Friday, 18 January 2013

Analysing the State of the WWE Divas Divison

photo from dwwedivas.blogspot.co.uk


As I'm sure most of you will know by now, I'm one of the small number of wrestling fans who actually value and enjoy womens wrestling, so it should come as little surprise that I'm about to ramble extensively about that very subject. I know I said my 'top 10 matches of 2012' piece would be next, but my top ten currently still has about fifteen matches in, and I have no idea what order I want to put them in, so I'll hold off on that, as this is both more topical and something I have more desire to write about.

In the time since I have returned to watching wrestling regularly (July 2011, when Punk dropped his infamous pipebomb) the WWE Divas division hasn't exactly been a great example of what women can do in a wrestling ring, but since that point there have been a great number of arrivals and departures, and it could be argued that the division has actually got even weaker in the last eighteen months. Despite this, there are plenty of positives for those who care to look for them, and in some ways the divas are in a stronger position than they were at the start of 2012. I shall take a look at how the division has changed in the last year, and attempt to evaluate what impact these changes have had on the divison as a whole, before giving my opinion on where the division stands right now, and where it could be heading in the next couple of years.


Outgoings


In the last year there have been plenty of divas leaving WWE. Some have been relative rookies, whilst others have been established, successful veterans, but the latest lady to leave could be the most damaging of all.

Eve Torres was the Divas champion when news broke of her likely departure, and she had been carrying the division on her back for months, so when it was announced through the dirtsheets that she was going probably to be leaving soon, it came as quite a surprise to me, and presumably to many others. Her recent engagement & projects outside of WWE made it likely that she would leave soon, but it was the immediacy with which she was to depart that made the news such a shock. On this subject, I should say that I think it's a shame that WWE can no longer be bothered to give their divas a good send-off, what with the Bella Twins being fired by Eve herself in a backstage segment, Beth Phoenix being suffering the same fate at the hands of Vickie Guerrero, and Eve's own resignation on some show that I've not really heard of that seems to run alongside RAW on smartphones or something. That's not to mention the likes of Maxine, Kelly Kelly and Kharma, who basically just stopped being there with no announcement at all. These women may not be the main focus of WWE's product, but they all work extremely hard in and out of the ring, with a workload that often seems heavier than that of many of the more established superstars, and as such they deserve to have their efforts acknowledged by WWE to a greater degree.

Anyway, Eve's departure comes at a time when the division is already struggling for depth due to all the other ladies who have been released. With very few established ladies left on the roster (Natalya & Layla are probably the only two who fit the bill, though Alicia Fox could also merit consideration), it is clear that WWE are going to have to put their focus into building an entire new division, and at the minute it seems that they are intent on doing so without utilising any of their most established assets to anywhere near the level they are capable of. This seems like a curious move, considering they now have a champion who is still very inexperienced, and will often need to be guided through matches by a more experienced opponent. At present, both of the aforementioned established ladies are on the same side of the fence as Kaitlyn (I have no idea where Alicia Fox stands, by the way, and I don't think anyone else does), which means that they will either have to have one of them turn heel, or someone less suitable will have to step up to the plate.

This change would've been easier if WWE had managed to keep hold of some of their top heels, but with Beth Phoenix & Kharma both leaving the only logical challenger to Kaitlyn is her former Chickbuster partner AJ Lee, who is currently busy watching Dolph Ziggler lose to John Cena every week. Whilst the departures of Beth & Kharma were damaging on their own, they became huge problems when coupled with the exits of the Bella twins & Maxine, who all could've stepped up and helped provide some opposition to Kaitlyn, even if they were far less talented than Beth or Kharma in the ring.

With six of the divisions top heels having left this year, and most of the remaining divas being bland, happy-go-lucky generic divas, it could be the ideal time to call up some of the better young women in NXT - unfortunately, some of them have left too. Raquel Diaz (real name Shaul Guerrero, daughter of Vickie & Eddie), Skyler Moon & Sofia Cortez (Ivelisse Velez from Tough Enough) could all have been brought up and been interesting heels, but they too are no longer with WWE for one reason or another, leaving us with only two established NXT divas (Audrey Marie & the incredible Paige) that could be called up.

All in all, the already weak divas division has taken a lot of extra damage in the last year, and it is difficult to see how a strong product can be produced with the roster as thin as it currently is. Layla, Tamina, AJ & Natalya make up all the credible opposition for Kaitlyn right now, and those five will struggle to make the division an appealing prospect for long, even if WWE utilises lesser divas like Aksana, Rosa Mendes, Cameron & Naomi (easily the best of the rest) to fill out the roster. As such, the time is right for some new blood in the divas division, so it's just as well WWE have been signing up plenty of talented women recently.


Incoming & Emerging Stars


With so many ladies leaving WWE, it is vital that they are replaced and the roster is filled out again, and, despite all these departures, it seems like 2012 was the year where WWE decided to make an effort to invest in womens wrestling again. Where before the majority of women who signed with WWE were former models, this year has seen a shift towards signing established womens wrestlers from the independent scene, and this can only be a good thing for the long term future of the division. Oddly, however, the biggest signing for the womens division is someone who will (sadly) probably never be seen on the main roster...

Sara Del Rey is regarded as one of the greatest womens wrestlers in the world, if not one of the best women to ever compete, and she has proven herself to be more than capable of mixing it up with the boys too, having competed against the likes of current WWE United States champion Antonio Cesaro in their pre-WWE days. Sara is a magnificent in-ring performer, and a fantastically dedicated athlete known for her incredible work ethic both in and out of the ring. She has earnt the respect of her peers, male and female, the world over and is often cited as one of the biggest inspriations for women working on the independent scene. Whilst she still has plenty to offer in the ring, WWE have signed her up to work as a trainer in their developmental territory, NXT Wrestling, and I can think of nobody better to teach the next generation of divas. I will always hold out hope that we see Sara competing in a WWE ring one day, as to me she is one of the greatest performers in the world, regardless of gender, and her presence would immediately raise the prestige of the divas division immesurably, but even if this never happens it is reassuring to know that sufficient value has been placed on ensuring good womens wrestling for the future that WWE have recruited the best possible trainer to work with their prospective divas, and it is equally pleasing to know that Sara has achieved her dream and been rewarded with a position that befits someone with her passion, dedication and ability.

Now that I'm done babbling about how amazing Sara Del Rey is, I should probably discuss the ladies that have signed up to be trained by her.

In the last year, WWE have recruited several new divas, some from the independent scene - like Mercedes KV (now Sasha Banks) and Davina Rose (Serena Deeb's protege who, as far as I know, is still waiting to be given her new name) - and others from various other areas outside of wrestling - including former fitness model Alisha Ceraso (now going by the name Dani, and I believe I saw doing ring announcing on NXT last week) and former pro kickboxer Anna Bogomazova (known as 'The Russian Bruiser' Anya) - and while many of these ladies are yet to make their televised competitive debuts (indeed, of the four I've mentioned only Sasha Banks has wrestled on NXT), it is likely that some will make their way to the main roster before the end of the year, due to the shortage of women in WWE at present. The biggest star of all the new recruits, however, is one who joined right at the start of 2012.

A young English girl from one of the biggest families in British wrestling, Paige (formerly Britani Knight) made her debut at an NXT live event under her real name (Saraya) on 5th January 2012, and in little more than a year she has already established herself as the alpha female of NXT, racking up numerous wins and amassing a fanbase at least as big as anyone else that has appeared on NXT, if not the biggest of all. Paige represents the new era of womens wrestling in WWE - she is not a diva, she is the anti-diva, a woman who has worked hard and learnt her craft, who has earnt her place in the biggest wrestling company in the world on merit, not on looks (although she has those too, to be fair). Paige is not a diva, Paige is a wrestler, and she is the future, of that there is no doubt.

In the last year we have also seen several talented young women who were already with WWE before 2012 emerging as future stars of the divas division. The most notable of these is obviously AJ Lee, who has been involved in major storylines for more than a year now, and has blossomed into the biggest star the divas division has had for years. She may not be exceptional in the ring, but she is better than average, has a style that helps her stand out, and, most importantly, people are invested in her. She will almost certainly be Divas champion by the end of WrestleMania, and she will hopefully be able to help bring some interest back to a division which has long been considered the 'bathroom break' part of any WWE show.

Similarly, her former Chickbuster partner & fellow NXT 3 star Kaitlyn has emerged as the top babyface in the division. She won her first ever Divas championship on RAW's 20th anniversary show and I think it is no less than she deserves for the improvements she has made since her time on the third season of NXT. Back then she was brand new to the business, having her first ever match on the show, and though she wasn't up to much in the ring, she always had a natural charisma that made people want to vote for her, and she ended up winning the season. She has worked hard to improve her in-ring abilities, and although she still has a long way to go, she is much improved where she was a couple of years ago. For me, watching her on NXT Redemption was a treat, and it became clear then that she was destined to have a big impact in WWE, but even then I couldn't have predicted how quickly she would continue to climb the ranks, and now I can't help but feel her career has some significant parallels with that of Trish Stratus. Kaitlyn may not quite achieve that level of success, but to my mind she is the closest thing WWE have ever found to another Trish, and I'm confident that she will continue to get better and better as she grows into her new role as the face of the divas division.


Where Is The Divas Division Going?


So, now we come to the most important question in all of this - is the divas division fading further into irrelevance, or is it preparing to burst back into life? To be honest, I think you can all guess which way I'm going to go on this one...

Yes, with the likes of Beth Phoenix, Kharma & Eve all gone, the divas division is missing many of its 'big' names, and we are instead left with a few experienced stars with genuine in-ring ability, and a lot of young girls who are still learning the business. However, this can also be seen as an opportunity to reshape the division, and move away from the 'diva' style that has held the women of WWE back. With the changes that appear to have been made down in NXT, I believe this is the way things are going. There's plenty of talented women on the WWE payroll now, and they have demonstrated a willingness to invest more in female wrestlers than in previous years, so it seems unlikely to me that (a) WWE would let all that time and effort go to waste; and (b) the women who have been signed will not work harder than they ever have to make themselves as successful as possible. When those two factors are put together, I can only see things getting better from here on.

I've said it plenty of times in various places across the interent, but, from what I can see, the divas are currently in a transitional period (as is WWE in general), and this year will simply be one where changes are made, and the new ways of doing things are established, in order to allow the product to start dramatically improving from 2014 onwards.

In the rest of this year I expect to see:

1. A Kaitlyn/AJ Lee feud that carries us through to WrestleMania, and possibly beyond.

2. The introduction of new talent to the division - most likely Paige, Emma, Sasha Banks & Audrey Marie - possibly also Davina Rose, under her WWE name.

3. An effort being made to bring underutilised divas back to relevance - chiefly Natalya, but also Alicia Fox, Tamina & arguably even Layla.

4. Short, 'diva' style matches being slowly phased out, and being replaced by longer, more competitive matches (by longer, I only mean 7-8mins, at least at first). Later in the year I would hope to see at least one PPV match going around 10mins in length.

5. More time being allocated to the divas for promos & storylines where they are the primary focus, rather than being used alongside, or in support of, male superstars.

