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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
Wrestling

Shimmer: Looking Back on 10 Years of Awesome – Part 1

I’ve followed Shimmer since its beginning, and in anticipation of 10th Anniversary weekend I wanted to take a look back at ten great matches over the course of Shimmer’s existence.

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This is NOT a top 10 matches of Shimmer list, for a few reasons:

  1. I don’t want to split hairs trying to rank things, nor do I have the time to pour over every match like that.
  2. Everyone has their favorites. For me this means that a true top 10 list from me would likely be dominated by singles matches between pairs of Kana, Madison Eagles, Sara Del Rey, and Cheerleader Melissa. While deserved, this would not make for the most interesting retrospective. So I’m just going to say now that all such pairings were fantastic matches and should be watched. Not to worry, these four will definitely still have plenty of appearances in this list.
  3. I want to feature a variety of match types.

So this series will instead be a look at ten hand picked matches that I enjoyed and feel gives a good representation of both the quality and variety Shimmer has to offer. All would be in let’s say my top 50. Out of over 600 matches, this is still a pretty respectable group. 😉 My apologies if I overlook other peoples’ favorites.

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Honorable Mentions

To start I want to quickly mention a few matches that aren’t making the list because they haven’t been released on dvd yet (so I can’t revisit them for details) but were amazing live. The following are all great matches I’ve extremely excited to watch again when I can:

  • Madison Eagles, Jessica Havok and 3G vs The Kimber Bombs and the Canadian Ninjas
  • Madison Eagles vs Saraya Knight
  • 3G and 3S vs Aja Kong, Dynamite Kansai, Mayumi Ozaki and Kyoko Kimura  

Multi-Woman Matches

First up are matches that featured several wrestlers competing against each other for victory. Part 2 will feature tag team matches, and part 3 will finish up with singles matches.

Multi-woman matches allow several wrestlers to be featured while also providing unique opportunities for storytelling. My favorites took good advantage of both aspects.

Elimination Match: Sara Del Rey vs Mercedes Martinez vs Lacey vs Daziee Haze – Volume 2

Shimmer’s first multi-woman match was a great way to top off the follow up to their initial show. The main event of volume 2 took the four wrestlers in the top matches of volume 1 and pitted them all against each other in an elimination match that would identify the top prospect in Shimmer at the time. This was a natural way to build off volume 1 and allowed four of their top talents to go all out while advancing ongoing issues between them.

The format was used perfectly to tease and add tension to current feuds. By having the eliminations occur by “off pairs” rivalries were continued without anything being settled while allowing wrestlers to benefit from defeating top competition.  For example, with Haze eliminating Martinez the outstanding question left of who was better after volume 1’s draw between Martinez and Del Rey was left unanswered. Sara came out looking like a million bucks with a big win here end everyone benefitted from the emphasis on competition and wins and losses.

Shimmer Title Elimination Match: MsChif vs Amazing Kong vs Lufisto – Volume 28

After an inconclusive number 1 contendership match on volume 27 MsChif finds herself defending against two hard hitting challengers. MsChif had been champion for a year and a half after her unexpected dethroning of initial champion Sara Del Rey and on quite the roll, but Lufisto had a strong showing against her on volume 26 and Kong had never been pinned in Shimmer.

The triple threat portion was the hard hitting conflict expected from these three and did a phenomenal job of establishing how tough all three competitors were and how big a task MsChif was left with once Lufisto was eliminated. The remainder of the match was David vs Goliath in all the best ways, with both women confounding her opponent by kicking out of usual finishers. MsChif hit an incredible high angle Desecrator to do the impossible and keep her title in an excellent match with a pretty much perfect story.

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Sara Del Rey vs Ayako Hamada vs Jessie McKay – Volume 34

Here we have a very different Del Rey from the early days of Shimmer. She’s a dominant heel now who (as we are reminded in a video package) has recent hard fought victories over both her opponents here and wants to regain “her” Shimmer title. Hamada is another tough veteran trying to work her way into her first title shot, and McKay is an up and comer trying to prove she can compete with the best. Jessie’s also looking for a title shot for personal reasons – the current champion was her former partner Madison Eagles.

I loved the choice of participants in this match and how they were all coming from different directions and backgrounds. It made sense for each to be there but the similar yet contrasting motivations added a whole other layer to the story. The difference in characters lead to different approaches in the match. Del Rey was all business, trying to maintain composure and steamroll her opponents. Hamada was “goofing around” a bit, trying to get into the head of Del Rey (including a great bit during introductions running around the ring with thumbs down to encourage fans to boo Del Rey, doing a super-fast count herself when Del Rey goes outside, etc). McKay was waiting for her opportunities to strike and trying to make the most of them, knowing she was a bit outmatched.

Not everything was perfect but the action was excellent regardless and with all roles played just right this match came together into one of my favorite forgotten classics. Del Rey’s giant swing, Hamada’s dueling tree of woe dropkicks and McKay’s tornado DDT on Hamada out of an electric chair drop position on Del Rey were a few of the highlights. Prazak and Perez were great on commentary reenforcing all the issues and implications here. Even in a three-way the very seldom pin on Del Rey gave McKay instant credibility and set up another fantastic match when she challenged Eagles.

