Shimmer: Women's Wrestling's Shining Light
June 5, 2007 by M.J. Hammond

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A long line of wrestling fans wrapped around a humble suburban street corner on chilly April afternoon. A sellout crowd packed a charming little bingo hall to witnesses a night of kicks, chops, and bumps. Fans of all ages, some traveling from far beyond the Chicago area, converged upon 26th Street in Berwyn to witness the unique all-women's independent wrestling promotion known as Shimmer Women's Athletes. The active and engaged crowd, stacked one on top of another in the intimate surroundings of the Berwyn Eagle's Club, frequently erupted in appreciation for the talent of the Shimmer roster, even rising to their feet for a standing ovation after a brutal and dramatic contest between the over-powering Amazing Kong and the resilient MsChif.

Shimmer has grown leaps and bounds since the scarcely attended November 6, 2005 taping for its first two DVD releases, going on to film 10 original DVD's, survive the defection of a handful of wrestlers to World Wrestling Entertainment contracts, and withstand serious injuries to three of its most respected in-ring performers, Ireland's Rebecca Knox, East coast-based "Latina Sensation" Mercedes Martinez, and French-Canadian powerhouse LuFisto. The promotion steamrolled through 2006 with increasing momentum, refining its product while watching its attendance figures climb: the April 4, 2007 taping for the upcoming Shimmer: Women Athletes Volume 9 and 10 drew Shimmer's biggest crowd yet, its first sellout show.

Historically, women's professional wrestling has struggled to sustain itself in the North American market; with the notable exception of a major boom period in Japan, women's wrestling has languished worldwide. WWE, the powerful sports entertainment monopoly, has not helped the cause, as the few women's wrestlers currently on its roster who possess any serious wrestling training are more likely to be denigrated in humiliating sexually-suggestive skits and laughable bra and panty matches than allowed to showcase their wrestling technique. Without an appropriate domestic venue to develop their abilities, many female wrestlers look to Japan or even Mexico, but most toil away for a few bucks a bout in small indie wrestling shows, usually wrestling before an inattentive audience in the only women's match of the night. Over the last few years, pockets of talented female wrestlers have popped up in small geographic clusters. Lacey, Rain, Daizee Haze, and MsChif from the Midwest, Sara del Rey and Cheerleader Melissa in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Mercedes Martinez, Ariel, and Nikki Roxx in the Northeast all began to garner attention for their impressive matches.

Much of the credit for bringing these forces together under one banner belongs to Shimmer promoter Dave Prazak, who has made the rounds in the independent wrestling scene since his late teens, managing dozens of wrestlers and announcing matches for several wrestling promotions, including IWA Mid-South and Ring of Honor. In a recent retrospective on his company's first year, Prazak claims he "wanted Shimmer to be the promotion that would bring the very best women from across the independent scene together in one location to put together a unique show that can't be found elsewhere." He considers Shimmer "a productive stage for the top women athletes to display their talents, and for the less experienced wrestlers to gain some valuable ring time and get some exposure." The company's roster reflects Prazak's comprehensive commitment to women's wrestling, featuring consummate ring veterans like Malia Hosaka and Lexie Fyfe, a pair with a combined 31 years wrestling experience as well as relative newcomers, such as 19-year old Canadian combatant Portia Perez.

Shimmer fans point to many memorable highlights during the promotion's first full year, such as a notable feud between Cheerleader Melissa and MsChif, which saw the two swap wins during boundary-busting matches; the dominant win streak of American-born wrestler Amazing Kong, who is best known as a champion in Japan; the impressive series between Sara del Rey and Mercedes Martinez, which added early credibility to the fledgling promotion; and the unpredicted sensation caused by the brief pre-injury stint of the charismatic and talented Rebecca Knox.

Over 18 months into its existence, Shimmer remains a rarity-a wrestling promotion without a championship, but that will change on June 1 and 2, when a two-night sixteen-woman single-elimination tournament, held in Berwyn, will determine who will wear a brand new title belt made by highly-regarded pro wrestling belt designer Reggie Parks. Disparate personalities fill the tournament brackets, ranging from the credible ring presence of Sara del Rey, the savvy ring smarts of Allison Danger, the cocky swagger and dirty tricks of Lacey and her Minnesota Home Wrecking Crew partner Rain, the easy-going flower power of Daizee Haze, the unbridled intensity of MsChif, and the ice cold focus of Cheerleader Melissa. When the final bell tolls on June 2, the woman left standing will bear the burden of maintaining the promotion's hard-won respectability.

by M.J. Hammond (View/Submit your feedback here)..

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