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Reviews Wrestling

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.

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

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/ .

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Welcome to Shimmer!

Between Shimmer’s recent 10th Anniversary weekend and more and more Shimmer regulars showing up on NXT I thought this would be a good time to do a quick spotlight on some shows that are good jumping on points for new viewers to check out this amazing promotion. You really can’t go wrong with any of the Shimmer library, and there’s MANY more volumes I could point to, but here are just a few particularly impressive shows to start with.

All three (and many more) are available for purchase at Shimmer’s website.

 

Edit 7/14/17: It’s been wonderful to continue to see some of the incredible athletes from Shimmer get opportunities in WWE/NXT. I’ve updated this article with notes as indicated to point out appearances of more talent that has debuted since I wrote this, including numerous wrestlers who are part of the Mae Young Classic.

 

Volume 44

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Why it’s great in general: The undercard has a lot of interesting, strong match ups including Serena Deeb vs. Yumi Ohka, Jessie McKay vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto, Athena vs. Mercedes Martinez, etc. The top four matches are all great and wrap up several ongoing angles while setting up a couple intriguing new ones. At the very top the most successful tag team in Shimmer’s history gets a chance to regain their titles, and Cheerleader Melissa gets a long awaited second title match against Madison Eagles.

Why it’s good for new viewers: I’ll admit this one is a little odd, as again it features the end of several ongoing angles. But the background is well explained in each case, and the payoffs really do work well even standing on their own, making this a really strong show. The big draw to NXT/WWE viewers will be Britani Knight (Paige) facing her mother Sweet Saraya Knight in Britani’s last Shimmer match. Jessie McKay (Billie Kay), Leva Bates (Blue Pants), Serena Deeb (Serena), Kana (Asuka), Davina Rose (Bayley), and Athena (Ember Moon) also all appear on this volume.

Full card:

  1. Kellie Skater vs. Davina Rose
  2. Taylor Made vs. Veda Scott
  3. Tomoka Nakagawa vs. Kalamity
  4. Nevaeh and Sassy Stephie vs. Ashley Lane and Mia Yim
  5. Serena Deeb vs. Yumi Ohka
  6. Allison Danger, Christina Von Eerie, Leva Bates and MsChif vs. Bonesaw, She Nay Nay, Melanie Cruise and Mena Libra
  7. Jessie McKay vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto
  8. Sara Del Rey vs. Courtney Rush
  9. Athena vs. Mercedes Martinez
  10. Kana vs. Lufisto
  11. Britani Knight vs. Saraya Knight
  12. Shimmer Tag Team Title Match: Ayumi Kurihara and Ayako Hamada (c) vs The Canadian Ninjas (Potia Perez and Nicole Matthews)
  13. Shimmer Title Match: Madison Eagles (c) vs. Cheerleader Melissa

 

Edit 7/14/17: Mae Young Classic participant Mia Yim shows up here, although she’s gets much more of a chance to shine on a show I spotlight later.

 

Volume 50

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Why it’s great in general: Volume 50 has a nice variety of matches that do a good job of showcasing what Shimmer has to offer. The main event features a lot of the biggest stars at the time in a match that both pays tribute to Shimmer history and expertly weaves in several ongoing stories. In addition the co-main event is an amazing match between Japanese superstars Ayako Hamada and Kana, which is my personal all time favorite match in Shimmer (and which I talk about in depth here).

Why it’s good for new viewers: This is another good spotlight for several wrestlers currently appearing on NXT, including signees and enhancement talent, so would be nice for people who’ve seen them there and are looking to check out their previous work. Kana (Asuka), Davina Rose (Bayley), Athena (Ember Moon), Leva Bates (Blue Pants), and Shazza McKenzie all appear on this volume. And again with the two spectacular main events and an undercard filled with interesting match ups this show is a nice snapshot of what Shimmer is.