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Madison Eagles vs Hikaru Shida vs Kana – Volume 61

This is another (similar) example of three wrestlers with different approaches and motivations coming together into a fantastic match. Eagles was on a win streak after coming back to Shimmer from a break due to injury following dropping the Shimmer title, Kana’s the one playing mind games here and Shida’s the up and comer trying to make her mark. It’s interestingly not likely the original plan for this volume, and was most probably supposed to be a singles match between Eagles and Shida. The main event should have been a tag match with Lufisto and Kana vs Martinez and Melissa, but Melissa was out from an injury suffered at volume 60’s taping earlier in the day so that became a singles match and Kana ended up being added here.

Of course part of the fun here is the perfect amount of comedy worked in before they got down to full out wrestling. Madison takes exception to Shida and brandishes her trademark fork early. Kana steps between them and gestures that she’s thought ahead and takes out a spoon to the crowd’s delight. Shida shoots them both a look of sheer disbelief (“Did you both forget I carry a weapon?”) and walks to the corner to get her kendo stick. Madison’s not happy with the shift in firepower and trades her fork for a broom. Shida easily knocks that away. She swings at Madison with the kendo stick and misses, but Kana then taps Madison in the head with the spoon and poses happily. Shida now charges at Madison with the kendo stick and Madison counters with a double leg takedown, but she takes another spoon shot and more gloating from Kana. Prazak marvels on commentary on how spoon has somehow won the battle of fork vs spoon vs kendo stick. This is one of my favorite sequences in Shimmer history, It was amusing, played around with established elements, and didn’t overstay its welcome.

The match itself was fantastic with constant shifting alliances (Kana really enjoys turning on her temporary partners in matches like these) and some really nice sequences. The triple wrestler spots and holds were unique (love Shida’s missile dropkick on Eagles into a splash on Kana) and they made the best of having three phenomenal strikers in there. Kana’s toughness was reenforced by Madison needing to load the kickpad to take Kana out of the equation, and Shida lost nothing in defeat given her showing. Kana kicks at the kendo stick after the match and makes faces at Shida. Shida gets a well deserved “please come back” chant. Everything clicked and I loved this.

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Hope everyone enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. Parts 2 and 3 to come.

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Shimmer 63 DVD Review

April 2014 in Berwyn, IL

This was my first time seeing Shimmer live in Berwyn and it was amazing. The Shimmer weekend experience is something I wholeheartedly recommend. Venue is smaller than it looks on film, but stills holds a lot of fans and the atmosphere is great. I remember enjoying this a lot live, particularly Shida/Yim and the nuclear heat for Nakagawa/Knight. so it’ll be interesting to revisit on dvd.

Match 1 – Evie vs Rhia O’Reilly: ***1/2

Veda Scott on commentary with Dave Prazak and doing well in place of Portia Perez. Evie’s one of the fastest rising stars of Shimmer and Rhia’s a great foil for her. This was a good back and forth match with Rhia just beating Evie down to combat Evie’s lethal strikes. Evie’s parabola kick in unexplainably awesome. Evie wins after a doublestomp off the top with Rhia hanging in the tree of woe.

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Battling on the turnbuckle directly above me.

Havok cuts a strong promo setting up her match with Kay Lee Ray claiming KLR got lucky against Vanessa Kraven and “I’m a whole different kind of monster than Vanessa is.”

Match 2 – Nevaeh vs Christina Von Eerie: **1/2

Von Eeire looks a bit different without her hair up in her trademark mohawk. Good intensity here, as Nevaeh radiated disdain for Von Eeire and the fans and both really conveyed the idea of wanting to one-up each other well. Interesting submission hold from Von Eerie towards the end. Essentially a Texas Cloverleaf with one of Nevaeh’s arms hammerlocked by one of Von Eerie’s legs. Nevaeh with an unusual singles victory in Shimmer with the DVD. Decent, if basic, match.

Match 3 – Havok vs Kay Lee Ray: ****

Tough Berwyn debut for Kay Lee Ray. Havok’s already showing decent crowd support as they slowly turn her face whether anyone likes it or not. Havok pulls the pin on a grenade and tosses it to KLR before the bell. Prazak and Scott enjoying themselves on commentary. “She pulled the pin!” “The whole front row should have evacuated! What are they doing?!” “The whole building should be evacuated!” “Well, it’s a small grenade.” They then praise the fearlessness of the photographer that picked it up off the floor as Havok and KLR exchange arm wringers to start. KLR gets the better of it, puts Havok in a arm bar then fires up the crowd clapping against Havok’s outstretched hand as Havok screams to stop it. Cute spot.

Back to their feet and the story of the match sets in with KLR’s quickness against Havok’s brutal strikes and smashes.  A particularly nasty one sees Havok just knock KLR out of the air during a dive attempt to the floor. Extended beatdown by Havok. KLR uses her quickness again to avoid a chop in the corner and fire back with her own for a glimmer of hope, then Havok wipes her out with a clothesline. Elevated full nelson into a backbreaker into a horizontal clothesline to the mat by Havok in a great combo. Crowd is firmly behind KLR at this point, which speaks to the excellent heel work Havok is doing since she started the match with some cheers. Havok with several backbreakers in succession, and KLR counters the last with a headscissors. Kick to Havok’s face in the corner and she goes for a bulldog, but Havok counters with a back suplex.

The timekeeper announces that five minutes have gone by, which blows my mind given how much has been packed into the match already. Dueling chants start as both wrestlers are too good at their job for the crowd to want to boo either. Prazak acknowledges the Havok fans, which is nice because I hate it when announcers try to ignore/spin crowd reactions. Some more back and forth and then KLR starts to string together offense and she hits the dive this time around. The structure of this match has been excellent. KLR up top but Havok grabs her for a chokeslam down into the ring and picks up the win.