Should all of these five steps be realised, I am confident that from 2014 onwards we will finally be able to see interesting, competitive womens wrestling back on WWE programming, and to my mind that day cannot come soon enough.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Here's What You Could've Won

Okay, so it's been a while since I actually wrote something here - I blame that on working about triple my contracted hours over the last few months - but now christmas and the new year have gone, I should have a bit more time to get back to writing fairly frequently, which is nice.
To make amends for my long absence, my first article back is going to be a brief mashup of some of the main articles I've started in the last few months, but had to abort due to them taking too long and becoming less relevant/needing huge amounts of rewriting to bring back up to date. First off, we've got my thoughts on the CM Punk DVD 'Best in the World', and then we've got my analysis of The Shield.

Both articles were probably going to be among the longest ones I've written, but because of that they took way more time than I had spare, and I ended up deleting them both after a couple of weeks. Instead, I give to you shortened versions of both articles, starting with my take on CM Punk's documentary.

'CM Punk: Best In The World' DVD Review (10/10)


I seem to remember, when I tweeted that I was going to do a review of this, not long after it came out, that I said it would probably be awesome. I was correct - I found it interesting, entertaining and very comprehensive, covering everything from his backyard days (and the origin of the CM Punk name, if you watched the extras) to ROH, OVW and all the way up to his emergence as a real top guy in WWE, in the wake of 'that' promo. You even get an insight into Punk's early years, and the events that made him the person he is today. I won't start recapping everything that comes up, but suffice it to say that, whatever aspect of Punk's career you're interested in learning about, you'll find it's covered in the DVD.

As someone who knew a little bit, but not a lot, about most parts of his career, I found it interesting to learn more about his journey to the WWE - it's easy to follow, and you get plenty of extra insight from the people that know him best. The two DVD's of matches add a great deal of depth, although they only cover his journey from OVW onwards, presumably because of licencing issues. Still, with eleven matches over two discs, including his ECW title match against John Morrison, the Money In The Bank ladder match from WrestleMania 24 and his match against John Cena from Money In The Bank 2011, there's still plenty of great wrestling to enjoy.

Overall, I think it's a brilliant documentary, and I can see it inspiring legions of wrestling fans to try and follow in his footsteps. Not only that, I'm sure it will inspire just as many people (if not more) on a personal level, as CM Punk is proof that 'fitting in' is not everything, and that you don't have to sacrifice your identity and beliefs to fulfil your potential. Punk proves that, with passion, dedication and the strength of conviction to keep going when everyone tells you something is impossible, you can achieve anything you want to, and I think that's the real reason why CM Punk is indeed the best in the world.


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Analysing The Shield


The second major article I started, but didn't finish, was an anlysis of The Shield. I started this a couple of weeks after their debut, so now, having seen them deliver some more promos, and even compete in a sanctioned match, this one could actually benefit from being canned the first time round.

My initial plan was to analyse their actions to date, and suggest a few different directions they could be headed in, before taking a look at each member of the group in turn, and evaluating their individual performance and potential career path. Now, however, I'm just going to briefly give my thoughts on what's happened with The Shield, both on a group and individual level. I might drop a line or two in about where I think the trio will each end up if you're lucky (I probably will), but here it goes...

The Shield


It's been just over two months since we first saw a group of rebels dressed in black rush the ring and cost Ryback the WWE Championship at Survivor Series, and in that time the group known as The Shield have made a big impact on the WWE universe, brawling with pretty much all of the top stars in the company - from Ryback to Randy Orton, and from Team Hell No to Sheamus - and coming out strong in almost every encounter. Their attacks on Ryback in particular are encouraging, as WWE had (and still are) been pushing him as their next big main event star, so for them to be shown as superior to a man who had recently been tearing through solid workers two at a time indicates that they will be starting out pretty high up the pecking order. Their promo work has been good so far too, finding a good balance between all three members of the group, whilst not overexposing anyone, and they have managed to create interest in the group without giving much away regarding their motives. The fact that we know more about the group, but don't really know anything about the questions we most want answered, is proof that The Shield are marketing themselves in a way that ensures both short and long term interest from the fans.

Early signs are good for The Shield, then, but not perfect. When they attacked last week on RAW, they found themselves outdone by Randy Orton, Sheamus & Ryback, suggesting that WWE's top stars may be coming together to ensure the group doesn't have things their own way anymore. This is only one battle, but it will be interesting to see whether this trend continues, as that will be a key part of whether The Shield are a success or a failure. If WWE move too soon on having them defeated they will probably be looked upon as another Nexus. If each of the three men are allowed the time to show they can compete alongside the best WWE has to offer in a fair(ish) fight, it will help each of the three men maintain some momentum when the time comes for The Shield to disband. Their match against Ryback & Team Hell No at TLC was a very good start on this path, and probably the best match on the card, so hopefully WWE will continue to allow them to establish themselves as legitimately talented competitors, not just a predatory group who can only compete when they have the numbers advantage.

In terms of how they have been positioned so far, it's clear that WWE wants to put the group alongside its best talent, but the fact that most of their appearances have been ambush attacks suggests they are being held back from main event status slightly, which is probably a good thing at such an early stage of their careers. As long as the group are shown to be able to compete with the cream of the crop, it won't really hurt them to come out on the wrong end of a few narrow losses here and there. For me, any good storyline needs to find the right balance between both sides, and, assuming WWE manage to get that bit right, the trio should be lined up nicely for a role in the upper-midcard once their story has been played out.

Roman Reigns


Having seen Roman Reigns during his time in WWE's developmental system, both as Roman Reigns and in his earlier stint as Leakee in FCW, I was quite surprised to see him as one of the three members of The Shield, as he never really stood out to be as a great talent. He's big and athletic, sure, but he always seemed like a midcard powerhouse to me. That could be down to the fact that he was a face in FCW, as he seeemed a bit more impressive as the cocky thoroughbred Roman Reigns down on NXT. Still, though, he didn't stand out, but his performances on the main roster have been good, and I've been won over a bit. He still doesn't have much charisma, but that's not such an issue when he's supposed to be portaying a surly, enforcer type character, and he's shown off his power in much more impressive fashion, as well as adding a bit more intensity.

In terms of in-ring ability, I'd still put him as the weakest of the three, but in terms of in-ring performance, I wouldn't have a problem putting him top of the list so far, with his power being a key part of the success of The Shield to date. His powerbomb has been a potent exclamation mark on any ambush, but it's his spear that has impressed me most - his background in American football, where he played defensive tackle, comes through when he hits this move, as it looks more devastating than any other example of the move I can think of. At the moment I'd put it right up there with Edge or Goldberg's versions.

Reigns has already shown that he can make an immediate impact at the higher end of the card through size and strength alone - much like Ryback, actually - but he'll need to demonstrate his ability to perform well in matches that aren't basically just brawls before he can be taken seriously as a genuine threat to the top talent in WWE. His average mic skills may also hold him back somewhat, so it seems sensible to me that, once The Shield disbands, Reigns gets a chance around the Intercontinental or United States title scenes, allowing him some time to prove he can be successful on his own before giving him a good title run to help cement him as one to watch, much like the way WWE have handled Antonio Cesaro since his arrival on the main roster.

In time, I'm sure Reigns will become a main event star, and a multiple time world champion, and he has the presence, power and prototypical look to be a contender for midcard titles right now, but he still has a lot of work to do before he reaches that main event level, so a place in the upper-midcard title scene seems reasonable to me.

Seth Rollins


In a way, Seth Rollins' inclusion in The Shield was just as baffling to me as Roman Reigns'. Not because I didn't think he was good enough to be on the main roster, because he certainly is, but because I couldn't understand why they decided to debut him as a heel. Now I'll admit that I've not seen his work as part of The Age of the Fall in Ring of Honor, but from watching him in FCW & NXT he seemed like the type of guy who was more suited to the good side of the fence than the bad. His high tempo, high risk style doesn't scream 'evil', and he has the charisma & mic skills to do well as a face, without ever suggesting he could have a similar impact as a heel. To be honest, from what I've seen so far I think I'm right - to me, Rollins has been the most disappointing of the three so far.

As the first ever NXT champion, Seth Rollins was an extremely popular and likeable wrestler with a strong following and an exciting in-ring style. By switching sides, however, a lot of his best qualities have to be hidden somewhat, and so far Rollins' role has basically been to brawl a bit, deliver a few dodgy lines in every promo and get chucked off a ladder through some tables. We've literally seen only one or two high risk moves from him, and, whilst his look translates well to his new role as a heel, his personality doesn't, as he seemed far more natural and convincing as the fan favourite who slam-danced his way to the ring at Full Sail every Wednesday.

As you may have guessed, I'm not really putting a huge amount of the blame on Rollins himself, as it seems to me like he's been hindered a bit by the way WWE have decided to use him. Even so, given the time to compete in a few proper matches his talent will shine through and he'll get better and better. Similarly, his promo work will improve with time, allowing him to be able to expand his range and possibly put him in better shape for a good run as a heel later in his career.

It will come as no surprise, then, when I suggest that the best thing for Rollins to do once The Shield breaks up is to turn face. He's just a lot easier to like than he is to hate. Having given him a platform to showcase his in-ring skills during The Shield's run, it would be wise to allow him some time to establish his face persona, and let him compete in a couple of midcard feuds with reputable verterans like Christian or R-Truth, that would allow him to look good and pick up some momentum. At this point, a few months down the line from the demise of The Shield, I would put him up against his former ally, the aforementioned Roman Reigns, in a feud for whichever midcard title he ended up winning. The feud would be fairly easy to write, and the contrast between strength and agility would make for an interesting matchup. In the end, have Rollins prevail and allow him a lengthy run as champion before slowly bringing him up to the main event over the next year or two.

As far as I'm concerned, Seth Rollins is good enough to work his way up to main event status, particularly since the likes of CM Punk & Daniel Bryan have shown that smaller guys can be every bit as successful as the 6' 5" 250lb-plus guys that have dominated the industry for years. If things go well for him, I can see him being a future world champion, however there is still a niggling doubt in the back of my mind that says that he will be held because of his size and lack of exceptional mic skills, and that, if worst comes to worst, his career could end up more like Justin Gabriel's than Daniel Bryan's. Fingers croseed it's the former, not the latter, that ends up being the reality.

Dean Ambrose


Last, but by no means least, Dean Ambrose. To cut to the chase, I think he's fucking brilliant. His work in FCW was outstanding, as he put on some great matches with the likes of Seth Rollins, and even CM Punk on one occasion, before engaging in one of the best feuds in recent memory with William Regal. Despite only featuring two matches, separated by eight months, the two managed to keep interest in their story up for the entire time just through the quality of their promos, and the occasional confrontation. Regal did a great job teasing the audience on commentary, while Dean Ambrose cut some incredible promos to really establish himself as the biggest star in FCW. Anyway, now I've gone off on a tangent reminiscing about that feud, I'll get back to the present and his work with The Shield.

Unsurprisingly, Ambrose has been the man taking charge of the talking for The Shield, delivering most of the lines in each promo and establishing himself, both through his words and his actions, as the leader of a group of equals. In every video, his unstable, 'loose cannon' type character shines through, and he speaks with intensity and conviction, drawing you in and making you want to listen to what he says. He's one of the best in the business when it comes to cutting a promo, and even though his work so far has been good, we're yet to see the best from him on the main roster.

In the ring, Ambrose has taken a back seat, with his role being much the same as Rollins' - jump people from behind, wail on them in psychotic fashion, oversell a couple of times, and lift people up so they can get powerbombed. Because of this, it's difficult to tell where Ambrose is going to be in the WWE power rankings, as we have yet to see whether he is able to hold his own without his stablemates by his side.

