Stew's 2012 highlights

528307_10150610399662687_1520606599_nMuch like when I sat down a few days ago to look back over the Podcasts we’ve done in 2012, when I think of the shows I’ve seen and covered for this website over the last year, either live or on video/download/iPPV, I can’t help but feel a bit gobsmacked – it’s been a busy, busy year. As far as live wrestling was concerned, I chalked up two more transatlantic trips (both times taking in SHIMMER in Berwyn and NCW:Femmes Fatales in Montreal), and more all-female shows than ever back here in the UK (I personally tallied up four WAWW/Bellatrix shows and an EVE show – and bitterly regret the fact that work stopped me making the first EVE show of the year, and the ICW:Fierce Females debut in Scotland). With those shows, plus the likes of WSU, AIW, Shine and more, there’s never been a better time to be covering women’s wrestling, at least at the indy level.

Shine is a good place to start, actually. The second half of 2012 marked Shine’s appearance on the scene – delivering a different business plan of presenting a solid, storyline driven monthly product for fans to follow on iPPV. 3659_488769794481987_273290831_n The roster is an interesting mix of local talents, people doing the SlamminLadies.com custom shoots and people coming in for SHIMMER shows. It’s been a great place to reacquaint myself with how much I enjoy watching Rain, and a chance to see top talents like Jazz & Mercedes Martinez every month – but on a purely personal level, one of my favourite things in Shine has been the continued story of Kimberly. I told some people after the first Shine show that there was something I really liked about Kimberly – she had a good look, she wrestled well, and I got the impression that there was a slight heelishness about her (even in what was basically a babyface/babyface match with Veda Scott), and every show since then I’ve become a little bit more of a fan. For me, Kimberly has been the person who has done most to really take the opportunity that Shine has provided to expand her character and fanbase – going from what could be described as a fairly interchangeable position as one of several local talents on the roster to becoming one of the main reasons I buy the show every month, and becoming one of Shine’s featured performers. Kudos to her – maybe she *is* a “winner” after all. Allysin Kay too, actually. Her team with Taylor Made is another of the major reasons I buy Shine shows, and she has become another of those competitors who can make the difference between whether I buy a show or not. She’s not our Breakout Star of the Year for nothing.

2012 gave me my first taste of an NCW: Femmes Fatales show live… and it was so good I needed to go back for seconds later in the year. There’s a vibe there, carefully maintained by Stephane Bruyere & LuFisto, where it’s so welcoming and friendly. It doesn’t have the international depth of talent you’d find at a SHIMMER show, but it’s also therefore not as intense an experience to be around – which is not a bad thing at all. Thanks to Stephane and all those at NCW:FF for making me feel part of the family (twice), and I don’t know when, but I’d love to go back again some time.

Saraya Knight becoming SHIMMER Champion was probably the biggest shocker of the year. Having known and been friends with Saraya for over five years, and having been in attendance at the Saraya Knight is still the SHIMMER Champion after SHINE 4RQW show in Colchester in 2007 where she picked up her knee injury (which was initially believed to be career ending), and having been in attendance at her comeback match a mere six months later – and more importantly getting to understand in the intervening years just how much a rematch with Cheerleader Melissa would mean to her, I was pleasantly surprised when all of a sudden the two appeared to be on a collision course in March’s tapings. And when she won? Well, I remember jumping to my feet and punching the air while most of the rest of the Eagles Club were shocked into silence. The long “road back” had been completed – and how chuffed was I just six days later where I got to call her first match back in the UK as SHIMMER Champion on a WAW show? I don’t think you could’ve dynamited the smile off my face. I believe I’m the only person in the world other than the two women themselves to have been at all four Melissa/Saraya matches live – so it’s going to kill me a bit not to be there at SHIMMER vol 53 in New Jersey as these two get in a Steel Cage.

