This retro DVD review is all ass-backwards. Instead of us doing a review of a show from days gone by, instead, it is the review which is old and it is of the (then) newly-released SHIMMER: Women Athletes volume 1 – a show that you can still buy as part of the Collectors’ Edition.
Back in February 2006, Stewart Allen decided to pick up a DVD of this new SHIMMER thing – based on Beth Phoenix v Allison Danger – and wrote a review for Figure Four Weekly. So let’s jump in the time machine and go back five and a half years to see what Stew’s first impressions of SHIMMER really were…
I was initially attracted to the idea of checking out the new SHIMMER promotion for the sole intention of being able to see Beth Phoenix in competition. I’ve been a fan of Beth’s in OVW for some time (where she works as the valet to Aaron “The Idol” Stevens) and while she’s quick to get physically involved in his matches, I’d never seen her wrestle a proper match. It was a further bonus that on this Volume 1 release, she happened to be facing Allison Danger – one of the relatively few other women I know from the US indy circuit. So, the promise of some Phoenix/Danger action coupled with the fact that the promotion name was based on a song title by one of my favourite bands (“Shimmer Like A Girl” by Veruca Salt) meant that I actually laid down some dollars and ordered a DVD from ROHWrestling.com. Yay me.
I’ve got to say, I was very surprised to hear that the DVD is reportedly one of ROH’s fastest selling DVDs of all time. “Why??” asked a friend of mine when I told him this piece of information. I honestly didn’t know. I know why *I* bought a copy – but what was the attraction for everyone else? Either way, I unwrapped the DVD with some excitement tonight and stuck it in the machine. Fingers crossed it won’t suck.
The DVD started with a very Japanese-esque “bring all the girls out to the ring” introduction, where Allison Danger basically thanked the people for showing up and supporting them. It was then that it struck me – the attendance was really poor. I mean, the venue itself was miniscule, but there were precious few people in attendance. I guess it’s a niche market and it’s a debut show – but my immediate worry was whether there would be any atmosphere.
Opener was Tiana Ringer vs Shantelle Taylor. Both girls were making their Chicago debuts, according to Dave Prazak, who handled commentary with Allison Danger. This, at least, put me in the same boat as the fans, since I had no idea who these girls were either. There was a lot of pressure on these two to give a good account in the first match for a new promotion, and really, they did an excellent job. I’ve always enjoyed the Womens division on Monday Night Raw, and frankly this match was better than a bunch of stuff that goes out worldwide every Monday night. What was good about the match was that apart from trying to perform their moves well, they worked in some good old fashioned babyface/heel character stuff which is exactly what they needed to do to win over a new crowd. Ringer played the heel, and Shantelle was a very fast and feisty babyface. The action was a little bit rough around the edges if you want to be picky, but the girls did a very nice job of opening the show. Tiana seemed to lead the match, but Shantelle certainly has some good potential and won with a top rope dropkick. Good start.
Next up was Team Blondage vs Nikki Roxx & Cindy Rogers. Team Blondage are Amber O’Neal and new WWE Developmental signee Krissy Vaine doing a Valley Girl gimmick, which immediately got them some good heel heat. Blondage played to the crowd with some stalling to start. I very much appreciate the fact that they’re trying to establish character in these matches so far. Nikki Roxx is apparently a Killer Kowalski graduate. This match was gloriously old school and formulaic. Blondage cheated to get the heat on Roxx, heeled it up for most of the match, Roxx made the hot tag to Rogers, who cleaned house on the heels. Eventually the heels cheated to win when Amber held Krissy’s arms for leverage on a sunset flip reversal. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this match whatsoever. Perfectly acceptable fun, and I’m starting to like this stuff.
Match 3 was Rain vs Ariel, and Rain makes my day by not only coming out to “Celebrity Skin” by Hole, but by proceeding to get IN THE FACE of just about every fan in attendance. She’s already a better heel than half of the men on the indy circuit. I already like her! In contrast, Ariel comes out smiling and slapping hands to the sounds of… my God… is that “C’est La Vie” by B*Witched?!? Hah! Anyway, I have a good feeling about this. According to Allison, Ariel is a big thing down in Mexico. I really appreciate the odd bit of background since most of these girls mean nothing to me. Rain is one half of the “Minnesota Home Wrecking Crew”, which is the new greatest name ever. I might as well take this point to mention that the crowd (or lack thereof) is doing a great job of reacting to and supporting the girls, and when Ariel and Rain went into their sequence of big moves towards the end, the fans were with them 100%. Ariel eventually killed Rain DEAD with a Diamond Cutter for the three count. I’d say this match had a higher standard of work than the first two matches, and once again I have to be honest and say that I was thoroughly entertained.
Fourth match of the evening was Lexie Fyfe vs Christie Ricci. From my limited experience, I know Fyfe is a veteran, and the match kind of had that kind of veteran vs young lion vibe that you often get in Japan. Fyfe punished and stretched Ricci with some holds for a while, until Ricci came back with some flashier offense. As is often the case with these kind of matches, the younger competitor can’t quite make it stick and Fyfe finishes off Ricci with a TKO. This was probably the worst match on the card to this point simply because there wasn’t a lot to it. If the idea is to make Lexie a “wall” for the younger wrestlers to try and break down, then it went some way towards achieving that. Ricci looked game, if a little sloppy.