Full card:

  1. Veda Scott vs. Miss Natural
  2. Shazza McKenzie vs. Santana Garrett
  3. Sassy Stephie vs. Su Yung
  4. Taylor Made vs. Courtney Rush
  5. Cherry Bomb vs. Christina Von Eerie vs. Kalamity vs. Ryo Mizunami
  6. Rhia O’Reilly vs. Davina Rose
  7. Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. Melanie Cruise
  8. Athena vs. Tomoka Nakagawa
  9. Yumi Ohka vs. Kellie Skater
  10. Ayako Hamada vs. Kana
  11. Elimination Match: Allison Danger, Leva Bates, Cheerleader Melissa, Lufisto and MsChif vs. Saraya Knight, Mercedes Martinez, Lexie Fyfe, Portia Perez and Nicole Matthews.

 

Edit 7/14/17: Mae Young Classic participants Mercedes Martinez and Santana Garrett appear on this show.

 

Volume 67

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Why it’s great in general: Volume 67 is possibly the best overall show in Shimmer history. Two of the greatest wrestlers in the world face in the main event as Kana gets her first (and only) shot at the Shimmer Championship, and the undercard is just as impressive. Rising star Nicole Savoy makes her debut here, Evie and Kay Lee Ray have an amazing contest, there’s a mind-blowingly great Joshi 6-woman tag (more on that here), Ozaki and Saraya beat each other senseless, Eagles and Matthews continue their “friendly” rivalry, and much more. Great stuff from start to finish, and a nice variety of matches and styles.

Check out my full show review here.

 

Why it’s good for new viewers: Besides featuring the best Shimmer has to offer, this show sets up a lot of angles for the next several dvds. It’s the perfect spot to jump on and watch forward to catch up to the most recent volumes or just to see a lot of the current roster and what Shimmer is like at present.

 

Full card:

  1. The Kimber Bombs (Cherry Bomb and Kimber Lee) vs. KC Cassidy and Bambi Hall
  2. Heidi Lovelace vs. Nicole Savoy
  3. Crazy Mary Dobson vs. Sassie Stephie
  4. Athena vs. Nikki Storm
  5. Portia Perez vs. Courtney Rush
  6. Nevaeh vs. Jenny Rose
  7. Mayumi Ozaki vs. Saraya Knight
  8. Evie vs. Kay Lee Ray
  9. Lufisto vs. Rhia O’Reilly
  10. Nicole Matthews vs. Madison Eagles
  11. 3G and Mia Yim vs Tsukasa Fujimoto, Kaori Yoneyama and Akino
  12. Shimmer Title Match: Cheerleader Melissa (c) vs. Kana

 

Edit 7/14/17: This is a particularly great show for those wanting to check out a bunch of the new faces in NXT and the Mae Young Classic, often against each other. Kimber Lee (Abbey Laith) and KC Cassiday (Peyton Royce) face of on opposite sides of the opening tag match. Nicole Savoy makes her Shimmer debut against Heidi Lovelace (Ruby Riot). Athena (Ember Moon) faces Nikki Storm (Nikki Cross). Evie (Dakota Kai) and Kay Lee Ray tear the house down.  In addition to all of that Crazy Mary (Sarah Logan) appears, and Mia Yim and Kana (Asuka) are in two of my favorite matches in all of Shimmer history.

 

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——-

Again this is just a small sample of the incredible wrestling Shimmer has put out. Check out more of my thoughts on some of Shimmer’s best matches, and a live perspective on the 10th Anniversary shows.

Again, all currently available Shimmer dvds can be purchased here.

Categories
Art Wrestling

“Framed” T-Shirt Tutorial

I have a fondness for t-shirts of all kinds of artistic directions, from pop culture to abstract imagery to designs featuring my favorite pro-wrestlers. Of course I can only wear so many shirts, some no longer fit, and some I hesitate to wear because I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to get them signed, etc. A few years back I came across a great idea for turning such t-shirts into wall art using canvas stretchers. I loved the results and it’s become a hobby of mine, and made several “framed” t-shirts to adorn my walls.

For anyone who may be interested I thought I’d share how, demonstrating with a fun design I picked up to help Cherry Bomb with medical expenses from a recent shoulder injury (which she is thankfully recovering well from), and was lucky enough to get signed at the recent Shimmer tapings. The process is straightforward, just takes a little patience … and a staple gun.

