Hark! This weekend (April 11-12, 2015) brings my favorite sign that spring is upon us. It is time for the spring taping cycle of SHIMMER. You may have heard of the promotion and know that it is a women’s wrestling group. Maybe you’ve seen a show in iPPV or various matches that have been uploaded. Maybe you just know it’s the name of the company that inevitably gets posted in a discussion about why WWE can’t use women wrestlers more effectively. Whatever the case may be, welcome to SHIMMER 101.

I’m going to hit on some basic questions about the promotion, and then a preview of this weekend’s tapings. To help lend some credibility to my opinions on things I reached out to Dave Prazak, owner and operator of SHIMMER, to get some thoughts from him. So a huge thanks to Mr. Prazak for finding time in his schedule to give thoughtful and enlightening answers to my questions.

What is SHIMMER?

SHIMMER Women Athletes is a promotion, run by Dave Prazak, centered around female wrestlers from all over the world. Because of its limited frequency it is able to function as something of an all-star promotion, with most of the roster being the main event talent in their local promotions. Bringing over women from Japan, the UK, Australia/New Zealand, and pulling from all across the U.S. and Canada means every show is loaded with name talent.

The downside to bringing in this huge roster from all points on the map is that they can’t afford to do this too often. At least not until I win the Powerball and become Prazak’s money mark. The promotion has settled into a schedule where there is a single volume taped at Wrestlemania weekend, four volumes taped over a weekend in April, and four volumes taped sometime in September or October.

How can I see SHIMMER?

To see it live you usually have to get yourself to Berwyn, IL and spend hours in the World Famous Eagles Club. The Mania weekend show has been on iPPV for the last three years. The shows are released on dvd and to ClickWrestle.com once production is complete. This process can take some time, and has been one of the bigger complaints heard from people who want to get into SHIMMER is that there is a long delay in getting the shows out for purchase. The DVDs are very well produced though, and to me they’re worth the wait due to being extremely polished.

But there may be change brewing on the horizon. When I asked Prazak about the possibility of iPPV for the Berwyn shows he said that, “the main thing holding us back from even attempting iPPV from the Eagles Club has been their lack of an internet connection. They just recently got one, but it would have to be fully tested for reliability before we would consider trying to do iPPV from there.” For this weekend it will be business as usual, but between the possibility of internet availability at the Eagles Club and part of the upcoming October tapings taking place from a different venue there might hope for everyone to soon be able to experience the tapings as they happen.

Intergender matches are all the rage on the indies these days. Are there any of these on SHIMMER?

No. While there are men involved in support roles as ring announcer and referees, there has never been and it is assumed there never will be any men in performing roles. The only exception to this was an appearance by the late and utterly missed Larry Sweeney as Sara Del Rey’s manager. When asked if the increase in intergender matches makes SHIMMER a less desirable product Prazak said, “I don’t think so. Other promotions doing male vs. female matches make those shows something different than what SHIMMER fans can see on our events. Those matches simply show a different side of the women involved.”

With 71 volumes completed where would be a good point to jump in as a new fan?

My answer was Volume 1. But given that many of the early volumes are out of print and extremely hard to find, I thought that might be a bit of a stretch. So I asked the bossman (not the Big one) what he thinks would be a good starting point for fans. “Volume 50 is a good starting point for fans who are late to the SHIMMER party. That particular show featured a ton of video flashback segments of some the most memorable moments from SHIMMER’s first 49 events, so new fans can easily be introduced to the promotion’s history through viewing that one.” As an added bonus, one of the five best matches in the history of the promotion is on that show, and it isn’t even the main event.

You mentioned the five best matches in the history of the promotion. What would the rest of these be?

Excellent question. Glad I asked me it. One man’s opinion on the best five matches in SHIMMER history, in chronological order:

  1. Volume 18 – Amazing Kong vs. Wesna Busic. A simple story of two people beating the hell out of each other. Busic’s struggle to land a german suplex grounds the match and is the point around which everything orbits. A pure, elemental match.
  2. Volume 43 – Ayako Hamada and Ayumi Kurihara vs. Madison Eagles and Sara Del Rey. A case could be made that these are the four best wrestlers in the history of the company. Their match was an excellent proof of that.
  3. Volume 50 – Kana vs. Ayako Hamada. The co-main event of the milestone 50th show for SHIMMER, and I don’t think anyone in the main event would disagree that this stole the show. Hard strikes, innovative submissions, and high flying, all suffused with a deep emotion.
  4. Volume 51 – Saraya Knight vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. MsChif vs. Kellie Skater. The moment when Kellie Skater became a main event level talent. The hottest crowd I’ve been witness to in SHIMMER history, as everyone in there was yearning for Skater to pull the upset and claim the belt.
  5. Volume 64 – 3G vs. Ray and Leon. Two teams loved by the crowd going at full speed for 20 minutes. A hot crowd that eventually ended up in the corner of Skater and Nakagawa as they fought to retain their titles.

