June 25, 2016 in Chicago, IL
After the end of the previous night’s taping of Volume 81 anticipation was through the roof for a possible Eagles vs Nakajima match. Sure, enough, in the morning it was announced as the main event for Volume 82. 🙂
The opening match for the first taping of the day built off tensions from Volume 81’s 4-way and saw Vanessa Kraven take on Lufisto. This was a great way to start, as it was high energy and felt appropriately heated for a contest between rivals who don’t like each other. Tessa Blanchard was back in Kraven’s corner after her absence the previous night, and ended up costing Kraven the match to further the slow building tensions between the two.
Amusing side note: at one point Kraven was distracting the ref by complaining about the audience taking pictures, so I lifted my camera and got a pic just as she turned her accusing finger at me.
Shayna Baszler and Viper both continued their dominating debuts defeating Solo Darling and Heidi Lovelace respectively. Shayna continued to look awesome, displaying good instincts and complete commitment to pro-wrestling details and conventions, including applying a “tail-bar” on Solo like she was trying to torture the latter. Big crowd reaction for it. Little touches like the spade gesture and dumping a deck of cards over her fallen opponent add a lot to her mystique.
Still wasn’t completely sold on Viper here, but she got to show more of her agility against the quick Lovelace and Heidi’s an established enough name in Shimmer that defeating her continued Viper’s rapid march up the card.
Another two teams new to Shimmer as pairs faced off as Balespin (Xandra Bale & KC Spinelli) faced Crazy Mary Dobson & Samantha Heights in a decent little match that would play into the (brisk) tag team booking that continue all weekend. It went well enough given the lack of established teams, so no big complaints. Odd dynamic here as Mary and Samantha were slightly portrayed as the heel team, but Mary is not getting booed in Shimmer so it didn’t work quite as well as they perhaps expected. I preferred Dobson and Heights as a team a bit over Balespin, but the latter was fine too.
After a nice showing in defeat at the end of Volume 81’s 4-way against Kellie Skater, Shazza McKenzie got a huge upset victory here against Evie in a great back and forth contest. Shazza continues to improve and looked quite a bit better in all of her matches this weekend than in her previous visits to Shimmer.
Portia’s Interview Segment Spectacular (who ok’s these acronyms?!) debuted next, and was brutal. I adore Portia on commentary and she’s generally a fantastic heel, but this did not come across well. Portia and Nicole got booed themselves, but this segment significantly cooled off a hot crowd overall. Nicole declares herself locker room leader and says she’s going to give opportunities to the younger members of the roster.
Nixon Newell comes out to take Nicole Matthews up on her challenge, and does manage to get the crowd into the match somewhat by the end. Foregone conclusion though both due to Matthews’ level and her just established gimmick.
Thunderkitty comes out and cuts a very good promo about feeling disrespected, but it shouldn’t have been placed so close to Portia’s segment. That made it seem longer than it was, and when Tessa Blanchard answered TK’s open challenge all remaining momentum the show had was gone. Not bad, but Tessa’s getting more “we don’t want to see you” heat than “we want someone to beat you” heat, and TK’s ring style is not one to re-energize the crowd. Kraven stole the spotlight here, as her mannerisms on the outside and the way she reacted to Tessa were perfect.
Nitpick: “The following match is scheduled for one fall with a twenty minute time limit” should not be announced when someone is coming out for an interview to make an open challenge.
Courtney Rush continues to be incredibly intimidating and a serious threat despite coming up short in her Shimmer title match. Her presence is just amazing and Kellie Skater was not only the perfect foil for her, but playing off the fact that they’ve both been mainstays in Shimmer and asking “what happened to you Courtney?!” added a touch of depth and increased the intensity.
Kellie’s roll continued with a tough victory over a top competitor, and it was becoming clearer that she’d be challenging for a singles title before the weekend was up. This got the crowd going again.
Nicole Savoy defended her Heart of SHIMMER Championship against the ultra-popular Ryo Mizunami. Tough challenge early in Nicole’s reign, even if Baszler’s trajectory seemed headed this way and made a title change here extremely unlikely. It was everything I expected and hoped for from these two, with the cocky heel defending champion trying to ground the powerhouse, who often responded by running through and/or over the champion. Great showing for both.
Viper hit the ring for an interview before the next match, and talked about her big wins and how her aspirations were to climb to “where Eagles nest,” foreshadowing the champion’s next feud. Wish she had cut this AFTER the main to leave her involvement a surprise.
The breakneck booking of the tag division I was referring to early was on display as Flying High WDSS (Kay Lee Ray & Mia Yim) received a Shimmer Tag Team Championship match against Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee after a single victory against another duo who had never teamed in Shimmer before. Still, at least there was that one victory to establish them a little and I understand that they were doing the best they could with all the last minute changes to the roster.
The good news is all the new teams worked well together and looked good in the ring over the course of the weekend. Yim and KLR in particular wrestled like a well oiled machine here, performing double teams like they’d been teaming for years. Good title match that saw the Bombs use the belts again to steal a win.
I had no greater wish going into the weekend that to see Madison Eagles face Arisa Nakajima, and boy did they deliver. The SHIMMER Championship being on the line (as well as how early in the weekend this was happening and Viper’s promo) clearly pointed to a non-finish, but they completely tore the house down leading up to it.
It was an absolute joy to watch two of the best in the world battle, and my memory won’t do it justice. Definitely go out of your way to see this when it’s available.
