Stewart Allen is a no-good, low-down son of a bitch. He and his consigliore, Lee Burton drew me in with promises of “interviews” and “exposure” and “we’ll link to your movie!” Then they start in with the, “Come on, man… just check out this one match… all the cool kids are doing it.”
Next thing you know, I’m pushing deadlines to watch Mercedes Martinez and Madison Eagles brawl through an arena. I’m seeing Kana and Hailey Hatred beat the ever-loving hell out of each other instead of working on a pitch. I’m leaping out of my chair when Jenny Sjodin hooks a picture-perfect guillotine on Alpha Female, ignoring my wife when she asks if I’ve changed the cat litter.
It’s a downward spiral, friends. Stew and Lee: they’re bad people. You should click a button on your browser and get out while you can. You don’t want to end up like me.
I’ve been a wrestling fan since I watched Dick Murdoch screw Ted DiBiase out of beating Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Mid-South when I was nine or ten. Hogan/Piper, Doctor Death Steve Williams, Four Horsemen, Flair/Steamboat, nWo, Austin, Brock, JBL/Eddie, Undertaker/Batista, Joe/Angle, Punk/Cena, Henry’s World Title run. Until recently, these were my touchstones as a wrestling fan.
Two things have happened to my wrestling sensibility since the beginning of 2012.
First, after years of effort Court Bauer got me watching All Japan from the ‘90s (with an assist from the Torch’s Bruce Mitchell and the Observer’s Dave Meltzer). I got hooked immediately – if I’ve seen a better series of matches than Steve Williams vs. Kenta Kobashi or Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada, I must have been on an alcoholic blackout because I don’t remember them.
Second: those rat bastards, Stew and Lee. I did an interview with them to talk about my contribution to the Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James story at WWE and they used their Merry Olde Empire powers of hypnosis to tell me about SHIMMER and Femmes Fatales and EVE. “Just watch Shimmer Volume 37,” they said. “You’ll love it.”
They were right. Now I buy dvds and waste time I can ill afford because of these Ringbelles douchebags. They’ll do the same to you if they can, gentle reader. Get out while you can.
No? Still here? Fine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The matches Shimmer and NCW Femmes Fatales and Pro Wrestling EVE put together share a heck of a lot more with AJPW than they do with the Diva division at my old WWE stomping grounds. I find myself cheering and booing and coming out of my chair every bit as much as I do when I see personal friends win or lose. On any axis – workrate, story, whatever floats my boat at that particular moment – the product these promotions are presenting stands shoulder to shoulder with MLW in the early ‘00s or ROH during the Danielson/Samoa Joe/Punk period. It stands head and shoulders above what WWE is presenting now.
Shimmer 37 was a revelation. I started the show the way you might expect; I graded on a curve. “This is really, really good… for women’s wrestling,” I thought. Let’s ignore the inherent misogyny in that statement for a moment. The societal training. We’ll ignore all of that because at the very moment Courtney Rush hit Mena Libra with an exploder suplex that would put a smile on Taz’s face, I forgot I was watching hot chicks in skimpy clothes.
I was watching the best possible professional wrestling.
See, what pusher’s do is give their marks gateway drugs. Shimmer Volume 37 is that. It sucks you in with tremendous storytelling. You get Portia Perez on commentary, the droll wit of some mid-‘90s indy-rock chick making you laugh even in the midst of brutality. You get Saraya Knight nearly causing a riot. You get LuFisto and Tomoka Nakagawa working a match that both makes you laugh and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
You get Allison Danger and Leva Bates in full DOCTOR WHO costumes. Pop.
You get just what horrible people like Stew and Lee want you to get: a joy that becomes an experience that becomes a rabbit hole you just keep tumbling down. You move from Shimmer to Femmes Fatales, where Kalamity looks as unbreakable as Michael Elgin. You dip your toes into Pro Wrestling EVE, where Alpha Female seems like Drago in ROCKY IV – she could kill anyone.
You… I dig deeper and deeper into the warren. New friends with names like @TheBitchRage on Twitter get you watching Kana and Kimura beating each other to a pulp and telling an epic story while they do it. I start coming up with fantasy booking dream matches: Jenny Sjodin vs. Kana. Daizee Haze vs. Mickie James. Beth Phoenix vs. Sara Del Rey. I do all of this and only occasionally remember that I’m talking about women’s wrestling.
There’s the rub: women’s wrestling. When the words come out it sounds a little funny. It sounds like I’m talking about something less. “It’s only women’s wrestling.”
Thing is, Stew and Lee led me down a path that made me realize it’s NOT less. I only think of it that way because WWE mostly treats women as bargaining chips in men’s stories (the current Eve/Ryder nonsense) or cheesecake (every Kelly Kelly match ever). I’ve been trained by Vince McMahon, and who the hell wants that?
Even Pavlov’s dogs can learn not to drool when they hear the bell. Stew and Lee might be dicks who make me spend money and time I don’t have, but they’re also the guys who broke me free of the two-dimensional thinking currently on display for women in WWE. Did people in the Renaissance know there was a renaissance going on? I ask because I think that’s what’s going on in women’s professional wrestling right now. I ask because I think it’s about to break big.
In the first conversation I had with Trish Stratus we talked a lot about the television show, ALIAS. We wondered why it was that people higher up in the power structure at WWE than us couldn’t see – hell, they actually fought against – the notion that strong women could draw money. There was never an answer, but thanks to the Ringbelles crew and a bunch of people I’ve met on Twitter and elsewhere I see that there’s another way.
I want to see CM Punk vs. Steve Austin. I want to see Kevin Steen vs. Samoa Joe. I want to see Trish Stratus vs. Saraya Knight. I want to see these matches equally, and I blame Stew and Lee for that.
I’ve become a junkie thanks to the Ringbelles bastards. Want a hit?
Editor’s note: If you want to talk addiction with Alex, you can interact/praise/abuse him on twitter. You could (and should) watch his Amazon Test Movie. Or, y’know, you could buy some SHIMMER DVDs. All the cool kids are doing it…