Fantastic match and a perfect example of why both Havok and KLR have become favorites of mine. Would love to see an even longer rematch.

 Canadian Ninjas promo where Portia acts like Nicole had an extramarital affair by teaming with Madison Eagles at the previous ippv. Nicole patches things up by removing her Eagles t-shirt to reveal a Portia one. Amusing antics from the Ninjas.

Match 4 – Courtney Rush vs Marti Belle: **

This is Belle’s main roster debut. Here’s an example of two decent wrestlers with comedic overtones that I don’t personally enjoy often. Belle has tweaked her character and mannerisms nicely over time and her recent appearances on Shine are much better. One admittedly amusing spot early on as Rush counters a headlock simply by standing up to full height. Belle’s ample use of hairspray drifts into the crowd and a “too much hairspray” chant ensues.

After a series of holds and reversals Rush traps Belle’s arms under Rush’s legs in a camel clutch variation and messes her hair. Leading to more noxious fumes in the corner once the Rush releases the hold. Rush is just back from a collarbone injury and Belle targeted the right shoulder throughout the match. She finally pisses Rush off and the sharpshooter finishes off the newcomer.

Effort shown from both and nothing technically wrong with the match, but honestly it felt very flat to me as was too long for the characters / the story they were telling.

Match 5 –Kimber Lee & Cherry Bomb vs Leva Bates & Veda Scott: ***1/2

Scott bailed from commentary during the last match to prepare for this one. Prazak still solo on commentary. The Kimber Bombs are a great tag team and are very effective as heels in Shimmer. Early appearance as a team so they don’t have their “incorrect order when turning around to show their team name on their trunks” comedy spot going yet. Their opponents are the new team of Veda and Leva, with Leva out in cosplay as usual. Rogue from the X-Men this time (and a spot on costume).  Oops, I stand corrected – the Bombs got it right during the entrance, but do the “Bombs Kimber” spot during their introduction. Veda seems a little confused by her partner, but is smiling all the same. Kimber with a “four eyes” insult just so everyone remembers who the heels are.

Veda gets the advantage on Cherry to starts and some solid doubleteams from Veda/Leva in the early going. Prazak helpfully reminds me that Veda and Leva formed this team as a result of earning each other’s respect in a match against one another at the last show. Leva removes a glove and applies the claw to “absorb” Kimber’s strength in a nod to the character she’s dressed as. Mocks the Kimber Bombs pose and hits a suplex. Cheapshot from Cherry on the outside and the Bombs take over. Proper Kimber Bombs double suplex on Leva. Superkick on Cherry finally gives Leva an opening and both teams switch up.

Veda in control of both Bombs for a bit, but Kimber pulls her in front of Leva’s missile dropkick and the Bombs hit the lungblower German suplex combo for the win. Leva apologizes and hugs her partner after the match. Good tag team battle as the Kimber Bombs continue their roll.

Match 6: Madison Eagles vs Heidi Lovelace ****

Time for another heel the crowd loves to love as Madison Eagles comes out to an ovation. Decent response for Heidi as her opponent too. “Worst Best Friends” chant for Madison. The variation on Madison’s pre-match hidden fork ritual this time is putting it in her hand before shaking with Heidi, leading to Heidi getting caught by the ref brandishing a fork. Madison suitably overreacts to her own deed and tries to get the ref to give the fork (back) to her to use because “she brought it.” Reasonably amusing. With that out of the way the match starts with some solid counter-wrestling. Prazak again setting the stage wonderfully recounting Madison’s unbeaten streak since returning after losing the Shimmer title and how she’s rising in the contender ranks with every subsequent victory vs Heidi trying to climb herself and accepting challenges of all sorts.

Veda returns to commentary and sounds a bit cagey about her new tag team’s future. Eagles and Lovelace progress from holds to strikes and the pace quickens considerably. Madison with an extended advantage and grabs the ropes right in front of the ref during a pin attempt. When questioned she responds “I was so close.” I like the matter of fact nature of her humor and she uses it well, never quite overshadowing the match, but she really doesn’t need it and I wouldn’t mind seeing it toned down a bit in general from her.

Dueling chants after some back and forth and Eagles lands a beautiful deadlift German. Strike exchange on their knees leads to Heidi kicking Madison in the head leads to Madison tripping Heidi hard and attempting a brainbuster. Heidi reverses it into a small package for a believable nearfall. Great stuff. Heidi evades a charge in the corner, hits a kick to the head and goes up for a diving double knees from the top. Madison kicks out just before 3. Madison blocks a backdrop driver attempt and plants Heidi with a brainbuster. She drags Heidi over for one of the best and most devastating moves in her arsenal, the spider German. Heidi reverses though with another kick to the head, but the frog splash attempt meets Madison’s knees. Madison locks in an incredibly painful looking STF variation for the submission win.

Heidi was more than game to hang with the former Shimmer champion and this match was excellent. Love the addition of a new finisher for Madison, as her Hellbound is one of the most protected finishers in Shimmer history and I want to see it stay that way.