Who will be in Berwyn this weekend?

ME! Oh, you mean who will be wrestling? We don’t know the whole roster, but some matches are set, and many names have been announced:

SHIMMER Champion Nicole Matthews: Nicole Matthews is a horribly evil person and she should probably be banned from any civilized establishment.Her tag team with Portia Perez, the Canadian Ninjas, is the longest-running tag team in SHIMMER and the only two-time champs in the history of the promotion. She won the SHIMMER title in a four-corners match on Volume 68 against Athena, Madison Eagles, and then-champ Cheerleader Melissa. When the only two people left in the match were Matthews and Eagles, who had considered Matthews to be a friend and one of the few kind-of-sort-of allies she had, Matthews responded by throwing a fireball into Eagles’s face. Matthews has spent years being awful to everyone except Perez, and even she’s been getting a cold shoulder from Matthews recently. If I had to say something nice about her, I would mention that her Northern Lights Suplex is absolutely perfect. Madison Eagles spends every night dreaming about stabbing her in the face with a fork. She is scheduled to defend her title on Friday night against Heidi Lovelace.

SHIMMER Tag Team Champions Kellie Skater and Tomoka Nakagawa (Global Green Gangsters/3G): 3G have been the ace of the promotion since teaming up for the first time at Volume 53. Their title win over the aforementioned Canadian Ninjas at Volume 57 solidified them as main eventers. These tapings will be her final matches, and she will be missed. She was and is a tiny ball of pure mischievous energy who is as close to a living embodiment of The Cheat as could ever be imagined. Her partner Skater has gone from comedy figure who makes boastful open challenges and gets squashed to being ready to take the next step to becoming SHIMMER champion. The most popular faces in the company, their final matches are sure to have the crowd wondering why the room is so dusty all of a sudden. Their incredibly long Apollo Creed style introductions will be missed.

Madison Eagles: The question was asked this week who people would choose as their top 5 wrestlers. It was a very easy decision for me to include Madison Eagles in this spot. She is an absolute freak of nature at 6’1” and able to move around the ring like someone a foot shorter. A former SHIMMER champ, winning the title at Volume 31, she fell prey to the curse of the SHIMMER championship becoming Gollum-like in her protectiveness of the belt. When her “worst best friend” Nicole Matthews threw that fireball in her face she turned Eagles face and created an enemy. Their feud will certainly continue. Which is good, since as Prazak says, “the chemistry between Madison Eagles and Nicole Matthews is just amazing. Each of their matches so far created something truly special, and there’s only more of that to come in the future as their rivalry continues.”

Cheerleader Melissa: The Original. She’s been in SHIMMER since Volume 1 and only just lost her title for a second time at Volume 68. She was a face for almost her entire time in the promotion, and by the end of that run there was significant discontent in the crowd at her continued dominance and position as the top face. I don’t want to invoke the guy in the jorts, but it certainly seemed like Melissa had become a polarizing face. Unlike that guy however, Melissa finally turned full blown nasty heel at Volume 57, attacking Allison Danger after the bell in her retirement match. She has drawn the ire of Jessicka Havok, and they are scheduled to meet at Volume 72.

Athena: The “Fallen Goddess”, driven to make art out of war. And owner of the best finisher in the company, possibly the whole damn world. When the top rope diving stunner hits it is a thing of absolute beauty, and we all make the O-Face. She was turned face by the fans and is one of the most pure and traditional faces. After decisively winning a feud against Cheerleader Melissa she entered the Chickfight tournament at Volume 71. Losing in the match of the night to Mia Yim, their feud is set to continue with a 2-out-of-3-falls match at Volume 72. Doing all she can to return the word “hussy” to the common vernacular.

