughout and never lose the crowd, especially in the main event of a card that featured high flying, strikefests, and no-DQ savagery. It’s an accomplishment that speaks volumes about the skills of both men. I remember a particularly great stretch that featured an exchange of strangleholds for several minutes, and there were tons of innovative reversals and holds that had the fans oohing and aahing.

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Sabre added some stiff kicks late in the match and Thatcher some suplexes, but it came back down to the grappling with Sabre focusing on Thatcher’s arm and Thatcher going after Sabre’s legs. In the end Thatcher reversed into a heel hook Sabre couldn’t get out of. Phenomenal match I’m ecstatic I got to see live.

3. Sasha Banks (c) vs Bailey was next for the NXT Women’s Championship. It’s weird how HHH comes across as supportive and important to NXT while Steph seems to be trying to make the spotlight rub off on her and claim credit for other’s success when their promos really aren’t that different. Still, I’ll take the extra attention for the women’s division and having her declare the women’s title match a co-main event was pretty cool.

Again the video package summarizing the feud was excellent and effectively conveyed Banks’ dominating, bullying persona and Bailey’s struggle to prove herself and prove herself while being outpaced by her compatriots. Bailey’s another former member of the Shimmer roster, but didn’t get too much time to shine there before being signed to WWE developmental. Both wrestlers were phenomenal here, and this easily took match of the night on a card filled with more established superstars and great performances.

Everything was pitch perfect. The in-ring story built move by move and had the crowd captivated the whole way. Banks is so good she had to work insanely hard to get booed by the New York crowd, and still managed it well enough to give the key moments extra impact. The meta-story of Bailey’s struggle and hard fought victory finally proving her legitimacy was amazing, and the crowd erupted for her win. And I’ll be damned if I ever thought someone could make a bell-to-belly suplex a believable finisher in 2015. The “curtain call” moment with Charlotte, Becky, Banks and Bailey was just right.

4. No DQ Shimmer Title Match: Nicole Matthews (c) vs Madison Eagles

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This had been building for quite a while, as layers for the feud between Eagles and Matthews were being established even before Matthews threw a fireball into Eagles face to win the title. Given their history this Shimmer Title match was no-DQ. This was the appropriate war we all wanted, and they threw everything they could at each other (including Kay Lee Ray at one point). Eagles defeated Matthews with a Hellbound to a chair to become two-time Shimmer Champion and provide the perfect finish to the first day of tapings for 10th Anniversary weekend.

 

5. Shimmer Title Match: Madison Eagles (c) vs. Nicole Savoy

 

I really just wanted to put “every match I saw Nicole Savoy in” for this last entry. She is INCREDIBLE, both in the ring and with her heel mannerisms, particularly for her relatively short amount of experience. Promoters have certainly noticed, as she’s been given matches against several of the best in the world. Half of her Berwyn Shimmer matches this year were against visiting Joshi talent, including a huge victory over Hiroyo Matsumoto and great outings against Misaki Ohata, Yumi Ohka, and Sonoko Kato. She more than held her own in the ring with the veterans.

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And the greatest example of that was her first Shimmer title shot against recently crowned 2-time champion Madison Eagles. It was fantastic, highlighting Savoy’s potential and ability to hang with the very best. Besides the expected brutal strike exchanges, the grappling was excellent, and really felt like both combatants were constantly trying to gain/press the advantage and win the match. I actually found parts extremely reminiscent of Timothy Thatcher vs Zach Sabre Jr from Evolve 47 mentioned previously. Great stuff.

 

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It’s been a great year for pro-wrestling and I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the best I’ve been lucky enough to catch personally.

Japan Crate December 2015 Review

December brings another unique box of snacks from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is, has instructions for the DIY kit, and various additional content. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but 1 of 11 possible Legend of Zelda Mini-Figures. While I don’t recognize the character I got, the figure is quite detailed for the small size and looks good.

Now let’s look at the edibles.

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The Excellent

As I’ve mentioned before (repeatedly), I adore cola flavored candies. So the Hia Shuwa Cola hard candies, one of the Premium exclusives, were easily my favorite item this month. The three “levels” (types) were all good, although I’m not sure why one was called “gummy.” I understand the fizzy and soothing ones. 😉

Naga-I Sawagumi Orange is described as a “sour gummy tape,” although I got more of a sweeter version of the candy I know as orange slices than something sour. Regardless, I loved it.

Both named flavors in the Black Bean & Soy Sauce Scones were extremely subtle, but that was perfect here and the underlying corn taste tied it all together. This is my favorite savory cheetos variation so far.

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Celio Lifeguard Drink. Subtitled as “Super Life” in the booklet, this was almost a combination soda / energy drink. Honey and royal jelly give it a much more pleasant flavor than normal for energy drinks.

