Shimmer Weekend November 2016: Day 3 Live Thoughts

November 13, 2016 in Berwyn, IL

After a Friday night show featuring the debuts of Mickie James and Hudson Envy and a Saturday that saw a new Shimmer Champion as well as the debut of Dulce Garcia, Shimmer weekend wrapped up with the taping of Volumes 89 and 90 on Sunday.

I had seen Sonya Strong before at Marvelous USA in Queens, and it was nice to see her get a spot on the pre-show via Rise against Heather Monroe. This was a basic, by-the-numbers encounter with Monroe in the heel role and Strong as a face. Strong was slightly more impressive and I was happy to see here on the main card later.

 

 

In a second Rise pre-show match, Angie Skye faced Kate Carney. This was honestly a bit of a train wreck, with Skye looking a little rusty compared to the last time I saw here and Carney’s timing being extremely off.

 

Volume 89

The main shows started off with Solo Darling vs Cherry Bomb and the Thunderkitty vs Taeler Hendrix rematch stemming from events on Volumes 87 & 88. Cherry stealing Solo’s drink and have a hyper reaction to it (a la Veda Scott on Volume 88) was amusing.

Thunderkitty vs Taeler was similar to their first match, and Thunderkitty’s retribution victory for Taeler’s cheating fell flat due to TK applying her finisher while in the ropes and never breaking as Taeler stumbled out to the center of the ring. Considering, like Dulce and Mickie, Taeler only had two matches for her debut weekend I would have liked different opponents between the two shows.

 

 

Nixon Newell upset LuFisto in a well deserved victory for the youngster. Good dynamic, with LuFisto getting more and more aggressive as her march towards a heel turn continued.

 

 

Another Rise participant got a main card showing as Kennadi Brink faced Mia Yim in a good, back and forth encounter.

 

 

Kimber Lee defeated Samantha Heights in a solid match and a good return for Heights. She had appeared in Shimmer once before as Crazy Mary Dobson’s partner, and returned this time via the Rise seminar. Great to see her back and she was a big crowd favorite here and in her Volume 90 match, which will hopefully lead to her becoming a regular part of the roster.

 

 

BaleSpin (Xandra Bale & KC Spinelli) once again faced The Rejected (Christina Von Eerie & Hudson Envy). This was likely meant to be another chance for the faces to get their hands on the heels who had thus far always gotten the better of them, but as it started with none of the intensity of their first encounter it came off a little less meaningful than it could have been.  The rapid fire nature of Rejected’s tag title match followed by this rematch heavily foreshadowed BaleSpin’s victory as well as the result of the tag title defense later on this volume and BaleSpin’s title shot on  Volume 90. Another team used here against Rejected would have preserved a lot of unpredictability and made the tag division seem much less shallow.

Was happy to see Jessicka Havok and Allysin Kay matched up in a singles contest, as they have great chemistry and their styles are extremely complimentary.

I am totally in favor of Shimmer continuing to have 4-ways on (nearly) every show considering how good they always are. This one featuring Nicole Matthews, Kay Lee Ray, Candice LeRae, and Rhia O’Reilly was no exception, and after good period of back and forth between the four Matthews stole a victory at Rhia’s expense, leading to Saraya storming the ring again to continue her issue with Matthews.

 

 

Also building off of a weekend-long story, Shazza McKenzie and Shayna Baszler had a rematch under no DQ rules. In the early going more use of the stipulation would have been nice, but it picked up as it went along and ended with Shazza overcoming the odds due to mistimed interference by Baszler’s Trifecta teammate Nicole Savoy. As only Shayna’s second loss in Shimmer, this would seem to be aimed towards elevating Shazza in the direction of a Shimmer title shot. Shazza again no sold a lot of leg work done by her MMA star opponent, but while still frustrating it was slightly less noticeable in the context of this match.

This was heated and well worked overall by both competitors leading to a strong finish to their story for the weekend. Shazza also showed incredible heart finishing the match after smacking the back of her head in what looked like a powerbomb reversal gone wrong. Blood was visible in a line down the back of her hair. She required seven staples afterwards and obviously did not wrestle later in the day on Volume 90. Gusty performance and I’m very glad to have heard since that she’s ok.

 

 

Mount Tessa (Vanessa Kraven & Tessa Blanchard with significantly timed new team name) challenged Slap Happy (Evie & Heidi Lovelace) for the SHIMMER Tag Team Championships. I was honestly hoping for the implosion of Kraven and Tessa’s alliance and the beginning of the implied feud to come, but given the earlier signs I wasn’t shocked to see them unseat Slap Happy. I feel things have been drawn out with Tessa and Kraven perhaps a touch too long, but there are great comedic touches in pairing and Tessa doing the “I’M the tag team champions” shtick is pouring fuel on the fire for the crowd turning Kraven face. Good title match.

 

 

Dulce Garcia (Sexy Star) finished up her Shimmer debut weekend with a dream match of sorts against Mercedes Martinez. This was honestly a bit of a styles clash, but still extremely good. Early on Mercedes commented a bit about how fast Garcia was and made “slow down” comments that while in character might have been a legit request. It would have been nice to see Garcia against someone in a similar style that could match her speed (like Kay Lee Ray, etc), but no real complaints about the two opponents chosen for her and the matches produced. Dulce did not get a “please come back” chant, but that was likely due to the crowd not realizing she wouldn’t be wrestling on Volume 90.

 

 

Cat Power had her last match of a strong return weekend challenging Kellie Skater for the SHIMMER Championship in Volume 89’s main event. The pacing felt a little off early on, but it built nicely and ended up another good showing for Cat and solid defense for Kellie.

 

 

 

Volume 90

Sonya Strong, perhaps due to her performance during the pre-show, faced Marti Belle to open the second taping of the day.

In the second match Samantha Heights upset Nevaeh to a nice pop from the crowd. Nevaeh continued to perform in a face role here, but showed some touches of her heel persona. Nevaeh’s well established enough that the losses this weekend won’t hurt her, and in contrast the win was huge for Heights.

 

 

Melanie Cruise continued her seemingly designated role for the weekend of crushing Rise talent against Kiera Hogan. Pretty much a squash. “Hogan” is not a name that needs to be used by anyone in Shimmer.

 

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Leva Bates came out for her match with Cherry Bomb with an E.T. doll and dressed as Eliot to most of the crowd’s delight. The humor and interactions were awkward at first, but smoothed out a lot once Cherry Bomb established control , spoke with the doll, and declared “E.T. wants me to kick his ass!”  Her combination of goofiness with a dangerous edge elevated this considerably.

LuFisto defeated Solo Darling, showing reluctance the longer the match went as she had to get more and more vicious to keep Solo down. After she finally chose to hit the Burning Hammer and pinned Solo she snapped, and just decimated the Sugar Creature to a 50-50 reaction from the crowd. Big payoff to the slow building heel tendencies of Lufisto’s been showing / fighting.

 

 

In what very well might have been the best match of the weekend, Kay Lee Ray and Nixon Newell tore down the house in a FANTASTIC contest. Nixon has looked great in her Shimmer appearances, and KLR is always in the running for MVP of all the Shimmer weekends she’s been a part of. Great pairing and I’d love to see a rematch sometime.

 

 

Mount Tessa (Vanessa Kraven & Tessa Blanchard) defended their newly won SHIMMER Tag Team Championships against BaleSpin (Xandra Bale & KC Spinelli). Would have preferred a different team in the challenger role, as Rejected and BaleSpin trading wins over the course of the weekend being enough to propel each into title contention highlights the current lack of depth in tag division. Match was primarily a backdrop for Kraven & Tessa’s interactions and an establishment victory for the new champs.