Cheerleader Melissa vs MsChif. You’d think someone with a name of Cheerleader Melissa would have a Cheerleader gimmick, right? Apparently not. MsChif is a screaming goth-looking girl with green streaks in her hair who starts by busting out a wacky submission attempt as Prazak and Danger warn that we will see some innovation in this match… and right enough, Melissa pulls out the mother of all submission manoeuvres with a leg arrangement where poor MsChif’s back was arched so far that Melissa was able to have MsChif’s foot kick HER OWN HEAD~! Holy crap! Melissa is by far the most physically dominant wrestler so far, throwing MsChif around outside the ring into inanimate objects and using the guard rail as an assist for another wacky submission attempt. Note to self: Don’t piss off Melissa. Amazingly enough, MsChif comes back and manages to rack up a pinfall over Melissa with a DDT move called the Desecrator after reversing out of a Kudo Driver. That made me sad, because I was all sorts of impressed by Melissa. Really good match though. Melissa actually crawls away from the ring, and gets a nice round of applause.
Next up was the bout which persuaded me to part with my money – Beth Phoenix vs Allison Danger – and I was immediately struck by the difference between OVW Beth and SHIMMER Beth… and I’m not just talking about the somewhat bizarre bow-tie she’s wearing. No, what I mean is that she came bounding out, happy as can be – a far cry from the sex-crazed siren she plays in OVW. “Oh my God, it’s my turn to wrestle!” she excitedly shouted, before bowing to the crowd. It’s fair to say I am amused. “Watch those hands, Mister” she warns the referee, as it becomes clear that Beth’s nicey nicey act is somewhat disingenuous. She and Allison proceeded to have a cracking little match, mixing some simple wrestling, some innovation and some genuinely funny comedy spots. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I watched this entire match with a huge grin on my face. Allison had a bunch of great moves during the closing sequence, and escaped an attempt at the Beth Valley Driver (*great* name) to roll up my girl for the pin. I’d say I was disappointed at the result, but it really didn’t matter since I loved the match so much. The loss of Beth Phoenix (due to her WWE Developmental Contract) for future SHIMMER releases will be a big one, since she was tremendous in every way here, but I look forward to the eventual Trish Stratus vs Beth Phoenix match with glee.
The semi main was Sara Del Rey vs Mercedes Martinez, who were meeting for the first time. This was an East vs West encounter, as Martinez is an East Coast girl and Del Rey has trained in the Inoki Dojo in LA (and is wearing the NJPW lion mark on her tights). Again, I had no idea who these girls were before this match, so I just sat back and let them try to win me over… and win me over they did, in spades. This was absolutely bloody brilliant. Both girls can wrestle, both girls have some awesome moves and both girls have a hell of a lot of spirit – and it wasn’t just a case of throwing out MOVEZ~! for the sake of it either… they built the match really nicely, right up to its inevitable conclusion. The match was the first one on the show without a clear face/heel divide, but in this case that didn’t really matter as the fans were totally enthralled by both girls. Del Rey’s Japanese influences were evident at times, including throwing a series of Masahiro Chono esque Yakuza Kicks at Martinez, but Mercedes matched her time and time again. The match ended in a 20 minute draw, but I didn’t feel cheated at all – I just knew I wanted to see a rematch.
What I wanted to know was how Lacey vs Daizee Haze would have any chance of following the last three matches. I vaguely knew who Lacey was from some of my limited experience, and I’m sure I had at least heard of the name Daizee Haze, even if I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have picked her out of a lineup. I certainly know who both these girls are now, as they brought the curtain down on the show in yet another very good match. I’d be lying if I said that I enjoyed this match more than any of the previous three, but I was more than impressed with the work of both girls. Lacey, in particular, made an excellent heel. They put together a pretty long closing sequence, ending with Daizee hitting Lacey with a heart punch and a face buster for the pin. The thing that has impressed me about each and every one of these matches is just how smooth these girls are and how much they are willing to put on the line. Even this match was a step above the sort of action you get on Monday nights – and that’s with no disrespect meant to Trish & Victoria. I suppose the difference is that unlike on Raw, the women are the focal point in SHIMMER (obviously) and are given time to put together a good match rather than being thrown out in a 3 ½ minute segment on Raw. In saying that, 3 ½ minutes is still too long for most matches involving Candice [Michelle], Torrie [Wilson] and Ashley [Massaro] – but you get my point.
And so, SHIMMER Volume 1 draws to a close, and I feel genuinely pleased I bought the show. A great mix of young talent and established names, a bunch of different styles on view, and a real sense that you were watching something different and cool. I’m certainly going to get hold of Volume 2 based on this show, and fingers crossed they can continue to put on shows as fun as this. I’m not going to bother making any comparisons between the stuff SHIMMER puts out and the joshi action from Japan, because it’s apples and oranges. SHIMMER is a serious promotion which showcases a lot of different influences, but at its heart, it’s an American organisation with an Americanised feel. I don’t think SHIMMER is trying to be a new alternative on the womens wrestling scene as much as it is trying to be a new alternative for any fan of American wrestling.
A big thumbs up and congratulations to all involved, and I’ll leave the final words to Allison Danger, who closes the DVD by saying that they “proved that womens wrestling is possible in the United States of America.”