Demitasse Pocky is apparently a new limited edition flavor made from seasonal ingredients. The coating was thick dark chocolate, and as such these were fantastic.

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The Decent

I liked this month’s Umaino Sticks better than the previous flavor (beef tongue). They were less salty and the fact that we got three different flavors to try instead of just one was great. The veggie salad tasted more like the corn snacks I’ve gotten (and enjoyed) in the past than a combination of veggies, the Tonkatsu didn’t quite taste like Tonkatsu to me but was fine, and the cheese was similar to cheese puffs. All three were good, but I liked the cheese the best.

The delayed item from last month was Fujiya Lollipop Bag, a bag of classic style lollipops in four flavors: orange, grape, apple, and strawberry. Exactly what you would expect here.

 

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There were a LOT of drinks / drink mixes this time. Awa Moco Moco powder formed a fizzy, creamy fruit drink. I got strawberry, which would have been my preference among the 3 possible flavors (banana and melon were the others).

The DIY kit this month was Cute Tororin Parfait DIY Kit, which is intended to make a strawberry parfait with pink candy topping and icing. I doubt I’m the target demo here, but I like this all the same. It mixed quickly, and well and made a good tasting parfait with a creamy texture.

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Bad Kid Beer was supposed to be in fact a “magic powder that creates a creamy grape soda when mixed with water.” The grape flavor was very light but this was a fine soda-ish drink mix.

There was another “drink in a flexible plastic bottle packaged like candy” this month, and they still amuse me in presentation. I took the advice of the booklet and tried freezing my Pachishuwa Dynamite Melon Soda. There was no indication of how I was then to get it out of the package, but the soft plastic sliced easily enough and I poured the slush into a bowl. This Premium exclusive had a strong melon flavor and I liked it better than the previous beverage of this type. The freezing idea was a nice touch.

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The Meh

Nothing this time. YAY!

Conclusion

Great batch this month, with a lot of variety and several unique inclusions. The Premium exclusives continue to provide some of my favorites, and the upgrade is easily worth the additional $5.

Between Two Cities Review: Balancing Progress

Stonemaier Games has quickly established itself as an excellent publisher that provides games of high quality both in terms of gameplay and production. Viticulture and Euphoria instantly became two of my favorite games, and the Treasure Chest series of gaming tokens are a wonderful series of premium resources token to “upgrade” a variety of games.

So I was quite excited to try out their most recent offering, Between Two Cities. Despite being the first of their games not designed by their founder Between Two Cities keeps up their extremely impressive track record, proving they are as good at recognizing great games as they are at designing them.

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Gameplay:

Between Two Cities combines tile laying and drafting, but the real innovation is a concept of “competitive co-op.” Each turn you choose two tiles from your hand and will play one into each city on either side of you. Your opponents will do the same, so you are cooperating with those players to build the cities. There is only one winner however and your score at the end of the game is that of your LEAST valuable city, so balancing things is key.

The different buildings pictured have different scoring schemes, so there’s a fair bit of strategy involved in selection and placement. In rounds 1 and 3 each player places 3 single building tiles in each of their adjacent cities, choosing two tiles to play from rotating hands each turn. In round 2 each player places a single double building tile into adjacent cities. The variation in tiles, as well as the restriction that all cities must be a 4 by 4 square at the end of the game, gives additional depth and challenge without making things too complicated. There are tiebreakers outlined, but they come up much less than one might think.

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Thoughts:

I’ve played this twice so far, once with 3 players and once with 6, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Unlike most Stonemaier games though this feels quite different at the different player counts. With the minimum players we could all affect everyone else’s cities, so it became very adversarial when someone jumped out ahead. The other two players were sabotaging those cities to let the one city lagging behind catch up. This led to a slight problem we had with the rules as stated.

It’s not always best to be optimal in placing your tile if one of your cities is far ahead of the other. In these cases it matters who places their tile first. The rulebook discourages this “in the name of cooperation” and offers a halfhearted order when needed – the same as seating order determined at the beginning of the game. But at the end of the day each player is trying to win on their own, so cooperating to the fullest on a city when it’s only going to help your opponent win is poor play.

The problem that comes up is that with the order as stated every single time you place tiles, the same person always goes first in each particular city (because the original seating order never changes during a game). This was a HUGE advantage, as both “behind” players were before the player who was in front, so we got to play tiles in her cities first EVERY TURN. She managed to hold on and win by a point anyway, but the issue came up again in the larger game to some extent and we decided afterward to use a rotating “first player” marker to decide this in all future games.

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Because of not having direct influence over every other player the 6 player game was more interesting and seemed more in line with the intention of the game / theme. It was fun both ways though.

