It was Christmas Eve when it dawned on me that I needed to write a wrestling column (among other things like hosting Christmas). I am not used to being so ill-prepared, and I frantically considered a lot of options before settling on this one.
One option: review a match from TLC, as I usually do. I fast-forwarded through most of the show on Christmas Day, looking for inspiration whilst barking things out like, "I'll check the gingerbread in a minute!" and "They're just pretending to hurt each other, sweetie!" And then I had to get up for nachos because apparently I'm Pavlov's Dog when wrestling's on, and then I felt bad for putting on wrestling at Christmas, so I scrapped the whole thing (except for the nachos).
After pissing around with other ideas, I remembered a random occurrence from last week. I'd received notification that Shimmer was following me on twitter. It seemed random but cool, as I've never watched any matches from this all-female wrestling organization. When I'd first done some "surveys" of wrestlers' careers, such as William Regal and Fit Finlay, someone had asked me if I'd ever consider surveying independent organizations such as Shimmer, and I found the idea a bit daunting. I try to follow my instincts and follow the signs, so maybe this was a sign to check out Shimmer now.
I'm not going to do in-depth research this time around. Let's just watch a match. Almost everyone we were hosting for Christmas has gone home, and it's time to get down to business. I type "Best Shimmer Match" into YouTube. The first hit that comes up is called "SHIMMER Title Tournament Final - Lacey vs. Sara Del Rey". It’s from 2007.
I've heard of Del Rey (she is a trainer at the WWE Performance Center), and wonder if Lacey is Von Erich (she is not)... watching them come out to the ring, in a small venue with a handful of guys watching, I am struck by their obvious dedication. It's a trait that can be used to describe most indy wrestlers, I'd imagine - heck, any wrestlers, because pardon the pun but it's a hard-knock life - but indy wrestlers are going through the same crap as the big leaguers, but for little money or recognition. It means you're passionate and you're crazy. I respect that. Both women look athletic and focused. There's no pointing or waving a la Kelly Kelly (it pained me to watch her come out, or wrestle, or emote, or do anything), and they both look at home in this scenario.
Seeing these real women do the thing, it's so accessible and makes me wish for similar in WWE. Fans can get behind real people - yes, as much as you need to have the idealized heroes and glamour, you also need wrestlers (like Daniel Bryan) who are compelling because they're natural.
One fall. No time limit. Meant to determine the first-ever Shimmer Champion! Okay, I'm intrigued, this is cool. And the crowd is into it too, busting out chants before the match begins, including the simple but determined, "Shimmer! Shimmer! Shimmer!" I have to admit, I always thought the name was a bit princess-y, but I'll wait to pass judgment.
The bell has rung, and there's a lot of posturing and time-wasting that gets on my nerves. I know that for big matches like this, when the stakes are high, they often start things off by feeling each other out and trading intimidation tactics, but there's an art to it. You can work the crowd into a bit of a lather, but then the stare downs have to turn into something. And quick.
The commentary is competent and professional, but the bar is low for me these days. I appreciate them having a woman on the announce team, and she points out that these wrestlers have been in a two-day tournament, the mental and psychological effects being felt in this final match.
Del Rey applies several boston crabs and half-crabs; they trade holds and dig in to some real wrestling. It doesn't look like they're thinking about what comes next, or pacing out choreographed moves. These are people who've been in the ring enough to just feel it out. The commentators talk about Lacey having a terrible win-loss record, but mowing through everyone in the tournament, but they also call the match. Lacey has Del Rey in a headscissors down on the mat, but flaunts her athleticism with some pushups while her opponent flails to regain the upper hand. Lacey then shows me something new, when she does the splits to duck under Del Rey's leapfrog, and grabs Del Rey's foot to trip her down as she passes.
They tell the story of Del Rey being stocky and strong, and Lacey having to outsmart her. The action goes out to the floor, and interestingly they comment on the title being awarded even in the case of a DQ or count-out. Moving things outside the ring adds more flavor at a small event, but nothing too spicy occurs at this point. Back in the ring, Lacey applies a camel clutch, and it occurs to me that they do a lot of moves involving straddling, which in WWE would come off as porny but doesn't have that same thrusty nature here.
Lacey switches things up by bashing Del Rey's head into her knees and the mat. I enjoy the light brutality minus the theatrical screaming that I'm used to in WWE. The commentators break down Lacey's lackadaisical cover while also addressing that Del Rey's teammates (some sort of Minnesota Mafia) are watching from the back. THIS is how you keep the story train chugging along the tracks, while still giving insight into the wrestling moves. They're showing me some new counter moves too, and even though I wasn't feeling the slow start, I would be pretty happy to watch this match in person.
Del Rey starts to make her comeback, and manages a pin attempt, which again the announce team analyzes with authority. They explain how she could have done it better. Hmmm, now Del Rey is using her finger gun "Death Rey" to size up Lacey before she delivers several big kicks. After 7 or 8 of these big boots to the chest, Del Rey gets a two count and my jury is out on the finger guns. I'm all for having a call sign, but that was a lot.
Then things get crazy with a ref bump, outside interference that results in one skinny woman taking another skinny woman away in a fireman's carry, a backstabber, several countered DDT's, something called a royal butterfly suplex, and a freakin' piledriver that results in a 1-2-3 for Sara Del Rey! You know, that was a fantastic match that had a little bit of everything: a tournament build, a shameless/skilled heel, some interference, and a big finish for the babyface (proper thing for the inaugural title holder).
I'm into this. What are the best Shimmer matches out there? I see their events all take place near Chicago, taped every few months from the same venue. Check out this match, and let me know if you'd like to learn more. It's not like my mind was blown, but what a neat detour on Christmas night. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a legit craving for nachos.