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Materials needed:

  • 4 canvas stretchers (2 of each required length)
  • staple gun
  • staples (I use 3/8″)
  • scissors
  • t-shirt to be framed (obviously 😉 )

Measure the design ahead of time to figure out what size rectangle you’ll need to create. Keep in mind the neck and sleeves of the shirt will limit the amount of border you can have around the design. For this shirt I used 17″ x 14″, so I purchased two canvas stretchers of each length and assembled them together.

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The first pic above is the frame laid over the image, just for reference. Notice it partially covers the image this way, which is fine since the frame is actually placed on the other side of the shirt and the edges of the shirt wrapped around the frame (as shown in the second pic).

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Once the shirt is arranged on the frame to your liking start by stapling the middle of each stretcher. This is to get things in general position and the shirt does not have to be pulled taut here.

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The corners are next. Pull on the corner from behind a bit and flip back and forth to the image side to make sure the image is positioned how you want. Pinch the material at the corner and staple either side. Then flatten or fold the pinched material and staple it down.

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Center staples and all four corners done.

Once the corners are done the rest is simple, but requires care. Each side needs to be completely stapled down, and this is where the material needs to be pulled taught each time. Be sure to constantly check the image side to be sure you’re not distorting or tilting the image as you do so. This is especially important if the design has straight horizontal or vertical lines – it’s easy to turn them curvy if you’re not careful.

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Once all four sides are stapled just cut away the extra material.

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And done. Easy way to turned loved shirts into a kind of keepsake, and fun to decorate with. 🙂

The final result:

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Thanks for checking this out. Hope it proves helpful.

Categories
Wrestling

The Ninja We Love to Hate: Being a Fan of Portia Perez

A strong wrestling promotion thrives not only on great in-ring action, but just as much on story progression and compelling heroes (faces) and villains (heels). Shimmer has always excelled in all of these respects, and in particular has featured some amazing heels that rile the crowd up to perfection. Without question, the best heel in Shimmer history is… Sweet Saraya Knight. But right behind her is Portia Perez, an incredible Shimmer mainstay who unexpectedly announced her retirement due to injury during the October 2015 tapings.

Portia’s been an integral part of Shimmer since close to the beginning, making her main show debut on volume 7. She came in as a plucky underdog babyface and teamed with Serena Deeb. It didn’t take long to abandon that approach, as in her very next match (on volume 9 against Josie) she was showing flashes of the charisma she’d become known for, infuriating fans, and using a chain behind the ref’s back to win. Despite her small size, youthful appearance, and less than impressive win-loss record early on, Portia’s natural ability to turn the crowd against her always made a win over her mean something for her opponent.

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While Portia was an accomplished singles competitor, she will perhaps best be remembered for her partnership with Nicole Matthews. The Canadian Ninjas are the benchmark against which all other tag teams in Shimmer are measured. They complimented and played off each other perfectly, and are currently the only two time tag team champions (as a unit) in Shimmer history. The Ninja’s greatest rivals were likely 3G (Kellie Skater and Tomoka Nakagawa), and the wars between the four of them were a sight to behold. My personal favorite of the Ninjas’ matches was an amazing contest against Ray and Leon, which I was lucky enough to get to see live.

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Portia’s individual talent for getting under people’s skin of course extended to her opponents, and she had a number of heated feuds over the years. These included taking issue with Serena Deeb returning from her time in the WWE, and making the rather huge mistakes of angering, and then mocking, Jessica Havok. Both were intense stories with logical issues and Portia fanned the flames expertly until the fans were dying for her opponent to get their hands on her (which they eventually did of course).

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The remains of Portia are somewhere under that pile.

But the longest and perhaps most memorable of Portia’s feuds was against Allison Danger, “highlighted” by Portia repeated attacking Danger’s previously injured collarbone, a Last Woman Standing match, and Portia threatening a pregnant Danger during an in-ring interview. Tension was kept up during Danger’s retirement role as a Shimmer authority figure and the feud was revisited a bit for Portia’s farewell.

