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...


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...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Fave Five - TNA (July 2012)

Because deep down, we all want to be Booker T.

Photo from WWE.com via http://bleacherreport.com/articles/784094-wwe-commentary-will-booker-tmichael-cole-become-the-new-jim-rossjerry-lawler

Yeah, so I'll be doing these every now and again, because (a) they're easy; and (b) it's an opinion piece, so nobody can tell me I'm wrong; and (c) I just want to sometimes. The 'fave five' concept shouldn't need any explaining, but in case Eugene is reading, it's basically just me picking the five people I like most. That ought to cover it, so off we go. Well, sort of.

Honourable Mentions

Because five isn't enough, and I'm too lazy to try and rank ten.

Bully Ray has been living up to his name brilliantly, and I look forward to his match with Joseph Park on this week's Impact (to be honest, it should've been on Destination X instead of all the crappy qualifiers).

Eric Young is one of my favourites, and he would've made the list if he'd been on telly recently. Alas, he hasn't, so he's here instead. Similar thoughts apply to ODB, by the way.

Zema Ion has been the only challenger to the X-Division title for months, and now he's finally got hold of the belt we should see him get even better, especially if he ends up feuding with Jesse Sorensen when he makes his return.

Lastly, Samoa Joe is a beast, but he has no direction, so it's hard to really get behind him. Also, I'm never sure whether he's going to be a heel or a face next week.

Anyway, onto my fave five...

5. Brooke Tessmacher

Photo from http://www.wrestling-match.com/tag/knockout-galleries
Brooke, or Miss Tessmacher as she's reverted back to since Brooke Hogan came and stole her first name, has earnt her place in my fave five by being one of the most improved wrestlers of the last year. There was a time not too long ago when she was pretty weak in the ring, but she has made a noticeable improvement during her time in TNA, and has been rewarded for it with a reign as the Knockouts Champion.

She's not yet reached the level of ladies like Beth Phoenix or Mickie James, and she still has the odd dodgy moment, but she's more than capable of putting on a good match, and she should continue to get better for a while, so it would be no surprise to see TNA make her the face of their division over the next few years. Probably doesn't hurt that she's hotter than a thousand suns either.

I think it's safe to say WWE fired the wrong one of the Extreme Expose...

4. AJ Styles

Photo from http://www.ring-rap.com/2010/10/21/tna-impact-live-result-for-102110/

'The Phenomenal' AJ Styles is probably the face of TNA, as well as one of the most talented in-ring competitors on their roster. His high tempo, high flying style has been one of the bright spots of TNA over the years, and it's led him to multiple titles - including being the only man to have won the TNA Triple Crown more than one (at the time of writing, he's actually won it four times) - as well as a shedload of memorable matches. In short, when you watch an AJ Styles match, you can be pretty sure you're going to be entertained.

At the minute he's involved in the companys main storyline, and even though it's already recieved a lot of criticism, it has led to a couple of great matches at the last two PPV's, Slammiversary and Destination X. Styles has more than enough talent to be a star in WWE, but he seems happy to stay at the company that made him, and he deserves a lot of respect for that.

He's recently suggested that he could be coming towards the end of his career, so enjoy his talent while you can, TNA won't be the same without him.

3. Austin Aries

Photo from http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2012/07/10/cm-punk-nigel-mcguinness-and-colt-cabana-react-to-austin-aries-tna-title-victory-at-destination-x/

Austin Aries won the big one at Destination X on Sunday, having held the X-Division title for ten months before trading it in for a shot at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. During his reign as X-Division champion, Aries established himself as one of the most talented allround workers not just in TNA, but in modern wrestling. He's good on the mat and in the air, he's strong on the mic and he has plenty of charisma - there doesn't seem to be a weakness in his game.

Having only just won the World Heavyweight title, Aries' stock can still rise. He's bound to have a rematch with Roode in the near future (probably at Hardcore Justice), and he could put on great matches with any of the other top guys in TNA (if they weren't all faces, although TNA don't seem to have much probably with people randomly changing between face & heel to suit their needs, so they'll probably be fine in that regard). We've already seen him work excellent matches against Samoa Joe & Bully Ray, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Aries hold the belt for a similar amount of time as Bobby Roode did, if not even longer.

Should TNA manage to keep WWE away from Aries, it's likely that they could have found their top guy for the future, and a man who can take over from AJ Styles and the guaranteed entertainer in TNA, if he hasn't already.

All hail the 'Greatest Man That Ever Lived'.

2. Bobby Roode

Photo from http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/wrestling/4349265/Bobby-Roode-Im-living-the-dream-wearing-TNA-gold.html

The man who calls himself the 'It Factor of Professional Wrestling' may have just lost his title, but his reign was undoubtedly the most successful of any man that's held the belt. Not only did he become the longest reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion of all time, but he went from tag team superstar to the most hated man in the company in the process. If you want to see how to book a heel champ, you'd be hard pushed to find many better examples that Bobby Roode.

