SHIMMER takes the stage at Mania weekend with their annual show. For the second year in a row it is a tournament, but this year the winner becomes the inaugural Heart of Shimmer champion. Dave Prazak is joined by Amber Gertner on commentary. The format is:
- First Round: Six singles matches
- Second Round: First Round winners in three singles matches
- Third Round: Second Round winners in three-way dance
Cheerleader Melissa def. Leva Bates
The first match up included two of my darker horse picks to win. Cheerleader Melissa is a two-time former Shimmer champion. Leva is the undisputed cosplay champ of Shimmer. This was a rematch of Leva’s one title match in Shimmer at Volume 58. According to Amber Gertner, Leva’s costume made sense given her comments about the heartless nature of her competition. I need about half of her costumes explained to me anyhow, so my having no idea was par for the course.
Leva opening on offense was not the way to get the crowd going. Her standing striking is just not good. She can make kicks look decent, but not slaps, chops, etc. I don’t need everything to be some Big Japan stronk lad fest, but I have to at least be able to pretend someone might be inconvenienced by your attack. However a nice Northern Lights suplex and a double stomp off the top were much more effective as a way to gain control. All of which became moot after Bates missed a second top rope stomp attempt and was scooped right into a Kudo Driver.
One move was all Melissa needed to put Bates away. Makes sense given the two people involved that the match was just one long hope spot that got swatted down into the dirt, but it didn’t make for a very compelling opener. ½*
Candace LeRae def. Cherry Bomb
Cherry Bomb is one half of the Shimmer tag team champions, along with Kimber Lee. Surprising amount of support for Cherry Bomb as the match opened. Split crowd chants but unanimous cheers for a dive to the outside by LeRae. The crowd was quite premature with the “this is awesome” chant, but I suppose it’s okay to be excitable this weekend.
I loved the digression between Prazak and Gertner about nostalgia for Apter mags and pen pals.Good memories. I know he’s not everyone’s favorite announcer, but I love the genuine love of wrestling that Prazak lets into his commentary.
This one went at a much quicker pace than the first match. LeRae attacked with speed and dives, while Bomb hit a couple of very nasty kicks to keep the match even throughout.
Cherry Bomb has a great heel personality in the ring. The shouting and the shocked looks at every two count make her just so hateable.
Nice finishing sequence with LeRae hitting the ballsplex for a nearfall, Bomb countering with a top rope DVD, but her cocky cover allowed LeRae to hook a crucifix for the pin. LeRae advanced to face Cheerleader Melissa in Round 2. Fun match that kept things entertaining. **½
Nicole Savoy def. LuFisto
This shaped up to be the best match of the first round. Savoy is an exciting young talent, and LuFisto is LuFisto. And LuFisto is awesome.
Things started with a fighting spirit slap exchange followed with high-speed attacks. Savoy was able to take control with an armbar and some ground and pound. The continued arm work included Savoy grabbing an armbar from the outside, making LuFisto carry her weight with the damaged arm.
LuFisto gained control with a camel clutch and crossface forearms with the uninjured arm. She kept up the offense with dropkicks and body attacks, but the arm work came into play as LuFisto was unable to hold Savoy in place after a Northern Lights suplex. That moment of weakness allowed Savoy to lock in another armbar and continue to weaken the limb.
After a brief back and forth Savoy showed her strength with a beautiful set of rolling butterfly suplexes and continued to relentlessly pursue the arm. Fighting through the pain LuFisto pulled out a last ditch Jay Driller for 2.9999. After failing to get the pin, LuFisto couldn’t fend off one more submission attempt by Savoy who hooked in a leg assisted double arm lock that was too much, giving the submission victory to Savoy.
That was a hell of a match. Maybe my affection for the two people involved makes me go a little higher than I should, but for a match that short it earned it. It was intense, focused, and told a great story throughout. ****
Kimber Lee def. Jessicka Havok
Kimber Lee is the other half of the tag team champions along with Cherry Bomb. Going into this match the like story seemed simple. Havok is very big. Lee is not nearly as big. The first part of the match played out like that, with Havok using her size and strength to dominate until slipping up for a moment so Kimber could take advantage. Lee tried to pick off Havok’s arm with multiple submission holds. This worked until Havok remembered she’s really big and slammed Lee to the mat while escaping an armbar.
Big face vs. small heel matches are always an odd thing to watch. The smaller wrestler is using cunning and speed to escape the monster, but you want the monster to win. Lee was fighting valiantly and trying to survive, all while the crowd pulled for her destruction. It ended up taking some help from Cherry Bomb to distract Havok long enough for Lee to sneak out a win.
This was a very interesting result. I never would have expected Savoy vs. Lee but that really had me excited. Also Havok scaring children with her baseball bat was a good thing. **
Heidi Lovelace def. Veda Scott
Veda stuck out as a charismatic heel even on a show full of them. So much so that she seemed surprised when a chant for her broke out.
After a short exchange the match went to the ground with counters and counter-counters and pinfall attempts. Things picked up once they returned to their feet with Lovelace hitting nasty looking kicks and lariats. The big surprise of the match was that Veda’s offense kept up with Heidi strike for strike. Heidi ended up showing who the best striker was as she countered an attempt by Veda to go Old School on the railing wicked kick to the chest. In the end Lovelace got the win with a top rope senton that left a Veda Scott sized impression in the mat.