Assuming Ambrose is made to look like he can come close to competing with the biggest stars in the company, I would have him engage in some upper-midcard feuds once The Shield is no more - perhaps against the likes of Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan or The Miz - before competing in, and winning, the Money In The Bank ladder match to set him up for a run at the WWE title and a slow progression into a legitimate main event star.

With his skillset, I can't see how Dean Ambrose won't end up being a huge star, and a multiple time world champion. He may not be the biggest guy, but like CM Punk he has the aura of a star, and it's just a matter of time before we see Dean Ambrose with the WWE title around his waist.

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So, there you have it. Two slightly trimmed down articles for the price of one. Hopefully I'll be able to start putting articles up more freqently again now, speaking of which, I'm hoping to have another article up by the end of the week, in which I run down my top ten matches of 2012. I've not got the exact list nailed down yet, but I can tell you now that it will include matches from WWE, TNA, PROGRESS Wrestling and maybe a few others, depending on whether I can find out when the matches happened/the shows were released.

Anyway, stay tuned for that, thanks for reading and it's nice to be back.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Why A Partnership Between WWE And SHIMMER Makes Sense For Everyone

As I'm sure you've worked out by now, I'm quite keen on womens wrestling. It's also fairly obvious that WWE need to find a way to improve their divas division, and that SHIMMER is one of the best all-woman wrestling promotions in the world. As such, the idea of them working together is one that seems to have no negatives. This post will outline the way I would envision such a partnership working, and what both companies - and their talent - would gain from the link up.

How It Would Work


Two words - talent exchange.

I'm proposing that WWE and SHIMMER draw up trade lists of talent available for the other promotion to utilise on their shows. In other words, WWE would send SHIMMER a list of the divas they are prepared to send SHIMMER for their next set of tapings, and SHIMMER would send WWE a list of the women available to work any WWE television tapings or PPVs. Both sides would then agree on how many women can be selected, and make their picks.

This would be more difficult for SHIMMER since they don't keep their talent under exclusive deals, but I've got a solution for that, don't worry. What I would do is introduce a policy whereby anyone who has appeared on a SHIMMER taping in the last eight volumes (including the SPARKLE preshow, and possibly also the last two SHINE events) can opt in or out of the trade list at any point at which they are elligible to be on the list.

For example, let's say Mercedes Martinez has opted in to the trade list, but she has a WSU show coming up and she's getting a shot at regaining her WSU Champioship. She could decide to opt out for dates around the WSU show, and opt back in afterwards. This would ensure that the SHIMMER ladies are available to work for WWE without having to lose any of their regular bookings, and because it's unlikely that everyone will be working at the same time, WWE will still always be able to call on SHIMMER talent to use on their shows.

A similar scheme could be applied to WWE talent, whereby any divas - whether they are on the WWE or NXT roster - wishing to go to SHIMMER for their next taping could opt in and be elligible for selection. The only problem I could see is that some divas may not want to go to SHIMMER, but I'm sure WWE's management could convince them it was a good move for their careers, and besides, there are plenty of ex-SHIMMER talents under WWE deals right now - Beth Phoenix, Natalya, Paige and Skylar Moon have all appeared on SHIMMER or SPARKLE shows in the past - and they have also previously employed ex-SHIMMER talents like Serena Deeb and Kharma. On top of that, CM Punk is a friend of SHIMMER promoter Dave Prazak, Paige's mother Saraya is the current SHIMMER Champion, and with Sara Del Rey supposedly signing with WWE there would be a good core of talented workers who know the value of working at SHIMMER, and enough good will between the two companies to make such an arrangement seem plausible.

What Everybody Gains


First off, WWE would gain a massively increased divas division and immediately be able to put on matches of much greater quality without having to spend massive amounts of money signing a lot of new girls to contracts. It is most likely that the SHIMMER ladies would be used as enhancement talent to help get the contracted WWE divas over, but it would also enable WWE to take a closer look at anyone who interested them and test them out on a televised event before they decide whether or not to try and sign them.

With the divas getting infrequent appearances on television, and usually drawing no significant crowd reaction, it seems to me that, instead of training and working house shows against each other, they would benefit from working against other talented workers who could expose some of the less experienced girls to new styles and techniques, in an environment where the crowd are genuinely passionate about womens wrestling and their matches are guaranteed to recieve a strong reaction. SHIMMER is undoubtedly the best place in America for this. I have no doubt that working with the likes of Saraya Knight, Cheerleader Melissa & LuFisto for a couple of days would be of much greater benefit to the divas progression than doing a couple of house shows, and the addition of WWE talent to the SHIMMER roster would have great benefits for the Illinois based company as well.

SHIMMER don't exactly have trouble selling out the Berwyn Eagles Club as things stand now, but with the addition of names like Kelly Kelly, Tamina Snuka or even up-and-coming talent like Raquel Diaz, they may be able to slightly increase their prices and generate some extra income. Depending on how much WWE publicised the partnership, it could also help increase the profile of SHIMMER among more casual wrestling fans, thereby increasing their DVD and merchandise sales. I would also like to see WWE provide a small amount of financial backing to SHIMMER, in order to enable them to pay their talent slightly more per appearance.

If we work on the assumption that SHIMMER runs two sets of tapings a year, each consisiting of four shows, and that they use 35 women per show, paying an average wage of $1000 per worker per show, then doubling the wages of every women used in a year would only cost WWE $280,000, which is hardly anything considering how much they make every year. This would in turn make SHIMMER a more attractive proposition for female wrestlers, leading to more new names appearing on their shows and increasing the talent pool WWE can select from. This could also benefit WWE on their world tours, as they could call on local talent to work shows in places like Japan, Australia and Great Britain.

The talent from both companies would gain the chance to experience new wrestling styles and to work in a totally different environment to the one they are used to. WWE divas would get to experience a variety of new wrestling styles and have the opportunity to work up close with fans who know and care about womens wrestling, whilst SHIMMER women would get the chance to experience the WWE way of life, adapt to the WWE style of wrestling and work in front of crowds far bigger than any they have performed to on the independent scene.

Both sides could also use the partnership to increase merchandising opportunities. SHIMMER are known for having merch sales between tapings, so WWE could send the divas to SHIMMER shows with diva related shirts and dvds, and incentivise them by giving the divas a slightly increased percentage of the merch sales from SHIMMER shows. WWE, meanwhile, could stock small quantities of merchandise from their selected SHIMMER wrestlers on the shows they work, as well as selling a range of SHIMMER merch both at shows and online, with WWE taking a pre-agreed percentage of the profits from any of these sales.

Conclusion


There really does not appear to be any significant downside to a working agreement between WWE and SHIMMER - both sides are likely to gain financially, they will gain more options in terms of booking their matches, and the talent from both companies will have the opportunity to expand their wrestling horizons further, and gain a fuller understanding of the industry they work in.

The biggest stumbling block I could see to such a partnership is WWE's apparent disinterest in womens wrestling, but should they decide they want to return to the glory days of Trish, Lita et al, they could do a lot worse than starting by teaming up with SHIMMER.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

My Thoughts On PROGRESS Chapter One

It's been a while since I wrote something, mainly because nothing has really happened in the last few weeks that has made me want to write about it, but with the arrival of Summerslam the recently opened British independent promotion PROGRESS Wrestling decided to offer up their debut show as a digital download for the princely sum of £1.97 for 24 hours only. Having already seen the opening match of the show on the excellent Free Pro Wrestling I totally wanted a piece of that, so I thought I'd follow up my review of SHIMMER 44 by doing a review of PROGRESS Chapter One.

Pleasingly for me, this is a much shorter show, clocking in at almost exactly 2 hours, rather than the 3 and a half of SHIMMER 44, and I've already watched it through in full once, so hopefully I won't have to constantly rewind this to rewatch bits I missed due to typing. This will also mean I shouldn't get carried away during the good matches and end up writing what basically amounts to move by move text commentary, which is probably good news for everyone.

Anyway, it's a good show, featuring lots of talented British workers as well as independent superstar, former Scotty Goldman and famous friend of CM Punk, the always entertaining Colt Cabana, so lets get down to business...


The show opens with one of the co-owners of PROGRESS, Jim Smallman, in the ring welcoming everyone to the show and basically encouraging them to get drunk and shout out stupid shit. He then announces the format for the PROGRESS Championship tournament - the opening four matches of the show are singles matches, and the winners of each match go through to a four way dance main event to decide the first ever PROGRESS Champion.

Oh, and they don't have a belt, becase "anyone can have a title belt, fucking Santino Marella's got a title belt". Jim doesn't say what they have instead, but he promises it'll be unveiled before the main event.

With the tournament format established, the title teased and the crowd warned not to die or chant "Let's Go Cena", it's time to get on with the show.

Match 1 - Noam Dar v El Ligero (8/10)


The very first match in PROGRESS Wrestling gets the company off to a strong start, as both Noam Dar and El Ligero impress in an entertaining, back and forth contest that is eventually won when El Ligero hits a springboard tornado DDT on Dar to advance to the tournament finals.

The crowd were in good spirits straight from the off, cheering for El Ligero throughout and taunting Noam Dar for his Scottish roots with chants ranging from the obvious "Scotland Sucks!" to the unexpected "Deep Fried Mars Bars!". Whilst both men looked like good talents, Dar was the better of the two for me - he showed his charisma and ability to entertain during the moments of interaction with the crowd, as well as demonstrating a very good level of in ring ability for someone his age. He's only recently turned 19, and I think he's got a very bright future ahead of him. He's recently wrestled AJ Styles and Davey Richards, and he'll soon be taking on John Morrison, so it's certainly worth remembering the name Noam Dar.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, this whole match is available to watch online here, so check it out.

Match 2 - Nathan Cruz v Colossus Kennedy (6/10)


We're straight into the next match, which sees Nathan Cruz (who the crowd consider to be a "shit Zack Ryder", take on Colossus Kennedy (who gets "Funkasaurus" chants midway through the match"). Oddly, the match is about as good as Zack Ryder v Brodus Clay probably would be, that is to say, not particularly.

Cruz is a solid wrestler, and Colossus is pretty good for someone of his size, displaying Brodus-esque agility and a few impressive moves, but although the match is decent, there's no real spark and Cruz, frankly, annoys the fuck out of me (and not in the right way). He seems to be trying to be a super charismatic arrogant heel, but the only thing he does in the ring is shout 'Showstealer' (his nickname, which sounds suspiciously similar to that of a certain member of the WWE roster) about five times, which suggests he doesn't know how else to get the crowd fired up, and in the end his 'Showstealer' line gets what I'll call 'STFU heat', in the same way that Vickie Guerrero's 'Excuse Me' does. His pre-recorded promo that's run in the corner of the screen at the start of the match isn't great either - he's fantastic at acting like a smug cunt, but the actual promo is fairly generic, then he makes the Dolph Ziggler influence even more obvious by ending with the line "Show, stolen".

Cruz spends a lot of the match working on the leg of Colossus, and eventually takes the win with a relatively unimpressive combo of dropkick to the knee (sending Colossus face first into the middle turnbuckle and triggering shouts of 'Broski Boot!" from a few members of the crowd) and dropkick to the face. Yeah...


Match 3 - Colt Cabana v Mike Mason (7/10)


Time for a bit of light refreshment now, as Colt Cabana takes on 'Loco' Mike Mason, a man who appears to think he's a dog.

