Stew's 2013 highlights

P1010060The first thing I think when I look back over my own personal memories of the last year of women’s wrestling is, as usual, my regular trips to SHIMMER live events in Berwyn, IL. I can’t say enough about the whole experience, but if you’ve ever even vaguely considered making the pilgrimage, DO IT. I believe this year represented my tenth and eleventh trips there, and yeah, I’m still keen to return in the coming year and still love the whole experience. Dave Prazak has often described SHIMMER as a DVD product (and it basically still is), but for me, (and I think a lot of the people I see returning time and time again), it’s become live product more than anything else, and it’s like getting together with your friends from all over the world twice a year. They’re long weekends for the fans, but they’ve ultimately given me such great memories. From seeing the return from injuries of the likes of Serena Deeb & Madison Eagles, to seeing people like Kimber Lee wrestling live for the first time, to seeing Nikki Storm get over so huge on her first trip there, to openly weeping in public as Allison Danger wrestled her last match – all things that will live long in the memory. Sure, the October taping was beset by a number of integral people missing for various reasons, but I’m still glad I was there (Kimber Bombs!!), and only underlines how much talent there is to return in 2014.

I travelled a little closer to home (but still via plane) to Scotland for ICW:Fierce Females a couple of times this year, and after missing their first show in 2012, I was glad to have made the trip. Let me tell you, there is literally nothing quite like an ICW crowd. Sure, there are “smart” crowds. Sure, there are 18+ crowds. Sure, there are drunk crowds, but there’s nothing quite like a rowdy bunch of Scots getting liquored up and watching a fight, whilst at the same time coming up with some R-rated sweary chants. Also, from what I’ve gathered from locals, ICW seems almost unique in that while there may be a small dedicated crew of travelling fans who come especially for the women’s shows, IMG_0114the vast majority of the fans at a Fierce Females event are your regular ICW fans who just come to support the product and because it’s another great night out. Who knew that Scotland was leading the world when it comes to gender equality?

Also on the European side of things, Bellatrix continued to do well, establishing a home on iPPV with some of the best production values in indy wrestling (hardly surprising as it’s broadcasting from a TV studio using massive TV cameras), and in October they managed to pull off their biggest show ever by matching up Bellatrix vs SHIMMER – which I know was one of Saraya Knight‘s big long term goals when she restarted the female arm of WAW in 2011. As you may know, I’ve got the commentary position at those Bellatrix shows, and on a very personal level, getting to call a SHIMMER Championship match at Bellatrix 5 back in March ranks up there with one of my proudest moments as a commentator. It may sound silly, but that really meant something to me.

So, while I managed to be in attendance for SHIMMER, Fierce Females and Bellatrix this year, I still wish I could have done more. I’d love to see a live AIW Girls Night Out show, for example, or a WSU event. SHINE too, of course – and I’d go back to Montreal for more Femmes Fatales in a heartbeat – if I could afford it all. Sadly, I’m not quite made of money – but I want to commend all of those promotions for getting their product out there in a quick and timely manner for those of us who can’t be there live. WSU’s iPPV product has stepped up tenfold from the dark days of GoFightLive, AIW experimented with both iPPV this year (GNO8) and with super-fast VOD turnaround (GNO9 & 10) – both through SmartMarkVideo, and while SHINE 15 was a technical disaster, I’ve never had any other issues with any SHINE iPPV I’ve purchased this year. Heck, even SHIMMER experimented with the iPPV concept back at WrestleMania weekend as a special once-a-year gimmick. While the technology for instantaneous worldwide distribution isn’t quite as robust as we’d like it to be just yet, I still definitely think that this is the future of content distribution.

When I think about the in-ring product this year, there are a load of people who I really became a big fan of. While we never miss an opportunity to praise the likes of Kimber Lee or Allysin Kay on this website (the last two winners of our Breakout Star of the Year Amazing Kongaward come to mind quickly, of course), 2013 really turned me into a fan of the likes of Barbi Hayden, Jewells Malone, Heidi Lovelace and Ivelisse Velez. I hope to see all four of those women step up their games and step out into new promotions and new challenges in 2014. They’ve all got star quality written all over them.

On the website, 2013 has been a successful year for us – stats are up in every measurable way, from website hits, to bandwidth usage, to social media follows/likes, to podcast download stats (and it does my heart good to see that podcasts we’ve done years ago are still being downloaded in their hundreds on a monthly basis – presumably as new people find the site and explore our archives). Not bad for an independent website covering a niche section of a niche product, right? Of course, I have to throw out an incredible amount of thanks and respect to my buddy Lee Burton – co-founder of the website and all round workaholic. When we were first conceptualising the website, and Lee suggested he’d like to write a weekly newsletter-type column collecting all the news and giving some opinion, I had no idea he’d still be diligently typing out several thousand words a week for the Ringbelles Roundup over 150 weeks later. Lee’s job hours are a bit more normal than my often unsocial shiftworking hours, so Lee often is the point man, doing a lot of the daily content as well as the weekly IMG_0981roundup. The website would grind to a halt for days at a time if it wasn’t for him. A hearty thanks too to NHBGirls.com‘s Rhi Lockwood, who joined us this year to spread some positivity with her Wrestling YAY! columns. It’s like she’s on a one woman crusade to subvert the entire internet by actually LIKING things, and I commend her for it!

I want to save my final mention of 2013 for Angelus Layne, who has also joined us late in the year as a contributor to the website. Safe to say Angelus’ 2013 was like that first big drop on a rollercoaster… things are looking up… things are looking up… then… OHMYGODCRUSHINGLOW. I didn’t for the life of me expect when I spoke to her for a Fight Like A Girl in June that she’d be back on just four months later with one of the most sobering and terrifying shows we’ve ever done talking about concussions and PCS. Even then, the thought of having Angelus become a podcast host in her own right on this website wasn’t even forming in my head, but I’m glad to have given her a voice on here, and letting her tell her story with her Layne’s Brain podcast series is in many ways the perfect extension on what we originally set out to do with the Women of Wrestling Podcast all those years ago… find the stories that nobody else is talking about, and give them a forum. Thanks for everything this year, AL – here’s to a much better 2014!

Speaking of 2014… well, we’ve got an exciting year closing in both on the website and in the world of wrestling. We’re planning on including some of our hopes and predictions for 2014 in this week’s edition of the Ringbelles Roundup, which will be out on New Year’s Eve, but before then we’ll have one final swing through 2013 nostalgia tomorrow with a look back at our other podcasts of the last twelve months.

Thanks for your support, as always.

— Stew Allen

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