Lufisto: First things first, Lufisto is a damned hero. She fought the law in Canada to let women compete against men, opening up opportunities for women to get on shows. She has come back from a stroke and from heart surgery to continue being one of the best wrestlers in the world. Her entire career she has been fighting against the odds and is beloved for it. Has never held the SHIMMER championship, and I hope that changes at some point. The fact that she has never had a run with WWE or TNA is the sort of error that borders on criminal.

Mia Yim: For a long time the Mia Yim bandwagon was not a ride I wanted to take. When she arrived in SHIMMER she was a blank slate, hyped up by a small but vocal group of fans, and not able to live up to the hype. It can take me a while to change my opinion once it is set, and I might have been a taping late to the party, but Yim has become a fun watch nearly every time out. Prazak is also a fan. “Mia Yim has put in some tremendous performances all around the world over the past 12 months, and really demonstrated that she is one of the elite women in wrestling today. Her matches toward the top of the card during 2014, including her main event match against Cheerleader Melissa, and fantastic outings against wrestlers like Hikaru Shida, Mercedes Martinez, and AKINO, were all home runs in my opinion.” She is set to meet Athena in a ⅔ falls match this weekend.

Portia Perez: The absolute worst person in the world. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about her, no thread of goodness that might be one day teased out to show she had a heart all along. She has stolen the gear of Hiroyo Matsumoto, MsChif, and Thunderkitty. She hit Havok in the face with a wrench. She tried to spear a pregnant Allison Danger. There have been signs of dissension between her and Matthews since Nicole won the belt. Matthews abandoned Perez to a 4-on-1 assault from Skater, Nakagawa, Eagles, and Havok at Volume 70. Videos have surfaced showing Perez unable to get ahold of Matthews. They worked together at Volume 71 to keep the title in Canadian hands, but this is something to watch this weekend. If Perez and Matthews fight it would be the hardest battle to pick sides in since Hitler vs. Stalin. It has not been confirmed but there is some speculation Perez may actually be Eddie Gilbert reincarnated.

Jessicka Havok: Originally an invading heel who seemed to hate the entire existence of SHIMMER, she began hearing cheers after being turned on by the Canadian Ninjas. Her quest for revenge came to a head in the main event of Volume 70 as she was part of the winning team that destroyed Portia Perez. Though she’s currently feuding with Cheerleader Melissa, she still has some unfinished business with Nicole Matthews. And Havok is not the sort of person who lets grudges go easily.

Kay Lee Ray: Scottish redheaded daredevil. Winning the Chickfight tournament at Volume 71 guaranteed her a title shot this weekend. She is willing to dive from anywhere onto anything. Had two of the best matches at the October 2014 tapings against Evie and Kana. With her defeat of Evie in the Chickfight finals it seems they may be destined for a rubber match. The leading candidate to be the first SHIMMER wrestler to hit her head on the low ceiling of the Eagles Club.

Evie: My favorite addition to the SHIMMER roster in the two years. The hardest kicking person on the roster she can attack with her feet from any angle. I agree with Prazak when he says that she really hit her stride last year. Earned a title shot against Matthews at Volume 69 but came up just short. Once she gets a head of steam going in the ring watch out as the kicks will come fast and furious.

Saraya Knight: You may know her as the lady who looks like Sharon Osbourne that happens to be Paige’s proud mum. This is both true and misleading. This woman is a terrifying force of nature. To save money the NHS in England has changed their birth control option to just be Knight coming around and kicking everyone in the junk repeatedly. Has mocked, screamed at, pushed, slapped, and forced kisses upon fans. She is why the standard pre-show announcement needs a caveat when it says “don’t touch the wrestlers, they won’t touch you.” A former SHIMMER champion she now seems to be content to wreak havoc on whomever crosses her path. Loves to have “Happy Birthday” sung to her when the date coincides with a taping.

Hiroyo Matsumoto: Sexy Godzilla! Possibly the happiest person in the world, and a hilarious mix of bubbly personality and ridiculous strength. She is always smiling as she tosses grown adults around like they’re small children. Matsumoto has been recovering from injury and is only going to be wrestling one match this weekend. With her former Seven Star Sisters partner and co-holder of the SHIMMER tag titles Misaki Ohata making her first appearance since Volume 40 it would seem likely that we will see them team up for one of 3G’s final matches. Seriously, it is impossible not to smile when Matsumoto is around.