 

 

The streak of great 4-ways continued as Mia Yim picked up a win against Allysin Kay, Kimber Lee, and Evie. Allysin and Kimber’s on and off alliance during the match was highly amusing, as was Kimber’s delight in the crowd cheering her by default when chanting “everyone but Allysin.” I personally did not partake – PINKIES UP!

 

 

 

Shayna Baszler bounced back emphatically from her no-DQ loss to Shazza by besting Heidi Lovelace in singles action. Heidi’s a high level competitor to keep Shayna’s continued threat clear, and she always looks strong in defeat. Very good match.

The weekend long issue between Saraya Knight and Nicole Matthews came to an appropriate climax in a Berwyn Bunkhouse Brawl. This was the expected crazy brawl all over the Eagles Club, which ended by TKO when Saraya was hanging Matthews over the ropes and the refs declared the latter couldn’t continue. Shimmer wisely doesn’t do matches like this too often, but they’re very effective when used sparingly. The feud between these two was very well done, with ups and downs over the course of the five shows and a satisfying ending.

 

 

Warning bells of a possible 3S style title reign for Kellie Skater started going off when it became clear Mercedes Martinez would be getting a rematch for the Shimmer Championship to finish Shimmer weekend. Trifecta played the crowd like a fiddle, executing traditional heel interference behind the ref’s back with flawless execution. Obviously Shazza wasn’t available to counter them, but having someone else take issue with Trifecta’s cheating and attempt to come to Kellie’s aid at some point would have been nice. Strong, appropriate main event regardless though, and indeed Mercedes eventually hit the Fisherman’s Buster and regained the title to a chorus of boos.

 

 

I’ve actually seen more criticism of Kellie losing the title “so quickly” than of Mercedes losing it in her first defense. Hazards of being a heel I guess. 😉 But after the match Kellie gave an usual speech that felt like a farewell, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this booking was a way to make sure Kellie received her well deserved reign with the Shimmer belt (as well as underscoring unpredictability in Shimmer and giving Trifecta nuclear heel heat). If this was Skater’s goodbye, it was a hell of a run.

 

——-

Impressive finish to this Shimmer trip, with Volume 90 the best show of the weekend. Fun time as always.

Shimmer Weekend November 2016: Day 2 Live Thoughts

November 12, 2016 in Chicago, IL

Coming off a Friday night show featuring the debuts of Mickie James and Hudson Envy as well as Kellie Skater gaining a pinfall over reigning Shimmer Champion Mercedes Martinez in tag team competition, Shimmer weekend continued with the taping of Volumes 87 and 88 on Saturday.

 

Before the main shows began there was a dark match involving participants of the previous Thursday’s Rise seminar. Kikyo Nakamura & Roni Nicole defeated Arianna & Savannah Evans in a fine match. Kikyo & Roni showed good chemistry as a team and could help flesh out Shimmer’s currently shallow tag division.

 

Volume 87

Veda Scott‘s first match of the weekend opened Volume 87 as she faced one half of the Shimmer Tag Team Champions in Evie. Amusing pre-match moment saw Veda taking one look at returning referee Bryce Remsburg and asking “where’s Andy?” Good opener with Evie firing up the crowd in a win over Veda. I feel Veda’s improved a lot in the ring over the last couple of years and she held her own with Evie nicely here.

 

 

Jessica Havok came out to talk about her tainted loss to Tessa Blanchard on Shimmer 86. Tessa once again over-exaggerated her lack of need of Vanessa Kraven’s help and agreed to a rematch with Kraven banned from ringside for Volume 88.

 

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Taeler Hendrix made her Shimmer debut against Thunderkitty, defeating the wrestler with “over 50 years experience” through nefarious methods. Taeler has a striking look and gear and carries herself such that she was immediately established as a heel. I honestly didn’t think this match came together particularly well, but they told the story they needed to and set up for a rematch with Taeler’s cheating.

 

 

Leva Bates‘ match with Candice LeRae suffered a bit from a large portion of the crowd (including me) not getting the reference to Stranger Things of the character Leva was cosplaying. The telekinesis jokes were understandable regardless though, and with both wrestlers being fan favorites this was fairly well received.

 

 

The Rejected (Christina Von Eerie & Hudson Envy) faced BaleSpin (KC Spinelli & Xandra Bale) as a result of the post-match events following Envy vs Bale from Volume 86. As appropriate for the issues between the two teams BaleSpin forwent their usual entrance to rush the ring and start brawling. Rejected look good as a team and got a definitive victory here to seemingly start to establish them in Shimmer’s tag ranks.

 

 

Rhia O’Reilly continued her momentum from Volume 87 by defeating Cherry Bomb. Rhia and Cherry are two of the most consistent, and perhaps underrated, members of the Shimmer roster. They played off each other well for a solid match.

 

 

Cat Power also built off of her victory the previous night with a hard fought win over Mia Yim. This was one of the best of the day. Mia was impressive as always and Cat really knows how to work against quicker opponents.

 

 

Another big debut for the weekend saw Dulce Garcia (Sexy Star) wrestle in a Shimmer ring for the first time against mainstay LuFisto. Dulce was welcomed by the crowd and an increasingly aggressive Lufisto was a good choice for her initial opponent.

 

 

Shimmer has been doing a good job of putting fun mixes of wrestlers together into 4-way matches, and the first of the weekend saw Shayna Baszler (w/ Nicole Savoy) vs Vanessa Kraven (w/ Tessa Blanchard) vs Kay Lee Ray vs Heidi Lovelace. Amusing prematch moment saw one of MMA’s “Four Horsewomen” Baszler eyeball Tessa over her “Four Horsemen” association via her father. Tessa shied away from Baszler a bit and hid behind Kraven.

Good action all around here, with KLR and Heidi working together at times to counter their larger opponents and Kraven and Baszler showing having a fun “anything you can do…” competition in the middle of the match.  In the end Tessa helped Kraven to victory to both continue to highlight the various elements of their ongoing alliance and also to set up Kraven as a title challenger.

 

 

The crowd was chomping at the bit for unlikely face Saraya Knight to get her hands on Nicole Matthews, and their match here was simply and effectively set up to increase that emotion and build anticipation. This was short and the audience was given just a couple of moments to cheer before  the Kimber Bombs interfered to hand Matthews an opening and the victory. An effective tease of what was to come.

Matthews and the Bombs continue the assault after the match, which prompts Rhia to try the save. Numbers are still against them until Mickie James runs out. While Mickie, Saraya, and Rhia are perhaps the most unlikely alliance in Shimmer history, it’s a nice play off of her match the previous night with Matthews and sets up a big six-woman match for the next volume.

 

 

In the main event of Volume 87,  Mercedes Martinez defended her Shimmer Championship against Kellie Skater. Kellie earned this shot by pinning the champ in tag action at Shimmer 87. As expected from two athletes of their caliber, this was a solid match, but to be honest the crowd was a bit tepid since this really seemed like a foregone conclusion match to establish Mercedes reign. NO ONE expected her to lose the belt in her first defense, regardless of the opponent.

 

 

 

Things did pick up near the end as Shazza McKenzie came out to counter Trifecta’s interference and chased Baszler off with a pipe (swinging it in Baszler’s direction would have been better, but it played well enough). Left alone, Mercedes and Kellie traded finisher attempts until they became intertwined in a small package and rolled around for a LONG time as the crowd waited to see who would get control. Fantastic spot. It ended and a three count was made with some teasing of a double pin, but from my angle Kellie’s shoulders were clearly up and sure enough a NEW Shimmer Champion is announced!

The Shimmer faithful ADORE Kellie Skater and combined with the shock of ending Mercedes’ reign in her first defense the crowd explodes. Huge moment.

 

 

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During intermission the roster photo was taken for the weekend, then the wrestler’s all went out to the merchandise tables as usual to meet the fans and sell t-shirts and photos. Always a great atmosphere.