Here we go. This next part was electric live and I can’t wait to see how it translates. Saraya out… no wait she’s annoyed at the fans and goes back. Out again, and has the mic. Rips into the crowd for cheering her for her daughter’s accomplishments. She has everyone dancing to her tune from word one, and honestly may be the greatest heel I’ve ever seen. She starts talking about an unidentified person who “seems to thinks she’s better than me.” Continues in this vein and adds “there’s only one person I give accolades, and that’s the one wearing the number one belt. Not a piece of crap like you. Play her music, bring her out.” When the music hit and the crowd realized she was talking about Nakagawa, they were in shock/awe. And then the cheering built and built.

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Match 7 – Tomoka Nakagawa (Shimmer Tag Team Champion) vs Saraya Knight ****1/4

Nakagawa out with her Shimmer Tag Team title belt, a nice and important touch after Saraya’s trash talk, which continues during the introductions. After Tomoka’s a thunderous Nakagwa chant starts. It’s the loudest chant I’ve heard, and it comes across pretty well on dvd. The consummate professional that Saraya is, she’s sees her opportunity and grabs it, taking the mic again and telling the crowd she’s never been so disrespected in her life. She tells us to shut up, and that she knows we won’t be able to keep the noise up all match, and even if we do Tomoka won’t here it because she’s going to knock both her eardrum out. Amazingly the chant manages to get LOUDER. Just brilliant work by the veteran. “SHE. CAN’T. BEAT. ME.”

Bell rings and Saraya fumes as Tomoka encourages the fans. Great touch from Veda as her concern with Saraya’s threat that she’ll punch everyone in the building in the mouth isn’t whether she thinks Saraya actually will, but whether it just means the fans or if her and Dave are also in trouble. So much more effective in getting the character over than saying something like “I’m sure she wouldn’t actually do that.”

Just as they are about to lock up some fans nearly give Saraya an aneurism by chanting “we want Paige.” Prazak and Veda set the stage for the match noting both women have been notorious rulebreakers in the past. I think a one-match return of Tomoka’s cheating ways to counter Saraya is in order. Lock-up for real, and by that I mean Saraya throws her around by the hair. Saraya taunts her and Tomoka shows she’s just as good at dragging someone by the hair. Eye poke by Knight and the boos are echoing. Reciprocated to counter to cheers. This is a masterful display of craft from both and the only moves we’ve seen so far is hair pulling and eye pokes.

An exchange of closed fist shots during headlocks is the next stage in the cheating one-upmanship, then Saraya just tees of with a slap. Hard clothesline and some stomps look to put her in control, but Tomoka comes back with some chops and a beautiful dropkick. Saraya back to the hair and pulls Nakagawa into a leg-applied full nelson. She transitions through a few holds then clubs on Tomoka’s back when she starts to break free.

The crowd noise dies down just a little, so Saraya with a taunting “I can’t hear you” and the booing is back in full force. Tomoka with the advantage, so Saraya punches her low, rakes the eyes, kicks her low when she drops into the corner, then hits her running seated low dropkick. Tomoka placed on the top turnbuckle. Another low punch, slap to the face, then a suplex from the bottom rope.

Saraya mocking Tomoka and they start trading punches on a delay, but after one go ’round Sraya goes back to the slap instead. She proceed to call Tomoka a little girl and talk about how she bit off more than she can chew and Tomoka finally repays the slaps in kind. Of course That infuriated Knight, who connects with another slap then ties Tomoka up in the ropes and scores several kidney punches. Vicious low kick back in the center of the ring and Tomoka crumples to the mat. As Saraya gloats Tomoka trips her and finialy repays the low blows in kind as well. She goes to the corner for her water bottle, but Rhia comes out to distract her and takes the water spit herself. Saraya with a reverse DDT for the win. Ever the sportswoman, Saraya stands on Tomoka’s hair to keep her in place and pours the water bottle out on her face. Saraya and Rhia scheme about turning this win into a tag title shot.

As much of a technical wrestling fanboy as I am, there are numerous ways to work a match, and these two worked this to perfection, Milage may vary, but I thought this was fantastic and while the full energy of it live was impossible to capture, watching it on dvd certainly did it justice.

Cheerleader Melissa and Mercedes Martinez talk about how not worried they are about Lufisto and Kana.

Match 8 – Athena vs Yumi Ohka ****1/4

Highly anticipated match here. Yumi Ohka is one of the most impressive wrestler that has been brought in from Japan and Athena is one of Shimmer’s best “homegrown” talents, having steadily climbed her way up the card over time. Athena is currently rumored to be headed to the WWE, a well deserved position if true.

Prazak mentions how busy and in demand Ohka is in Japan, which lead to a year and a half absence from Shimmer between her last appearance and this one. Athena is also returning to Shimmer here after an absence, hers due to a shoulder injury. A bit of aggressive counter wrestling to start, with Athena getting to show she’s on Ohka’s level. Ohka soon takes over though with her trademark running Yakuza kicks. Three variations connect and Athena’s down in perfect place for an elbow drop from the second rope. In a nice touch, after a cover Ohka checks with the ref that the count was two and not three, but when he says yes she just says ok. It’s a reflection of the heels arguing every two count and I like it as reenforcement of her as a face. It also aids suspension of disbelief, because in an actual competition of course you’d look to the official to verify whether or not you’d won.