During his time as TNA's world champ he's showed good wrestling skills and done some impressive mic work, but his general attitude is what has impressed me most. He's played the cowardly, yet arrogant heel brilliantly, and it will be interesting to see where he goes now he's dropped the belt.

Whatever happens to Roode now, TNA have shown that they know how to push someone to the top, and I'm confident that they'll continue to get the best out of Bobby for years to come.

1. Christopher Daniels

Photo from http://www.wrestlingforum.com/total-nonstop-action-wrestling/626385-how-awesome-christopher-daniels.html

Topping my first ever TNA Fave Five is the man who I think is one of the most underappreciated guys in the company, Christopher Daniels. He's a fantastic allround performer who's been in some of the greatest matches and rivalries in TNA history, and yet he almost always seems to get looked over when people talk about who the best guys in the company are.

Whether he's working on his own or as part of a tag team, Daniels has proven his ability in the ring time and time again, and he's also one of the best at working the crowd and finding or doing little things to make him stand out, such as the finger tape and the "World Tag Team Champions of the World, and no that's not redundant" line.

I didn't realise he was 41 years old until I started writing this bit on him, but that's just another reason to love him. He's pretty much TNA's version of Chris Jericho - great talker and wrestler, loads of charisma, excellent attention to detail, never really pushed as the top star he could've been, but still going strong towards the end of his career.

So yeah, congratulations Christopher Daniels. Go have yourself another Appletini, you deserve it.

Photo from http://cewshreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/tna-slammiversary-2012.html

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Sara Del Rey & How WWE Can Learn From Chikara

Photo from http://illegalforeignobject.tumblr.com

With the recent news that Sara Del Rey has been offered a WWE contract, as well as the impending Chikara Grand Championship match between current champ Eddie Kingston and Miss Del Rey, it seems like the perfect time to discuss how Chikara have proven that women can play a major part in professional wrestling, and how WWE should take note of this when decided where to take the divas in the future.

As anyone who follows womens wrestling, or even independent wrestling in general, will tell you, Sara Del Rey is one of, if not the most talented female wrestler in the country. Some might even go as far as to say she's the best in the world. Wherever she ranks - according to PWI she's the tenth best wrestler in North America last year - she's undoubtedly near the top, and Chikara have been clever in utilising her skills to create what might well be the biggest match in their history, with the possible exceptions of some of the ROH-Chikara clashes that have happened over the years.

Photo from http://idontlikewrestling.tumblr.com/post/11022120823

Chikara.have taken advantage of Sara's excellent in-ring talent by pitting her against male opponents recently. They've also been doing this to a lesser extent with another female on their roster, Saturyne. This isn't something new for Del Rey, as she's worked with the guys for years, even facing off against the likes of Claudio Castagnoli (now Antonio Cesaro in WWE, for those who still don't know) and El Generico (this one actually happened in Chikara fairly recently). By allowing her to compete on an equal footing as the men, and even having her beat her male counterparts, Chikara have arrived at the point where they can book what is, to my knowledge, the first ever time a woman has challenged for the top title in a significant American promotion. Unsurprisingly, the match has attracted a great deal of interest, and it would be no shock if the pay per view event on which the match is taking place, The Great Escape, turns out to be one of their most successful shows ever.

With WWE seemingly set to sign the 'Queen of Wrestling', now might be a good time to look at how she has been utilised on the independent scene, and use this knowledge to help revitalise their womens division.

Should WWE complete the signing of Del Rey, they will have a significant number of female wrestlers on their books - Kharma, Beth Phoenix, Layla, Natalya, AJ, Eve, Alicia Fox, Tamina Snuka & Kaitlyn currently work on the main roster, with Paige, Sofia Cortez, Raquel Diaz, Caylee Turner, Summer Rae & the recently signed Buggy Nova in FCW and Kelly Kelly seemingly still on leave - so there is more than enough talent for a successful womens division, but the main problem is that most of the current divas have very little credibility left anymore. One way of helping to restore this credibility could be to follow Chikara's lead and have some of the top women occasionally compete against the men.

In the likes of Kharma, Beth Phoenix and Del Rey (as well as Sofia Cortez), WWE have talented women who can and have wrestled against men before, so by putting them against male opponents and having them hold their own they can help to re-establish the idea that these women are powerful, talented and (most importantly) worth watching, then when other women compete well against them they will also seem stronger by association. WWE have done something similar before with Chyna, and now seems to be the perfect time for them to repeat the process.