 

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WDSS!

 

Volume 88

 

Marti Belle returned to Shimmer after missing the June tapings and defeated KC Spinelli in the opening match of Volume 88.

Jessicka Havok’s rematch with Tessa Blanchard was next, and as expected it came down to the “banned from ringside” Kraven sneaking out anyway to give Tessa the victory (in this case by hitting Havok with a spare turnbuckle part). I like the dynamic between Tessa and Kraven, but that particular part of it is honestly getting old. Match was fine though and got the point across.

 

 

The middle of the show featured Mia Yim vs a returning NevaehAllysin Kay vs Candice LeRae, and Veda Scott vs Solo Darling. All were fine for what they were, with reasonable action and obvious outcomes. Nevaeh got an unusual face reaction for her return, and credit to both her and Mia for going with it and doing a mutual respect handshake after the match. Allysin Kay has become so crisp and smooth in the ring and is fully in command of her character, so it’s great to see her remaining a regular participant in Shimmer. Solo Darling’s act isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it amuses most of the audience and her hiding from Veda in the front row here got a good reaction.

 

 

Mercedes Martinez snapped back after her title loss to Skater by defeating Nixon Newell in an excellent match. Mercedes did a good job playing off the crowd’s taunting chants of “where’s your title?” “Kellie’s got it.” Great showing for Newell, who plays the underdog role wonderfully. This may have been my favorite of the day.

 

 

The Rejected’s (Christina Von Eerie & Hudson Envy) victory over BaleSpin was apparently enough to earn them a shot at Slap Happy (Evie & Heidi Lovelace) for the SHIMMER Tag Team Championships. Really wish they had at least one more victory first. Just seemed way too soon for this as one win (over a team with only one win in Shimmer none-the-less) shouldn’t earn a title match.

That said, either way I was happy to see these teams face off, and this was a very good match with the Rejected given the champs a lot of trouble before Slap Happy persevered and retained.

 

 

Building off of Shazza McKenzie chasing Shayna Baszler away during Mercedes’ title defense on Volume 87, the two faced off in a grudge match of sorts. Baszler is amazing for her level of experience. Shazza looked good against her until the end, which I’ll have to talk about in some detail.

Baszler lost her temper while battling Shazza on the outside, wrapped the latter’s leg around the guardrail, and refused to let go until the ref was forced to disqualify her.

I was fine with this finish to continue their issue and set up a future match. The problem was as soon as the ref DQ’d Baszler and a bevy of officials pulled her off, Shazza sat up from her position on the rail and perched herself on the rail making “come and get me” hand motions at Baszler. Again – she BALANCED herself on the GUARDRAIL on her bad knee SECONDS after Baszler got DQ’d in uncontrolled rage showing a preference to do DAMAGE to Shazza’s knee rather than win.

They then did an admittedly intense pull apart brawl, but again Shazza ignored the leg. No limping, nothing. Look, credit where credit is due – Shazza’s good, showed appropriate intensity, and rose to the level the match needed (and just wait until we get to her gutsy performance on Volume 89). But to properly sell the story she shouldn’t have been standing/walking on the leg (at least not without showing difficulty), let alone perching on the guardrail. It made MMA trained Baszler’s offense look ineffective, and honestly made her look a bit stupid for getting DQ’d to do exactly ZERO damage.

Hot and well done angle otherwise, but if Shimmer’s going to continue to push Shazza at the upper-card level she really needs to pay better attention to her selling.

 

 

 

Next Cat Power continued her clear march to a Shimmer title shot by defeating Kay Lee Ray, and having Cat face another established, high energy opponent was a fantastic choice and led to another great match. Getting to see her face Nixon on Volume 87, Mia on Volume 88 and Kay Lee Ray here was a treat. Kay Lee Ray continues to be a workhorse for Shimmer, with this match being among the day’s best as well as being involved in the best from Friday and Sunday.

 

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Mickie James had her second and final match of the weekend as she teamed with Saraya Knight & Rhia O’Reilly against The Kimber Bombs (Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee) & Nicole Matthews. Saraya started off with some great comedy moments involving her scaring the daylights out of the Bombs.

 

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Once the match settled down Rhia worked the majority for the “faces” and later Mickie ended up picking up the win for a crowd pleasing moment to see see her off with. Mickie’s two matches formed a decent little story and, while not being a weekend of dream matches per se, were a fine use of her in her Shimmer debut.

Also, things were set up well to again give a little taste of the Saraya / Matthews conflict without blowing it off yet.

 

 

In the main event Vanessa Kraven (w/Tessa Blanchard) challenged Kellie Skater for the SHIMMER Championship in a good first defense for Kellie. Kraven is of course physically imposing as well as a dominating wrestler which allowed Kellie to play a slight underdog role even as champion. Tessa eventually gets caught trying to interfere and ejected, and Kellie defeats Kraven to retain.

 

 

Decent shows overall from Shimmer on day 2 including a big, surprising development.

Day 3 thoughts to follow. 🙂 

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Always great to see Heart of Shimmer Champion Nicole Savoy and nice to meet the Queen of Spades Shayna Baszler. 

Shimmer Weekend November 2016: Day 1 Live Thoughts

November 11, 2016 in Chicago, IL

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Like in June, Shimmer weekend kicked off with a Friday night show at Logan Square Auditorium. Logan Square is a nice contrast to Berwyn and I like having Friday and Saturday there and Sunday at the Eagles Club. The big points going into Friday night were Mickie James and Hudson Envy’s Shimmer debuts, Kellie Skater’s issues with the newly named Trifecta (Shimmer Champion Mercedes Martinez, Shayna Baszler, and Heart of Shimmer Champion Nicole Savoy), and possible new talent debuting as a result of Thursday night’s initial Rise show/seminar.

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The show opened with Rhia O’Reilly, who’s continuing to gain crowd sympathy and support, against Kimber Lee. Great way to start, as both wrestlers are exceptional and I think generally underrated. Rhia won to perhaps start a well deserved push, and Kimber is always impressive whoever she’s in the ring with.

The aforementioned potential new talent from Rise was featured in the following two matches, with Angel Dust vs Leva Bates and Shotzi Blackheart vs Melanie Cruise. Leva came out dressed as a Predator to the audience’s delight. I was previously unfamiliar with either Rise participant (and unfortunately missed the Rise show).  I personally would have preferred a different opponent for Dust given she was crowned Rise’s inaugural champion. Leva’s primarily a comedy wrestler in Shimmer (and as usual this match had humorous spots revolving around Leva’s choice of character) and if Rise’s champ had to lose her first Shimmer match a more serious competitor would’ve been more appropriate. The match was reasonably fun though and the crowd seemed impressed with Dust, so mission accomplished either way I suppose.

Shotzi got the “David vs Goliath” match as her debut against Melanie. Cruise pretty well destroyed her, but she showed fire and generated crowd sympathy, displaying good instincts and indicating she’d be a great regular member of the roster. I’d be happy to see both her and Angel Dust return.

Hudson Envy was impressive in her Shimmer debut against Xandra Bale. Envy has a unique look and strong character that makes her stand out and would be a good long term addition to Shimmer if possible. She continued to beat on Bale after the match ended, which prompted a save by Bale’s tag partner KC Spinelli. In response Christina Von Eerie made a surprise return to help Hudson, and the heels left Balespin laying to end the exchange.

Speaking of returns, with the announced Courtney Rush out with injury Shimmer brought back Cat Power as a last minute addition for the weekend. She has an EXTREMELY different look and gimmick since last we saw her, and it’s great. The self-proclaimed “Joshi Slayer” had a strong reintroduction to the Shimmer crowd as she defeated natural babyface underdog  Nixon Newell.