Athena with a flurry of knee strikes and a vicious running boot of her own to a bent over Ohka. Neckbreaker followed by a butterfly suplex and Ohka appears to be in trouble, but reverses an Irish whip into another running Yakuza kick. Side kick then mule kick from Athena, but Yumi takes the advantage again with a forearm and hits a stranglehold lungblower into a submission. Lets go and back to the running kicks, but Athena reverses the second into 619 position, slides to the floor and nails Ohka with a kick to the face. Belly-to-belly by Ohka and both are down. Ax kick to the back of Athena’s head by Ohka. She’s calling for the finish but Athena reverses a suplex attempt with a small package. Another near fall on Ohka follows off of a springboard crossbody. Ohka lands knees to Athena’s head and then another big kick to the face for a two count. Ohka hits the ropes, but Athena traps the leg on the kick attempt and converts into an overhead suplex.

Athena with a new submission hold, tying up Ohka’s legs with her own and grabbing a crossface. Ohka makes the ropes and Athena goes right into a series of handstand kneedrops. Up to the second rope and nails a senton on a prone Ohka for another close two count. Athena and crowd calling for the O-face , but Ohka absolutely nails her in the head with another running kick with Athena on the tope turnbuckle. Superplex from Ohka but Athena kicks out. She hits her tiger suplex and then destroys the remains of Athena with a final running Yakuza kick for the victory.

How stacked is this card that Ohka vs Athena goes on fifth from the top? Phenomenal return for both.

Match 9 – The Canadian Ninjas vs Ray and Leon ****

“Edge of Seventeen” brings out Shimmer’s most despise tag team, Portia Perez and Nicole Matthews. For their opponents, Ray and Leon make their return to Shimmer! These two can fly and were instantly beloved in their first appearances. Ray’s cartwheel bomb is one of my favorite maneuvers ever. Big welcome back chant as Dave recounts how Ray and Leon are two of the most requested athletes to return.

Portia riling up the crowd quick by trying to push her opponents back and forth trying to decide which corner she prefers to be in. Bell rings and the Ninjas ambush their opponents, sending Ray out of the ring and focusing on Leon. The advantage doesn’t last long as Leon rolls through a double clothesline attempt and Ray comes in for a double dropkick. They continue to double team Portia in flashy fashion, firing up the crowd.

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The Ninjas take over with a blind tag and demonstrate their commitment to being good heels by using both the ropes and outside leverage on a chinlock. Extended working over of Ray until she cartwheels through Portia’s clothesline attempt and hits a dropkick. Tag to Leon and she rolls over the Ninjas, including a double spear when Nicole tries to get involved. Picture perfect tilt-a-whirl backbreaker by Leon on Portia and then stereo submissions on the Ninjas. Couple of surprise pin attempts by Portia on Leon after she’s released, but Leon drives her into the corner and tags Ray. Machine gun chops on Portia in the corner by Ray, and the faster she gets the more painful it is just to watch. Whip to an empty corner and Ray nails a handspring elbow.

Portia eventually hits a DDT and tags in Nicole. Great Rude style neck breaker into a superkick combo. Big lariat by Nicole for two as the crowd chants for Ray. Leon’s had enough, and strikes Nicole when she goes up top, leaving her in position for a spin kick from Ray. Leon blocks Portia as Ray hits an Iconoclasm for two. Things break down from here as both teams double team and cheap shot each other at every opportunity. All four in, then Ray knocked outside. Portia with a lightning spiral (!) into a Nicole brainbuster. They go for the Funky Cold Medina, but Leon catches the superkick and Ray comes back to kick Portia in the head.

German suplex by Leon on Matthews, 619 by Ray, spear by Leon and Nicole just barely kicks out. Frog splash by Leon but Portia shoves Ray back into the pin attempt to break it up. Ray lays Portia out with a German suplex and both masked wrestlers go up top. Ray with a moonsault on Perez simultaneously to Leon’s senton on Mathews and we have a double pin.

Great match to set up Ray and Leon as contenders for the tag titles.

Evie an endearing, slightly goofy promo about wanting to be Shimmer champion.

Match 10 – Kellie Skater (Shimmer Tag Team Champion) vs Nikki Storm ***1/2

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It’s time for the best in the galaxy! Niiki’s natural charisma is already making fans, as a “SPEECH! SPEECH! SPEECH!” chat goes up as soon as she enters the ring. Nikki works herself up finding absurd ways to describe her own beauty, and the crowd eats it up. The other half of the tag champs is out as her opponent. As usual the ring announcer can’t say “Glasglow” to Nikki’s satisfaction and gets corrected. Loudly. The crowd sides with the bully heel, chanting “say it right.” Kevin they slays them by covering his mouth and saying it in a muffled way that sounds pretty close. That got a big laugh. On to Kellie’s sing-a-long intro, which leads to Nikki getting streamer envy and a loud “Skater’s got this!” chant.

It might be starting to sound like the matches all start the same as I describe “counter wrestling to start,” but each set of competitors has focused on different holds, reversals, etc and it hasn’t felt repetitive at all. Here Skater and Storm fight over headlocks and head scissors and then proceed to a test of strength. Prazak and Veda have an interesting conversation on commentary pointing out the unique nature of Shimmer and all of the international talents it features.

Stalemate on the test of strength until Nikki trips Kellie and transitions into an arm wringer. Kellie reverses into a body scissors and does body dips to exercise while applying the hold. Nikki counters into a heel hook, which Kellie counters back into a headlock to the crowds appreciation. Pace quickens with a shoulder tackle by Nikki followed by armdrags by Kellie, culminating with a ropewalk one. Nikki begs off in the corner in hilarious fashion, offer the hand of sportsmanship only to drag Kellie face first into the turnbuckle. Back and forth but Nikki chokes Kellie to get take control. Nikki just pounding Kellie’s head into the mat. She keeps the advantage until a “let’s go Skater” chant fires Kellie up and they trade forearm shots. Nikki ends that with a kneelift, but Kellie gets a close two with a small package.

