The WWE has recently undergone something titled the “Diva Revolution”. It was an initiative that WWE adopted into their programming due to the ever-growing fan demand for a better portrayal of women’s wrestling on WWE programming. For years, women were seen mainly as an eye candy sideshow, and even though it’s always had its fair share of quality athletes with occasionally good matches, the most focus was placed on their looks with all other aspects of the division taking a backseat. And after so long, fans have gotten tired of it. Even TNA, a company that regularly allows their women to display their athletic prowess properly, have fallen into the trap of sexualizing their image.
Luckily for fans wishing to seek it out, there is an alternative. The women’s independent scene is alive and well and it has churned out some of the best female athletes in the game today, whether they’re still down there or have moved on to the big leagues. And since 2005, the premiere women’s wrestling organization has been the Chicago-based promotion SHIMMER Women Athletes. Some of the best women’s wrestling has to offer have stepped into the promotion, with talents from all around the globe competing for them. Even some former and current WWE Divas have been a part of the SHIMMER locker room at one point. And this October, the promotion celebrates ten years of existence with a set of tapings once again taking place at the Berwyn Eagles Club. So what better way for me to celebrate it than by taking a look at some of my favorite grapplers from the promotion? But a Top 10 just simply won’t do; I wanna go big with this one. So instead of a Tuesday Top 10, I’ll be spending the next three weeks on a Tuesday Top 30. That’s right, a three-parter of my favorite wrestlers from SHIMMER Women Athletes history.
Let me get some stuff out the way first: this is obviously an opinionated list. No two wresting fans share the same opinion. If you disagree with the list, just leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter with your own favorites. Also, as mentioned, many of the women in SHIMMER not only wrestle for other promotions as well, but have even moved on to work in WWE and TNA before. Well, for this list, I plan to focus very little on all of that; I’m mainly focusing on their work under the SHIMMER banner. For example, while Britani Knight is on the list, don’t assume she’ll be #1 just because Paige is admittedly my favorite current WWE Diva. Also, if a clip of the wrestler in SHIMMER is nowhere to be found officially on YouTube, I’ll post an alternative; only fair to help y’all with your homework.
OK, this intro is already too long; let’s just dive right into it: FearlessRiOT’s Top 30 Favorite SHIMMER Stars, Part One!
#30. Jennifer Blake
Let’s kick off the list with one of the blondest women on it, “Girl Dynamite” Jennifer Blake. These days, you can see Jennifer Blake wrestling mostly in Mexico, but from 2008 in 2010, you could find her tearing it up on SHIMMER Volumes. First appearing on Volume 17 in 2008, Blake was not exactly the luckiest of athletes. In fact, in her entire SHIMMER tenure, she only managed to notch on victory, and it was against fellow blonde grappler Amber O’Neal. So if she has such a lopsided win-loss record, how does she crack the list? The answer: she’s a really talented competitor in the ring and her matches in SHIMMER were fun to watch for the most part. Whether in tag team action, singles action, or even a Fatal 4-Way, don’t underestimate Girl Dynamite.
If I re-do this list for SHIMMER’s 20th anniversary a decade from now, don’t be shocked to see Evie ranked a bit higher. She debuted there two years ago in a raucous five-person match at SHIMMER 53 in New Jersey, in a losing effort. Since then, she’s come a long way in such a short amount of time; in 2014, she racked up enough victories to score a SHIMMER Championship match with champion Nicole Matthews. She didn’t win, but the important thing is that Evie was quickly on her way to becoming a marquee international star. Soon, she even made it to the finals of the 2015 ChickFight Tournament and recently scored a Tag Team Title opportunity with Heidi Lovelace. If you’re a fan of women with RVD-like educated feet, Evie is your girl!
#28. Mia Yim
Mia Yim (or Jade if you still watch TNA Wrestling) competed in her first official non-Sparkle match for SHIMMER on Volume 37 in a tag team match. It was in a losing effort to established team Re-Generation X. In fact, it would take a while for Mia Yim to earn a SHIMMER victory as she went on a very lengthy losing streak and wouldn’t pick up the W until she started teaming with Davina Rose. The team won their third match together before Davina eventually split and emerged at Full Sail University under the name of Bayley. Yim would continue on though, and after an impressive opening match with Awesome Kong at Volume 53, her luck would turn around and she’d start winning more often, even challenging for the SHIMMER Title at one point.
#27. Christina Von Eerie
Here is a fun fact you probably don’t know: Christina Von Eerie defeated Sara Del Rey in her very first SHIMMER match. Sure, it was a countout victory and Sara got her win back the very next volume, but a win is still a win. Since then, Von Eerie has popped up in SHIMMER rather frequently with 20+ appearances to her name. Her win-loss record is kind of even if you look it up, but win or lose, the tattoo’d-and-mohawked one still one of the more fascinating, unique, and popular wrestlers on the roster. Whether in tag team action with McChif or in singles action, she earns the approval from her “Oy! Oy! Oy!” chanting fanbase every time. Recently, she engaged in a feud with Saraya Knight that was so vicious, it led to a bloody Three Stages of Hell match on Volume 61, proving her toughness who anyone who watched it.