Tessa Blanchard and Vanessa Kraven continued their somewhat rocky but beneficial association as they helped each other to victories over Jessicka Havok and Candice LeRae respectively. Tessa vs Havok was a bit of a styles clash but turned out fine and was more about the angle of Vanessa once again handing Tessa a win anyway. I feel it’s getting a bit repetitive there, but Kraven is so good at playing condescendingly tolerant to Tessa’s treatment the dynamic is still amusing. The crowd is cheering Kraven nearly as a face, and is DYING to see her finally have enough of Tessa and reduce her to her constituent atoms. 

Kraven and LeRae had a good, competitive match with minimal interference from Tessa, continuing to subtly show Kraven as perhaps the more competent of the two. In addition to the crowd getting behind Kraven, they love LeRae too, so were into this. Kraven’s chokebomb finisher is great.

Slap Happy (Evie & Heidi Lovelace) defending their Shimmer Tag Team Championships against WDSS Flyin High (Mia Yim & Kay Lee Ray) was one of best matches of the entire weekend. These four are all high energy wrestlers who are sharp and crisp in everything they do, and the chemistry between them all both as teams and opponents is excellent.

Was a little bit of a shame that this was WDSS’s only tag match of the weekend, as they’re really hitting their stride as a duo, but on the other hand Mia and Kay Lee are equally great in singles so no real complaints.  

A week before her WWE return to face former Shimmer wrestler and current NXT Women’s Champion Asuka at NXT Takeover Toronto, Mickie James made her Shimmer debut against former Shimmer champion Nicole Matthews. Matthews is a well established veteran in her own right and a great choice as James’ first opponent. Their match was decent. It started strong and the first few minutes were exciting, then honestly they lost a lot of momentum and the match dragged a bit until the end. It wasn’t bad by any means, it just seemed that Mickie perhaps didn’t have the ring endurance she’s used to and had to slow things down significantly a couple minutes in. Still, a good return to the ring overall for James ahead of her high profile match at NXT. 

Mickie won when Nicole stole her belt and tried to use it to win the match. Saraya, who exchanged words online with Matthews regarding Matthews’ treatment of Saraya’s protege Rhia O’Reilly while Saraya was absent from Shimmer last June, stopped Nicole from using the belt and gave Mickie an opening to defeat her. Afterwards Matthews flipped out and called Saraya back to the ring, but bailed when her challenge was answered.

The main event saw Kellie Skater recruit Shazza McKenzie to face Trifecta (Shimmer Champion Mercedes Martinez & Shayna Baszler, w/ Heart of Shimmer Champion Nicole Savoy). I felt this was close to exactly what it should have been. Trifecta controlled until the end, just dominating the faces to establish them as a dangerous force. Finally Kellie got a surprise cradle pin on Mercedes, shocking the champ and setting up title match on the next volume.

I appreciate the idea of trying to elevate someone, but honestly while good Shazza is not quite at the same level as the other competitors here and it showed a bit. Also Kellie and Shazza could have used a few more hope spots to engage the crowd more. However, no one can fault the effort of any of the four and all in all this was a solid main event that kept several issues going and helped Trifecta to look like a strong, threatening unit despite the loss. 

Overall, Shimmer 86 was a solid show that set the tone for the weekend nicely. There were a bunch of good debuts and returns that helped compensate for the lack of Joshi and some of Shimmer’s regular stars like Eagles, Melissa, Savoy (in ring), Rush, etc (although honestly the absences were felt a bit).

Fun stuff. 🙂 Day 2 and 3 thoughts to follow.

Shimmer Weekend June 2016: Day 3 Live Thoughts

June 26, 2016 in Berwyn, IL

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Volume 84

With Madison Eagles having survived the challenges of Rush, Arisa, and Viper, and Kellie Skater having won tough matches against top competitors all weekend, it was announced in the morning that the latter would receive a well deserved shot at Madison and the Shimmer Championship in the main event of Volume 84.

The opening match was a rematch of Volume 81’s opener, as Nixon Newell looked to avenge the loss Veda Scott handed her in her Shimmer debut. These two have good chemistry and the underdog vs established, hated heel dynamic worked well once again in this rematch. Veda’s streak of stealing matches came to an end as Nixon earned her first Shimmer victory.

Next the new team of Solo Darling & the debuting Scarlett Bordeaux faced Melanie Cruise & Yumi Ohka. This was a blast, as Cruise and Ohka are really clicking as a team and were great as bullying/dismissive heels against Darling and Bordeaux.

Along with some great action and Yumi working the crowd into a frenzy using her whip behind the ref’s back, the highlight was Cruise and Ohka appropriating Solo’s sugar drink and Bordeaux’s wine for a taste. Their reactions were priceless.

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While Logan Square has a lot going for it as a venue, the atmosphere was definitely different from the Eagles Club. Back in the latter for Volumes 84 and 85, Arisa was greeted with a huge “Nakajima” chant in her Berwyn debut as her match with Rhia O’Reilly began. She was clearly surprised and was smiling from ear to ear as she looked around the crowd.

I feel Rhia is somewhat underrated at times and as I’ve mentioned before she’s quite versatile and adaptable, so seeing her given the opportunity to up her game against top level opponents this weekend was awesome. She held her own against the JWP Champion, and they had a great hard hitting contest. Arisa eventually won with her trademark German suplex.

During the introductions someone jumps the railing and it’s former announcer Kevin Harvey! He steps in for Lenny to do his trademark “Thunder…Thunder…THUNDERKITTY!” intro for her, then disappears as fast as he came. Amusing touch. Match was ok, but it was a tad slow and there was never any doubt Nicole would be stealing a win.

Tessa Blanchard came out for her match against LuFisto without Kraven at ringside and if you can’t see where this is going you’ve never watched wrestling. 😉 This was the best Tessa looked all weekend, as she and Lufisto had an intense back and forth match. Lufisto always seemed just a little too much for her, and sure enough as soon as the proper opportunity arose Kraven dashed out and grabbed Lufisto’s feet from the outside, holding her down out of sight of the ref or Tessa so Tessa could get the win. Nice touch afterward as Tessa was totally oblivious to the interference and told Kraven how nice it was that Kraven came out to congratulate her.

Mizunami repeatedly just kind of shrugging off Rush’s strangeness and the two waging war with each other was pitch perfect. Strong finish to a great weekend for Mizunami.

Coming off a victory in the 4-way on Volume 83, Jessicka Havok received a shot at the Heart of SHIMMER Championship held by Nicole Savoy. Was surprised not to see a Baszler rematch, but that would be explained soon enough. Savoy makes a big deal about Havok having a weapon with her and insists the bat be sent to the back. That seemed significant.

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Indeed late in the match the ref is knocked out, and Shayna Baszler comes running from the back with Havok’s bat. She teases revenge on Savoy, but blasts Havok instead. Savoy retains and has a powerful new ally. This was executed very well and I love the pairing of Baszler and Savoy.

The Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee and Cherry Bomb) finally had to face the consequences of their suspect methods for retaining their titles as they defended the SHIMMER Tag Team Championship in an elimination match against Slap Happy (Evie & Heidi Lovelace), Balespin (Xandra Bale & KC Spinelli), and WDSS (Kay Lee Ray & Mia Yim).

Early on the challengers all ganged up on the champions and completely dominated them for quite a while, including isolating Cherry Bomb and putting tape over her mouth to stop her angelic voice. It was such a comeuppance to begin the match I started to suspect the Bombs might escape with their titles at the end and drop them next volume.

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Heir apparent Kellie Skater faced Madison Eagles for the SHIMMER Championship that was exactly as good as expected from two wrestlers the calibre of Kellie and Madison. It was even throughout and constantly felt like it could go either way.