Nikki clubs Kellie back down, then chokes her and “innocently” asks the ref if choking is illegal in America when he counts her. “Really???” The ref then realizes Storm’s been standing on Kellie’s hair for the whole conversation. Veda with a great side bar about Niiki having difficultly with “language barriers” to which Dave fires back “It’s English! She just has an accent!” “Well it’s a very heavy accent.”

Kellie comes back with a succession of clotheslines and dropkicks, then a kick combination into a DDT. Nikki counters a snake eyes and looks for the Perfect Storm, but instead eats a running kick to the chest. Eye rake by Storm and then rolling neckbreakers (using the hair of course). Crossface by Nikki, Skater makes the ropes. Some offense from Skater, but an International Incedent attempt is countered into a Perfect Storm attempt which becomes a spinning cradle neckbreaker by Niiki after Kellie slips out of the Perfect Storm. Kickout just before three. Storm just shoving Skater now. Mauling Kellie in the corner out of frustration until the ref pulls her back.  Kellie avoids a charge, International Incident for three,

Nice toe-to-toe match and a strong showing for Storm, who is going to be a big star someday.

Clips of Hikaru Shida vs Mia Yim 1 from Volume 58 to introduce the rematch.

Match 11 – Mia Yim vs Hikaru Shida ****1/2

Mia has evolved over her career to become one of the most well rounded competitors on the roster. Shida is a young star from Japan with seemingly limitless potential. They tore the house down the first time and there was a lot of anticipation for this rematch. It was scheduled for the preceding ippv, but Mia was injured. Shida vs Evie filled in admirably, and we get the rematch here.

Great exchange of flipping, rolling, and countering out of each others holds early on. Wonderful display of submission style holds from both. Mia makes the ropes while in a leg hold and we reset. Exchange of armdrags, leg sweeps and simultaneous dropkick attempts and it’s another stalemate, Both athletes come up smiling in a sign of appreciation of the competition. Mia pulls ahead with a flying headscissors and lays into Shida with kicks to the back and chest. She clubs Shida down, hits an ax kick to the back, and applies a leg lock. She can’t quite get what looks like an Indian deathlock attempt, so she switches into a Boston crab. Shida makes the ropes and tries to fight back, but gets caught in a body scissors. Close pinfall attempts for both, all while Mia keeps the body scissors applied. Rope break and Shida tries to capitalize on a missed kick in the corner by Yim, but runs into a boot and Mia applies the tarantula.

Shida absorbs a couple hard kicks, catches the third and drives Mia’s injured knee straight into the canvas. Two more vicious impacts of the knee to the canvas and Shida locks in the figure four. Rope break then Shida runs at Mia and doesn’t quite go over the low bridge. Instead of forcing it she just trades a couple shots with Mia and then Mia dumps her. Mia goes or the apron kick, but Shida sweeps her legs and she lands face first on the apron. Knee lift with Mia draped over the side. Stomping at the injured knee.and then a running knee strike to it with Mia tied up in the corner. Exchange of forearms becomes a running kick by Mia becomes a running knee strike by Shida.

They fight over a suplex and Mia hits it. Shida with one of her own. Mia’s turn again. She pulls Shida toward the corner and goes up top, but Shida catches her. Superplex attempt blocked, but Shida knocks her off the top to the apron, then hits an incredible deadlift superplex from the second turnbuckle.

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Phenomenal strength shown by Hikaru Shida.

Another exchange of forearm shots. Backfist from Yim. Enziguri from Shida. She lifts Mia for a falcon arrow, but it’s countered into a rollup, which Shida counters into her own, which Mia counters into a cover, which Shida counters into a crucifix and turns into a horse collar when Mia kicks out. Great sequence. Mia SCREAMING to sell the pain on the injured knee. Rope break but Shida immediately nails Mia in the face with a knee strike as Mia was still clutching her knee against the ropes. Mia grabs the bottom rope to break the pin. Three Count ducked, reverse attempt ducked, German suplex by Yim. Mia limping. Goes for the package piledriver, but can’t lift Shida. Exchange of kicks then Mia turns a headscissors attempt into a sitout powerbomb. First “this is awesome” chants of the show and Mia finishes Shida off with the package piledriver.

Fantastic back and forth contest between two wrestlers at the top of their game. Big win for Mia to put her into title contention and yet another impressive showing for Shida.

Recap of Mercedes costing Lufisto her two of three falls title match against Melissa at Volume 62.

Main event – Kana & Lufisto vs Cheerleader Melissa (Shimmer Champion) & Mercedes Martinez ***3/4

This is likely the main event we were supposed to get on Shimmer 61 to set up Lufisto’s title shot on Shimmer 62, but Melissa was injured so it became Lufisto vs Martinez and Kana was added to another match.

Mercedes and the champ are out first, giddily soaking up the boos. Lufisto and Kana out to a big reaction. Lufisto rushes Melissa during intros and there’s the bell. They all spill to the outside and pair up with Kana vs Melissa and Mercedes vs Lufisto. Kana and Melissa back into the ring to start the match proper and they are just kicking the hell out of each other. Melissa with control, beating on Kana in the corner then pulls her out … to mockingly slap the back of her head. That can’t possibly be a good idea. Kana reverses a suplex attempt into a high angle arm bar. Melissa makes the ropes in part due to Mercedes pushing it closer, a wonderful heel touch. And indeed Melissa has angered Kana and eats some brutal kicks to the head.