The component quality is up to Stonemaier’s usual high standards with nice, thick playing tiles and cool wooden city markers shaped after famous landmarks (I got the deluxe Kickstarter edition so I have extras pictured – the retail game comes with 7 different types). The game design is decent, but the roofs take up too much of the tiles and make the art look a bit bland. Very minor criticism though.

One particularly phenomenal thing about this game is that is plays pretty quick, and it DOES NOT INCREASE with more players because everyone’s making the same few decisions at the same time. I’ve never encountered a game before that scales without significant additional time. Great aspect that makes this quite versatile in terms of fitting it in to our gaming plans for the day.

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Overall:

Between Two Cities is another excellent offering from Stonemaier Games. The “competitive co-op” idea was quite brilliant and equally well executed. The combination of tile laying and drafting elements makes this plays like no other game I’ve ever seen, which is a huge plus with me nowadays. Definitely a worthy addition to the game closet. 🙂

Arcade Block November 2015 Review

November’s 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The advertised property for this month was Uncharted, and the product of the month is a titans figure of Drake himself. Pretty “big name” an inclusion, and it doesn’t slow down from there. Since we’re close to the end of the year we get another 2016 mini-calendar, this time featuring Halo 5.

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One of the strangest items I’ve seen in one of these yet is The Master Cork: A Drink to the Past exclusive. It’s a novelty cork in the style of a sword from Legend of Zelda. Completely absurd, and I love it. Another exclusive is one of four possible Mansion Keys. Is a decent little trinket that really appeals to me as a collector of keychains and the like. I got the one with a knight’s helmet.

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I’m not opening my mystery pack containing an Angry Birds K.Nex mini-figure, as I have a nephew who collects them and will flip over getting a sealed pack to open. The T-Shirt this month is a wonderful “Christmas sweater” style design featuring Yarn Yoshi.

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Conclusion

Another month, another wonderful and varied batch of goodies from Arcade Block. This easily remains my favorite mystery box.

Shimmer 67 DVD Review

October 2014 in Berwyn, IL

I saw this live and remember it as one of the best Shimmer shows ever. I also recently spotlighted it as a good show for new viewers.  Looking forward to seeing how it holds up. As usual the Shimmer weekend experience is something I wholeheartedly recommend. Beyond just great wrestling, it’s a fantastic atmosphere and tons of fun.

Match 1 –The Kimber Bombs (Cherry Bomb and Kimber Lee) vs. KC Cassidy and Bambi Hall **1/2

KC Cassidy is NXT Diva Peyton Royce. Allison Danger on commentary with Dave Prazak. Quick start for the debuting duo of Cassidy and Hall as they get the btter of the more established team to establish them as a potential threat and fire up the crowd. The Bomb’s cheat to take over like all good heels and beat on Cassidy for a while. Hot tag to Hall, who looks good wiping out the Bombs for a little bit, but Cherry hits a chin breaker and then it’s right into the lungblower / release german suplex combo for the win. Basic formula tag match with the expected result that let the newcomers look good in defeat while continuing to build the Bombs towards the titles.

Match 2 – Heidi Lovelace vs. Nicole Savoy ***1/2

This is Savoy’s Berwyn debut. She immediately starts badmouthing fans as she storms out to the ring. Her poise and instincts are well beyond her relatively short experience, and it shows even here. Heidi’s been on fire as of late and was a great choice as her opponent.

Heidi offers a handshake, and Savoy with a hard kick to bat it away. “I didn’t come here to make friends and shake hands.” She’s showing such great heel mannerisms right off the bat. Heidi’s also fantastic shaking her arm to sell the effect and putting a “so this is how you want it” expression on her face.

Prazak and Danger highlight all of the debuts on this show as Savoy and Lovelace lock up. Tense exchange that Savoy seems to get the better of, but she mouths off and Heidi with a strike combination, some arm drags, then a headscissors takedown into a modified Gargano Escape. Savoy retreats outside, more insults for the fans, and wipes Heidi out with a trip on the apron as Heidi was attempting a running kick. Some vicious kicks, then back in and Savoy shows her own submission ability with a cross arm breaker attempt. Things continue in this vein, back and forth throughout the match with both wrestlers intermingling submission attempts with hard kicks.

Later on Savoy hits a brutal looking release tiger suplex, but is worn out herself and slow to cover which gives Heidi enough time to kick out. Release dragon but Heidi’s too close to the ropes. Repeated pin covers then knee strikes in the corner. All Savoy now. Sets up for a superplex but Heidi knocks her off, stunning Nicole. Frog splash gets three. Great outing for both, as Savoy definitely looked like she could hold her own against Heidi, which only made the latter look even more impressive in beating her.