The end came while they were on the top turnbuckle and Kellie blocked a kick and fell inside the ring while holding Madison’s leg, torquing the latter’s knee over the top rope. Madison fell to the outside and failed to make it back in before ten, giving Kellie the countout victory but not the title. In the spirit of competition Madison says she’s not going to let her knee rob Kellie or the fans of the title match, and sets up a rematch for the title on Volume 85. That announcement got a big ovation.

 

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Pic with the champ during intermission.

 

Volume 85

Nicole Matthews expanded on her “Locker Room Leader” gimmick by declaring herself the “Shimmertaker.” Her challenge this time was Rhia O’Reilly, who instantly became the defacto face. Rhia’s impressive weekend continued and her mannerisms, presence, etc in this match were fantastic. Right after the bell she told Matthews “you are the locker room leader” and laid down for her, only to small package her for a close 2 when she tried to cover Rhia. That got a big pop. Later after taking a bit to much of Nicole’s abuse she told a seated Nicole “Saraya says Hi!” and hit Knight’s signature dropkick between the legs.

After current TNA Women’s Champion Allysin Kay scored a dominant win over Xandra Bale, the table and chairs came back much to my chagrin. This time Portia’s guest was Kellyanne, out to explain her absence from competition.

Portia got a ton of boos and the expected “PISS Break” chant broke out  several times and loudly (I still can’t believe they went with that acronym), but it really felt like the audience was trying to hijack/end the segment instead of it generating the desired kind of heel heat. This one in particular was way too long for what it was, and Kellyanne wasn’t quite good enough on the mic to draw the crowd in enough to keep them engaged.

There’s potential here, but as Portia’s retired and there’s no physical consequences in her future she needs to find a way to get heat on her GUESTS, not herself. Streamlining is also needed, as dropping pointless stuff like cheating Kellyanne in table hockey before getting to the actual interview will bring these down to a better length and they won’t sap the crowd’s energy and disrupt the pace of the show so much.

Case in point, Arisa Nakajima got nowhere near the same reaction from the crowd to start her match against Shazza McKenzie that she did earlier in the day. There was applause, but the audience had been cooled down considerably by PISS (I hate myself for having to type that). Thankfully with two fast paced wrestlers squaring off they woke back up quick.

Like Rhia, Shazza was given great opportunities this weekend against Matthews and Nakajima. Also like Rhia, she looked good against the veterans. This is the match that I most would have like to see go longer, as it seemed it was just getting going when Arisa finished Shazza with the German about five minutes in. Fun while it lasted. Expectedly and deservedly, Arisa got a huge “please come back” chant as she left the ring.

Kimber Lee was out next and pouted dejectedly as the crowd taunted her about losing the tag titles. Her match with Thunderkitty was heavily humor based, as they stole the similar flowers they wear from each other’s hair at various points.

I cannot say enough about how little things like Shayna Baszler and Nicole Savoy taking out a stool from under the ring for their corner before the match enhance their characters and general immersion so much. Mia Yim fought valiantly, but she was just taken apart here by Baszler (with opportune help from Savoy).

One slight problem with all the teams established this weekend is it makes the faces look bad when Mia is getting attacked behind the ref’s back by Savoy and KLR never comes out to help. That aside this was another strong showing for Baszler and a good introduction for her partnership with Savoy. Odd that Havok didn’t come looking for blood, but that may have been addressed in the next match.

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Viper, Vanessa Kraven, and Courtney Rush made their way out for a 4-way, and Jessica Havok’s music played. There was some talk about it being a mistake by the music guy who didn’t know a change had been made, but given that has never happened in Shimmer and something similar with the music would happen later in the show quite deliberately I’m guessing this will make the dvd and commentary will explain Havok’s too injured to compete, thus explaining why she didn’t spend this volume chasing Savoy and Baszler with her bat.

The music that follows brings Nixon Newell out as the final competitor, and her opponents are amused. “Please don’t die” chant from the crowd.

This was another excellent 4-way, with great highlights like Rush and Viper cornering Tessa on the outside and a spot where Viper shows hesitant trepidation when she realizes Kraven has snuck up behind her. Viper showed more personality here than she did all weekend and I think the role of cocky heel who sometime bites off more than she can chew suits her a bit better than that of unstoppable monster. Nixon continued to be a natural underdog that the crowd loved rallying behind.

Great stuff from all four and while I expected Tessa to cost Kraven another match giving Nixon the upset, instead Rush ambushed Nixon with the mist and scored her only victory of the weekend. Of course Courtney and her character are pretty much teflon at this point and can always be quickly reestablished, but the win here was good to remind the audience how dangerous she is. “Please come back” chant for Nixon as she exits.

Nicole Savoy successfully defended her Heart of SHIMMER Championship against Kay Lee Ray in another strong showing for both in a match that repeatedly featured Baszler’s involvement to incite the crowd and further establish the new duo. I’m again impressed with how well Savoy’s tweaked her act to get fully booed instead of the mixed cheers she had been getting due to how good she is.

Heidi came in for Slap Happy’s Shimmer Tag Team Title defense selling her leg heavily, and Yumi Ohka & Melanie Cruise made the most of it. They ambushed the champs right off the bat and spent a full ten minutes beating the high holy hell out of Heidi, targeting her leg, and knocking Evie off the apron at every opportunity. The champs got ZERO offense that whole time.

The challengers cheated and mocked the champs magnificently by doing everything from using Yumi’s whip to biting Heidi while in submission holds to Yumi dancing while grinding her heel into Heidi’s knee. Yumi is clearly having the time of her life with her new heel character and she’s amazing at it. Her mocking faces at the ref as she does her “release the hair pull at the count of 4 by switching to the other hand” routine are a sight to behold.

The thing that made this so special, besides the expert level at which the four wrestlers told the story, was that it was so off formula for title matches in Shimmer. Champions practically never get dominated to this extent, and it was done perfectly so that the crowd never lost interest and continued to get more and more worked up about Heidi escaping and getting Evie into the match. And when she did they went wild. The champs eventually persevered and retained with their finisher on Cruise in one of the best matches of the weekend.

Kellie Skater’s music hit for the big main event rematch, but it was not to be. After a few false starts with Kellie’s music it changes to that of Tessa Blanchard, and the crowd is ready to riot. Tessa comes out with Kraven carrying a limp Skater over her shoulders. In a clever bit Tessa claims they just found Kellie like that, which of course no one believes at that time. She says Kellie clearly can’t compete, and after defeating Evie and Lufisto she thinks she should get the title shot against Madison Eagles.

 

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The clever part I referred to comes back here, as the implication seems that maybe Tessa and Kraven really did find Kellie laid out and it was instead these two who did it. When they decide they’d done enough, they both strangely jump out of the ring, neither accepting the open challenge. Music strikes up and my jaw goes slack as Mercedes Martinez returns to Shimmer.

She tauntingly asks Eagles whether they’re going to start this challenge or not, and Eagles glares a hole through Martinez as she pulls herself up in the corner and signals the match to start. Sadly for Eagles her knee’s not up to it and Martinez shortly becomes your new Shimmer Champion. Jaw dropping angle to close out the weekend and the combination of Martinez, Savoy, and Baszler look like vicious, heartless, world beaters. Exquisitely done.

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Hell of a way to finish up a Shimmer weekend filled with incredible action and major developments, including a new dominant force for the faces to try to overcome. The shows weren’t flawless, but they were excellent none-the-less. And Sunday showed Shimmer can trim some time off of their usual extra long  3+ hour shows without losing any of the quality they’re known for.