In all likelihood, rebuilding the reputation of the WWE womens division will be a slow process, but allowing some of the top women to compete against male opponents may help to speed it up somewhat, and could help WWE create female stars on a level with Trish Stratus & Lita, something they have been unable to do in the era of brief matches and minimal storylines. With the change to three hour RAW's coming in the next few weeks, and a new show scheduled to start later in the year, there will be plenty of extra time for WWE to fill in the coming months, and I can think of few better uses of this time than to help bring real womens wrestling back to a mainstream audience.

I've been saying it for ages, but I really feel that, with a little time and effort, WWE could produce a womens division as good as we've ever seen, although I never would've expected that one of the quickest and best paths to that goal would have been (re)paved by the little indy gem that is Chikara. Should the current indy inspired shakeup in WWE allow their ladies to finally fulfil their potential, however, I'll be one of the first to thank them...

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Tribute To The King Of The Jobbers

This article is a tribute to a man who gets a lot of hate from the good old IWC, but, more importantly, gets the crap beaten out of him on almost every WWE show. Most of the time it's a beating handed out by a WWE superstar, but sometimes he'll be crushed by a wrestling legend, a rapper, or even Cyndi Lauper. That's right, I'm talking about the "ONE MAN BAAAND BAYBAAYYY!", Heath Slater.

Photo from http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/who-should-be-the-next-slater-hater

I'll admit, I used to be a Slater Hater, but in the last few months I've found myself warming to him, and now he's only of my favourite guys on the main roster. I think that, because of his status as the go-to guy when someone needs to get humiliatingly beaten up, people tend to overlook all the good things he does, and when you start to look a bit closer you realise that he actually has a lot of great qualities, some of which I'm just about to outline. Even though he's the unofficial King of the jobbers now, I reckon he has enough going for him to become a very good addition to the Intercontinental or United States title scene, and here are a few reasons why...

The Way He Performs His Gimmick

His gimmick is stupid, yes, but he embraces the stupidity and does the best he can with it, which is basically just singing badly and doing air guitar. Slater deserves a lot of credit for his work, as it would've been easy for him to have thrown a wobbly, half-arsed it for a few weeks and faded into the background like a lot of people have when they've been given a weak gimmick, but he's gone for it and his charisma shines through, making it entertaining instead of cringeworthy or even just plain boring.

Just watch the segment from RAW a few weeks ago where Cyndi Lauper hit him with her gold disc and tell me he's not giving this gimmick everything he's got. He's clearly the standout performer in that segment too, and it also featured Rowdy Roddy Piper, who came second in WWE's recent 'Top 25 Masters of the Mic' list.

Simply put, the guy makes a bad gimmick enjoyable to watch, so imagine what he could do with a good gimmick.

His Mic Skills

It should be pretty obvious to even the bigger Slater Haters that he can talk on the mic well. He gets more chances to cut a promo than almost anyone else on the roster too, so it's clear that WWE agrees with me. Hell, he nailed the pre-match heel promo so perfectly that WWE have been getting Ryback's victims to copy him before their beatings.

He may not be dropping pipebombs or talking about his strudel. but he comes out almost every week and in a minute or two manages to make you want to see him get beaten up, even though you've already seen it (insert large number here) times before. He's also one of the few heels on the roster that actually manages to get decent heat without resorting to abuse and/or mockery of the crowd and/or city they're in.

Even when he's just coming out and stealing other peoples' catchphrases, he still manages to put his own bit of swagger in there to make it more entertaining and gain some extra heat.

His Look

It's pretty unique, I think we can all admit that. Not only does he stand out because of his hair, but he also wear stuff like this.

Image from http://www.allwrestlingsuperstars.com/heath-slater/heath-slater-wearing-hat

Just look at all that denim. What a hat as well. You won't see anyone else wearing that in the crowd, let alone in the WWE locker room. There's probably a reason for that, but still...unique.

His In Ring Skills

We may not get to see it very often, but Heath Slater is actually a pretty decent wrestler. He can obviously sell convincingly, hence his position as lead jobber, but when he does get to work a proper match he displays good technical skill and timing, as well as a few impressive moves. He's certainly good enough in the ring to be a champion, it's just a question of building him back up to a point where he could believably win a singles title. After all, if Santino can hold the US title for (at the time of writing) almost four months, why can't Slater have a similar run?

In Conclusion

Even though he'll never be a main eventer, or probably even reach the upper-midcard level that the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes currently occupy, I think that Heath Slater could be a good addition to the midcard title scene, or even the help re-establish the tag team division, considering his pedigree as a tag team competitor (three time champion with Justin Gabriel, for those who don't know).

He's better than many people give him credit for, and he seems to have a great knowledge and passion for wrestling, but ultimately it may be the case that he's too good as a jobber to ever be used any other way.

Either way though, Slaters gonna Slate.