To be perfectly honest with you, I can't see how any observer of the wrestling profession can objectively say, without hesitation, that 2012 was anything other than an outright awful year for the business as a whole. Virtually every company at every level of the business spent the year being crippled either by a bad economy, a shrinking number of venues, waning fan interest, a loss of talent (either to injury, or to another company), or due simply to their own laziness or incompetence. From the silver stage of the WWE to the Indy show at your local armory, just about everyone took a beating in 2012, and now, we're going to talk about it, company by company, and yes, even my beloved SHIMMER had a rough go in 2012.
Essentially, for a female wrestler, looking to make any sort of name in this profession, there are essentially 4 places to be - WWE, TNA, SHIMMER, or Japan. Everywhere else, you're eventually looking to get to one of these 4 places, because this is where all the money is, this is where the TV is, and this is where you, as a wrestler, have the best chance of making a name worth a damn. Ultimately, your goal is to get to one of these 4 places. Of these 4, the two best options are Japan and WWE. In Japan, provided you're any good, you have the opportunity to make a lot of money and gain a fair amount of respect and notoriety for your craft. In WWE, provided you look good, and TMZ takes a candid interest in your personal life, you can take your somewhat meager WWE earnings and the minor celebrity status you managed to acquire by being on TV and eventually use that start your own clothing line, or open a yoga studio, or something like that. In other words, one option allows you to make a viable living do what it is you actually set out to do by going to a wrestling school in the first place, albeit in a country to which you have little to no real connection with whatsoever, and the other eventually makes it easier for you to start your own business once the WWE decides you're not worth anything to them, anymore.
Now, what does this make TNA and SHIMMER? Unfortunately, they end up being the "consolation prize" version of WWE and Japan, respectively. If you make it as a SHIMMER girl, provided you're any good, you're able to gain notoriety and respect for your craft. On the other hand, if you're lucky enough to be a TNA Knockout, it makes it just that much easier for you to get clients as a personal trainer. There's not really that much money in either endeavor, but having these credentials on your resume is certainly better than not having them. This is the reality that those who fight the American Joshi Revolution will eventually face at some point. One of these 4 options will be the end of the line, and, quite frankly, they all have their drawbacks.
With that said, the problem SHIMMER faces is ultimately what to do with all the girls to which SHIMMER is, in fact, the end of the line. There aren't that many spots for women out there, and unless a whole generation of talents, some of which are barely a decade in and just starting to have some of the best matches of their careers, disappears tomorrow, there isn't going to be a lot of room for new talent to come in and make an impact. This means that SHIMMER has been forced to start making some very hard choices in the last couple years. You can't hold on to all the women the fans know and love, women who really should have moved on to somewhere else, by now, but can't because there's nowhere else to go. WWE's not interested, TNA can't afford them, and Japan's dealing with their own oversaturation issues. So, what do you do? Who do you cut? And which young, promising talents end up sitting on the outside, looking in, wondering when they'll eventually get a break? Worse yet, are you ready to handle the inevitable backlash from your fanbase when you cut their favorite wrestler in favor of some rookie or one of the incoming Joshi contingent you've been trying to integrate into the company for the last 3 years? It's a thankless task, and one that, quite frankly, SHIMMER's handled as well as could be expected.
Unfortunately, rebuilding phases take its toll on wrestling shows. 2012 for SHIMMER was a year of some massive rebuilding, trying to compensate for the loss of some major-name players, such as Serena Deeb and Madison Eagles, while looking to add some fresh blood, and cut some of the fat. Chronic under-performers were cut, and replaced with fresh faces, some of which caught fire immediately, and a couple of which have already moved on to WWE. Because of this, SHIMMER wasn't nearly the hot property it was just the year before, when Madison Eagles was the new girl of the moment, Serena Deeb was riding a career high, Mercedes Martinez was still getting press for being the longest reigning champion in the business at the time, and the Knight Dynasty was making waves for the first time here in the States.
Of course, that doesn't mean that SHIMMER shows in 2012 were particularly bad. They certainly weren't the blockbusters we had gotten used to in 2011, which included instant classics like Eagles vs. Martinez, Kurihara vs. Hamada, and Britani vs. Saraya. The much-anticipated first weekend of Cheerleader Melissa's SHIMMER title reign turned out to be her
entire title reign, as she only managed a mere 3 successful defenses before losing the title to Saraya Knight on Volume 48. In her brief reign, Melissa was fed each of the Canadian NINJAs, Nicole Matthews and Portia Perez, in short order, women who had spent 2011 being groomed as Main Event singles competitors, only to see all that work smashed in a single weekend. For fans that had grown to accept Nicole Matthews as a top-level heel throughout her series with Jessie McKay in 2010 and 2011, watching her being sacrificed so quickly after her attack on Melissa on Volulme 44 following Melissa's title win was just disheartening. To follow it up on the very next Volume by sacrificing Portia Perez, essentially the top heel in SHIMMER at this point, as Eagles was out with an injury, and Saraya had not yet ascended to the top of the SHIMMER mountain, was equally as disturbing. It's as if Dave Prazak took the last two years of the Canadian NINJAs careers and completely wiped them from memory, as if they never happened. Compound that with the fact that the NINJAs were ultimately the team that ended up with the SHIMMER Tag Titles after their long, strange trip around the waist of just about anyone the company couldn't hold onto, and you start to wonder if anything Perez or Matthews did in the last two years even mattered.