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Until next time. 🙂

Shimmer Weekend June 2016: Day 2 Live Thoughts

June 25, 2016 in Chicago, IL

Volume 82

After the end of the previous night’s taping of Volume 81 anticipation was through the roof for a possible Eagles vs Nakajima match. Sure, enough, in the morning it was announced as the main event for Volume 82. 🙂

 

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The opening match for the first taping of the day built off tensions from Volume 81’s 4-way and saw Vanessa Kraven take on Lufisto. This was a great way to start, as it was high energy and felt appropriately heated for a contest between rivals who don’t like each other. Tessa Blanchard was back in Kraven’s corner after her absence the previous night, and ended up costing Kraven the match to further the slow building tensions between the two.

Amusing side note: at one point Kraven was distracting the ref by complaining about the audience taking pictures, so I lifted my camera and got a pic just as she turned her accusing finger at me.

Shayna Baszler and Viper both continued their dominating debuts defeating  Solo Darling and Heidi Lovelace respectively. Shayna continued to look awesome, displaying good instincts and complete commitment to pro-wrestling details and conventions, including applying a “tail-bar” on Solo like she was trying to torture the latter. Big crowd reaction for it. Little touches like the spade gesture and dumping a deck of cards over her fallen opponent add a lot to her mystique.

Still wasn’t completely sold on Viper here, but she got to show more of her agility against the quick Lovelace and Heidi’s an established enough name in Shimmer that defeating her continued Viper’s rapid march up the card.

Another two teams new to Shimmer as pairs faced off as Balespin (Xandra Bale & KC Spinelli) faced Crazy Mary Dobson & Samantha Heights in a decent little match that would play into the (brisk) tag team booking that continue all weekend. It went well enough given the lack of established teams, so no big complaints. Odd dynamic here as Mary and Samantha were slightly portrayed as the heel team, but Mary is not getting booed in Shimmer so it didn’t work quite as well as they perhaps expected. I preferred Dobson and Heights as a team a bit over Balespin, but the latter was fine too.

After a nice showing in defeat at the end of Volume 81’s 4-way against Kellie Skater, Shazza McKenzie got a huge upset victory here against Evie in a great back and forth contest. Shazza continues to improve and looked quite a bit better in all of her matches this weekend than in her previous visits to Shimmer.

Portia’s Interview Segment Spectacular (who ok’s these acronyms?!) debuted next, and was brutal. I adore Portia on commentary and she’s generally a fantastic heel, but this did not come across well. Portia and Nicole got booed themselves, but this segment significantly cooled off a hot crowd overall. Nicole declares herself locker room leader and says she’s going to give opportunities to the younger members of the roster.

Nixon Newell comes out to take Nicole Matthews up on her challenge, and does manage to get the crowd into the match somewhat by the end. Foregone conclusion though both due to Matthews’ level and her just established gimmick.

Thunderkitty comes out and cuts a very good promo about feeling disrespected, but it shouldn’t have been placed so close to Portia’s segment. That made it seem longer than it was, and when Tessa Blanchard answered TK’s open challenge all remaining momentum the show had was gone. Not bad, but Tessa’s getting more “we don’t want to see you” heat than “we want someone to beat you” heat, and TK’s ring style is not one to re-energize the crowd. Kraven stole the spotlight here, as her mannerisms on the outside and the way she reacted to Tessa were perfect.

Nitpick: “The following match is scheduled for one fall with a twenty minute time limit” should not be announced when someone is coming out for an interview to make an open challenge.

Courtney Rush continues to be incredibly intimidating and a serious threat despite coming up short in her Shimmer title match. Her presence is just amazing and Kellie Skater was not only the perfect foil for her, but playing off the fact that they’ve both been mainstays in Shimmer and asking “what happened to you Courtney?!” added a touch of depth and increased the intensity.

Kellie’s roll continued with a tough victory over a top competitor, and it was becoming clearer that she’d be challenging for a singles title before the weekend was up. This got the crowd going again.

Nicole Savoy defended her Heart of SHIMMER Championship against the ultra-popular Ryo Mizunami. Tough challenge early in Nicole’s reign, even if Baszler’s trajectory seemed headed this way and made a title change here extremely unlikely. It was everything I expected and hoped for from these two, with the cocky heel defending champion trying to ground the powerhouse, who often responded by running through and/or over the champion. Great showing for both.

Viper hit the ring for an interview before the next match, and talked about her big wins and how her aspirations were to climb to “where Eagles nest,” foreshadowing the champion’s next feud. Wish she had cut this AFTER the main to leave her involvement a surprise.

The breakneck booking of the tag division I was referring to early was on display as Flying High WDSS (Kay Lee Ray & Mia Yim) received a Shimmer Tag Team Championship match against Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee after a single victory against another duo who had never teamed in Shimmer before. Still, at least there was that one victory to establish them a little and I understand that they were doing the best they could with all the last minute changes to the roster.

The good news is all the new teams worked well together and looked good in the ring over the course of the weekend. Yim and KLR in particular wrestled like a well oiled machine here, performing double teams like they’d been teaming for years. Good title match that saw the Bombs use the belts again to steal a win.

I had no greater wish going into the weekend that to see Madison Eagles face Arisa Nakajima, and boy did they deliver.  The SHIMMER Championship being on the line (as well as how early in the weekend this was happening and Viper’s promo) clearly pointed to a non-finish, but they completely tore the house down leading up to it.

It was an absolute joy to watch two of the best in the world battle, and my memory won’t do it justice. Definitely go out of your way to see this when it’s available.

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Though I’ll admit the finish was flat. Even for a DQ run-in it didn’t come off well, as Viper choked an already tied up Eagles in the corner instead of leveling her with some impressive looking strike or slam first. Strategically it made more sense, but as the end of a hard-hitting, anticipated title match it was a poor choice. Still, the JWP champion was neither winning the Shimmer title nor dropping a fall here, so if that finish was the price paid for being able to have the wonderful match that preceded it at all in the first place I have no complaints.

Afterward Viper had left the area Arisa recovered from the spider suplex that had left her out of the confrontation and helped Madison to the back to a round of cheers.

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Beware of lurking ninjas!

During intermission I got to talk to Kellyanne English a bit, who was out for the weekend due to medical issues. She was in relatively good spirits regardless, and I hope to see her back in the ring soon. She was extremely impressive in her debut Shimmer events last fall.

Volume 83

Suitable opener saw Veda Scott against Crazy Mary Dobson in a simple case of hated heel against beloved underdog. Good effort from both and they got the crowd properly riled.

Taylor Made made her only appearance of the weekend against Heidi Lovelace. Fine match that saw Heidi get the expected win with a senton from the top.

I was extremely disappointed to see Shazza McKenzie come out to face Nicole Matthews so early into Nicole’s new gimmick. It was obvious Shazza was going to lose and seemed a waste of upsetting Evie on the previous volume (even more so the next day when I saw who Shazza faced then: continued momentum would’ve added a lot to that match). Regardless, I do understand the opportunity she was given here against a former Shimmer champion and she looked good in the ring with Nicole.

The crowd (rightfully) got extremely excited as Allysin Kay, Mia Yim, Yumi Ohka, and Jessicka Havok made their way out for a 4-way contest. It was excellent. The competitors really took advantage of the format, from the expected awesome tower of doom and four person submission spots to individual encounters like Havok and Kay laying into each other and Ohka mocking Yim’s usual posing routine.

Incredibly hot end too, as Yumi just NAILED poor Mia in the face with her whip behind the ref’s back, but Havok leveled her in turn sending Yumi out to the floor hard right in front of me. Havok covered the still dead Yim for the win. They were clicking on all cylinders all the way through this.

Rhia O’Reilly’s opportunities against high level competition continued as she faced Kay Lee Ray (and she’d face even tougher competition on Sunday). Rhia is solid in the ring and can adapt to the style of her opponents, so it was wonderful to see her get these chances to continue to up her game and show what she can do. KLR eventually staved off Rhia’s assault and picked up the win with the Gory Bomb.