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Portia announced her retirement on Saturday of Shimmer’s 10th Anniversary weekend, staying full heel and blaming the fans. Danger came out, pointed out that she had the ability to decide what Portia’s last match would be, and set up an eight-woman tag for the main event of Sunday’s tapings. It was a fun affair, serving both as a farewell to Portia and a celebration of Shimmer’s anniversary, with surprise appearances by the retired participants of Shimmer’s first main event (Dazee Haze and Lacey), as well as the involvement of Ninja rivals 3G (with the retired Nakagawa returning to second her former teammate).

After a fitting end that saw Portia’s attempt at cheating backfire to cost her the match, she had an (intentionally) awkward exchange with Danger and then Portia gave a retirement speech consisting of “I hate you all. Now I’m leaving.” It was fitting, if a tad disappointing. I personally wish she had let the kayfabe up a little here for her goodbye, but I understand the desire to perform to the bitter end and it was of course her choice. She went out of Shimmer as she spent her career – the consummate agitator.

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“You know this is awkward, right?”

Portia’s contributions to Shimmer did not stop in the ring. Starting around volume 36 she joined Dave Prazak during matches to provide color commentary, and the two became my favorite pair in short order. Their chemistry and banter is pitch perfect, and Portia knows the exact amount to scale back her character so her jibes at the faces never take away from the match or angle she’s trying to get over. While she’ll be missed in the ring, it’s my hope that she’ll continue to be involved in commentary and lend her unique and wonderful skills to enhancing the Shimmer product for a long time to come.

But either way always remember: Portia Hates Us.

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Shimmer Weekend October 2015: Day 2 Live Thoughts

October 11, 2015 in Berwyn, IL

Day 2 of Shimmer’s 10th Anniversary weekend was Sunday October 11 and it continued right where Saturday left off, providing more surprises, fun, and great wrestling. Before any action the Canadian Ninjas came out and hilariously surveyed the crowd for potential partners for Portia’s last match. Later an amusing series of vignettes was played showing some of the efforts of both captains gathering members. The full teams were kept secret until the match though.

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Godzilla wins!

The compressed schedule on Sat forced one match to be skipped for time, so the tapings started with the delayed match being taped for volume 77. It was Thunderkitty vs Hiroyo Matsumoto. A lighter match with comedic overtones that still had solid action. Kitty tried to claim Hiroyo’s Godzilla mask, which didn’t end to well for Granite Cheesecake (ugh) as the Lady Destroyer (much better) lived up to her nickname and won with the backdrop driver.

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MATSUMOTO! HIROYO! DESTROY!

Volume 78 proper got underway with a spotlight on two newer talents in Solo Darling vs Amanda Rodriguez, followed by a couple of emphatic wins for mainstays Lufisto and Allysin Kay (over Veda Scott and Shazza McKenzie, respectively). The matches were fine and featured interesting style pairings.

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Leva Bates was back in full cosplay for her match with Rhia O’Reilly, portraying Batman’s most enigmatic foe. She posed several riddles throughout the match, including an amusing spot where Rhia was tied up in a submission hold and thought the answer to “What has hands but can’t clap?” was “me!” This was a bit long for what it was, and Leva needed to be louder on the riddles and answers to make it work to its full potential. Still, it was a cute idea for a comedic match and was fun overall.

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The finals of the tag tourney to name number one contenders was excellent, with Slap Happy (Evie and Heidi Lovelace) overcoming Vanessa Kraven and Tessa Blanchard to earn a shot at the Kimber Bombs once Cherry’s healthy. On top of the great in ring action, Kraven’s knowing indulgence of Tessa’s posturing and bossiness is pitch perfect and highly entertaining. The slowly building tension and eventual feud should be a joy to watch unfold. Slap Happy (how I love the team but hate the name) vs the Bombs will be great too.

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Speaking of the Bombs, Kimber Lee had the unenviable task of facing Jessica Havok. Another strong showing for Lee, and Havok is just perfect in her role. Hard hitting matched expected from these two, along with the also expected light comedy from both Kimber and Cherry (on the outside). Havok terrifies Cherry from ringside and, left without distractions, finishes Kimber with a chokeslam.