Match 3 – Crazy Mary Dobson vs. Sassy Stephie: *1/2

Mademoiselle Rachelle out with Stephie as usual. Mary’s building a vocal following.  This was pretty paint by numbers – basic exchanges, Stephie gains control due to outside interference, Mary forces the heel to pull her hair out to break a hold, etc. Awkward spot in the middle where Mary tried to sell a suplex by arcing her back on impact but Stephie was trying to float over with the move and kind of bumped off of Mary’s head instead.

Stephie with an extended beat down of Mary, until Mary counters a Rude Awakening attempt with the Eye of the Hurricane (yes, I’m testing who knows their historical finishers). Cartwheel into the double knees to Stephie’s back actually hits her in the neck. Foot on the rope to prevent the pinfall.

Mary with extended offense, including foiling Rachelle interference, but Stephie eventually takes over again and hits Kiss My Sass for the victory. The chemistry wasn’t really here between these two in my opinion, but the crowd was into Mary so it was reasonably well received until the end. Stephie’s win keeps Mary playing the ultimate underdog in Shimmer.

Backstreet Boys hit the speakers and the crowd goes nuts. Speech chant is of course answered. The “white chocolate cheesecake of sports entertainment” says nothing  of consequence, but does so very emphatically and charismatically, and much to the crowds delight. After she’s done listing her nicknames and declaring her supremacy as best in the galaxy, the wrestling goddess comes out as her opponent.

Match 4 – Number 1 Contender’s Match: Nikki Storm vs. Athena ****

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It’s announced that the winner of this match, as well as the winner of another match later in the card, will go on to face whoever is Shimmer Champion after this volumes main event in a three way elimination match for the title on the next show.

Nikki with her usual antics during her introduction, including correcting the pronunciation of Glasgow and shushing her weight. She jumps Athena during the latter’s intro. Nikki’s so charismatic the crowd’s having none of booing her / treating her like a heel, despite her attitude and actions. Quick back and forth action to start, which leads to a momentary stalemate and then they just start shoving each other around. Really nice display of aggression and tempers flaring by both.

Storm charges and a low bridge by Athena sends her outside. Athena with a dive to wipe Nikki out, but Nikki quickly strikes back with a hard whip into the apron. Back and forth forearms, then a shove and a hard kick by Athena to stun Storm. Running kick on the apron is countered however as Nikki sweeps her legs. Back in and Storm showing frustration, repeatedly slamming Athena’s head against the mat.

Nikki with an extended advantage, mixing hard strikes and slams with proper heel taunting and cheating. Her asking for rules explanations from the ref while “accidentally” standing on her opponents hair never gets old. She follows up a truly heartfelt apology for unintentionally breaking the rules with a back rake. Her sense of just how much tomfoolery to intermingle with her impressive ringwork is pitch perfect.

Another bout of trash talking leads to a quick rollup by Athena for an extremely close 2 count. This makes Nikki VERY angry, and she just swarms Athena and rubs her face into the mat. Snapmare and Storm locks in a brief chinlock, but Athena counters with a jawbreaker. Double boot stuns Storm and an innovative rollup gets another close 2. Storm’s not any happier with this one and bangs Athena’s head against the mat some more.

After visibly calming herself Storm ties up Athena in a leglock, then adds a chinlock. The calm doesn’t last long and she slams Athena face first into the mat to break and try something else. More pounding and mocking, but she tries a crossbody and Athena catches her. Athena’s “enough is enough” face here is great. She swings Storm into a backbreaker, converts into a faceplant, then right into the Koji Clutch. BEAUTIFUL sequence. Nikki struggles to the ropes to stay alive.

Athena calls for the O-Face and goes up top, but Nikki steadies herself against the ref and “accidentally” pushes him into the ropes, knocking Athena off-balance. A cackling Storm slams Athena and then hits a neckbreaker after some back and forth. Fisherman neckbreaker lays Athena out but she grabs the bottom rope to stop the count. Storm getting frustrated again, but regroups and goes for the Perfect Storm. Athena gets free and nails a big kick and forearm shot combo to put Nikki down. Athena up top again. The O-Face is mis-timed and doesn’t look good, but Prazak covers on commentary saying she “didn’t get as much as she usually does on it” and Athena applies a vicious looking STF variation to send her to volume 68’s title match.

Outside of the O-Face, was a great contest. I would have preferred to see Storm advance and get her first title opportunity,  but Athena is excellent as well. Storm getting overly aggressive and Athena hanging in and waiting for her opportunities was a perfect story for this match, and they executed it near flawlessly.

Recap video of Portia Perez coming out to help Jessica Havok against Heidi Lovelace and instead accidentally nailing Havok with a wrench and costing her the match.

Match 5 –Portia Perez vs. Courtney Rush: **

Portia offers a handshake. which Rush wisely declines. Rush turns her back but anticipates the cheap shot and turns right back around with fist cocked, frightening Portia to the outside. She complains about the handshake, the fist, the fans, the heat, etc on her slow way back into the ring. She taunts Courtney into giving her an opening then makes good heel use of the ref getting in between them to rake Rush’s eyes.