Anyway, the trouble starts before the match even begins, with Colt Cabana launching a flurry of (what I assume to be) tennis balls at Mason (and inadvertently the right side of the audience), before taking a good minute or more to carefully fold his jacket, then casually throw it over his shoulder. I'll be honest, I've watched this match twice, and I laughed at that both times. Colt then suggests the referee, who was doing the customary pre-match inspection of ring gear at the time, inspect his junk, thrusting his crotch forward to chants of "Do Your Job" from the crowd.

The opening stage of the match is comedy, with Colt teasing Mason with a tennis ball for most of it, but they eventually transition through some technical wrestling and into the serious stuff as Mike Mason begins to take control thanks to a bit of interference from his 'handler', Becky James, and in the end Mason takes the win because of her, and she distracts the referee when Cabana has him in the Billy Goat's Curse, then throws Mason a chain which he hits Cabana with to get the pinfall.

As much as I'm disappointed that Cabana lost, I have no problem with seeing Becky James again. Oh, and Mike Mason will be there too.

Match 4 - Marty Scurll v Zack Sabre Jr (8.5/10)


This was the headline match of the tournament, as these two guys are actually tag partners as the Leaders of the New School, and two of the best British wrestlers around at the minute. Some of you may know 'Party' Marty Scurll from his appearance on ITV's dating show 'Take Me Out', but I'd wager that most will not have seen him wrestle before. I've seen him once or twice, but I've not seen Zack before, so I'm keen to see what he can do in the ring.

After a few TMO jabs from the crowd the bell ring, and we get to see a pre-recorded promo from both guys. Marty's is solid, although the last ten seconds or so murder it, whereas Zack's is probably the best promo so far, if only because it's so short he doesn't have time to say or do something stupid that ruins it.

Anyway, the match itself kicks off with some excellent technical wrestling, both standing and on the mat, before Marty slaps Zack across the face and it starts to turn more physical. Between this point and the end of the match (which is still a fair fucking way off) we're treated to more excellent technical wrestling and a lot of punishment, including a moment where both man stand and trade short elbows for about thirty seconds, and an armbar-triangle choke-deadlift powerbomb exchange that's reminiscent of the Rampage Jackson powerbomb I referenced in the Knight's match on SHIMMER 44, as well as a lot of hard strikes and a lovely bridging dragon suplex from Zack Sabre Jr.

It's Marty Scurll who comes out on top though, as he reverses a pin attempt by Zack and gets the three count. This is easily the match of the night, and in another nod to my SHIMMER 44 review I can't help but compare it to the Kana/LuFisto match from that show, and I enjoyed this contest just as much as that one.

As much as Marty is the one being tipped to be a breakout star (deservedly so, because he is very good), it was Zack who really impressed me. He spends a lot of time wrestling in Japan, and it really shows in his style of wrestling. He mixes it well with the traditional British, technical style and comes out looking, to carry the SHIMMER comparison on, very much like the male equivalent of Kana. I'd say how much I'd like to see him in WWE, but from what I understand he's always targeted Japan as the place he wanted to wrestle, so I doubt we'll see him there, at least not for a long time. Besides, they'd only waste him now.


BWC Scarlo Scholarship Title Match - Xander Cooper (c) v Darrell Allen v Zack Gibson (6.5/10)


With the PROGRESS title tournament semi finals completed, we move on to a match for an obscure title presumably belonging to an associated promotion. The inclusion of the word 'scholarship' in the name of the title suggests it's for relatively young/inexperienced workers, which is an idea not challenged by looking at the competitors, none of whom are probably much older than me. You're all expecting this to be awful now, aren't you? I was.

We get the promo box again, and all three guys live up to the expectations I had of them when I first saw them:

Zack 'Diamond' Gibson - Scouse, mentions never walking alone. Actually cuts a pretty good promo.
'The Man For All Seasons' Xander Cooper - A bit middle class, uses the word 'panache'.
'Dazzling' Darrell Allen - From London, blabs some crap with a chavvy voice, then kisses his fingers and makes a V sign at a jaunty angle.

Anyway, the match is actually pretty watchable, with a couple of triple spots standing out, although there are moments where their inexperience shows and things don't end up going quite as smoothly as they inteded. Allen is the hometown hero, and he acts the cheeky chappy face, playing up to the crowd and showing off come nice cruiserweight moves including a wheelbarrow armdrag and a lovely rollup that showed some good mat skills. He also does a 450 splash, but unless it's actually a 450 double knee drop he fucked that up a little bit. Defending champion Cooper is decent as well, playing the posh, cocky heel and controlling the most of the middle part of the match whilst also showing a solid allround game. It's Zack Gibson who stands out for me though, following up his good promo with a mix of neat technical work and athletic moves I wasn't expecting from a guy as tall as him, most notably a suicide dive past the turnbuckle that flattened Cooper and got some 'holy shit' chants from the crowd. He also delivers a couple of nice lungblowers.

In the end Cooper retains, breaking up Allen's pin following his '450 kill Zack Gibson', and covering the Scouser for the victory. They mentioned on commentary that there was going to be a BWC match on every PROGRESS show, so hopefully we'll get to see a bit more of these guys in the near future.

Anyway, with the filler match over, it's back to the PROGRESS tournament. But first...

The Reveal of the PROGRESS Championship


As they mentioned at the start of the show, the winner of the championship tournament won't be recieving a title belt, they'll be recieving something else. Now is the time to see what exactly that something else is, and I can tell you now, this is something I'd heard about on Twitter months before I saw the show. It's this:


I know what you're thinking - "that looks a bit Nazi-ish". Don't worry, you're not the only one to have thought that, as within about a minute of the reveal a 'Nazi staff!' chant breaks out, and the name appears to have stuck, as that phrase was in roughly 15% of the tweets I saw about PROGRESS for ages.

After half-heartedly trying to deny the Nazi-ness of the staff, and getting a 'fuck off Hitler' chant going, Jim Smallman brings out the competitors for the main event. It's time for someone to claim the Nazi staff.


PROGRESS Championship Tournament Final - El Ligero v Nathan Cruz v Mike Mason v Marty Scurll (6.5/10)


With all four men in the ring and the introduction out of the way, the tournament final can begin. It's a four way dance rather than a fatal four way, so competitors are eliminated one by one until only the winner is left, rather than the first fall deciding the champion.

With something as historic as the Nazi staff up for grabs, it's no wonder the action spills out of the ring and all over the venue within minutes of the opening bell, as El Ligero somersaults out onto his three rivals before all four men head to the bar for a drink and a fight. Unfortunately, nobody thought to ensure the camera could see that part of the arena, so we end up with a shot of an empty ring accompanied by half the crowd chanting 'we can't see shit!' for a few seconds whilst a couple of blokes with camcorders get into positiona and proceed to make a piss poor attempt to try and cover the action.

It's not very long before people start heading back towards the ring, fortunately, as Marty Scurll drags Nathan Cruz through the crowd to chants of 'it's your round' before sitting him on a chair and kicking him in the face (and slipping on the floor). The action doesn't actually return to the ring, however, as Cruz & Scurll wander up onto the stage where people are sitting and have a little scrap before El Ligero joins in and things go downhill for the Showstealer. First, Ligero holds his arms and Marty chops him, then they swap roles and Ligero gives him a job, before the a couple of the fans hold Cruz and Ligero & Marty deliver a double chop to Nathan Cruz. One of the fans in question is wearing a 'Portia Perez Hates Me' shirt, which instantly makes him the coolest guy in the venue, but I digress.

The action continues at ringside, though Ligero & Cruz take a brief diversion into the ladies toilets for some reason, but then we head back into camcorderland, and I'm subjecting to a flailing camera that mainly picks up the back of some guys Green Bay Packers shirt and lots of legs, but then suddenly homes in on El Ligero with so much zoom his head doesn't fit in the picture. They cut away at that point, and we get a few more seconds on empty ring before the action comes back into a manageable location, at which point Marty & Ligero bang chairs together before Marty takes a shot to the back and chants of 'Ole' ring out. For those who don't know, that's El Generico's thing. Ligero gets thrown into some chairs for the fans' character infringement, and Marty Scurll pulls up a chair in the middle of the ring and watches the action with a beer, which he downs at the behest of the fans. Shortly after this all four men finally remember about the ring, and for some reason the match transforms into a four corners elimination match, with Scurll & Cruz standing on the apron waiting to be tagged in. Unless I heard the introduction wrong, that makes no sense at all.

Anyway, this is going on for a while, so let's cut to the chase. El Ligero is the first person out, as he's kicked in the head by Nathan Cruz after Becky James pulls the referee out of the ring to save Mike Mason from being eliminated. Becky pretty much wasted her time though, as Mason's eliminated about a minute later, getting rolled up by Marty Scurll after Ligero grabs his foot from ringside.

Nathan Cruz & Marty Scurll go head to head for ten minutes or so, with Nathan Cruz eventually triumphing thanks to a kick to the head after a few near falls following a ref bump spot. The fourth rate Zack Ryder/Dolph Ziggler hybrid holds the Nazi staff aloft and PROGRESS Chapter One comes to a somewhat underwhelming end.

The match itself was alright, and it definitely improved once it become a one on one contest, but the first half of the match was ruined by some awful camerawork which made it hard to follow the action. The decision to take the match out among the fans might've worked for the lucky few that happened to be sitting on the right side of the venue, but it spoilt the match for the viewers, as well as the other half of the crowd, so maybe it wasn't the best decision in the long run.

Star Performers


No final thoughts this time, as I've covered most of them already. The venue and commentary are fine and, main event camcorder clusterfuck aside, the production is of a decent indy standard. I just hope they invest in a few better cameras for future shows..

In terms of standout performers, both Marty Scurll and Zack Sabre Jr top the list. Their semi final match was superb, and both guys have more than enough talent to be able to make an impression overseas. Marty is the more charismatic of the two, but Zack is the better wrestler, at least in my book.

Colt Cabana was obviously great, blending comedy and his British influenced wrestling style perfectly to lead Mike Mason (who was shown up somewhat in the main event) to a good match.

Lastly, Noam Dar is, as I said earlier, a name you'll probably want to remember. He's already one of the most talented guys on the card, and he's only going to get better as he gets older. It genuinely wouldn't surprise me if he's signed by TNA or WWE within a couple of years, he's that good.

So yeah, a pretty good debut show, all things considered, and a very good advert for British wrestling. Chapter Two has already been and gone, and Chapter Three is coming at the end of the month (30th September, to be exact), so it seems safe to say that the BritWres revival is gaining some momentum.

Care to hop on the bandwagon?

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

My Thoughts On SHIMMER 44


Considering the amount of articles I've written about womens wrestling, you might think I'd be a massive SHIMMER mark. I sort of am - in the sense that I can recognise most of the names on their regular roster and I clearly wouldn't have a problem with sitting and watching women compete in proper wrestling matches - but I have to confess to never having seen a SHIMMER show before.

I have recently sought to rectify that, and this article will basically outline my thoughts whilst watching my first SHIMMER show, volume 44 of their DVD tapings. I picked this show mainly because it features a no-DQ match between Saraya Knight and her daughter, current FCW anti-diva Paige, who at the time was known as Britani Knight. The duo, along with the rest of the Knight family, were recently featured on UK television in the Channel 4 show The Wrestlers: Fight With My Family, but I've been aware of Britani & Saraya for a while now, and having seen some of their previous matches on the independent circuit I'm pretty confident this match will be worth watching even if the rest aren't.