Speaking of Saraya, it’s been great to see the WAWW/Bellatrix brand grow this year – with a nice mix of talents from across the UK and Europe. I’ve had the pleasure to call all of their shows so far, and 2013 promises a lot for Saraya and her girls. As noted earlier, I missed one of the year’s two EVE shows this year – snapping an over 5 year run of being at every ChickFight/EVE show in the UK since 2007. A shame, since Special Edition received a lot of praise. EVE too looks to be on the up with their biggest crowd ever at the WrestleFever show in November. Bellatrix & EVE, along with ICW Fierce Females all offer a different take on pro-wrestling for the European fans.

If I had to pick one live wrestling experience from this year I think I’ll remember for the rest of my life, I think it’d be the four way tag team match at SHIMMER Vol 48 when the unlikely team of Courtney Rush & Sara Del Rey won the SHIMMER Tag Team Titles. For me, wrestling is at its 527755_10150610399147687_766034006_nbest when I can lose myself in it – when I can turn off the analytical side of my brain and for all intents and purposes “believe”. Sometimes that’s easier than others, but I always willingly try to give myself up to what I’m watching in the same way when you’re watching a great movie or TV series – you end up emotionally investing in the characters and their stories and forget about anything else. Well, for me, that four way tag team match did it for me like nothing else this year – I was emotionally moved, and it felt great. Having watched the Rush/Del Rey skits on the screen throughout Saturday and Sunday morning, and being big fans of both women, I was so ready to see the debut of this ‘odd couple’ tag team – which was giving me a serious “Raven & Stevie Richards” vibe. Of course, we know that Del Rey quickly wanted no part of the team, but the likable Rush was so earnest and so plaintive in her belief in her partner that when Del Rey walked across the ring and stood by the Canadian NINJAs only for Rush to explain “But you’re *MY* partner…” and walk her back to her side of the ring, well, my heart was breaking. The final segment of that four way (when it was down to just Rush/Del Rey vs The NINJAs) was an emotional rollercoaster, and when Rush got the pin and won the belts, well, that was a beautiful moment I’ll never forget. It’s a shame that the Queens of Winning never really had a chance to have a run with the belts, or see where the plan would’ve taken them – but if the Queens have to be split up, I’m super pleased that it’s because Sara gets to make some decent money and achieve her dream of working for WWE.

As far as the website is concerned, I need to pay tribute to my colleague Lee Burton who takes an incredible amount of care and time over delivering the weekly Roundups on the site, now for 100 weeks in a row. I’m not sure I could do what he does. He and I have already run through a couple of Flashback articles taking in both the Podcast and Website Exclusive audio shows we do – but I just wanted to pick out a couple of personal highlights. While it’s a collaborative effort, of course, I tend to be the one who takes a lot of care and effort over the WOW Podcast – whether that be securing guests, post-producing the show, or looking to find new and different ideas for shows – and it seems that every time we’ve tried something a bit different, it’s been a success. I want to thank former WWE head writer Alex Greenfield for talking about working with Mickie & Trish with such gusto and enthusiasm (and becoming both a good friend of the site and a convert to indy women’s wrestling ever since), and I take great pride in putting together the tribute to “Sensational” Sherri this past June. If the Sensational one had still been around, she’d have been a dream guest for us, and I like to think we gave her a fitting tribute show. Special shows aside, I think I’ve most enjoyed talking to Lisa “Ivory” Moretti (twice – part 1/part 2), Jessicka Havok & Allysin Kay this year, not to mention being able to talk to Rebecca Knox again for the first time in many years.

Reflecting on the year, I can only say I’ve had an absolute blast of a time. There’s far more stuff I enjoyed than I realistically had time to write about here, and I go into 2013 full of optimism. Thanks to the people who continue to frequent the website (we’ve once again broken our own record for unique site visits in December), thanks to the promoters and bookers who take a chance promoting women’s wrestling, and thanks to the women themselves for bringing us so much enjoyment in the last year.

*chinks glass*

To 2013!

— Stew Allen

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