Basic offense from Perez, but her attitude keeps the fans booing. Recurring formula of Rush fighting back here and there with her size and strength but Portia staying in control overall via cheapshots. A Rush comeback leads to an exchange of maneuver attempts and rollups. Portia eventually clotheslines Rush over the top rope, and with Portia alone in the ring and her back to the entrance Havok storms out to kick Portia’s face off. Portia scurries away as refs restrain Havok and wins by DQ.

Meh match, but they kept the crowd into it and it told the stories it meant to. Rush confronts Havok afterwards about costing her the match. Intense staredown as Portia’s announced the winner, but Havok shrugs and walks away.

Match 6: Nevaeh vs. Jenny Rose **1/2

Prazak with useful background about how Jenny Rose went to Japan and is returning to Shimmer after 3 years since her time as the masked Jamilia Craft. Counter wrestling to start, with Rose eventually getting Nevaeh down into a camel clutch. Rose surprisingly starts cheating first, doing the alternating hands at three to keep a hair pull going. The crowd dislikes Nevaeh so much they cheer this.

Back up and Nevaeh expresses her displeasure with a huge forearm shot. Methodical offense by Nevaeh, controlling Rose with holds and nailing her with hard strikes to cut off any attempts to get up. Nice snapmare, necksnap, sliding clothesline combo gets 2. Some showboating gives Rose an opening and some offense, but another clothesline stops that. Rose is bridging up out of every pin attempt, which is unique and distinctive. They fight over a bodtscissors and then exchanges forearms on the knees until Nevaeh pokes the eyes.

Rose fires up a bit after a whip reversal. Suplex attempted, but Neveah kind of falls out of it as a reversal. DDT and a top rope clothesline gets a pair of nearfalls for Rose. Waistlock reversals lead to Nevaeh hosting her up and hitting the DVD for the win. Nevaeh’s cheering section (consisting of one five year old girl) goes wild.  Rose was a fine target for Nevaeh’s no nonsense style, and got to show some fire. Nevaeh’s choice of of holds (too many chinlocks) made this drag a little, but it was decent overall. The Gem City Queen adds a nice heel touch by blowing her defeated opponent a kiss on the way out.

Announcement made that Ozaki has stipulated in her contract that all of her matches must be no-DQ.

Match 7 – No-DQ:  Mayumi Ozaki vs. Saraya Knight ***1/2

Mum’s music hits and the aniticpation of the oncoming chaos is palpable. Saraya threatens Joey Eastman, the fans, and her opponent. Ozaki out with a chain in hand. Big cheers for her Shimmer debut. Prazak puts over Ozaki’s status in Japan and sets the backdrop of having two of the toughest wrestlers in the locker room duke it out. Perez is out for commentary, replacing Danger.

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Lockup to start,  involving mutual hair pulling. They exchange hard shots and waste no time in spilling outside. Crazy brawl all around ringside, with slams to the steps, choking, eye pokes, etc. Saraya dumps Ozaki into the front row. Ozaki takes over and nails Saraya with elbows to the back of the head six inches from me. That was wild live. She ties up Knight in the guard rail and pulls back on the arm as the crowd chants “tap” and Prazak ponders if the ref will make this an impromptu fall count anywhere match. Hair pull to break and Saraya takes things back inside the ring.

Ozaki tries a Boston Crab, but Saraya keeps turning her weight to counter, so she steps on Saraya’s face instead. First official successful wrestling move of the match is a chinlock. Transitioned into a dragon sleeper, which Saraya counters with another eye rake. Dropkick, double legdrop and running side slam keep the momentum for Knight. She’s apparently had enough wrestling and drags Ozaki back outside. Runs Ozaki into the guardrail and dumps her into the other side of the crowd. They brawl through (and on) some merchandise tables. Back to the ring again and Saraya brags that no one can beat her. She pounds on Ozaki to reenforce the point, but a knee strike and huge backfist disabuse her of that notion as Ozaki gets the win. This was all spectacle, but a very good one.

Huge win for Ozaki in her debut, and they play it up as such. Saraya offers a handshake and a hug as the announcers lose their minds. “Could these two psychos be soulmates Dave Prazak?” They go to the bar together for a drink and leave arm in arm as Saraya flips off the crowd.

Match 8 – Evie vs. Kay Lee Ray****1/2

Two of Shimmer’s best up and comers here, and I recall this being fantastic live.

