It’s fair to say that Ringbelles HQ has had a bit of a dark cloud of depression hanging over it recently, as Lee and I have often found ourselves discussing how terrible it is that a number of our favourite wrestlers are out – in some cases, possibly permanently – with injuries. Daizee Haze has already hung up her tights, LuFisto & Mercedes Martinez have been struggling and resting up with serious injuries (back and concussion respectively – the latter of which has taken Martinez out of WSU’s event next weekend in New Jersey) and more serious still, Serena Deeb has been told she should no longer wrestle due to a severe concussion while Madison Eagles admits her knee injury could be career threatening. It’s amazing how much these women give of themselves to the service of pro-wrestling – often in front of small (albeit appreciative) crowds. Call it passion, or call it what you will, they continue to push themselves hard (and probably harder than they should) in order to entertain – and as we’re seeing quite clearly, with that comes a price. Going into the upcoming “Spring Season” of shows from the major North American indy wrestling companies, it’s hard to imagine a SHIMMER taping without Madison Eagles; or what about Serena Deeb, who is still scheduled to debut for NCW Femmes Fatales on March 10th in Montreal? What if Mercedes Martinez can’t completely shake her concussion issues by March? Main events in SHIMMER, Femmes Fatales and crucially WSU may all have to be re-written. In my head, it all felt very “glass half empty”.

Happily though, a chat with a friend in the business a little while ago persuaded me to turn the frown upside down. “Well,” she said (when contemplating the worst case scenario that Deeb, Eagles and others may be facing the end of their careers) “That gives plenty of opportunity for other girls to move up and take those spots”. I stopped and thought for a moment, and answered in the affirmative. I wasn’t yet 100% convinced, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured that there was a definite ring of truth to that statement. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely *not* ready to contemplate life without Eagles and Deeb, and I’d love nothing better than to have them back – but if they don’t return (or even just miss an extended length of time as they overcome their issues), it’s worth considering who actually is likely to benefit, and why we can actually look forward to 2012 as a year of opportunity as much as anything else.

Nicole Matthews has been on the main event cusp in SHIMMER for a while – and the fact that she attacked new Champion Cheerleader Melissa moments after her title win on Vol 44 suggests that she was destined to join that top level in 2012 anyway – but what about her on and off rival for much of 2010/11, Jessie McKay? I saw a big change in Jessie over the last year or so, moving from cute midcarder to someone with the potential to be much more. I’ve privately referred to her amongst my circle of friends as “Aussie Wesna” a few times in 2011 (in reference to one of my all-time favourites, “The Croatian Panther” Wesna Busic) due to her proclivity to kick people hard, shout “Come on!!” whilst clenching her fist, and push the envelope with some crazy risk-taking. Her multi-taping feud with Matthews was awesome, but having finished it, Jessie ended up sliding back down from semi main status to midcard on the last set of SHIMMER tapings, due for the most part, to the fact that the main event level was so packed and impenetrable. Maybe now there’s a spot for her in the main events on a more regular basis? I certainly hope so. On a similar point, with Eagles possibly unable to compete this March in SHIMMER, what better replacement as a villain can you have than Portia Perez? Already arguably the best heel in the women’s wrestling – with Eagles gone, Perez can surely lay claim to the biggest shit-disturber in the promotion.

The fundamental thing is though – all of these spots are earned, not gifted. Matthews may be moving into that slot, but she has to go out this next set of tapings and prove that she deserves to stay there just as much as McKay or Perez need to prove that they should join her. Nobody should doubt that any of these three are worthy of being given the ball – but it remains to be seen who will actually run with it and make the fans forget that they’re missing a couple of old main eventers.

Someone already grappling with that challenge head-on in 2012 is Kalamity. She has already made the transition from hot prospect to main event star, as the new Femmes Fatales International Champion. Having beaten LuFisto for the belt at Femmes Fatales VII, all eyes will be on Kalamity to have a strong year in 2012 as she starts to write her own legacy in Quebec wrestling and confirm her position as LuFisto’s successor. In fact, Kalamity’s big challenge this year is to not only to have a strong year of consolidation in Montreal, but to push herself outside her comfort zone in SHIMMER (where she had a superb first impression in October) and elsewhere against a range of opponents. I’m a big fan of Kalamity and really hope that this year will see her pick up bookings across other promotions and becoming as strong an ambassador for Quebec wrestling as her teacher has been. If she wants it, the blueprint has been written.

Jessicka Havok may find herself with the exact same challenge if she unseats Mercedes Martinez at WSU’s Fifth Anniversary show on March 3rd. With Martinez’ epic title reign now closing in on three years, Havok has been seen by many as the most likely person yet to bring that reign to a close… but if Havok walks out of the NYWC Sportatorium in Deer Park, NY with the WSU World Title, then all the pressure moves onto Havok. Will Havok title defences carry the same interest level on DVD and the live gate as Martinez did? Can Havok measure up to Martinez’ quality of title matches in that role? Will DVD/iPPV sales go up or down with the new face on top? Havok has the tools, but she has to prove that she can do it. While I’m sure Martinez will stay there or thereabouts in the top couple of matches on most WSU shows, who will Havok’s next “big” challenge be? Lexxus, perhaps? She was the initial recipient of Serena Deeb’s spot at the last iPPV (against Melina) and took Martinez to 73 minutes in a title match last year. If she’s WSU’s next golden girl, 2012 needs to be the year where she steps up a level.

Of course, the knock-on effect carries on down the card too. While semi main eventers move into those top roles, their spots are open for hungry midcarders who can use 2012 as a year to establish themselves as the next big thing in their respective promotions. Mia Yim
, Courtney Rush and Athena are three obvious examples in the SHIMMER roster, for a start. While none are ready to be main eventing yet, all can use this coming year to prove that they can clip at the heels of the main events. Up in Quebec, Femmes Fatales (who also use Courtney Rush regularly) can and should be hoping for productive years from the likes of Angie Skye (who made it to the finals of the Amazones et Titans show back in August) and the dynamic Sherbrooke Connection (Kira & Loue). In WSU, the expectation isn’t only on Jessicka Havok, but also on her partners in the Midwest Militia, Sassy Stephie and Allysin Kay. They’ve been on the end of a major push that has seen the group win plaudits and awards for 2011 based only on a handful of show appearances. When the initial “wow” factor wears off, can Stephie and Allysin keep their momentum and provide strong semi-main events?

There is potential all round when you look at the women’s wrestling scene – from new main eventers through to promising rookies, but again, who benefits most this year is as much up to the women themselves as the bookers/promoters. Having a depth issue as far as talent is concerned may be causing Dave Prazak of SHIMMER some headaches as he tries to pare down the excessive 49 names from the October shows before the next tapings in March, but I’m sure he’d rather that than struggle to come up with main events that will sell DVDs. As names and matches continue to be announced for upcoming shows, I’m becoming more and more convinced that 2012 will be a good year. A year, perhaps, when someone will take the chance and ride some momentum to the top.

Ladies, the stage is there. Own it.

– Stew Allen

Feel free to leave your own opinions on who’s likely to step up in 2012 in the comments, or get involved on facebook/twitter

Matthew Marks says:

How I figure it is if the parties listed
don’t return all that can be said is thank
you for the memories.How I also think about
it is Madison has trained several girls in
her native Australia including Jessie McKay
so in a way her impact is left.As far as
LuFisto goes she has groomed Kalamity to
fill her shoes and trained others as well
so she has more than done her job.Mercedes
3 years champion she set the bar high and
that may not be replicated.Serena who knows
do to the WWE falling flat plus her current
health issues at this stage.