June 24, 2016 in Chicago, IL
This was both Shimmer’s first show at Logan Square and the first time they’ve run a Friday night show to start the weekend. Logan Square Auditorium is a very different atmosphere than the Berwyn Eagles Club, but I liked the venue overall and was glad to see a decent crowd for those events at the new location. Having slightly more room for the merchandise tables was particularly nice.
There was a fair bit of anticipation for this weekend due to a number of debuts. Add in several regulars missing the tapings for various reasons and there was significant potential for some new breakout stars.
Nixon Newell is a natural underdog and debuting her against uber-heel Veda Scott guaranteed her a chance to win the crowd right away. She did so, looking good despite a loss and making an impression that would last the weekend. Veda keeps improving in the ring, and really knows how to work up the crowd. After the heat she generated last tapings showing sympathy for referee Andy Long he was assigned all her matches this weekend. I understand capitalizing on opportunities, but the fact that Shimmer has a ref that that is never shown to be crooked in any way yet gets more boos than most the heels on the roster is a problem, not something that should be emphasized.
One of the biggest debuts for the weekend was next as Shayna Baszler wrestled in Shimmer for the first time against Rhia O’Reilly. Shayna seems to have transitioned well into the particularities of pro-wrestling while still keeping an MMA based style. It reminds me of the style Timothy Thatcher, Drew Gulak, and others have been spotlighting in Evolve. She has an edge to her character too and showed a lot of charisma. It all combined to make her seem a dominant force right off the bat. Rhia is always solid in the ring and was a great choice as a first test for Shayna. Rhia would go on to have several more high profile opponents over the course of the weekend.
Several interesting aspects were woven into one 4-way match. Lufisto and Vanessa Kraven eventually lost all patience with each other and brawled to the back. Shazza McKenzie got to show an extra level of resiliency by lasting a while after that against top of the card mainstay Kellie Skater. Good action throughout this.
Another debut saw Viper make an immediate impact against Jessica Havok. This was an ok power match meant to emphasize Viper’s strength, but from what I understand (and saw later) what makes her unique is her agility for her size, which wasn’t much on display here. Havok’s so big Viper’s power moves didn’t come off crisply, which hurt the match a bit. Still, the main purpose of making her an immediate threat by defeating an established monster like Havok was achieved.
With Cheerleader Melissa missing her first set of Shimmer tapings ever due to Lucha Underground tapings, Melanie Cruise was teamed up with newly turned Yumi Ohka in her stead. They had phenomenal chemistry as a team and I actually prefer this pairing slightly over Ohka & Melissa. Here they faced the ridiculously named new team of Flying High WDSS (Mia Yim & Kay Lee Ray).
The team name and new music essentially gave away the finish, but this was a great little match none-the-less. Ohka and Cruise’s excellent heel work agitated the crowd well and Yim and KLR are both natural babyfaces. The latter’s quick tag / jumping in and out over the top ropes sequence in particular was a nice touch to show them being on the same wavelength in a cool and unique way. Strong win for WDSS in their first teaming.
The fourth, final, and biggest debut of the night saw JWP Openweight Champion Arisa Nakajima face former Shimmer Champion Nicole Matthews. At first it seemed a lot of the crowd didn’t know Arisa or the level of this matchup. Nicole tried to cover and emphasize its importance by jumping on a fan who referred to it as a “midcard match,” but her protests about that rang a bit hollow considering it was inexplicably placed smack dab in the middle of the card. I appreciate her effort there but wish she had talked up Arisa’s reputation a bit more to get the point across.
So the initial heat wasn’t really as high as it should have been for a matchup of this caliber, but it didn’t matter by the end as Arisa’s work eventually won everyone over and the victory over a former Shimmer champ in her debut conveyed what Nicole had been trying to. Great work by both. Arisa’s a favorite of mine and it was wonderful to see her come over to the states and wrestle in Shimmer.
I’d guess KC Spinelli got the match originally intended for the injured Kellyanne English against Ryo Mizunami. If so, she certainly made the most of the opportunity. She looked better than ever here, keeping pace with the more experienced Mizunami. Speaking of which, Mizunami is on a completely different level than her last appearances in Shimmer. I got a taste of this during a trip to Japan last December, and was extremely excited when she was announced for Shimmer. Her charisma is amazing, and she makes use of little mannerisms combined with a high level of energy to really connect with the crowd and fire them up (seemingly) effortlessly. She was pitch perfect all weekend and it was great to see her back.
Nicole Savoy defended her Heart of Shimmer Championship against Crazy Mary Dobson, who was likely filling in here in place of Candice LeRae (out for the weekend with a concussion). Savoy’s heel work keeps improving, as she’s more and more able to sustain boos from the crowd despite how great she is in the ring being appreciated by most of them. Crazy Mary was a perfect opponent in that respect, as the crowd always adores her. This was decent, but held back a little by the fact that Mary never seemed a credible threat to take the title. The momentum she had from upsetting Saraya Knight at the fall tapings was gone due to her early exit from the Heart of Shimmer tournament in April.
Slap Happy (Heidi Lovelace and Evie) received the shot at the Shimmer Tag Team Championship against the Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee and Cherry Bomb) they earned by winning a number one contenders mini-tournament during the fall. Both teams fit their roles exactly, from Cherry’s voice and the Bombs cheating antagonizing the crowd to Heidi and Evie being the perfect competitors for the crowd to get behind. Lots of good action leading to the Bombs infuriating the audience by retaining with a belt shot. This would set up future developments later in the weekend.
There isn’t anyone in wrestling right now with more command of their character than Courtney Rush (and only Dalton Castle and Su Yung even really come close). Her mannerisms are appropriately creepy and intimidating, and she blends it all seamlessly with her ring work. She was pushed heavily during the fall tapings and it was no surprise when she was announced as Madison Eagles’ next challenger for the Shimmer Championship.
Madison stopped in front of me while walking around the ring to confess she was “a little bit scared about this one.” It was a great nod to the imposing and unsettling nature of Courtney’s character, which Madison continued at the beginning of the match by making a cross out of two of her trademark forks. I’ve heard some weird chants before, but “The Power of Christ Compels You” is a new one. Courtney laughed it off, chased Madison outside, then licked the “cross.” Madison responded with a huge kick to the head, then things got REALLY odd/fun.
Madison went under the ring and took out two containers of SALT, and poured them completely around the ring to form a barrier to keep demons out. Rush sold getting “burned” every time she tried to touch the ropes/get back into the ring. But as the ref reached around 7 on the count he got too close to the edge and “broke the barrier,” allowing Rush back inside. Absurd, but done perfectly and highly amusing. This was just the right amount of humorous proceedings to start the match, and it all stemmed directly from Rush’s current character and still centered around Eagles trying to win. From there they had a solid, hard-hitting main event that Eagles won in decisive fashion.
But we weren’t quite done yet. As Eagles went to leave ringside, Arisa came back out with the JWP title over her shoulder and gave Madison a little bump while smiling slyly. They both got back in the ring, raised their titles at each other, then shook hands in a show of mutual respect. The crowd picked up on this as a huge development and there was a lot of buzz about a potential match between the two as everyone exited. Eagles vs Arisa is the match I most hoped for when Nakajima was announced, so I was thrilled with this end to the taping.
Fun start to the weekend. 🙂
Day 2 and 3 thoughts to follow.