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Extremely fast paced bit of chain wrestling and counters to start leading to a stalemate and applause from the crowd. Amusing test of strength follows centered around locking up with their respective injured and bandaged fingers. Pace quickens again and they trade leapfrogs, armdrags, and dropkicks until KLR avoids a dropkick and grabs a facelock on the fallen Evie. Dueling chants as KLR sets up the Gory Bomb, but Evie sunset flips out of it. She tries her parabola kick, but KLR somersaults out of the way and hits a hard enzugiri in the corner. She goes to the apron and nails a springboard missle dropkick for 2.

After being tied up for a bit Evie starts to fight back, but gets caught in a beautiful Northern lights suplex by KLR while trying to slingshot in from the apron. Evie rolls outside and kicks KLR in the face during a dive attempt. She lands her running kick on the apron for her first real sustained offense of the match. Back in, hard kick to KLR’s back, then Evie absolutely wipes her out with a backbreaker as KLR tried to fight back.

Some more back and forth, then KLR counters numerous Evie charges in the corner and tries to hit a headscissors off the last, but Evie with a sit out powerbomb for her own counter for 2. Evie’s turn to tie KLR in knots on the mat. Small package and a forearm from KLR stuns Evie, but as KLR runs across to the other corner Evie’s right behind her and connects with the parabola kick. KLR with a desperation enzugiri and they’re both down. Well earned “this is awesome” chant from the crowd.

Both up and exchange strikes. KLR ducks a kick and hits a falling faceplant from a suplex setup for a close nearfall. Evie off the ropes and she fights over a rollup from the wheelbarrow position, but instead rolls through and face plants KLR. TTYL reversed into the Gory Bomb for another incredibly close fall. KLR firing up the fans and goes up for the swanton, but Evie with another parabola kick. She pulls KLR off the turnbuckles and hit the TTYL for the win. Close up on some nasty welts Evie received during the contest. She helps KLR up for some mutual respect.

Fantastic match. Each wrestler got to spotlight both their offense and resiliency. This victory puts Evie in line for a title shot.

The Kimber Bombs complain about facing rookies and make their case for a Shimmer Tag Team Title shot.

Match 9 – Lufisto vs. Rhia O’Reilly **3/4

Lufisto out in her new gimmick as Wounded Owl Ronin, and Rhia taunts her about the absence of the departed Peegaboo. This proves unwise as Lufisto starts beating her from pillar to post. Diving tackle from the top sends Rhia to the mat and Lufisto locks in a double arm lock. Rhia fights up but gets sent to the corner. Lufisto attempts the running cannonball but Rhia slides outside to avoid it and pulls Lufisto out to gain control for the first time.

Back in and a chinlock is applied. Mercifully short, as Rhia releases and pushes her  advantage with strikes and chokes. Commentary stressing how far Rhia has come to be hanging in with a veteran like Lufisto, as well as the great shape Rhia’s gotten herself into. Finlay roll for 2. More choking in the ropes. Dragon sleepr and Rhia adds some forearms from that position to Lufisto’s chest for good measure. Nice T-bone suplex and more forearms, then Rhia sets up a superplex.

Lufisto counters and they just lay into each other with slaps with both sitting on the top rope. Lufisto gets the better of it and hits a double stomp with Rhia hanging in the tree of woe. Hard chops in another corner and Lufisto whips Rhia across the ring and connects with the diving forearm for 2. Rhia escapes a burning hammer attempts and hits a release tiger suplex for her own close 2. Lufisto counter a Rhia adjustment with a brainbuster variation, and the burning hammer ends it. Slow to start, but really picked up at the end. Rhia’s continually improving.

Saraya and Ozaki out to punish Lufisto for beating Saraya’s protege. Lufisto escapes as Portia expresses unease about this new alliance. Nice setup of a new faction. Lufisto being their first target doesn’t bode well for her partner’s chances of needing to defend the Shimmer Title on the next volume.

Recap of Madison Eagles inadvertently distracting Nicole Matthews in a match against Evie. Matthews comes out an announces that “friends don’t cost friends matches” and she’s finally agreed to a rematch because of a good prize at the end of it.

Match 10 –Number 1 Contender’s Match: Nicole Matthews vs. Madison Eagles ***3/4

The winner will join Athena to face the winner of Cheerleader Melissa and Kana for the Shimmer Title on volume 68. Crowd somewhat split as both are excellent wrestlers, but overall Madison is the favorite.

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Madison is delighted to get streamers, and wraps them around herself and then poses like she’s going to wrestle with them on. She then carefully gathers them up and puts them in her corner. Perez comments that her and Matthews never get streamers, and Prazak answers “yeah, I wonder why. Maybe they don’t LIKE you.”

The fork skit for the evening is more ridiculous than usual, as Madison drops about fifteen plastic forks as she takes off her shirt. While Bryce is picking them up she slips two into his back pockets, then claiming them every time he turns around after confiscating one from her while Matthews flips out. Bryce loses patience and snaps one in half to end the bit.  Bell rings and Matthews pretends to bail in protest, because we haven’t had enough stalling and nonsense in this match yet.