Also continuing was Evie’s tough weekend, as she lost to Tessa Blanchard after interference from Vanessa Kraven. This was fine, and Tessa generates a lot of heat, but she can’t quite keep up with someone like Evie.

After the match Lufisto came out and cut a fantastic short, to the point promo mocking Tessa for riding her father’s name and pointing out Kraven helps Tessa win matches while every time Tessa tries to help Kraven it backfires. She challenges Tessa to a match on Volume 84 with Kraven banned from ringside, and an irate Tessa accepts. If Lufi’s always this good on the mic she needs to be given it more often.

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It was surprising to see Shayna Baszler get a shot at Nicole Savoy and the Heart of SHIMMER Championship so soon, but all would make sense later. This was a very short match, but quite good while it lasted. The double finish (with Savoy just putting Baszler’s shoulders down for a pin a second before tapping) kept Baszler strong while getting her first loss out of the way. Baszler shook her head after realizing she didn’t win but presented the belt back to Savoy in a show of respect. It seemed certain to set up a rematch where Baszler took the title, but we ended up with something even better.

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Balespin (Xandra Bale &KC Spinelli) were the next in line for the Kimber Bombs’ (Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee) SHIMMER Tag Team Championship. The challengers looked fine, but never felt like they had a real chance here and as expected the Bombs retained with another cheap shot with the belts.

Afterwards things got interesting, as Slap Happy and WDSS came out to surround the Bombs and inform them that the consequences of all their recent tainted victories would be an elimination match at Volume 84 against both of them plus Balespin. The build might have become a bit predictable, but that’s not an issue when done well and at this point it looked like all of the four teams had at least some chance of winning the elimination match.

Kellie Skater was given another tough challenge to overcome, and Ryo Mizunami was given another opponent she could tear the house down with. Which they did. Two complete pros having a great match.

Building off the events of the earlier taping, Viper challenged Madison Eagles for the SHIMMER Championship. This should have started molten, and looked like it was going to when Eagles tried to rush Viper, but the ref repeatedly held her back until she turned her head and Viper got the jump on her, deflating the crowd. Viper surviving Eagles’ flurry then establishing control would have worked better, and wouldn’t have made Madsion look stupid.

They got into gear quickly after that though, and had a good back and forth match with Madison constantly trying to find a way to combat Viper’s size and a concerted attack on Madison’s weak knee. Viper still wasn’t quite up to the reputation that proceeded her, but came across as a threat and held up her end of the main event. Madison toughed out the challenge and retained her title.

After the match Madison was slumped against the ropes calling for someone to help her out of the ring and to the back. It seemed like it could have either been selling Viper’s gameplan or a legit problem with the knee. Given the story of the rest of the weekend combined with the recent unfortunate news that Madison needs knee surgery and will be out of action for a year, it was probably both.

There were a couple of hiccups here and there, but overall these were two shows well up to Shimmer’s usual standards of excellence. I had a great time.

Day 3 thoughts to follow.

Shimmer Weekend June 2016: Day 1 Live Thoughts

June 24, 2016 in Chicago, IL

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This was both Shimmer’s first show at Logan Square and the first time they’ve run a Friday night show to start the weekend. Logan Square Auditorium is a very different atmosphere than the Berwyn Eagles Club, but I liked the venue overall and was glad to see a decent crowd for those events at the new location. Having slightly more room for the merchandise tables was particularly nice.

There was a fair bit of anticipation for this weekend due to a number of debuts. Add in several regulars missing the tapings for various reasons and there was significant potential for some new breakout stars.

Nixon Newell is a natural underdog and debuting her against uber-heel Veda Scott guaranteed her a chance to win the crowd right away. She did so, looking good despite a loss and making an impression that would last the weekend. Veda keeps improving in the ring, and really knows how to work up the crowd. After the heat she generated last tapings showing sympathy for referee Andy Long he was assigned all her matches this weekend. I understand capitalizing on opportunities, but the fact that Shimmer has a ref that that is never shown to be crooked in any way yet gets more boos than most the heels on the roster is a problem, not something that should be emphasized.

One of the biggest debuts for the weekend was next as Shayna Baszler wrestled in Shimmer for the first time against Rhia O’Reilly. Shayna seems to have transitioned well into the particularities of pro-wrestling while still keeping an MMA based style. It reminds me of the style Timothy Thatcher, Drew Gulak, and others have been spotlighting in Evolve. She has an edge to her character too and showed a lot of charisma. It all combined to make her seem a dominant force right off the bat. Rhia is always solid in the ring and was a great choice as a first test for Shayna. Rhia would go on to have several more high profile opponents  over the course of the weekend.

Several interesting aspects were woven into one 4-way match. Lufisto and Vanessa Kraven eventually lost all patience with each other and brawled to the back. Shazza McKenzie got to show an extra level of resiliency by lasting a while after that against top of the card mainstay Kellie Skater. Good action throughout this.

Another debut saw Viper make an immediate impact against Jessica Havok. This was an ok power match meant to emphasize Viper’s strength, but from what I understand (and saw later) what makes her unique is her agility for her size, which wasn’t much on display here. Havok’s so big Viper’s power moves didn’t come off crisply, which hurt the match a bit. Still, the main purpose of making her an immediate threat by defeating an established monster like Havok was achieved.

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On a completely random note: Yumi Ohka has some of the most amazing ring robes and gear in all of wrestling.

With Cheerleader Melissa missing her first set of Shimmer tapings ever due to Lucha Underground tapings, Melanie Cruise was teamed up with newly turned Yumi Ohka in her stead. They had phenomenal chemistry as a team and I actually prefer this pairing slightly over Ohka & Melissa. Here they faced the ridiculously named new team of Flying High WDSS (Mia Yim & Kay Lee Ray).

The team name and new music essentially gave away the finish, but this was a great little match none-the-less. Ohka and Cruise’s excellent heel work agitated the crowd well and Yim and KLR are both natural babyfaces. The latter’s quick tag / jumping in and out over the top ropes sequence in particular was a nice touch to show them being on the same wavelength in a cool and unique way. Strong win for WDSS in their first teaming.

The fourth, final, and biggest debut of the night saw JWP Openweight Champion Arisa Nakajima face former Shimmer Champion Nicole Matthews. At first it seemed a lot of the crowd didn’t know Arisa or the level of this matchup. Nicole tried to cover and emphasize its importance by jumping on a fan who referred to it as a “midcard match,” but her protests about that rang a bit hollow considering it was inexplicably placed smack dab in the middle of the card. I appreciate her effort there but wish she had talked up Arisa’s reputation a bit more to get the point across.

So the initial heat wasn’t really as high as it should have been for a matchup of this caliber, but it didn’t matter by the end as Arisa’s work eventually won everyone over and the victory over a former Shimmer champ in her debut conveyed what Nicole had been trying to. Great work by both. Arisa’s a favorite of mine and it was wonderful to see her come over to the states and wrestle in Shimmer.

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I’d guess KC Spinelli got the match originally intended for the injured Kellyanne English against Ryo Mizunami. If so, she certainly made the most of the opportunity. She looked better than ever here, keeping pace with the more experienced Mizunami. Speaking of which, Mizunami is on a completely different level than her last appearances in Shimmer. I got a taste of this during a trip to Japan last December, and was extremely excited when she was announced for Shimmer. Her charisma is amazing, and she makes use of little mannerisms combined with a high level of energy to really connect with the crowd and fire them up (seemingly) effortlessly. She was pitch perfect all weekend and it was great to see her back.