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Kimber’s quite happy… before her opponent is announced.
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Cherry’s making a poor decision.

Newcomers Liberty and Kellyanne English both looked great facing Courtney Rush and Kay Lee Ray, respectively. English in particular made quite an impression on the Shimmer faithful over the weekend. And allow me to once again profess my adoration for Rush’s new gimmick and the work she did with it. Fantastic reinvention of herself and there’s tons of potential there.

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Nicole Matthews and Mia Yim had a great contest that was matched in intensity by the crowd’s heckling of Matthews. She hit the roof over “Where’s your title?” and “Former champ” chants and Mia played along and egged her on exquisitely.

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Continuing the angle from 76-77 of Yumi Ohka’s heel turn and abuse of Makoto, Ohka came out with new ally Cheerleader Melissa to face Makoto and Hiroyo Matsumoto. Yumi was clearing having a blast with her new character: copious use of the whip she brought to the ring, taunting, booing the fans on her way out, etc. She and Melissa make a phenomenal team.

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The reffing was frustrating (do not STARE at the heels when they’re cheating, and give some sort or reason for not DQing them when/if they grab you!!!), but a very good match otherwise which firmly established Ohka and Melissa as a dominate, reviled tag team. Makoto took her second Kudo Driver of the weekend (!) to end this one, and again looked strong despite the losses given the level of her opponents and partner.

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In the semi-main spot Sonoko Kato faced Kellie Skater. This was as good as would be expected from two top tier athletes. Lots of back and forth momentum swings and Skater gets a huge win to keep her near the top of the contenders list.

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Madison Eagles’ first Shimmer title defense was the main event of volume 78. Nicole Savoy has been incredible in her Shimmer appearances, and her two big victories on Sat leading to a title shot here was a wonderful way to capitalize on her momentum.

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The match 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 found parts extremely reminiscent of Timothy Thatcher vs Zach Sabre Jr from Evolve 47, another fantastic match. This was definitely one of the weekend’s highlights.

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After intermission volume 79 opened with Shimmer’s throwback wrestler facing another old style character in Charlie Chaplin. Leva’s costume and act were spot on and Thunderkitty’s swooning was highly amusing. This was kept short and sweet and started the volume off well.

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A couple of establishing victories followed, as Kraven continued to be built up as a singles threat with a win over Lufisto and Makoto got the first win of her debut weekend against Marti Belle. Marti’s temper tantrum over Makoto’s streamers was an added bonus.

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Chokebomb for the win.
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“I SAID NO STREAMERS!”
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Victory!

Some decent matches with foregone conclusions were next as new wrestlers and teams faced more established stars. Jessica Havok beat Sammi Baynz, Yumi Ohka and Cheerleader Melissa continued their partnership and defeated KC Spinelli and Xandra Bale, and Kay Lee Ray defeated Liberty. Good weekend for all of the newcomers overall.

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The next four-way match was kind of crazy. The crowd had been on Andy Long’s back all weekend as usual, and it was getting worse thanks to some particularly poor officiating in tag matches. Veda Scott had been riling people up by complaining that us booing her made her heart hurt. During the intros here Veda expertly exploited both things, giving Andy a hug during boos and generating an insane level of heat. The fired up crowd was now fully invested, and kept up the boos as Allysin Kay was introduced and managed to get even louder with cheers for Shazza McKenzie and Mia Yim. They made the most of the atmosphere and the match was a blast. The crowd remained super-hot for the rest of the day.

Kellyanne English continued her impressive debut weekend in a competitive loss to Heidi Lovelace. Then in a brutal match that ranged all over the arena (someone really has to come up with something better than “ref’s discretion” to explain why they start counting people out and then stop for 10 minutes before continuing to count whereever they left off), Crazy Mary Dobson scored the upset of the weekend over Saraya Knight. I predict severe fallout from that.

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Four matches and four international superstars as opponents for Nicole Savoy makes me VERY happy. For volume 79 she faced her second Joshi opponent for the weekend in Sonoko Kato. As with both athletes other matches this was excellent. I’m amazed at the skill and poise Savoy has at this early point in her career. Having Kato in Shimmer was a great treat and I really hope she returns.

