As 2011 comes to a close, and Christmas is just around the corner, around this time people look back at the year and reflect on their blessings. This is true in wrestling fandom as well as anywhere else. If you are a fan of female wrestling, there was a ton to be grateful for in 2011, although if you concentrated on WWE, I feel bad for you – nothing good, aside from Kong’s debut as Kharma, happened in 2011 in that company. I wanted to take the time to look back and write about what I, personally, was grateful for this year and share with you my thoughts. Feel free to comment and tell me what you were grateful for in wrestling this year.
 
Thanks to my trips to SHIMMER: Women Athletes, I was able to see a number of women wrestle in person for the first time that I personally admire and look up to.
 
LuFisto

With her health problems in 2010 and being rotated out of the September ’10 SHIMMER tapings, I had worried I’d not get the chance to see her in person. Fortunately that fear was baseless as Lufi was back and stronger than ever. In April, I thoroughly enjoyed her matches with Tomoka Nakagawa (it’s always a treat to watch her wrestle joshi women), Sassy Stephie, and the four way match with her, Portia Perez, Cheerleader Melissa and Serena Deeb. However, at the October tapings I wasn’t sure she would be there. She had had heart surgery in July to repair a hole in her heart, and with the precautions she now has to take, I felt it doubtful.
 
To my great pleasure, she was not only there but had some of the best matches of the tapings. The four way between her, Tomoka, MsChif, and Kellie Skater was just plain fun. I popped huge for MsChif’s Freddy Krueger gear (I’ve been a fan of Nightmare on Elm Street for years) but Lufi’s Pink Power Ranger gear was incredibly cute! Her match against Mia Svensson is a personal favourite – you have the up and coming taking on the veteran, giving the former a chance to see what she can do. However, Lufisto was involved in one of the best matches of the weekend, and given the talent that was on display, this is a bold statement but entirely true. In Kana‘s last match, she wrestled Lufi and it was tremendous. Kana pulled out the win, but while everyone else stood, I remained in my seat. I refused to applaud unless Kana shook Lufisto’s hand – I felt that Lufisto had gone toe to toe with her, and unless she also recognised this and shook her hand, I didn’t feel that Kana was worthy of respect. However, she did.
 
Lufisto is a lady I have so much respect and admiration for, I can absolutely say it was wonderful to see her wrestle in person.
 
MsChif

I didn’t get the chance to see her in September, due to her shoulder separation, but she was back in April. Intelligent, well-spoken, passionate, MsChif is one of the people that sold me on SHIMMER in the first place. To finally see her in person was tremendous. She did not disappoint, and given that 2011 marked her ten years in the business, I’m happy that I can now say that I’ve seen her work. Her match against Saraya Knight in April was a thing of beauty, especially when Saraya attempted to have Rebecca Knox match her screams and failed. In October, her fourway against Lufisto, Tomoka and Skater was tons of fun, and the follow up singles match between her and Tomoka was excellent.
 
Hailey Hatred

This woman is remarkable. An American girl making her dreams come true in Japan, breaking so many barriers for gaijin in wrestling, racking up win after win after win, becoming better and better. I desperately wanted to see her in person, but can’t really afford a trip to Japan. So when she was announced for the October SHIMMER tapings, I was ecstatic! She didn’t disappoint either, her match against Kalamity was awesome. I was fortunate enough to chat with her during the intermission where I bought two of her DVDs which she graciously signed for me. She’s an amazing lady, sweet, personable and very friendly. It was a real treat, and I hope 2012 brings more great things for her.
 
Kalamity

Granted, I had only seen one match of hers (her v Sweet Cherrie at NCW FF III, which was the bonus match on SHIMMER Volume 36), but that and the pictures I had seen of her were enough to hook me. Her look was what caught my attention in the first place – the Undertaker was who had gotten me into wrestling in the first place, so I lean more towards the Gothic, more “dramatic” characters in wrestling. Kalamity certainly fit the bill. Her look, her music, her gestures – all of it combined to make me interested. At SHIMMER, seeing her work against Hailey and then against Tomoka, it made me a solid fan. She can only get better and better, especially having Lufisto as her mentor. Plus, I have her to thank for introducing me to Epica, the band that she uses for her entrance music.
 