Back in and the action finally starts. Lots of whips and tackles to reestablish how even they are until Madison takes it to the mat and applies a seated half crab. Back up after a rope break and Madison ends up with an arm submission this time. Nicole works her way out and applies a front facelock. Madison trips to counter and works the arm some more. Nicole reverses and returns the favor. Cartwheel by Madison to escape and she goes right back to it. Nice counter wrestling here. Commentary discusses the previous twenty minute draw these two had and how evenly matched they are.

Extended back and forth submission attempts. Technically proficient but the match feels a bit slow. They are constantly fighting over the holds, which is so important in this style of match to make it feel like an actual contest each wrestler is trying to win. Eagles eventually gets her leg trapped over the top rope in the corner and Matthews lays in some hard kicks to the leg and then dumps Madison outside. She slams various parts of Madison’s body into the guardrail and is in firm control now.  Count broken and Matthews does more damage to Madison’s leg on the ring apron and against the ringpost, including the ringpost figure four.

She continues to work the leg/knee as Prazak brings up Madison’s impressive streak of not being pinned or made to submit since losing the Shimmer Championship. Madison eventually fights back up and the pace quickens as they trade release German suplexes. After 2-3 apiece they both crumple to the mat. When they’re both up Madison starts to dominate, nailing a kick to the chest, a lariat, and a standing kick to the head in rapid succession. Nicole reverses a brainbuster attempt and goes for the Vancouver Maneuver. Eagles tries to fight it off so Matthews jumps up into a dragon sleeper instead in a nice spot. Numerous rolling elbows in the corner keep her in control, and when Madison tries to charge out Nicole hits a crucifix for 2. Backslide gets another 2 and she kicks at Madison’s chest, but gets caught in Hellbound position coming off the ropes. She drops down and hits a Northern lights suplex for another 2. Crowd getting into it now.

Trading submission attempts again leads to a Liontamer by Matthews. Madison counters and goes for her new submission finisher again, but Matthews grabs the ropes. Hellbound attempt escaped again, but Madison hits the brainbuster. They fight back and forth until Nicole lands a neckbreaker into a DDT then tries the Liontamer again, but Madison reverses into her STF variation. Nicole fights it off a bit and Madison transitions to a sleeper. Nicole pushes backwards out of the corner and pins Eagles, but Nicole taps during the count. Bryce didn’t see the tap while he was counting the pin, but others refs come out and it’s decided both wrestlers will advance to the title match on volume 68, which is now a four woman elimination match.

This was very good, but missing something that would’ve elevated it to truly great. Definitely picked way up at the end though. The finish made sense in the overarching storyline and keeps the stalemate between these two going, but the inconsistency with which the outside refs do and don’t involve themselves in questionable decisions gets annoying.

Match 11 – 3G and Mia Yim vs Tsukasa Fujimoto, Kaori Yoneyama and Akino ****3/4

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 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.

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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 they kick 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.

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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.

Main event – Shimmer Title Match: Cheerleader Melissa (c) vs. Kana ****3/4

This is Kana’s first shot at the Shimmer Title. These two have met in Shimmer before 3 years previously (on volume 43), where Melissa earned a second shot at Madison Eagles and the Shimmer Championship by defeating Kana with the Air Raid Crash. Melissa is great as she comes out, confidently smiling and mockingly waving at any fan who boos her.

Lots of crowd support for Kana as the bell rings, countered with a smaller Melissa chant. They take turns playing to the fans for a while as they circle each other. They fight over a collar and elbow tie up for quite a bit with neither getting the advantage until Kana transitions into a front facelock. Go behind, takedown, momentary chinlock into a bodyscissors. Kana grabs Melissa arm from behind and bends her back into a pin while keeping her legs in position to reapply the body scissors when Melissa kicks out. Kana rolls to the side for another pin attempt, but Melissa breaks the bodayscissors, and grabs Kana’s arms for the seated surfboard type hold that has been very popular on this show. It’s  always great to see Kana in the ring with someone who can keep up with her chain wrestling and submissions.

Melissa really works the hold, rocking back and forth to apply more pressure. She floats over into a front facelock but Kana slips behind her again. They trade reversals and Kana grabs a grapevine. Melissa stands to counter and deadlifts Kana back to her feet, then hits a belly to back suplex. Back to neutral corners and they start to circle again as Kana shakes off the effects. They trade waistlocks again, then Kana with an arm wringer. Melissa twists out of it and into a standing, straight arm armbar. Drop toehold counters that an Kana works her way into an arm bar. Melissa rolls out into a seated position, but Kana was waiting for it and drills her with a kick to the head.