Melissa catches a kick and takes back over, tagging in Mercedes. Doubleteam elbow and Mercedes begins the chopping portion of the program. They draw Lufisto in and take turns choking Kana in their corner. Kana catches Mercedes coming off the rope with the flying armbar and makes it over to tag Lufisto. Doubleteam from Lufisto and Kana and Lufisto beats on Mercedes until she retreats outside. Back in an Lufisto continues to work the arm, but a cheapshot from Melissa on the outside turns the tide. More choking and Melissa goes to work on Lufisto. Extended beat down, with lots and lots of choking.

Lufisto counters a clothesline into a rollup, then avoids Mercedes with a roll towards her corner and tags Kana. Kana delivers six kicks to Mercedes in ten seconds, but Melissa nails her from the outside to give her partner control. Doesn’t last long as Kana fires back up and hits a wicked combination of strikes. Kick to the side of the head and Mercedes just barely kicks out. Melissa mauls Kana and the ref is distracted by Lufisto trying to come in to even the odds.

My most despised sequence then happens, as the ref turns around and sees Melissa still in the ring helping Mercedes and half heartedly counts, stopping for no reason at four when Melissa and Mercedes are both still in the ring beating on Kana because he’d have to DQ them if he kept counting. The part that kills me is Lufisto then comes in, and instead of letting it go like with the heels and counting the ref PHYSICALLY PUSHES HER BACK TO HER CORNER. So annoying. He’s not supposed to be treating the faces and heels differently in the exact same situation. He’s supposed to miss the heels doing it because his back is turned, not starring at them as they cheat and then acting biased against the faces. Meh.

Moving on. Kana in trouble, and Melissa applies a leg lock, kicking at Kana with her other foot to prevent the rope break while Mercedes pulls the rope away. And the ref again is in position to look directly at Mercedes and kind of reprimands her and pulls at her arms for half a second before going right back to checking Kana with Mercedes still pulling on the rope. Keep in mind the physical restraining of Lufisto every time she moves half a foot from her corner. Huh, guess we weren’t moving on afterall. My mistake.

Kana makes the ropes anyway. Slam by Melissa and she continues to keep Kana grounded. Tag to Mercedes but Kana counters a kick with an ankle lock into a release German. Mercedes up and they trade strikes until Mercedes hits a brainbuster and they’re both down. Kana tags Lufisto and Mercedes makes it to Melissa as well. Back and forth then Lufisto hits the cannonball. Mercedes in and hits the fishermen’s buster, but Kana wipes her out with a sliding kick and locks in an arm submission, but now the ref cares who’s legal. Melissa breaks it up and hits an air raid crash on Kana. thankfully the ref is consistent here and won’t count Melissa’s pin on Kana either. Lufisto sneaks in with a burning hammer attempt, but Melissa fights it off and hits an air raid crash.  Lufisto kicks out! Kana destroys Melissa with a kick to the side of the head as she tried to lift Lufisto, then Mercedes drops Kana with a back suplex and they’re all down.

Melissa and Mercedes up first, and they hit a double team top rope curb stomp on Kana. Lufisto tosses Mercedes. Melissa from behind with a Kudo Driver attempt, but Lufisto counters into the burning hammer for the win. Lufisto poses with the belt after the match. This all would have made more sense before Shimmer 62, but it’s still a nice moment.

Despite my issues with the officiating, this was a solid main event with good action from four excellent wrestlers.

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Overall: One of the best top to bottom shows Shimmer’s put on, with a card loaded with top-notch action featuring phenomenal talent. Nearly as good on dvd as it was live, and well worth seeking out.

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

Categories
Japan Wrestling

The NXT Step for a Legend

It’s been a little bittersweet over the last few years as more and more wrestlers I’ve watched on the indies go to the WWE. It means less opportunities to see them wrestle live, but I’m always thrilled for their success and what being signed means for their careers. Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, Kevin Steen, Sara Del Rey, Uhaa Nation, and several others were all favorites of mine that got noticed for their excellent work and received an opportunity to work for the biggest pro-wrestling company there is.

But none of these announcements has excited and surprised me quite like the unexpected appearance of Kana during NXT Takeover Brooklyn.

 

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The World Famous Kana at Shimmer 68.

 

I was unfamiliar with Kana before her Shimmer debut on volumes 41-44, but she made a lasting impression fast. With a unique look and aura and incredible ringwork, she went toe-to-toe with some of Shimmer’s best that weekend (Sara Del Rey, Cheerleader Melissa, Mia Yim, and Lufisto) and beat most of them. It was a fantastic first impression and instantly made her one of my favorites, a status that only grew stronger over time. Her match against Ayako Hamada at Volume 50 is still my favorite Shimmer match ever.

 

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Kana and Lufisto get ready for a four team tag title match at Shimmer 53.

 

My first opportunity to see her (and a lot of other phenomenal athletes) live was Shimmer 53 as part of all the wrestling hoopla surrounding Wrestlemania in NJ in 2013. As part of a four-team tag title match she didn’t get a big spotlight but still managed to shine during her exchanges. It’s always an amazing feeling to get to meet one of your favorites and I was also able to get a beautiful piece of commissioned art of done by Rob Schamberger signed by her.