There are thirteen matches on the card, featuring big names in womens wrestling such as Sara Del Rey & Mercedes Martinez, as well as plenty of ladies I've never heard of like Davina Rose, Athena & Hiroyo Matsumoto, so it will be interesting to see how SHIMMER compares both to womens divisions in the big companies, and to other independent wrestling promotions.

Anyway, the show's almost three-and-a-half hours long so I think it's time I stopped rambling on and started watching some SHIMMER...

SHIMMER 44

Photo from shimmerwrestling.blogspot.co.uk

Match 1: Kellie Skater v Davina Rose (5/10)


Straight into the action with minimal introduction. First up are Kellie Skater and Davina Rose, neither of whom I've ever seen wrestle.

Skater's the heel, and she's introduced with a spiel about how she's virtually indestructible and her muscles are so huge they'd make The Hulk green with envy. This appears to be her regular introduction as a few people in the crowd joined in.

Skater's gimmick, somewhat disappointingly for me, isn't that she's a skater girl, but instead she appears to be a bodybuilder who gets instant strength from the 'supplements' in her the drink she brings to the ring with her. It's odd, and I haven't described it very well, but it only really comes into play at the start when she teases Davina about her size and at one point midway through the match when she takes a swig of her drink before trying a power move.

The match itself is decent enough - Skater dominates throughout and wins a combination which consists of a kick to the leg to send the opponent to their knees, then a kick to the back of the head followed by a running front flip facebuster. Lead commentator Dave Prazak announced it as being called Skate & Destroy, but a quick check online suggests that Skate & Destroy is actually her version of the Code Red, so I'm not really sure what the move I saw's called.

All I can really say about Davina Rose is that she's apparently been trained by Serena Deeb, and she didn't get much offence in. She played her part pretty well though.


Backstage Segment: Amber Gertner Interviews Sassy Stephanie & Naveah


Well, I say 'interviews', bascially Sassy Stephanie & Naveah (I don't know which is which) are talking about how awesome they'll be as a tag team, and Amber Gertner just asks them if they're a tag team. She then points out that Ashley Lane will have a match against them and that she'll have to find a new partner, so I presume one of these two left Ashley to tag with the other. That's the end of the segment, as Naveah & Stephanie quickly dismiss Ashley and leave before Amber sends it back to the ring.

Match 2: Taylor Made v Veda Scott (6/10)


I've heard of both of these ladies \o/

I only really know Taylor Made by name, but Veda Scott does backstage interviews for Ring of Honour, and she seems like quite a likeable geeky girl (you know, like AJ before the crazy), so I'll be interested to see how well she can wrestle. Judging by the way she runs around during her entrance, I'm guessing she'll be pretty poor.

Within a minute I'm taking back my words about Veda probably being poor, as she displays a few decent little moves, including a sort of Judo leg trip, before I'm told that she's still relatively new to wrestling, having had her first match in May 2011 (the taping for this show took place at the start of October 2011), and she's being trained at the ROH/SHIMMER Academy, which probably explains why she's already pretty solid technically.

There are moments where her inexperience shows, such as one point where she grabs Taylor then fumbles around trying to decide what to do next, before opting for a reversed Irish Whip to the corner in which she's supposed to be throwing Taylor, but Taylor just whips herself and then counters whilst Veda stands still, but overall she's better than I expected, and certainly pretty good considering how green she still was at this point. I was particularly impressed by a tornado DDT which she rolled through and into another DDT. Apparently it's a combination she calls the QED, and it absolutely reeks of ROH training, as you see shitloads of suplexes and DDT's rolled through into another move there, particularly from guys like Davey Richards or Eddie Edwards.

As for Taylor, she doesn't get a lot of offence in, but still manages to pick up the win with a nice swinging neckbreaker. Like Davina, I'd need to see more of Taylor's work to be able to really judge her, because she spent most of the match getting beat up.

Anyway, no backstage segment or anything this time, just a sudden cut from the aftermath of this match to the start of the next one...

Match 3: Kalamity v Tomoka Nakagawa (6.5/10)


The rather gothic looking Kalamity comes out to some ominous sounding music and stands around in the ring for a good fifteen seconds whilst whoever's doing the sound changed the cassette over or finds the right track on their iTunes playlist or something. Eventually, the silence ends and Tomoka Nakagawa comes out. She's clearly the heel, though I have no idea why. I also have no idea why she brings a bottle of water to the ring with her (minutes later I'm told it's because she sometimes spits it into her the face of her opponent - presumably every Japanese figher has to do a variation of the Green Mist).

The match is announced as having a 20min time limit, but considering we're on the third match and we haven't even hit 20mins run time I doubt it'll be a time limit draw. There's then yet more evidence of the ROH/SHIMMER partnership, as the crowd throw streamers into the ring, which I've never really got, but it appears to be tradition so whatever.

Sounds like it could be a physical matchup, as we're told Kalamity hits hard and Nakagawa kicks hard. She also bites, by the looks of it. Now I see why she's the heel.

Both girls seem pretty competent, and this match is much more even than the first two. As expected, there are a lot of strikes and kicks from both sides, but there are also some nice moves, many of which are performed by Kalamity, such as a spinebuster near the finish and the Kalamityville Horror Driver, a sort of Michinoku Driver done from a firemans carry, which gets Kalamity a deserved win.

They actually run a couple of replays after this match, and I think they picked out the two best moves as well. Another quick cutway after the match, this time we head backstage again...

Backstage Segment: The Strangest Setup For A Match I've Ever Seen


For real, wait until you read this. It's the sort of nonsensical yet endearing stuff you only get from independent companies.

Two women are playing with a remote control Dalek toy backstage. I think one of them is Leva Bates, but I don't know who the other one is. Anyway, they're sitting on the floor playing with this Dalek and talking trash to it, when another girl who I believe to be MsChif pokes her head round the door, and slowly edges over to get a closer look, before just plonking herself down in between the other two girls.

Leva offers MsChif the control and she starts playing with the toy, causing the other two to react with the same sort of surprised joy you'd show if your cat started dancing, before patronisingly stating that MsChif is doing really well at operating a couple of joysticks. I can only assume MsChif is meant to be some kind of otherworldly being who would shit themself with horror and confusion if you showed them an iPad, or possibly even a naked flame. Apparently the other two girls are a duo called 'Regeneration X', which is the least obvious ripoff I've ever heard. Cough. A quick Google search led me to this, which explains a lot about the segment so far.

At this point four girls (well, I couldn't really tell but they must be) appear and express disgust that people are quietly sitting on the locker room floor playing with a remote controlled toy, which caused MsChif to leap up and scream in their faces that they should show her and her new nerd friends some respect. Bit of an overreaction from both sides, I think. The leader of the bully side has a cap on, and totally looks like a teenage boy. Awkward.

Fortunately, before any more massive overreactions can occur, Christina von Eerie magically appears and takes the side of the three alt/nerd girls, and after some crappy insult hurling a challenge is issued, to which MsChif responds by growling and screaming at the other lot, causing them to leave.

With the locker room their again, Team Nerd goes back to being amazed by a toy Dalek, and Leva asks if Regeneration X can keep MsChif, as if she's a puppy. I'm now totally convinced she's meant to be from somewhere strange.

See? I told you it was weird. I did like it though, it was daft enough to be shit in a good way.

Match 4: Sassy Stephanie & Nevaeh vs. Ashley Lane & Mia Yim (6.5/10)


Having seen Neveah's name written down for the first time on the show, I've just realised two things:

(a) I'd been spelling it wrong before; and
(b) it's 'Heaven' backwards

I still don't know which one's which, but the redhead does a neat little turn on the second rope as she gets in the ring. There's a much quicker turnaround between songs this time and their opponents come out, at which point I again realise two things:

(a) Ashley Lane's mystery partner is Mia Yim; and
(b) Lane is TNA Knockout Madison Rayne (I knew this, but forgot until I saw her)

The crowd seem pretty excited to see Mia Yim (probably because of her ROH connections), and then we have the introductions, at which point I find out that the redhead of the heel duo is Sassy Stephanie, and hear the ring announcer state that Ashley & Mia's combined weight is "ten pounds less than them (Neveah & Stephanie)", which is raises a few laughs from the crowd (and me, to be honest).

As the match gets started it becomes clear that Ashley's former parner was Neveah (whose name I really want to have to stop spelling), and they had been the first ever SHIMMER Tag Team champions. Still not sure why they broke up - it seems like Neveah just decided she wanted to team with Stephanie instead. As is typical of tag team matches where two opponents have history, the heel shies away from starting against their rival, so we begin with Stephanie squaring off against Ashley.

Stephanie & Neveah control Mia for most of the match, occasionally taking some cheap shots before Mia eventually manages to tag in Ashley, who gains a bit of momentum then tags Mia back in, for some reason. Neveah and Ashley soon brawl their way to the back, leaving Stephanie to hit her finisher (Kiss My Sass, a modified neckbreaker that's basically a reverse overdrive) on Mia and get the three count.

Decent enough, though there wasn't much Ashley.


Match 5: Yumi Ohka v Serena Deeb (7/10)


Yumi comes out first and almost faceplants when she vaults the ropes, then Serena Deeb (complete with hair) comes out to What A Feeling. That makes this the most interesting set of entrances so far. Everyone seems to wait until their music's halfway through before they come through the ropes though.

After a handshake the two face off for the first time ever, starting off with a few minutes of pretty decent chain and mat wrestling before they get going for real. Yuki has the best of the middle part of the match, getting in the majority of offence, including delivering three Yakuza kicks to Serena, before Serena fights back with a series of lariats and a gutbuster before setting up for a Spear, which Yumi counters by kneeing Serena in the face. I've always wondered why more people don't counter it like that. Deeb kicks out at two, but she looks like she's totally rocked and she's basically dead weight when Yumi lifts her up (I think this is just excellent selling). Ohka hits a brainbuster and Serena still appears to be out, but she somehow kicks out again.

Yumi stalks Serena, waiting to hit another running boot, but Deed ducks under and hits the Spear for the win. Pretty good match, although now we have to hear What a Feeling again.


Match 6: Melanie Cruise, Mena Libra, She Nay Nay & Bonesaw v Allison Danger, Leva Bates, MsChif & Christina von Eerie (6.5/10)


Okay, so not only is does this match take the award for worst setup ever, but it features two candidates for the worst name ever. I have no idea what hat the fuck a She Nay Nay is, and Bonesaw sucks just because she's not actually Randy Savage.

Anyway the four of them come out and I'm not sure which one is the one I thought was a boy earlier (possibly the tall one), but they sort of look like four random people who've been thrown together for just this match. The crowd briefly chant for Mena Libra, whichever one she is, before their opponents come out carrying a cutout of Robert Pattinson to a song about being a geek which features a Dr. Who sample. I assume this is Regeneration X's music. MsChif appears to have glued one of those bead curtains to her ring gear.