Britani & Saraya Knight

One’s a wrestling prodigy and the other is a force of nature. After being blown away by them in April, I was incredibly happy that they both returned in October. Their no DQ match against each other (the culmination of a split that started on Volume 41) was a thing of beauty and Britani’s “Knight Light” finisher is damn impressive. Speaking to them both at the after party, it was startling how much of a contrast Saraya the wrestler is from Saraya the woman. A lovely, soft spoken woman who takes great pride in her work and has taught her daughter to do the same. It was an honour to see them work and talk to them afterwards.
 
Veda Scott & Mia Svensson

Both ladies are up and coming, working hard, learning their craft, and it was tremendous to see them in person and that they made it onto the SHIMMER tapings. It was also a blast to hang out with them at the after party. Both are very sweet, determined, intelligent and have great futures ahead. A real pleasure to watch them work in person.
 
I’m also very grateful to have attended the April and October tapings of SHIMMER. Dave Prazak continues to put on amazing shows that showcase the finest female wrestling from around the world. My thanks and appreciation to him, Allison Danger, the folks behind the scenes and the cameras (even you, Puente!), and the women themselves. Your work does NOT go unappreciated!
 
Other wrestling-related things I was grateful for this year:
 
JoshiMania

Chikara continues to prove that equality in wrestling IS possible (just look at Sara Del Rey‘s path of destruction through the BDK), but they also have opened the door for women in Japan to compete in another promotion other than SHIMMER. The legendary Manami Toyota crossed the ocean to first wrestle in Chikara in 2010, but she returned this year for the King of Trios tournament. This year also saw other joshi names compete in Chikara: Toshie Uematsu, Mima Shimoda, Tsukasa Fujimoto, Makoto; after making her SHIMMER debut, Kana also wrestled in Chikara. All this culminated in three nights at the beginning of December in an unprecedented showcase in America of joshi wrestling. Appropriately named JoshiMania, each night was filled with matches featuring legendary names as well as current names in joshi.
 
A personal dream of Sara Del Rey’s came true when she faced Aja Kong on Night 1. Kaori Yoneyama made her American debut as her career comes to a close. In a mixed tag match, Portia Perez stepped into the ring with Manami Toyota. Mio Shirai teamed with Aja. Women from several different Japanese companies came together on American soil for three nights to showcase Japanese wrestling, past and present. This was a groundbreaking event, and I can’t thank Mike Quackenbush enough for making it happen.
 
Anarchy Championship Wrestling

This is the other promotion that doesn’t hold gender as a barrier to great wrestling. This had been shown by having a female tag team hold ACW’s tag team titles for part of this year, but another barrier was shattered at the promotion’s 6th Annual Lone Star Classic in November. Then-ACW Heavyweight Champion Darin Childs took part in the annual tournament, wherein the title is defended in every round. He was in a three way dance, taking on Rachel Summerlyn and Portia Perez. In a stunning upset, Portia eliminated both Darin, then Rachel, claiming the ACW Heavyweight Championship for herself.
 
Despite the fact that she lost the belt in the second round of the tournament (thanks to interference from Robert Evans, her former suitor), this was groundbreaking. A woman held a promotion’s top belt. Not top female belt – top belt, period. Her name is in the ACW record books as holding their most prestigious championship. No one can alter or take that away from her. A damn fine accomplishment for a damn fine wrestler, and cheers to Anarchy Championship Wrestling for having the courage to take such a step.
 
Pro Wrestling: EVE v ICE Ribbon

This was one of the coolest events of 2011 and even though I wasn’t there personally to see it, part of the Ringbelles team was and they had nothing but positive things to say about it. Think about it – Pro-Wrestling: EVE in Britain plays host to wrestlers from Ice Ribbon in Japan. You have a mix of British and Japanese style wrestling at shows that took place over a weekend in October. That’s pretty damn unique, not to mention completely awesome. From all accounts, the matches were amazing, the girls friendly and the energy fully positive. In this case, language didn’t matter. What better way to show that wrestling is a universal language than to bring people together from different countries to learn and showcase their knowledge? It made for a magical weekend.
 
So now that I have shared some of the things I’m grateful for in wrestling from this year, tell me what are some of yours? Leave them in the comments section on the site, on Facebook or tweet them. I hope everyone has wonderful holidays and remember:
 
Be happy with pro-wrestling!

– Jennifer Logsdon