 

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A goofy looking fan meets a world traveled wrestler at the top of her game.
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Incredible rendition of Kana by Rob Schamberger, signed by both. 🙂

 

My first trip out to Berwyn, IL for a Shimmer taping weekend was in April 2014 and I can’t recommend the experience enough. Two full days of incredible wrestling featuring some of the best on the planet. It was again a thrill to get to see Kana live and her singles matches against a variety of up-and-comers (particularly the Galaxy Famous Nikki Storm) were a joy.

 

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Kana exhausted and likely a bit dazed moments after her hard hitting Shimmer Title match, but still friendly and cheerful with the fans.

 

My second Shimmer weekend in October 2014 now looks like it may have been Kana’s last, as she missed this past April and is likely headed to the WWE. If it was she had a great showing to finish up on. She had her first shot at the Shimmer title in an excellent rematch I’d been waiting a long time for against Cheerleader Melissa in the main event of Volume 67. On Volume 68 she and regular tag partner Lufisto wrestled Saraya Knight and Mayumi Ozaki in a no-DQ match that spilled around the arena a bit.

The next day another great wrestler with a bright future, Kay Lee Ray, faced Kana in a fantastic contest. Kana finished the weekend with another solid match against Courtney Rush.

 

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Kana in some trouble vs another favorite of mine, Kay Lee Ray.

 

A couple months ago Kana announced a “hiatus” from wrestling. There was a lot of speculation without much info, and while WWE’s recent visit to Japan certainly presented the possibility of her being involved in negotiations, nothing was confirmed so it was just one more theory in the pile. Her appearance at NXT was a complete shock and I did a double take when I saw her up on the screen next to Flair and Slaughter. It was another awesome moment for me as a wrestling fan at a show absolutely filled with them.

While nothing’s been announced, WWE having Kana travel for NXT Takeover and showing her as part of the broadcast points heavily towards her being signed. The fact that she was named (with their standard slight spelling tweak for copyright) indicates if so her background and experience would likely be (rightfully) acknowledged instead of treating her like a rookie.

 

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Kana was gracious enough to agree to a pic at the Shimmer afterparty during Shimmer 63-66 weekend.

 

It will be a very different chapter of her career, but I’m extremely happy for her and excited about all the possibilities. Best of luck to a true superstar.

Categories
Japan Wrestling

Farewell Tomoka: A fan’s personal look back on a great career

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Tomoka Nakagawa and Aja Kong after Nakagawa’s penultimate match.

Although she was nearly a six year veteran at the time, Tomoka Nakagawa’s Shimmer debut on Volume 29 (in April 2010) was the first exposure I had to her work. Joining Nakagawa in the first appearance of joshi talent in Shimmer were Ayumi Kurihara, Misaki Ohata, and Hiroyo Matsumoto. She was impressive in a losing effort against Kurihara in her debut, and stood out a bit extra due to being the only heel of the four.

Nakagawa would become a familiar and important cornerstone in Shimmer, missing only one weekend of tapings from her debut until her retirement. The first three years continued to feature her heel persona, with her general mannerisms and penchant for spitting water in her opponent’s eyes antagonizing the crowd at every opportunity. It was highlighted by a short tag-title reign with partner Daizee Haze in 2011.

On April 6, 2013 Shimmer came to New Jersey during Wrestlemania weekend for Volume 53. It was my first live Shimmer show, and first opportunity to see Nakagawa (and many others) in person. Even more luckily for me, something that would prove very important happened at the last show of the previous tapings: Tomoka Nakagawa and Kellie Skater formed a tag-team, the Global Green Gangsters (3G).

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3G t-shirt by ShuperCousin Designs and signed by Nakagawa and Skater.

Skater was recently “reformed” and constantly trying to show her new partner that they didn’t need to resort to cheating to win. The dynamic was incredible and 3G immediately had the crowd on board cheering for Nakagawa to “change her ways.” The four way tag-title match from Volume 53 only gave a glimpse of what they were capable of, but the end made it clear we’d be seeing more of 3G in the title picture. One week later 3G would win the titles at the end of the tapings in a wild no-DQ match against cowardly reigning champions the Canadian Ninjas.

I attended my first set of Shimmer tapings in Berwyn the following spring, and the love for 3G as conquering heroes was off the charts. Their struggle, along with Skater and Nakagawa’s fantastic chemistry and charisma, made them two of the most beloved wrestlers on the roster, and their matches were generally highlights of every card. The support for Nakagawa was particularly apparent during her singles match against Saraya Knight on Volume 63, where the crowd’s cheers for her were deafening.  Another amazing live experience was the end of the fall 2014 tapings, featuring 3G, Madison Eagles and Jessica Havok against the Canadian Ninjas and the Kimber Bombs in a no-DQ, no-countout war that spilled through the crowd and all over the venue.

Nakagawa announced her retirement in late 2014, and wrestled her final match in Japan on December 4, 2014. Given the success she enjoyed abroad and what Shimmer meant to her, she chose to do one last US tour and have the last matches of her career in Berwyn the following April.

Being there live was an honor I can’t properly describe. From the surprise appearances of Aja Kong and Dynamite Kansai to Dave Prazak handling the introductions for one last 3G vs Canadian Ninjas match to the closing retirement celebration the weekend was a bittersweet roller coaster ride of emotions and excitement.

On June 7 at an Oz Academy show in Tokyo Tomoka Nakagawa received a ten bell salute, official ending her ten year wrestling career.

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Thanks for the incredible matches and all those years spent entertaining us. Best of luck in your retirement. You will be missed.