After the introductions do their usual job of revealing to me who everyone is, some guy in the crowd chants "I'm Team Jacob", which gets less laughs than I thought it should've. MsChif and Melanie Cruise (the tall one) start off and within ten seconds MsChif is doing a standing headscissor takedown, which seems absurd. The commentators spend most of the first few minutes of the match trying to work out what Dr Who and Twilight are, which is both amusing and worrying. Meanwhile a few odd tags have been made, and Mena Libra has come in and looked pretty crap. A few more tags and it's She Nay Nay against Allison Danger, who gets her opponent in a seated leg scissors before rolling her around the ring in a move I can only ever remember seeing on the old SmackDown v Raw games, and once by Eugene (35 seconds in). This is accompanied by more commentary gold regarding She Nay Nay.

Another minute or two passes before the next notable moment, an assisted swinging sideslam from Mena & Cruise on Christina von Eerie, and some more enjoyable exchanges on commentary, including a point where they acknowledge the absurdity of how this match came to be. After being isolated for a few minutes Christina manages to hit a straightjacket backstabber on Bonesaw and tag in MsChif, who does CM Punk's twisting neckbreaker move before taking out Mena Libra with a sort of armbreaker/facebuster combo (the internet tells me this is called the Desecrator, and that the one I just saw wasn't very good). A standing moonsault later she's taken out by Melanie Cruise with a spinebuster (known as Cruise Control, apparently, so it must be her finisher).

Everything starts to break down at this point, and Christina is tagged back in to counter a headscissor from She Nay Nay into a very impressive move called the 138 - basically a facebuster/cutter move from a reverse gutwrench type lift. Christina goes to follow it with a Pedigree, but She Nay Nay counters and delivers a Booker T-esque running scissor kick. That's broken up by Allison Danger, and she & Leva Bates deliver a double team move known as the Medusa Cascade (a double stomp from Leva whilst Allison's holding She Nay Nay). The resultant pin also gets broken up - starting to remind me of an ROH match, particularly a Richards/Edwards one, with all these false finishes - but eventually we reach the end as Christina hits a Pedigree on She Nay Nay and gets the pin.

Christina von Eerie was easily the most impressive performer in the match, although nobody was really bad, and the stuff I've heard about MsChif suggests that she's very good as well (though she didn't get a lot of chances to show it here as Christina worked a lot of the match for their team).

Match 7: Jessie McKay v Hiroyo Matsumoto (7/10)


Both girls are well recieved on the entrances. Jessie McKay is apparently "everybody's favourite girlfriend", which sounds a bit slutty for a face gimmick, and Hiroyo Matsumoto seems way too cheery for the nickname 'Lady Destroyer', but there you go. Apparently Hiroyo is quite the entertainer, and we're then told that she stole Kellie Skater's Pikachu hat after their match on the last volume, which sounds like a very strange scenario all-round.

Hiroyo gets the better of the early encounters, shoulder tackling Jessie to the ground a few times and raking her stomach before Jessie fights back, hitting a running double knee and getting a near fall. They exchange strikes before Jessie hits a headscissor takedown, but when she tries a second Hiroyo turns it into a side slam. Another round of strikes breaks out, before Jessie tries a vaulting sunset flip, which Hiroyo resists and counters with a butt-drop and a two count. Hiroyo then heads to the top rope, but Jessie catches her and does a hurricanrana from the top, which Matsumoto kicks out of.

Matsumoto looks for a backdrop driver, but Jessie fights out of it twice before hitting a high kick to the face, which only psyches Hiroyo up, and she lands a rolling elbow on McKay, before setting up for a running strike and getting kicked in the face by Jessie's Schoolgirl Crush move (that name doesn't make the whole "everybody's favourite girlfriend" thing any less weird). Hiroyo manages to kick out on two, and after a few more strikes she hits a backdrop driver for the win.

Another good, competitive match. Both girls seem pretty likeable, though I do think I prefer Hiroyo based on this match. Jessie just seemed a bit bland and Kelly Kelly-ish (in terms of not really showing much personality, certainly not in terms of ring work), whereas Hiroyo managed to get a bit more personality across. I can imagine that's pretty harsh on Jessie though, so I'd have to watch a few more of her matches and see if I still feel the same way.


Backstage Segment: A Pre-Recorded Promo From The Canadian Ninja's


The Canadian Ninja's, Portia Perez & Nicole Matthews, hype themselves and their accomplishments, before claiming they're going to win back the SHIMMER Tag Team titles tonight. This segment was shown as having been recorded earlier, which most people probably would've worked out considering Portia Perez has been doing co-commentary for the entire show so far. I'll be interested to see what happens when she has to leave and compete. She and Prazak have been a very enjoyable duo so far, by the way.


Match 8: Sara Del Rey v Courtney Rush (8.5/10)


The 'Queen of Wrestling', and soon to be WWE diva Sara Del Rey comes out first, and heels it up with a royal wave and a desire to know why she doesn't have her picture on a banner. Courtney Rush comes out to Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi, which instantly nets her a few points from me. Sara Del Rey doesn't seem quite as keen, however, as she appears to have been spending this time tearing up a sign/banner and throwing it on the floor of the ring. Then snatching it from the referee (the awesome Bryce Remsburg) after he'd tidied it all up and throwing it on the floor again. She's already the best heel on the show by miles. Bryce gets his revenge by throwing the shreds in the air like confetti during Sara's introduction, but then remembers he now has to clean it all up again. I love Bryce. For some reason a 'Kelly Kelly' chant breaks out at this moment.

As the match starts, Courtney offers her hand to Sara, who responds by asking Rush if she knows who she is, and if she thinks tha Sara really wants to shake her "dirty little hand". Courtney wipes her hand on her shorts and offers again, but Sara swats her hand away, and gets a few boo's for it.

Courtney asks Sara why she's so mean, and "what's with the attitude?". She then tells Sara to "Woosa" or do some yoga, before deciding Sara should dance (accompanied by Rush doing the running man. Badly). Sara lets a brief smirk slip though. I already like Courtney Rush. Oh shit, Just Dance by Lady Gaga just came on. Sara plays up pretending to think about dancing (and Bryce motions that she should smile), Courtney again breaks into a little dance, before going full out after Sara points for her to take the floor first. As I'm sure you've all guessed, this doesn't end with Sara dancing, as she kicks Courtney in the face and repeatedly stamps on her to get the match properly underway, and get some more heat. I enjoyed that little interlude though, I have to say. (EDIT - Dave Prazak's actually uploaded this bit on YouTube)

Sara works on the left arm of Courtney, but when Del Rey whips her to the ropes Rush ducks a clothesline before an awkward transition from a running headscissors to a Russian, or in this case Canadian, leg sweep. She then takes a rear waistlock and forces Sara do to the Night Fever arm point, but this allows Sara to take control again and warn Courtney; "if you ever make me dance again I will rip your head off".

Del Rey goes back to working on Courtney's left arm, and talks trash with the crowd before Courtney faceplants an arm whip, which brings smile number two from Sara, but only a two count from Bryce. Sara returns to the arm until Rush manages to block a running attack in the corner and climbs to the top to (eventually) connect with a diving cross body and a T-bone suplex. Both girls are down for the count, but they both get up and Courtney starts trying to comeback, but Sara sends Courtney face first into the middle turnbuckle with a drop toe hold and tries to lock in a rolling cross armbreaker, but Rush manages to fight her way to the ropes.

Rush gets a few quick near falls with rollups - including a comedy one where Sara misses a kick and slowly falls backwards over a kneeling Rush, screaming as if she was falling off a cliff - but in the end Sara blocks an Olympic Slam, connects with a rolling elbow and hits the Royal Butterfly for the win. Sara even does a little mocking dance after the match.

Lovely stuff throughout - a nice mix of entertainment and very good wrestling, and the crowd were more involved than during the other matches, for which Sara in particular has to take a lot of credit. I'd say that that was as good as, if not better than, a lot of the matches you can see on shows like RAW, and I don't just mean the squash matches. Sara showed why she's the Queen of Wrestling, as well as displaying the entertainment skills WWE look for, whilst Courtney Rush did a great job of getting the crowd on her side, and showed she can be very entertaining as well as being a good wrestler. I'd be totally fine with watching those two compete on a WWE show in the near future.

Video Package: Recap Of Athena v Mercedes Martinez At SHIMMER 43


I think the Athena v Mercedes rematch might be next...

They run a quick clip of their match on the last show, where both girls were counted out before Mercedes refused Athena's challenge to restart the match. Time to find out who the better woman is then.

Match 9: Athena v Mercedes Martinez (6.5/10)


Athena's out first to what sounds like an album track by Rihanna (I'm so up with pop music it's unreal), followed by Mercedes, who gets a surprisingly good reception considering I expected her to be the heel in this match.

After a nice even start, featuring a mix of grappling and strikes, Athena starts to get the advantage but Mercedes rolls to the outside to regroup, only to be met by Athena's diving cross body from the second rope to the outside. Martinez manages to throw Athena into the guard rail, before breaking the referee's count and delivering a vicious sounding chop the the chest of Athena. Mercedes slams Athena's head against the steps before breaking the count again and giving the referee a cheeky grin and a refusal to get the fight back in the ring. Another slam of Athena's head on the steps, and one on the leg, and Mercedes changes her mind and throws Athena into the ring to work on her leg some more.

A minute or two passes before a brief Athena comeback is halted by a kick to the face, and Mercedes then suplexes Athena and rests her legs on the ropes before delivering a spinning neckbreaker for a near fall. At this point Mercedes leaves the ring and heads back through the curtain to the locker room, but she swiftly comes back again with a chair, and drives the edge into Athena's leg, getting herself disqualified in the process. She delivers another couple of shots on the leg before hitting Athena on the back with the chair and trying to choke her with the edge of it, at which point several more officials come out to do a piss porr job of restraining Mercedes, who gets a good handful of shots in even after they get the chair off her, then comes back for more and hits Athena with a fisherman buster before taking a bow, with the four officals all standing around in traditionally useless fashion. After Mercedes finally leaves (of her own accord, not because the officials made her), Athena requests a microphone, and she tells Mercedes that she thinks she's broken her leg (lol), but when she's able to compete again, she's coming for Mercedes. She then goes back to selling her supposed broken leg.

I reckon they could put on a pretty good match, whenever this grudge match takes/took place. Mercedes is impressive, as you'd expect from someone who's now regarded as one of the top female wrestlers in America, and I'd like to see more from Athena, who was on the defensive for a lot of the match, but who was impressive when she did get her chances to attack. It was also mentioned during the match that she's usually an agile, cruiserweight/lucha style wrestler, so an even contest between these two women could generate some interesting moments. I'd imagine their next meeting will be a no-DQ match or some similar stipulation. Could be worth a watch.

Match 10: LuFisto v Kana (8.5/10)


'Super Hardcore Anime' LuFisto is first out, accompanied by a Pegaboo doll (I assumed this was some anime character, but it seems like it's her manager), then we get a WWE moment, as a little graphic pops up telling us to follow SHIMMER on Twitter (@SHIMMERwomen, by the way) and like them on FaceBook. As much as I hate all the social media plugs on WWE programming, I can forgive SHIMMER for the plug as they're just quietly popping a graphic up once (so far, anyway), rather than jabbering on about it, and every other social networking site in existence) for half their show. Anyway, the plug disappears and Kana comes out. I'd never seen her before, but she's wearing a creepy mask, a flowery robe with all the colours known to man on and red suspenders with purple underwear over gold trunks (and obviously a top, boots etc, before someone gets pedantic). Should I still call them trunks on a girl? I don't know. Whatever, it's a unique look, that's the point I'm trying to make. I'd like to think that she's how Damien Sandow got the idea for his pink and purple ring gear (and his robe, for that matter).