Misaki Ohata: The hardest wrestler in the world to watch being beaten up. Why? The sound. Over the years between wrestling and WMMA I’ve grown very inured to the sights and sounds of women being struck, thrown, made to bleed, etc. But when Ohata is in pain and she is crying out, the sound is so similar to that of a baby crying it leaves me uncomfortable. Which is a shame because she is an excellent wrestler. I wish she would win all her matches without ever being on defense so I could watch and enjoy her without that sound. Hasn’t been seen in SHIMMER since Volume 40 when she and Seven Star Sisters partner Matsumoto lost the SHIMMER tag titles to Daizee Haze and this weekend’s guest of honor Nakagawa.

Kimber Lee and Cherry Bomb: Both of them will work singles on a regular basis, but at the moment their main focus is chasing the tag titles as the Kimber Bombs. If one of them ever says they have a great idea you know disaster is soon to follow for them. They were part of the main event of Volume 70, and will be facing 3G at Volume 72 for the belts. As singles wrestlers Lee has shown herself capable of hanging with main event level talent. Cherry Bomb hasn’t made that leap yet, but either way the Kimber Bombs are greater than the sum of their parts.

Yumi Ohka: The first word that comes to mind with Ohka is “elegant.” She enters in beautiful flowing outfits, her body is long and lean and powerful, and her movements are smooth as silk. Also, she kicks people in the head so hard that I have been known to get sympathy migraines. She has done well in singles competition, and is always a possibility for a run at the title. The most stylish wrestler in SHIMMER.

Heidi Lovelace: She might be the SHIMMER champion by the time the sun rises on Saturday morning. Lovelace was mostly known for intergender matches when she arrived in SHIMMER. It took her some time to get her footing, and I think that the shift to working with other women put her in a spot where she had to unlearn a lot of instinctual actions/habits she learned wrestling guys twice her size. Takes a hell of a beating in most matches. Was in a very fun tag team with Solo Darling at the last tapings, but going for the belt seems to indicate a more serious direction for her in 2015.

Mayumi Ozaki: A woman so angry and violent that after having a match with Saraya Knight they looked at each other and knew they had found a soulmate, going on to team up after that. She’s a veteran with the grumpiest of attitudes and a penchant for foreign objects. When Ozaki and Knight team up the crowd has to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. I love a team of angry vets who just want to rough up young kids.

Nicole Savoy: Savoy is one of the newest members of the SHIMMER roster. She made a name for herself at the October tapings with a very good showing against LuFisto. Her appearance in the ChickFight tournament was a tale of two matches. The first round match against Candace LeRae was not good. Her second round match against Evie was one of the two best matches of the show. She is still growing as a wrestler. One of the best things about SHIMMER is watching wrestlers grow from the bottom of the card, gaining experience and confidence, and one day they just get it. It is something Prazak has seen before. “It’s always great to see when the live crowd fully embraces a newer wrestler strictly due to how fantastic they are as a performer. Wrestlers such as Athena in 2011 and Kellie Skater in 2012 are perfect examples of that, and 2014’s equivalent was definitely Nikki Storm.” Keep an eye on Nicole Savoy, because 2015 could be her breakout year.

Thunderkitty: Patsy Cline’s favorite wrestler. A throwback coming out to the ring to the strains of “Walkin’ After Midnight” in a leopard print robe, proceeding to work the old-school style to perfection. Her match against Kana at Volume 64 was not only the most hilarious style contrast in wrestling history, but also Kevin Harvey’s crowning moment. It was so amazing that rumor has it he ascended into heaven afterwards, never to be seen again. Believes Jack Daniel’s is an energy drink.

Veda Scott: She looks like someone who could never be a wrestler. With the glasses, the hair, the tiny frame, at first glance it would be reasonable to assume she’s on her way to some hipster enclave or maybe a gathering of really good looking Sci-Fi fans. But she actually makes a good sneaky heel, willing to grime it up to get a win. Unlikely to ever be a perennial main event talent, but the kind of wrestler every company loves to have in their midcard, able to rile up fans and get the crowd behind her opponent.

Tessa Blanchard: The daughter of founding Four Horsemen member Tully Blanchard. She is still very new to the business, and is likely going to be seeing a lot of lights this weekend. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of her work, but from what I can gather she still has a lot of growing to do. If she keeps her eyes and ears open she will never find a better group to learn from all gathered in one place. Very lucky that she does not look like her father. If Magnum T.A. has a daughter she and Blanchard are required by law to one day have a cage match.