Nicole Savoy defended her Heart of Shimmer Championship against Crazy Mary Dobson, who was likely filling in here in place of Candice LeRae (out for the weekend with a concussion). Savoy’s heel work keeps improving, as she’s more and more able to sustain boos from the crowd despite how great she is in the ring being appreciated by most of them. Crazy Mary was a perfect opponent in that respect, as the crowd always adores her. This was decent, but held back a little by the fact that Mary never seemed a credible threat to take the title. The momentum she had from upsetting Saraya Knight at the fall tapings was gone due to her early exit from the Heart of Shimmer tournament in April.

Slap Happy (Heidi Lovelace and Evie) received the shot at the Shimmer Tag Team Championship against the Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee and Cherry Bomb) they earned by winning a number one contenders mini-tournament during the fall. Both teams fit their roles exactly, from Cherry’s voice and the Bombs cheating antagonizing the crowd to Heidi and Evie being the perfect competitors for the crowd to get behind. Lots of good action leading to the Bombs infuriating the audience by retaining with a belt shot. This would set up future developments later in the weekend.

There isn’t anyone in wrestling right now with more command of their character than Courtney Rush (and only Dalton Castle and Su Yung even really come close). Her mannerisms are appropriately creepy and intimidating, and she blends it all seamlessly with her ring work. She was pushed heavily during the fall tapings and it was no surprise when she was announced as Madison Eagles’ next challenger for the Shimmer Championship.

Madison stopped in front of me while walking around the ring to confess she was “a little bit scared about this one.” It was a great nod to the imposing and unsettling nature of Courtney’s character, which Madison continued at the beginning of the match by making a cross out of two of her trademark forks. I’ve heard some weird chants before, but “The Power of Christ Compels You” is a new one. Courtney laughed it off, chased Madison outside, then licked the “cross.” Madison responded with a huge kick to the head, then things got REALLY odd/fun.

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Madison went under the ring and took out two containers of SALT, and poured them completely around the ring to form a barrier to keep demons out. Rush sold getting “burned” every time she tried to touch the ropes/get back into the ring. But as the ref reached around 7 on the count he got too close to the edge and “broke the barrier,” allowing Rush back inside. Absurd, but done perfectly and highly amusing. This was just the right amount of humorous proceedings to start the match, and it all stemmed directly from Rush’s current character and still centered around Eagles trying to win. From there they had a solid, hard-hitting main event that Eagles won in decisive fashion.

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But we weren’t quite done yet. As Eagles went to leave ringside, Arisa came back out with the JWP title over her shoulder and gave Madison a little bump while smiling slyly. They both got back in the ring, raised their titles at each other, then shook hands in a show of mutual respect. The crowd picked up on this as a huge development and there was a lot of buzz about a potential match between the two as everyone exited. Eagles vs Arisa is the match I most hoped for when Nakajima was announced, so I was thrilled with this end to the taping.

Fun start to the weekend. 🙂

Day 2 and 3 thoughts to follow.

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Shimmer 80 ippv Live Thoughts

April 2, 2016 in Dallas, TX

Big show for Shimmer as they crown their first Heart of Shimmer Champion, a secondary title being introduced on this show in a 12-woman tournament.

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First round match: Leva Bates vs Cheerleader Melissa. 

Leva out in Kingdom Hearts Sora cosplay. Leva calls the fans the true heart of Shimmer. This was fine, but they didn’t mesh particularly well and there were awkward exchanges. Leva also never felt like she really had a chance. On the plus side – Kudo Driver.

First round match: Candice LeRae vs. Cherry Bomb 

Nice to see Cherry back from injury. Candice on fire to start, and wakes the crowd up with a dive to the outside. Cherry takes over with a kick and screams at Candice to strong crowd reaction. Good back and forth match, with Candice advancing with a quick crucifix after Cherry hit her with a Death Valley Driver. This should have opened the show.

First round match: Lufisto vs Nicole Savoy.

Savoy gets right into Lufisto’s face during the intros, and kicks at her hand when offered a handshake. I adore Savoy. They light into each other with strikes and it’s a million miles an hour already. Savoy gets the advantage and is all over Lufisto. Lufisto responds in kind once she’s able to take over. Nicole eventual traps Lufisto… and makes her tap!!! Great match and a nice surprise. I was sure Lufisto would be in the finals. With Lufisto gone Savoy is the favorite to win I think, although not entirely sure a heel will take it.

First round match: Kimber Lee vs Jessica Havok. 

Rematch from the last set of tapings. Lee looking good finding ways to deal with Havok’s size. Continues throughout the match, as Havok uses her size and power to press the advantage, and Lee counters with strikes and holds. Havok gets the stretch muffler, but Cherry out for the distraction and Lee wins with a rollup. Interesting. Dave usually keeps the face/heel balance in matchups, but we’ve got Savoy/Lee in the second round. Good match.

First round match: Heidi Lovelace vs Veda Scott.

Veda cheating at every opportunity like a good heel should. Nice spot on the outside where Heidi pulls Veda off the barricade and kicks her in face. Split crowd. Started slow and basic but picked up a lot as the match went. Heidi wins with a big senton off the top. Veda gets an ovation after the match, but says she still hates the audience like a good heel should.

First round match:  Nicole Matthews vs Crazy Mary Dobson. 

Interesting match, as Mary upset former Shimmer champion Saraya Knight at the last taped show.  Was disappointed when this match was announced. A loss here and Mary’s momentum from upsetting Knight is gone. Yet back to back wins over former champs and she’d pretty much have to take the tourney. Decent match with Mary playing the underdog and Matthews getting the expected win. Bit of a waste.

 

Semi-final match: Candice Lerae vs Cheerleader Melissa. 

Candice dives onto Melissa during her entrance, skipping ring intros. Melissa takes over and destroys Candice with her signature wheelbarrow swing into the guardrail repeatedly. This got intense down the stretch, with Candice shaking off numerous double stomps to hits multiple of her signature “boxplexes” to upset Melissa. Hard hitting battle with a definitive finish over a two time Shimmer champ to really establish Candice as a contender.

Semi-final match: Kimber Lee vs Nicole Savoy.

Cherry Bomb’s sent to the back immediately, upsetting the tag champs. Both stay in character, leading to an interesting dynamic, but Savoy is the crowd favorite. Good showing for Lee, but Savoy is too much for her and wins with her second submission victory of the evening. Savoy’s looking like a world beater.

Semi-final match: Heidi Lovelace vs Nicole Matthews. 

Another good match with Heidi defeating the former champ and ending Matthews’ triple crown quest with the senton she beat Mary with. I like that all three finalists were made to look extremely strong going into the deciding match, and Heidi’s senton now already has credibility as a finish.

 

The interview segment with Shayna Baszler fell kind of flat. She was fine explaining her qualifications and talking about bringing catch wrestling style back to pro-wrestling, but she just kind of threw out the fact that she’ll be wrestling at Shimmer 81 as an aside at the end. Didn’t come across as the big announcement it should have been.

 

Final elimination match: Candice Lerae vs Nicole Savoy vs Heidi Lovelace.

Excellent final and a fitting end to the tournament. Heidi powered out of the ring early on and after some good exchanges Savoy eliminated Candice in pretty quick fashion. Heidi and Nicole have good chemistry, and the end portion of the match was exciting. Savoy kicked out Heidi’s new senton finish at one point in a big near fall.

One misstep as Savoy locked in the submission she beat Lufisto with and Heidi looked around for the ropes without selling pain at all. I understand she should be trying to escape, but scream or something while doing so when both arms are supposedly being pulled near out of their sockets. Savoy later locks in the cross arm breaker (which she beat Lee with) for the win and the championship. Dominating tournament for Savoy, much to my delight.

Overall

Great effort from all involved and good wrestling up and down the card. Savoy is the perfect choice to showcase the new title and it gives the spotlight to a deserving up and coming star.