Incidentally, when I was seaching to find out what the fuck a Pegaboo was, I discovered that LuFisto had a minor stroke in April 2010 aged 30, and she thought she might have to retire. As far as I know, she's still wrestling today, although I'd imagine she's slowed down a lot since then. Anyway, I digress.

The bell rings and LuFisto comes flying across the ring to attack Kana, before the two ladies trade kicks and strikes. I've not seen either of these women before judging by the first couple of minutes of this match it's going to be a fucking brawl. I imagine it'll ease off pretty soon, but it's not often you see two women just standing toe-to-toe and trading leg kicks with each other. Then one of them (LuFisto) headbutts the other about ten times. Yeah, exactly. I'm intrigued.

The two ladies stop smacking each other for now and decide to exchange a few submission holds and do some proper technical wrestling. Both ladies look very proficient, though Kana probably edges it due to her excellent transitional speed, but in the end they get bored and decide to go back to kicking the shit out of each other. At one point Kana has LuFisto in the corner and smashes her in the head with her knee, then LuFisto does a two footed corner facewash (think Broski Boot, WWE fans). We're only five or six minutes into the match at this point, by the way, but it's been as close to an MMA fight as any wrestling match I can recall seeing, including the Adam Cole/Kyle O'Reilly hybrid fighting rules match from ROH Best in the World, where Cole almost had his front teeth knocked out. I'm not an expert on global wrestling traditions by any means, but in my head this is what I imagine wrestling would be like if you mashed together the British and Japanese styles. I'm loving this, basically.

After a good seven minutes or so we finally see a wrestling move, as Kana catches a kick from LuFisto and turns it into a release German suplex. I'm almost disappointed, as I sort of want them to just keep swapping between hitting each other and rolling around on the mat trying to get a submission. An Emerald Flowsion (or Emerald Fusion, as it's known in WWE video games) from LuFisto quickly gets rid of that though, and she follows up with a diving headbutt from the top rope for a near fall. The match is starting to build towards the finish now as the two women quickly go through all three phases of the match so far one more time, and LuFisto hits a tiger suplex for another near fall. For the third time in the match LuFisto gets Kana up for a Burning Hammer, but once again Kana manages to struggle free, and this time she locks in her version of a crossface chickenwing, known as the KanaLock, and she gets the win as LuFisto passes out.

After the match the two women shake hands as the crowd (who were pretty in to the match throughout) chant "please come back" to Kana. I agree. That was every bit as enjoyable as Del Rey/Rush, but in a totally different way, and I'd love to see a rematch one day, assuming LuFisto is still wrestling.

Video Package: Recap Of Britani Knight v Jessie McKay At SHIMMER 43


It's time.

Before the mother/daughter grudge match we get to see why such a contest came to be needed, as Jessie beats Britani with a Boyfriend Stealer (I'm not going there again), before shit hits the fan big time stylee for the Knight family. For those who'd rather have a bad description of what happened than watch it for themselves, see below.

Saraya gets into the ring and berates her daughter (from what I gather, this had been happening on earlier SHIMMER shows as well as 43). Oh, and she also dons the fuck out of the crowd. WWE really should've signed her as well. She's every bit as awesome as her daughter, and she's a fucking fantasic heel.

Anyway Saraya makes it very clear that she's not happy with her daughter (what you've just read is a massive understatement), and when Britani tries to respond Saraya slaps her. Hard. Turns out that probably wasn't a good idea, as Britani finally snaps, and the two women proceed to try and murder each other, only stopping to attack everyone who tries to restrain them. Somewhere in the middle of all the fighting Britani challenges her mother to a fight, but then they start scrapping again and in the end Saraya has to be physically restrained and carried out of the building by five guys.

I feel sorry for everyone who had to try and restrain Saraya during this segment, in particular the first guy who comes in on his own and gets kicked in the balls within about five seconds of entering the ring.

So yeah, you can see why I'm excited for this one. Let's get to it, shall we?

Match 11: Britani Knight v Saraya Knight - No Disqualification Match (7/10)


Saraya's first out, and immediately starting down members of the crowd, including one guy who's been standing out all show due to his red John Cena shirt, and who now takes the opportunity to do some shitty body popping and give Saraya the Cena salute. I'm surprised (and disappointed) that she didn't try and strangle him. After Saraya's done barking at pretty much everyone who looks at her, Britani makes her entrance (to the same music as her mother), but barely managed to get round a quarter of the ring before Saraya reaches through the ropes and tries to grab her by the hair.

After a little scrap, Britani continues around the ring, with Saraya following her the whole way round from inside, then she gets the crowd to chant her name, much to the annoyance of Saraya, who ends up knocking Britani off the apron with a low dropkick before she's even managed to get in the ring. Start as you mean to go on, I guess, but unfortunately for Saraya, when she tries to follow it up with a baseball slide Britani lifts the ring apron up and traps her in it before laying into her mother, who's forced to retreat under the ring.

Surprisingly, when the action does then return to the ring, it becomes a wrestling match instead of a fight, with Britani delivering a suplex-neckbreaker combo before throwing Saraya out of the ring. At this point we discover that neither Knight lady should bother trying a baseball slide, as Britani's attempt sees her mother block it, before spinning her round and DDT'ing her Randy Orton style from the apron to the floor. Saraya follows that up by slammer her daughters head into the ring post and throwing her into the guard rail. Saraya misses a running knee, and the two exhange a few shots before Britani wheelbarrows Saraya face first onto the guard rail. Twice.

Just in case it wasn't obvious that this has turned back into a fight, Britani throws her mother over the rail and the Knight ladies have a little brawl among the fans. They briefly come back ringside, but Britani's soon back in the crowd (and I use that term loosely), and she picks up a dustbin lid and hits Saraya in the face with it as she's climbing over the barrier. They return to the right side of the guard rail and Saraya takes nine more (very weak) shots to the head with the lid before slumping against the ring, at which point Britani puts the lid over her mothers faces a kicks it.

Back in the ring we go, as Britani works the dustbin lid into her offence a few more times, but Saraya manages to find an opening and catch Britani with a body shot, before returning the favour by hitting her daughter with the dustbin lid a few times, as well as DDT'ing her on it. Incidentally, Saraya hits Britani a lot harder than Britani hit Saraya. Probably explains why the crowd decided to chant "child abuse" at this point...

Saraya puts Britani in a Boston crab, but she manages to get free by hitting Saraya with the good ol' bin lid a couple of times, and the fight heads back into the crowd, and Britani attacks her mother with plastic cups. Yes, you read that right. It's clearly done as a bit of light relief, and Britani even exclaims "Plastic Cup!" at one point, but the crowd still react as if it's a chair shot (or a dustbin lid shot, in this case). You wouldn't see that happen in WWE (anymore). Saraya's quickly back on the offensive though, and she throws Britani into the crowd before delivering a modified Stunner using the barrier. Britani fights back again, and calls for a chair, to the delight of the crowd, and probably the dustbin lid. It seems that SHIMMER didn't anticipate such violence when organising their seating arrangements, as the two chairs that appear aren't folding chairs, but proper chairs, with metal frames and padded seating. Whoops. Nevermind, the dustbin lid saves the day, as Britani sits her mother down before kicking it into her stomach.

You know how earlier I was wondering what was going to happen to the commentary when Portia Perez left for her match? We're just about to find out, as she's just got up and left. Bit strange to leave in the middle of a match, but it's her loss.

Anyway, once again the action moves back to the ring, as Britani takes to the top rope (something I can't recall ever seeing her do before) to deliver a dodgy looking forearm/elbow to Saraya, who was trying to roll out of the way. I think I've just seen why she doesn't do many top rope moves. Britani's not one to be deterred by failure though, as moments later she's diving off the top again, only for Saraya to move out the way (completely this time). I'm assuming Britani expected Saraya to roll towards the turnbuckle the first time, as that's the only difference between the two spots.

Regardless, Britani's sprawled out on the mat and Saraya locks in an armbar, before deciding to alo choke Britani with her legs. Britani tries to get the crowd behind her (something she's good at, although this time she does it by smacking her thigh in a way that sort of looks like she's tapping out, which wasn't very clever), and manages to wriggle her way out of the hold before lifting Saraya up for a deadlift powerbomb a few times. It wasn't exactly Rampage Jackson, and to be honest it wasn't even Ryback on Swagger, but then she's a 120lb nineteen year old trying to deadlift more than her own weight, rather than a massive mountain of muscle lifting a smaller guy, so it's still pretty impressive. Anyway, now she's free Britani's looking to finish the fight, and she hits her mother with a Knight Light for the victory. For those who don't know what a Knight Light is, scroll back up and watch the video in the Sara Del Rey match of her finisher, the Royal Butterfly. It's basically a DDT from a fisherman version of that lift.

To summarise, it was a watchable match, but I think it suffered a bit from the relatively slow pace it took on for large parts of the fight, and it seemed like Britani was holding back a bit at times, possibly because she was concerned about actually hurting Saraya with some of the weapon shots and kicks, which is understandable. There was enough on display for it to be a good match, but the little niggles stopped it from being quite as good as I'd hoped for.

Having said that, the fact that I'm disappointed it wasn't better, but still have it as my third favourite match of the show so far, probably says more about how highly I rate both these ladies than the quality of the match. I'm not sure if there are any other women who could have left me feeling slightly disappointed by 'only' putting on a good match, and I include the likes of Beth Phoenix, Natalya & Sara Del Rey in that list.

Enough of me rambling on about how good the Knight ladies are, time for the penultimate match of the show.

Match 12: Ayumi Kurihara & Ayako Hamada (c) v The Canadian Ninjas  - SHIMMER Tag Team Championship Match (6.5/10)


We close the show with the first of two title matches, with defending champions Ayumi Kurihawa (who I've vaguely heard of) & Ayako Hamada (who I haven't heard of at all) putting their title on the line against the Canadian Ninjas, Portia Perez & Nicole Matthews. The challengers are first out, and they make their way around the ring talking trash to the fans. Unsurprisingly, Cena Shirt Guy gets picked out again, and he does the 'you can't see me' gesture to Portia Perez, who almost climbs over the rails while telling him to get out. The champions make their way to the ring, and waste no time at all, coming almost immediately into the ring and holding their titles aloft. They certainly could've taken a bit longer, as it's then announced that this match has a 45min time limit! I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, with 50mins of the show left, and one more match to come after this one, I'm not about to witness a time limit draw.

The ring gets another covering of streamers when the champions are introduced, and once it's all finally swept out of the ring the fans start chanting 'ninjas go home'. Perez calls this "the worst chant ever", sparking chants of "worst in the world", at which point she rolls out of the ring, snatches one of the titles and parades around the ring before being made to hand it back by the referee. We have some more shenanigans, as the ninjas try to intimidate Kurihara before retreating when Hamada steps in, and the challengers then argue over gets to avoid starting off against Hamada.

Hamada gets bored of the squabbling and turns to go back to her corner, at which point the ninjas attack (I guess this is quite apt). Hamada breaks through their double clothesline attempt, before taking the Canadians out with a double clothesline of her own.

The opening exchanges see both sides bending the rules a bit with some double teams and misdirection of the referee, but the ninjas eventually gain control over Ayako Hamada - by cheating more than the champions - and begin to wear her down until Nicole Matthews missile dropkicks Hamada into her own corner, allowing Kurihara to tag herself in.

