Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Reflections on SHIMMER Weekend (October 2011)

Kana battles eventual SHIMMER champion, Cheerleader Melissa
Photos by David Falcon

Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders as Carl Sandburg once named it, was big enough to host the biggest SHIMMER roster ever. Fourty-nine girls were present to grace the ring at the Eagles Club in Berwyn, IL, for the taping of volumes 41-44.  Among the notables present were SHIMMER champions Madison Eagles (singles) and Tomoka Nakagawa/Daizee Haze (tag); the regulars Sara Del Rey, Cheerleader Melissa, Mercedes Martinez, Nikki Roxx, Allison Danger, Ariel, and Serena Deeb; Eagles’ fellow Australians “Rate Tank” Kellie Skater and Everybody’s Favorite Girlfriend, Jessie McKay; Canadians Portia Perez, Nicole Matthews, Kalamity, LuFisto, Courtney Rush, She Nay Nay; Joshi girls Ayako Hamada, Ayumi Kurihara, Hiroyo Matsumoto, and this time Yumi Ohka, and the much anticipated Kana and Hailey Hatred! Which is to say nothing of the stacked mid-card that include Neveah, Sassy Stephanie, Athena, Mia Yim, Melanie Cruise, Mena Libra; and this time a group of California girls Christina von Eerie, Serena Deeb’s protege, Davina Rose, and Buggy Nova (on SPARKLE).

The beloved and mysterious, Green Man, Yayy!

According to their introduction bio’s many other SHIMMER girls hail from the Golden State -- at least originally: Sara Del Rey (Martinez, CA), Melissa (San Francisco), Mia Yim (San Deigo), and I believe there are one or two more. To go with this already stacked roster Saraya and Britani Knight were there from England and Jett also (SPARKLE). A big surprise was seeing Ashley Lane returning to SHIMMER (Madison Rayne in TNA); Su Yung of FCW was also present -- both were pleasant surprises. Mia Svensson, Taylor Made, December, Bonesaw, and Kimberlie were also present for either SPARKLE or the main card.

What to do with this embarrassment of riches . . .? Take 3 Advil and begin the scheduling headache. Given the challenges of fitting this many girls onto four dvd tapings, Dave Prazak did very well. With volume and quality of the talent assembled, there were bound to be “pros” and “cons.” On the Pro-side SHIMMER provides the most dedicated, skilled, and courageous women athletes in the world. The international flavor and fresh match possibilities are phenomenal. Think how often SHIMMER is able to ring the bell on a “first-ever-meeting” match? It’s like a world all-star tournament twice a year where the best women come to prove themselves -- like a tennis Wimbeldon or US Open -- a major tournament with all the best players. Then there are three audiences at SHIMMER, the first two influence performances greatly. First there is the live crowd of approximately 250 fans from around the USA and the world; then there are the 40+ women in the locker room watching on monitors.

SHIMMER is a place where young wrestlers prove themselves to a jury of their peers (or superiors, as the case may be). If you’re Mia Svensson or Davina Rose and you know that Kana, Ayako, Eagles, and Del Rey are watching back stage -- you don’t think they give their all and then some? The locker room ups the ante of each performance. The final audience are those who will watch the dvds -- but that of course is on a several month delay -- so they influence where action takes place (in front of the cameras), but not the passion of the wrestlers.

The aftermath following a Madison Eagles' Super-plex on Serena Deeb

On the Con-side, so many matches meant they would be shorter and less coherent (due to the 3-way, 4-way, and 8-woman tag matches). The average match length for SHIMMER this time was about 7:00 minutes - much better than the WWE mind you. The 10-15 minute matches were saved for the main event or semi-main event. One of the highlights in this regard was the tag match between Hamada/Kurihara v Eagles/Del Rey -- they unleashed a 20 min. corker that drew oooohs and aaaahhhs from the crowd as they were wrung out with near fall after near fall.

Ayumi with a missle drop kick on Britani Knight

There is absolutely no better wrestling experience for the hard-core fan than SHIMMER.  So much wrestling -- 2:10-9:45pm on Saturday, with a short intermission and 1:10-8:45-ish (I missed the final matches -- had to catch an 8:00pm plane out of Midway) on Sunday with another short intermission -- roughly 30 matches per day.  And such GOOD wrestling -- the top women on four continents (North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, if you're counting) were in the same building.  No promoter has the tantalizing choices that Dave Prazak does when he takes out his pad and pencil to start scribbling down potential matches.  It could spoil a promoter.  The fountain of talent definitely spoils the fans.

 Like wedding goers straining to see the bride . . . SHIMMER fans

The after party is another SHIMMER phenomenon not duplicated at any other venue in the USA.  Availability of the wrestlers in this elite international sorority and fans who are polite to the point of reverence in most cases.  Nothing like this kind of close social contact happens between wrestlers and fans in Japan (at least not in large groups with general invitations).  The wrestling community comes together at SHIMMER; it is sustained at other times by the Internet and regional shows, but SHIMMER is fast losing its regional fan base just as it has lost its regional talent base.  SHIMMER regulars are from East and West coasts, the Midwest and the South.  More and more fans are coming from Europe and Japan to for these incredible weekends.  I have not seen many Aussies at the shows, but then, you don't come to the USA from Australia unless you plan to stay for several months (that's often what the wrestlers do).
Kana with her SMASH Diva's title belt

What ever profit Dave Prazak makes from his business, it must give him great satisfaction to give so many wrestlers a unique competitive and social experience and at the same time exceed the most passionate fans' expectations time and time again.  If you're a wrestling fan and you haven't been to SHIMMER, then you haven't been to wrestling heaven.  As a boy I spent some growing up years in the Chicago area, and I NEVER thought I would imply, much less directly state, the Berwyn, IL, had even the vaguest resemblance to heaven -- but I stand corrected -- the sky over 26th street is shimmering!

Britani Knight and her demanding Mum, Saraya

Hiroyo Matsumoto and Ayumi Kurihara take turns signing my SHIMMER Scrapbook @ After Party

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