Though I’ll admit the finish was flat. Even for a DQ run-in it didn’t come off well, as Viper choked an already tied up Eagles in the corner instead of leveling her with some impressive looking strike or slam first. Strategically it made more sense, but as the end of a hard-hitting, anticipated title match it was a poor choice. Still, the JWP champion was neither winning the Shimmer title nor dropping a fall here, so if that finish was the price paid for being able to have the wonderful match that preceded it at all in the first place I have no complaints.
Afterward Viper had left the area Arisa recovered from the spider suplex that had left her out of the confrontation and helped Madison to the back to a round of cheers.
During intermission I got to talk to Kellyanne English a bit, who was out for the weekend due to medical issues. She was in relatively good spirits regardless, and I hope to see her back in the ring soon. She was extremely impressive in her debut Shimmer events last fall.
Suitable opener saw Veda Scott against Crazy Mary Dobson in a simple case of hated heel against beloved underdog. Good effort from both and they got the crowd properly riled.
Taylor Made made her only appearance of the weekend against Heidi Lovelace. Fine match that saw Heidi get the expected win with a senton from the top.
I was extremely disappointed to see Shazza McKenzie come out to face Nicole Matthews so early into Nicole’s new gimmick. It was obvious Shazza was going to lose and seemed a waste of upsetting Evie on the previous volume (even more so the next day when I saw who Shazza faced then: continued momentum would’ve added a lot to that match). Regardless, I do understand the opportunity she was given here against a former Shimmer champion and she looked good in the ring with Nicole.
The crowd (rightfully) got extremely excited as Allysin Kay, Mia Yim, Yumi Ohka, and Jessicka Havok made their way out for a 4-way contest. It was excellent. The competitors really took advantage of the format, from the expected awesome tower of doom and four person submission spots to individual encounters like Havok and Kay laying into each other and Ohka mocking Yim’s usual posing routine.
Incredibly hot end too, as Yumi just NAILED poor Mia in the face with her whip behind the ref’s back, but Havok leveled her in turn sending Yumi out to the floor hard right in front of me. Havok covered the still dead Yim for the win. They were clicking on all cylinders all the way through this.
Rhia O’Reilly’s opportunities against high level competition continued as she faced Kay Lee Ray (and she’d face even tougher competition on Sunday). Rhia is solid in the ring and can adapt to the style of her opponents, so it was wonderful to see her get these chances to continue to up her game and show what she can do. KLR eventually staved off Rhia’s assault and picked up the win with the Gory Bomb.
Also continuing was Evie’s tough weekend, as she lost to Tessa Blanchard after interference from Vanessa Kraven. This was fine, and Tessa generates a lot of heat, but she can’t quite keep up with someone like Evie.
After the match Lufisto came out and cut a fantastic short, to the point promo mocking Tessa for riding her father’s name and pointing out Kraven helps Tessa win matches while every time Tessa tries to help Kraven it backfires. She challenges Tessa to a match on Volume 84 with Kraven banned from ringside, and an irate Tessa accepts. If Lufi’s always this good on the mic she needs to be given it more often.
It was surprising to see Shayna Baszler get a shot at Nicole Savoy and the Heart of SHIMMER Championship so soon, but all would make sense later. This was a very short match, but quite good while it lasted. The double finish (with Savoy just putting Baszler’s shoulders down for a pin a second before tapping) kept Baszler strong while getting her first loss out of the way. Baszler shook her head after realizing she didn’t win but presented the belt back to Savoy in a show of respect. It seemed certain to set up a rematch where Baszler took the title, but we ended up with something even better.
Balespin (Xandra Bale &KC Spinelli) were the next in line for the Kimber Bombs’ (Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee) SHIMMER Tag Team Championship. The challengers looked fine, but never felt like they had a real chance here and as expected the Bombs retained with another cheap shot with the belts.
Afterwards things got interesting, as Slap Happy and WDSS came out to surround the Bombs and inform them that the consequences of all their recent tainted victories would be an elimination match at Volume 84 against both of them plus Balespin. The build might have become a bit predictable, but that’s not an issue when done well and at this point it looked like all of the four teams had at least some chance of winning the elimination match.
Kellie Skater was given another tough challenge to overcome, and Ryo Mizunami was given another opponent she could tear the house down with. Which they did. Two complete pros having a great match.
Building off the events of the earlier taping, Viper challenged Madison Eagles for the SHIMMER Championship. This should have started molten, and looked like it was going to when Eagles tried to rush Viper, but the ref repeatedly held her back until she turned her head and Viper got the jump on her, deflating the crowd. Viper surviving Eagles’ flurry then establishing control would have worked better, and wouldn’t have made Madsion look stupid.
They got into gear quickly after that though, and had a good back and forth match with Madison constantly trying to find a way to combat Viper’s size and a concerted attack on Madison’s weak knee. Viper still wasn’t quite up to the reputation that proceeded her, but came across as a threat and held up her end of the main event. Madison toughed out the challenge and retained her title.
After the match Madison was slumped against the ropes calling for someone to help her out of the ring and to the back. It seemed like it could have either been selling Viper’s gameplan or a legit problem with the knee. Given the story of the rest of the weekend combined with the recent unfortunate news that Madison needs knee surgery and will be out of action for a year, it was probably both.
There were a couple of hiccups here and there, but overall these were two shows well up to Shimmer’s usual standards of excellence. I had a great time.
Day 3 thoughts to follow.