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Rhia O’Reilly tried, but her semi-main appearance ended up as just another victim of Godzilla’s path of destruction.

Main event time and Shimmer’s last match for Portia Perez. Danger (as non-wrestling captain of the opposing team) brought out Madison Eagles and Lexie Fyfe to start her team. The first shock of the match was next as Kellie Skater came out… accompanied by recently retired 3G partner Tomoka Nakagawa !!! Nice! 🙂 Tomoka was in street clothes and serving as a second for the team. Another surprise as the final member of Danger’s team was Tomoka’s other tag team champion partner and one half of the very first Shimmer’s main event, Daizee Haze (who has been retired / on hiatus for quite a while)!

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The Ninjas had a counter surprise in the form of the other half of Shimmer’s first main event (and also long retired) Lacey! Tag champion Kimber Lee rounded out Portia’s team, with Cherry Bomb seconding them. This was a fun spectacle, focusing more on antics and personalities than all out action (and rightfully so given Portia’s condition and the number of regularly inactive wrestlers involved). Portia appeared to sneak a win with illegal leverage, but the refs restarted the match and Daizee rolled Portia up for the win in a fitting finale for one of Shimmer’s best heels.

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Portia and Danger exchanged awkward stares and words after the match, and then Portia gave a retirement speech consisting of “I hate you all. Now I’m leaving.” It was fitting, if disappointing. I understand the desire to kayfabe to the bitter end and it’s her choice, but I personally wish she had let it up a bit during the Q&A on sat and here for her goodbye.

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“You know this is awkward, right?”

As usual I had a wonderful time at Shimmer, and the weekend was a fantastic celebration of its 10th anniversary. Here’s to ten more years! 🙂

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Pic with (most of) the Joshi contingent for the weekend.
Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Shimmer Weekend October 2015: Day 1 Live Thoughts

October 10, 2015 in Berwyn, IL

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This October’s Shimmer weekend was an even bigger deal than usual, as it fell on Shimmer’s 10th Anniversary. It’s been a great ten years and volumes 76-79 were a wonderful celebration of that, presenting numerous surprises, special events, and of course phenomenal wrestling.

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Saturday started with volume 76 and a battle royal to determine the number one contender to Nicole Matthews’ Shimmer title. This is only the second battle royal in Shimmer and a nice treat to open the weekend. Top contender Madison Eagles had a strong showing, but was sabotaged by the champion and her partner Portia Perez (a lot more on her to come). Cheerleader Melissa looked to have won, but Candice LeRae returned from the outside (she had gone through the middle ropes, not over the top) for the surprise win. Great use of the format to tell several stories and vault someone new into title contention.

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Sonoko Kato had a great debut weekend and left a strong impression.

The Joshi contingent this time consisted of two returns and two debuts. Though new to Shimmer, Sonoko Kato is a twenty year veteran and it was wonderful to see her come to the US. For volume 76 she faced the always game Kimber Lee in a fun match that saw Kato jawing with Cherry Bomb on the outside in addition to the excellent in ring action. Was nice to see Cherry, who was recovering from surgery for a collarbone injury just two weeks prior. She was in good spirits and served as a manager for her tag team champion partner throughout the weekend.

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Glad to get to see Cherry Bomb and that her recovery is going well.

I adore Courtney Rush’s new look and gimmick. She never really connected for me previously, but her total commitment to the vicious, crazy edge of her new character is absolutely captivating. She had a good match with Shazza McKenzie to establish it.

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Welcome to crazytown.

Portia Perez came out for an interview and announced her retirement due to needing neck surgery. It was a bit odd as she never broke out of her heel character and at first I thought it was part angle. Danger came out and set up an eight-woman tag as Portia’s final match to main event volume 79.

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Kellyanne English had an impressive little match with Mia Yim in Kellyanne’s debut match. She looked great all weekend and would be a wonderful regular addition to the roster.

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Another debut saw Makoto facing a fellow Joshi talent in the returning Yumi Ohka. Makoto looked good in the somewhat overmatched underdog role before falling to the dominant Ohka, who was really going after the younger talent and showing a bit of a vicious streak.