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Melissa rolls to the outside to recover, and Kana waits in the center of the ring. She milks the count until 9 and comes back in only to eat several more kick. Snapmare and Kana just wears out Melissa’s back with kicks. Mocking, weak kicks to to Melissa’s head make the champ angry, and she absorbs numerous forearms with no effect before throwing Kana down by the hair and stomping away. Choke in the corner with her boot. Rammed into another turnbuckle and Melissa with another choke. Whip across the ring, running forearm, and a trio of axe kicks. Champ in firm control.

They go outside and Melissa mauls her with forearms to the back. Bodyslam to the floor and Melissa breaks the count. Whip into the barricade and Melissa grabs a waistlock. Uh-oh. And yes, she wheelbarrows Kana and begins her trademark sequence of whipping her opponent into the barricade from that position. They’re right in front of me and I remember getting totally caught up in the spot as my favorite wrestler’s head bounced off the guardrail inches from me. Melissa backs up a little as she does it, which brings her even with the steps, so she bounces Kana between the rail and the steps for a few repetitions. Ouch. The champ poses on the steps with Kana lying in a heap at her feet.

Another axe kick and she stalks Kana. Both momentarily back in, but Melissa stomps Kana back out. She goes to the ring apron for a running kick, but Kana catches it and hits a dragon screw leg  whip variation. Kana’s not going to let the guardrail abuse go unanswered, and slams Melissa’s leg into it repeatedly. She picks Melissa up and places the injured leg over the rail, then hits  a pair of wicked kicks, followed by an overhand strike to it off the steps.

Melissa desperately trying to crawl backwards out of the way as Kana follows and kicks at the leg. Snapmare and Kana hits her sliding kick to Melissa’s face. Kana back in and seems to be regrouping a bit herself ans Melissa tries to pick herself up. She’s in at 8 but Kana IMMEDIATELY grabs a kneebar on the injured leg. Transitioned into a half crab, but Melissa gets the bottom rope. More hard kicks to the leg and back down into a grapevine, into a STF variation. Melissa crawls to the rope for a break, screaming in pain along the way. Stiff forearm exchange ends when Kana decides to go back to the grapevine off a running leg takedown. Grabs Melissa after a rope break and puts her down again with a dragon screw.

Payback for the choking in corner now, as Perez marvels at how we’ve never seen Melissa dominated like this before.    Melissa tries to bail, but Kana catches her halfway and wraps her leg around the ropes for a 4 count. Both back in, an more brutal kicks to Melissa’s chest. She calls for the sliding kick again but Melissa explodes into her with a shoulder tackle  to take over. Bodyslam and a legdrop, but she aggravated her injured leg in doing so. Melissa now with the taunting weak kicks to the head, and I don’t think it’s any more of a wise move for her. Kana lays in wait and catches Melissa’s leg on a running kick attempt, then transitions into her ankle lock into a German suplex spot.

Firing the crowd up and hits the sliding kick this time for 2. She grabs Melissa’s ankle as the latter kicks out, but Melissa rolls out this time. Kick swatted away by Kana. Slap across Melissa’s face. Reciept is blocked, backfist lands. Melissa with a forearm, Kana with a kick to the head, running boot by Melissa before she falls and they’re both down.

Both up and Kana rolls under another running boot, then counters a strike into an inverted DDT. Back to destroying each other with forearms. They take turns following each other into the ropes with elbows then Melissa catches Kana with a Samoan drop for a close 2. She elevates Kana, but Kana drops down and they trade waistlocks until Kana converts it into an octopus. Kana transitions into a rollup for 2, then right into another grapevine. She goes from that back into the STF variation. Melissa claws her way to the ropes, with Kana making her fight for every inch. Neckbreaker gets 2 for Kana, then she hits another vicious head kick for another 2.

Melissa pulled up and Kana tries to lock in the crossface chicken wing. Melissa reverses into an air raid crash attempt, which Kana reverses into a tight sunset flip (which is how Melissa won the belt from Eagles) for 2. Melissa blocks a kick and takes Kana’s head off with a lariat. Air raid crash, which beat Kana the first time they faced, gets 2. Melissa is angry. TEN curbstomps follow. Which is just INSANE. Kana’s limp and a second air raid crash retains the championship.

Fantastic match that got Melissa over as a world beater and kept Kana looking incredibly strong as it took TWELVE signature moves from Melissa to keep her down. Equal in quality to the previous six-woman tag match(although very different of course) , and that’s saying something.

Overall: I stand by my assertion that this is one of Shimmer’s best events. Two of their greatest matches ever headline and the undercard is filled with interesting matchups in a variety of styles. Nothing was terrible and the good was beyond great.

Available at http://shimmerwrestling.blogspot.com/ .