The story of this match, for me, was how good Scott’s offense looked. Normally she has a lot of the same issues as Leva Bates, with weak looking offense hurting her matches. But damn if Veda didn’t turn it up a couple notches. Throwing wicked suplexes, hard kicks, and some solid forearms. Really surprised by how good this match was. Lovelace I expected quality from, but this was the best I’ve seen Veda look. ***½
Nicole Matthews def. Mary Dobson
Nicole Matthews lost the Shimmer title to Madison Eagles at the last tapings in October. This was Nicole’s first Shimmer match without her partner in crime, the retired Portia Perez.
Early in the match Prazak took a moment to talk about the Heart of Shimmer title. Sounds like they’re aiming to pull off a situation like the IWGP IC title, where the champ elevates the belt to main event status. I’m not sure how well that will work in a company that runs so rarely, but at least it should lead to some awesome matches.
Because of Matthews being so credentialed, and Dobson being relatively new, the match had a feel where any time Dobson was in control it was a very tenuous thing. It was like watching a March Madness game with a 14 seed holding a narrow lead over a 3 seed in the second half. The underdog is doing their best, but all it will take is a single window of opportunity for the talent to rise to the top.
And with that Matthews caught Dobson off guard just long enough to pull her into the Vancouver Maneuver for the win. Lackluster match that never got into gear. *½
Veda Scott, fresh off that awesome match with Heidi Lovelace, will now be taking over for Amber Gertner on commentary.
Candice LeRae def. Cheerleader Melissa
LeRae started off fast hitting a tope before the bell rang or Melissa could get her robe off. Before long Melissa overpowered LeRae and took control with a series of wheelbarrow whips into the railing. At this point the stream decided it was done with working for a while. The stream stabilized long enough to see a shocking upset as LeRae hit a series of rolling ballsplexes for the win to move to the finals. Can’t rate the match due to the buffering, but seemed like it was okay but not great.
Nicole Savoy def. Kimber Lee
An extremely rare heel vs. heel match in Shimmer. Test of strength started off with Savoy taking control into an armlock along with some vicious finger work. Raven would have approved. Savoy asked for a handshake and Lee accepted just long enough to kick Savoy in the gut. A huge chop battle got the crowd going as the slaps rang out around Eddie Deen’s ranch.
Suplex competition went to Savoy after throwing a big german for a near fall. A really abrupt ending with Savoy grabbing an armbar for the submission to move to the finals.
Savoy and Lee kept getting into what were essentially miniature competitions to see who could do various things more effectively. Problem for Lee was each of these things were Savoy specialties. Savoy won the chop battle. Savoy is the “Queen of Suplexes”, so she won the suplex battle as expected. And the submission battle ended in Lee tapping out. This match was just shifting into gear when it finished. I didn’t know how much I wanted these two to go 20 minutes until today, but by god I need it like oxygen now. ***
Heidi Lovelace def. Nicole Matthews
So much groundwork in this tournament. It was like Oprah put armbars on her “My Favorite Things” list. Matthews has great heel control. Every move she makes is a strut, every smile is a smirk. She’s a bully even though she’s not much bigger than average. I love that about her. She slowly ground Lovelace down, stretched her, kicking her while she’s down.
Heidi finally got some momentum by kicking Nicole’s head all the way to Austin. An effective strategy I have to say. Matthews was in control any time the match was on the ground or was in close quarters Whenever Heidi could get the match moving, attacking from range or while in motion, she was able to take advantage.
My stream died near the end. I’m very sad, because it seemed like it was ready for a big finish. I reserve the right to increase my rating when I get to watch the match in full. ***½
Lenny Leonard introduced Shayna Baszler
Baszler got a very nice reaction on her introduction. She invoked the legacy of catch wrestling, from Josh Barnett to Billy Robinson to Karl Gotch. Her past history gives her an aura that makes her interesting. More to say on this after the final match.
Nicole Savoy def. Heidi Lovelace & Candice LeRae
Well, my top two picks to win and my second least likely pick to win reached the finals. Meat Loaf knows what to say here.
Match started with a fun spot of Savoy refusing to shake hands followed by LeRae grabbing her in a waist lock and forcing Savoy into a handshake. The first big move of the match came when, after establishing herself as a groundwork expert over the prior two matches, Savoy busted out a huge dive onto Lovelace, followed by LeRae flying out onto both of them. Shortly after Savoy the Submission Machine racked up another one, as she attacked LeRae’s legs, already weakened by Cheerleader Melissa, and drew a submission.
The final two came down to the two top up and comers in the company for the belt. Lovelace took control to start with a kneeling hurricanrana and a nasty STO. Savoy came within a hair of winning after a series of big head kicks and tiger suplexes. Lovelace recovered and got a 2.999 of her own after the hitting the same top rope senton that won for her against Veda Scott in Round one. Another match finisher from earlier is escaped when Savoy can’t stop Lovelace from getting to the ropes while holding the arm lock she used to defeat LuFisto. Another butterfly suplex by Savoy with the roll through let her lock in the armbar. There’s no escape for Lovelace this time, as Savoy took another arm for her collection, and the Heart of Shimmer championship as well.
There have been a few great rivalries in the history of Shimmer. Sara Del Rey vs. Serena Deeb. Madison Eagles vs. Nicole Matthews. Athena vs. Cheerleader Melissa. I think we just saw the beginning of another one that will make that list. These two will meet again, and I can’t wait. The three-way portion was solid, but once it came down to Lovelace and Savoy it became hot fire. ***½
I told all y’all to get on the Nicole Savoy bandwagon while there were still good seats remaining. If this show didn’t convince you, nothing will. With four submission victories in the tournament, it seems inevitable that Savoy and Shayna Baszler end up in a feud. Hopefully this means that the Heart of Shimmer title becomes their NEVER belt, with all the hard hitting action that entails. Highly recommended to purchase the VOD if you did not see the show live.