Hiroyo Matsumoto returned to singles action in Shimmer after being out with injury to face up and comer Nicole Savoy in the first dream match for me of the weekend. Fantastic contest that skyrocketed Savoy up the card when she achieved a rare pinfall on the Lady Destroyer.

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The rest of the undercard was as impressive as the matches I’ve spotlighted, featuring great wrestlers and interesting matchups: Lufisto vs Taylor Made, Cheerleader Melissa vs Crazy Mary Dobson, and Kellie Skater vs Kay Lee Ray. A mini-tournament to determine number one contenders to the tag team titles (which weren’t being defended due to Cherry’s injury) was also started with Slap Happy (Heidi Lovelace and Evie) vs Saraya Knight and Rhia O-Reilly.

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LeRae made good use of the main event opportunity resulting from the earlier battle royal, looking great despite a losing effort against Matthews. A post match attack by the Ninjas lead to Eagles making the save and a big pull apart brawl. Matthews vs Eagles for the championship was set for volume 77’s main event.

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Due to scheduling issues saturday’s tapings began and ended early, so there was no intermission between volumes. Interesting start for volume 77, as wrestlers who didn’t appear outside of the battle royal on 76 made up 5 of the 6 competitors in the first three matches. Shows the depth of talent assembled for the weekend. Veda Scott vs KC Spinelli, Saraya Knight vs Xandra Bale, and Liberty vs Sami Baynz (both debuting) were all decent contests telling different stories, and built things up a bit for some mayhem in the way of a fun six-woman match with Kay Lee Ray, Allysin Kay, Candice LeRae, Kellie Skater, Marti Belle and Sonoko Kato.

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Courtney Rush continued her winning ways, but she didn’t intimidate Crazy Mary Dobson much. Kimber Lee snuck out a victory against one half of her potential future tag team challengers in Heidi Lovelace after Cherry faked aggravating her injury to distract the ref. Slap Happy’s opponents for the next day in the mini-tag tourney were set as Vanessa Kraven and Tessa Blanchard defeated the Lucha Sisters (Mia Yim and Leva Bates). Tessa’s posturing and Kraven’s reactions were great. It’s going to be glorious when Kraven eventually gets sick of Tessa and squashes her like a bug.

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In another dream match for me Jessica Havok faced Yumi Ohka. It was a great, hard-hitting affair. Ohka showed some edge again and frequently bent the rules trying to get an advantage over the larger Havok. Jessica eventually caught her in the chokeslam for a big victory.

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Makoto faced more tough competition in the form of Cheerleader Melissa. She had a good showing but again fell prey to the onslaught of a relentless, more experienced foe. Melissa broke out a rare Kudo Driver to get the victory though. Given the level of her opponents Makoto looked strong despite these defeats. Melissa attacks her after the match and Ohka comes out to “save,” but instead completes her heel turn and helps Melissa destroy Makoto. They leave together in an apparent new alliance.

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Kudo Driver. And that’s it.

In the semi-main spot Nicole Savoy picked up another huge win over Evie in a fantastic back and forth match. Savoy is so “on” right now it’s almost scary and displays instincts far beyond her experience. It was wonderful seeing what she could do over the course of the weekend against high level, veteran opponents. Evie herself is also incredible and I’d love to see these two wrestle again.

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The main event 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.

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After the tapings was a special Fanfest and Q&A held nearby the venue. It was quite nice as there was more time (and space) to meet the wrestlers and get merchandise and pictures. The Q&A would have been a bit smoother with some prepared questions, but it was fun and interesting overall.

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Was great to meet and get a chance to chat with Nicole Savoy. She just keeps getting better and better and is definitely one to watch going forward.

A suitable celebration of the 10th Anniversary of a phenomenal wrestling promotion. And that’s only day 1. 🙂

Day 2 thoughts to follow.

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Photo op with Lady Destroyer Hiroyo Matsumoto, while wearing a shirt of hers designed by a friend of mine.
Categories
Wrestling

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!

Categories
Wrestling

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.
Categories
Japan Reviews Wrestling

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.