#26. Sassy Stephie
Sassy Stephie technically made her SHIMMER debut on Volume 21 in 2008, but that was just an appearance in the promotion’s dark match, promoted as Sparkle. And she was not victorious. She made her debut proper on Volume 28, losing a tag team match to Ashley “Madison Rayne” Lane and future tag team partner Nevaeh. It wasn’t until she began teaming with Nevaeh that her fortunes turned around and she started to pick up the occasional victory. Along the way, she began being accompanied by the pesky Mademoiselle Rachelle as a manager. Since both of these formations, her wins and losses are usually traded back and forth. As a villainous character, she works great. And as a SHIMMER star, she’s always one to look forward to.
#25. Leva Bates
The woman also known as Blue Pants is one of the most fun-to-watch women in SHIMMER due to the cosplay persona that she has regularly played over the years. It has become a fun guessing game as to what work of fiction she’ll emerge as next; to date, she’s been Catwoman, Luigi from Super Mario Bros., Spock from Star Trek, Gambit and Rogue from X-Men, Snake from Metal Gear, and Raphael from the Ninja Turtles among others. And it was that spirit that allowed Bates to become as over a performer as she has; it’s wrestlers like her that make wrestling so much fun. With her tag team partner Allison Danger now retired, maybe Bates could win the SHIMMER Championship in the near future?
#24. Hikaru Shida
I was in attendance for Hikaru Shida’s SHIMMER debut; I had no idea what to expect as I had never seen the woman in action before. Altogether, she had a pretty good debut weekend. First, she came out on the winning end of a match against Mia Yim and then had an entertaining mini-feud with Nicole Matthews. Shida lost to Matthews on Volume 59 with help from a kendo stick, but got her win back the next day in a match where the kendo stick was all legal. If you have the chance to watch these two matches, I say do it. Sure, she hasn’t appeared in SHIMMER since April of 2014, but if she’s ever to return, I can’t wait to see what she pulls off and who she’s gonna be doing it against. And if she brings the kendo stick back with her, that’d make it even better for sure.
#23. Mercedes Martinez
On SHIMMER’s 50th volume, the fans in the Eagles Club chanted at The Latina Sensation to “win a title”; Martinez has won championships in wrestling, but none of those championships have been in SHIMMER. However, sometimes you don’t need a title to make an impression on the promotion; sometimes all you need are brilliant performances and an impeccable attendance record. And Mercedes has both; while not appearing on every volume, she has been on over 50 of them ever since her time limit draw with Sara Del Rey on Volume 1. And she’s faced some of the best the company has to offer, including more matches with Del Rey, as well as matches with Athena, Amazing Kong, Cheerleader Melissa, and Ayako Hamada. Even without a title, she’s one of the brightest stars.
#22. Tomoka Nakagawa
Is Kellie Skater a miracle worker? You be the judge. Before the formation of the Global Green Gangsters, both Skater and Tomoka Nakagawa were rulebreakers and proud of it. We’ll get to Skater later, but the near pint-sized Nakagawa in-particular knew how to play dirty, and it certainly gave her matches a higher level of interest. Plus, along with tag team partner Daizee Haze, she was able to capture the Tag Team Championships…even if that reign was incredibly short. Luckily, her Tag Team Championship reign with Kellie Skater was much longer and much more impressive. Nakagawa hung up her boots earlier this year, defeating the Canadian Ninjas in the main event match on Volume 75. I’ll miss seeing her boo the fans back!
#21. Melanie Cruise
Chicago native Melanie Cruise has appeared on 29 volumes and took part in one Sparkle match. And she’s actually notched up quite a number of victories, too. Despite this, the 6-foot-tall Chicago-based grappler seems to be the definition of a lifetime midcarder in the promotion as she has yet to receive a SHIMMER Championship opportunity; and she’s shared the ring with some of SHIMMER’s bigger names such as Ayako Hamada, Cheerleader Melissa, and MsChif. I don’t think she even got a Tag team Championship opportunity and it certainly wasn’t for lack-of-trying as she formed a rather short-lived yet impressive tag team with the now-retired Mena Libra. You can pretty much count on Melanie appearing on SHIMMER weekend as she continues to compete there even to this day. Maybe she’ll move on up the SHIMMER ladder eventually.
What do you think of this edition of Tuesday Top 10? Leave a comment or tweet me up @FearlessRiOT with your opinion or even to suggest a topic for the next edition. And make sure to return next week for Part Two!
[All pics in this post are by Gilda Pasquil.]