Ayumi leaps over Matthews before whipping both her opponents into the corner and driving her knees into them a couple of times, then connecting with a missile dropkick of her own for a two count. Nicole blocks Ayumi's attempted Urunage, before dragging the referee into a running forearm. With Hamada distracted by trying to revive the official, Perez slides a chair into the ring and Matthews puts Kurihara in the tree of woe before dropkicking the chair into her face. She then sits Ayumi on the chair in the middle of the ring, only to be sent face first into the chair by a drop toe hold, which Kurihara follows up by dropkicking the chair back into Matthews' face.

The ninjas regain control and hit a superkick-German suplex double team called the funky cold medina, but Kurihara just manages to get a shoulder off the mat before the three count. The challengers continue to play dirty, turning the referee's attention to Ayako Hamada before Perez hits Ayumi with the chair (well, holds the chair up and moves it towards her face a bit) and delivers a superkick, but Hamada comes in to prevent the Canadians becoming the first ever two-time SHIMMER Tag Team champions.

Perez & Matthews try to get Hamada out of the picture but she ducks a rolling elbow from Matthews, who hits her partner instead before getting a spinning kick to the head, which sends Nicole tumbling into the referee and allows Hamada to pick up the chair and gain some revenge, moonsaulting a chair into the chest on Portia Perez, only for Matthews to break up the pin.

Perez and Kurihara continue to fight in the ring, but on the outside Ayako Hamada puts the chair over Matthews' head before running her into the ring post, raising an audible "OOH!" from the crowd (and me, I hate that move almost as much as the ladder pivot move that smashed Joey Mercury's face). Anyway, with Nicole Matthews very much out of the equation, Hamada's free to come in and deliver a spiining kick to Portia Perez, and Kurihara follows up with an Urunage for the victory.

A decent match, but something didn't quite click here, and I'm not too sure what it was. All four women had moments where they looked good, but equally they all had moments where they looked like they were working at half speed. I like all four women, and I reckon they could all put on very good matches against the right opponents, but I don't know if I'd want to see them compete against each other again. It just seemed as if their styles didn't always work well together.

Nevermind, on to the main event.

Video Package: Recap Of The Rivalry Between Cheerleader Melissa & Madison Eagles


Before the SHIMMER Championship match, we get a little look back at what's come before. Firstly, we head back to SHIMMER 30, where Madison beats Melissa with a small cradle (and a couple of feet on the ropes) to earn a title shot. Next, we move to SHIMMER 32, where Melissa calls out the now-champion Eagles on her actions, and demands a title shot before the two women have a confrontation in the ring.

The video continues as Melissa gets her title shot on the next show, but falls to a Hellbound (this exact one, actually) from the champion. Three shows later, at SHIMMER 36, Melissa beats Madison with an Air Raid Crash in an eight woman tag team match, before the two ladies argue in front of Amber Gertner at SHIMMER 37. Eagles says that Melissa won't get a title shot until she's worked her way back into contention again, so cue five wins for Melissa between volumes 37 and 43, establishing her as the number one contender for Madison's title.

Match 13: Madison Eagles (c) v Cheerleader Melissa - SHIMMER Championship Match (7.5/10)


So here we are, three hours and twelve matches down, at the main event of SHIMMER volume 44. Will it be third time lucky for Melissa, or will Madison Eagles beat her once more? The challenger is first through the curtain to a pretty decent reception and chants of "new champ", before the current champ makes her entrance. When she gets in the ring she talks trash at Melissa, and I swear she says "You're going down, I'm gonna fuck you in the butt'. On second listen I think it's "...I'm gonna whack you with the belt", which makes more sense given the 'whacking someone with the belt' gesture she does at the same time. It's also much less inappropriate. Not sure what these last few lines say about me, to be honest.

The announcer tells us that this title match has a one hour time limit, which is frankly ridiculous. Who in their right minds would expect this match to go anywhere near an hour?! A thirty minute time limit would've been much more plausible, but the match won't even be going that long, so it's really not that important. You can probably disregard this paragraph then.

Once the introductions have been made, Bryce Remsburg prizes the title out of the hands of Madison Eagles, and the reigning champion again tries to verbally psych out her opponent, before rapidly retreating out of the ring as soon as the bell is rung. She does a few stretches on the outside before sliding through the corner of the ring under the turnbuckle to break the referee's count and continuing to limber up. She does this a couple more times, before Melissa gets bored of waiting and goes after the champion, and the two women swap a few running clotheslines.

Madison tries to roll into the ring, but Melissa drags her back out and chops her, causing Eagles to flee over the barrier and through the crowd. They fight down the back of the crowd before Melissa throws Madison Eagles into, and then over, the venue's (practically empty) bar. The champ fights back, and both ladies exchange chops and kicks whilst sitting on the bar, before Melissa knocks the Australian off with a right hand to the back of the head.

Madison tries to retreat again, but the challenger throws her rival into the barriers next to the locker room entrance and then slams one of the rails on Eagles' back. Madison delivers a few kicks to her opponent and throws her into the barriers, which have now been driven back against the ring, before delivering a couple of kicks to the body and face of a seated Cheerleader Melissa. The kick to the face looked legit, but it doesn't slow Melissa down for long, and she's soon slamming the guard rail into Eagles again.

Madison Eagles improvises an escape by crawling under the guard rail and between the legs of the fans, but Melissa quickly catches up to her and throws the champ into some quickly vacated chairs, before throwing more chairs at the downed Aussie. At this point, Portia Perez rejoins Dave Prazak on commentary, much to my delight. Madison endures the chair storm and regains the advantage, dragging her opponent through even more chairs and over to what appear to be the merchandise tables, where she sits Melissa down and kicks her until she tips backwards, knocking over one of the tables in the process.

The momentum changes once again, and the two ladies head for the front doot of the arena (causing someone to have to turn the lights on), and Melissa throws Madison back towards the crowd off the first set of steps leading up to the entrance. It's only a few steps high, not an entire staircase, don't worry. Melissa gets the crowd to clear a route back to ringside, and the two women finally return to the correct side of the barriers, to moderate applause. Madison drives Melissa backwards into the barriers a few times, and then - after more than ten minutes of the match - the action hits the ring for the first time!

Madison Eagles comes out on top of the first bit of in ring action, knocking Melissa to the ground with a clothesline before putting her in a cattle mutilation, but the challenger manages to wriggle free. Madison works her way through a few more impressive submission holds, but Melissa eventually manages to grab the bottom rope, which annoys the champion and sparks (factually incorrect) chants of "you can't beat her" from the crowd. Cheerleader Melissa fights back with a Samoan drop, and both ladies are left on the floor.

They both get to their feet at five, and Melissa takes control with a couple of chops and a clothesline, before delivering a grounded curb stomp for a near fall. She then goes for the Air Raid Crash, but Eagles pushes her away and hits a running leg lariat for a two count of her own. Madison hits a yakuza kick in the corner, but Melissa fight back once again with a running forearm strike and a flurry of body shots, before ascending quite nimbly to the top rope, only to be caught by the champion whilst she was getting her balance.

Madison delivers a spider suplex before trying for her finisher, Hellbound, but Melissa escapes, just to get immediately kicked in the face. Madison tries again, only for Melissa to escape and hit an Air Raid Crash, but the champion manages to kick out just in time. Eagles takes another, but still manages to kick out, so the crowd chant for the Kudo Driver. Madison counters into a Hellbound, but Melissa performs a counter of her own and rolls Madison up with a sunset flip to become the new SHIMMER Champion. Cue cheers, a solitary streamer and maybe even a few tears from Melissa as the crowd chant her name.

Another very good match, with plenty of shifts in momentum and a lot of throwing people into chairs/barricades. When the street fight did eventually end and the action reached the ring, we also saw some good wrestling, particularly from Madison Eagles, who showed a good allround game, including a nice range of submission holds.

Oh, hang on, we're not actually done here. After celebrating with the crowd and putting on her new title belt, Cheerleader Melissa starts to head back to the locker room, only to be jumped by Nicole Matthews, who throws her into the guard rail before throwing her back into the ring and delivering a Vancouver Manouver (her version of Cody Rhodes' Cross Rhodes) onto the title belt, which Matthews holds aloft before the show comes to an end.


Final Thoughts & Star Performers


Over the course of the show, a few thoughts kept popping into my head...

- The Eagles Club arena in Berwyn, Illinois looks like a decent venue. It's probably helped by being lit far better than any arena ROH have run shows in, and also by having a curtain that doesn't look like it's made of tin foil.

- Dave Prazak and Portia Perez make a very good pairing on commentary. Their chemistry is similar to that of the classic Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler pairing, with Prazak trying to call things straight, but frequently finding himself bemused by the mad and/or blatantly biased ramblings of Perez. To be honest, I think they make a better pairing than any of the commentary teams on the bigger promotions.

- The ring announcer sounds a bit like Howard Finkel. Not much more to add on this one.

The overall standard of in ring action was very good, and nobody looked like they didn't belong there, but even so there were a few wrestlers who stood out from the rest...

- Veda Scott pleasantly surprised me with her ability, especially for someone who hadn't been wrestling very long. She's already been touted by some as one to watch in the future, and now I can see why.

- Christina von Eerie showed off some impressive moves and very good general in ring ability during the mass tag match, and I recently stumbled upon this clip of her from a recent Dragon Gate USA show, which shows that she's got excellent mic skills as well. She's only 22, and she only got into wrestling through punk rock, but she's already had a spell in TNA, and I can't imagine it'll be long before she gets a shot in WWE.

- Sara Del Rey once again showed why she's so highly rated, as she put on a great midcard match against Courtney Rush, who also stood out as having put in a good performance. The two ladies showed their ability to work, and entertain, a crowd, with Del Rey stone faced seriousness proving a great foil for Rush's more over the top personality. As seems to be the case almost every time I watch a Sara Del Rey match, I saw something I hadn't seen from her before, and I honestly can't think of any area in which she lacks. Rush, meanwhile, was very entertaining whilst also showing that she can go in the ring, and I think she could do very well for herself if this is how she usually performs.

- Kana's blend of hard strikes and submission wrestling was something completely different from any other woman I've seen before, and her unique ring gear just added another layer of intrigue. She put on a fantastic match with another lady who impressed me, LuFisto. The Canadian has a similar style to Kana, which made for a seriously physical match, and I'm certainly very interested by the news that they tag together on SHIMMER 45, though I'd hate to be the team that goes up against them.

- Lastly, Madison Eagles may have lost the SHIMMER title, but to me she still came out of her main event match with Cheerleader Melissa looking like the better prospect. Not that I don't rate Melissa, but Madison's excellent heel work and balanced move set suggested that she's more than good enough to at least get the same TNA opportunity that Melissa had (she's worked there as Raisha Saeed and Alissa Flash), if not have WWE sniffing around her.


To conclude, I enjoyed my first taste of SHIMMER action, and I'll be sure to have a browse through some more of their back catalogue. I'm also quite tempted to pop to America next April and visit WrestleCon to catch one of their tapings live. Apparently something called WrestleMania's going on nearby around that time as well, but I'm sure this would be much more enjoyable.

If you enjoy womens wrestling, and you think TNA's knockouts division isnt quite as good as it used to be, you could do a lot worse than checking out SHIMMER. Actually, I don't think you could do better...