Speaking of the Tag Team Titles, this is actually an issue that goes all the way back to the spring shows in 2011, when the Canadian NINJAs initially dropped the tag titles to the team of Hiroyo Matsumoto and Misaki Ohata, collectively known as 3S. 3S, of course, could only manage to hold the titles for three volumes, or, essentially, a day and a half, before dropping them to the team of Daizee Haze and Tomoka Nakagawa, who was then scheduled to defend them against the team of Ayumi Kurihara and Hiroyo Matusumoto at Ring of Honor's
Honor Take Center Stage shows over WrestleMania weekend. Why not Matsumoto and Ohata, you ask? Oh, that's because Ohata had to go back to Japan, and wouldn't be able to return to SHIMMER to this day. Or, in other words, 3S held the tag titles for a day and a half because neither Matsumoto nor Ohata could guarantee to be available to come to a future taping to drop the titles later on. But apparently, Tomoka Nakagawa could. Unfortunately, by the time of the fall SHIMMER tapings, Daizee Haze had all but completely finished up her wrestling obligations, and about to go into retirement. Her final match saw her and Nakagawa drop the tag team titles to the team of Ayako Hamada and Aymui Kurihara in only their second defense of the titles. We then come into the 2012 spring tapings. Somehow, despite only holding the titles for two sets of SHIMMER tapings, the team of Kurihara and Hamada had already managed to have more successful defenses of their titles than the Canadian NINJAs did over their entire near-2 year reign. By the end of the spring tapings, we, once again, had new tag team champions - Courtney Rush and Sara Del Rey. Needless to say, over the summer, Sara Del Rey signed with WWE to become a trainer for NXT, forcing Rush and Del Rey to drop the titles to the Canadian NINJAs at an NCW: Femme Fatales show. Now, that's five title changes over the course of about 18 months or so, which, while not great, could certainly be worse. Unfortunately, once you consider that SHIMMER only tapes over two weekends a year, and these title changes all took place over the course of about 10 shows, things don't start to look nearly as stable. It also revisits the questioned I posed after discussing Cheerleader Melissa's quick domination of the Canadian NINJAs during her incredibly brief title reign, which is, "were these past two years even supposed to matter?"
What I fear is that, going into 2013, it may get even worse, as we're already looking at another potential SHIMMER title change at Volume 53, as Saraya Knight puts her title on the line in a cage against Cheerleader Melissa in what fans are already assuming is the blow-off of their feud. A feud that would have lasted a mere 8 shows, where in all likelihood, Melissa is going to regain the title. And then what? Portia Perez and Nicole Matthews are a tag team, again, and they have their own titles to worry about. Plus, Melissa already ate them. Sure, Mercedes Martinez is a heel, and there's always the incredibly small chance that Melissa may defend the title in SHINE against Jessicka Havok or Jazz at some point, but even then... where does Melissa go?
Which brings me to another issue, which kind of goes back into the "okay, so you peaked. Now what?" issue I brought up earlier, and MsChif. I really hate being this person, I do, but she's seriously gone the way of Nikki Roxx since losing the SHIMMER title, which is to say, at one point, she was relevant to the goings on in SHIMMER and she actually mattered. Then, one day, she just stopped being important. With Roxx, it was just after Volume 27, when she lost her title match against MsChif, and then ended up being half of a tag team with Ariel because... I really don't know. They just ran out of things to do with her, so they teamed her with Ariel until they just stopped booking her altogether. I'm seriously afraid the same this has already happened to MsChif, and we just didn't see it, because right now, outside of a minor alliance with Christina Von Eerie, MsChif has just kind of been "there" in SHIMMER. She's not a major title contender. Not a mutter about Chif rekindling her old rivalry with Melissa once she won the title. She's not even really teaming with Melissa, anymore. Instead, she's playing with toys with Regeneration X in the locker room, slightly infringing on Leva Bates' cos-player gimmick by coming out in Freddy Kruger and Clockwork Orange-inspired ring-gear, and, of course, occasionally being seen with Christina Von Eerie in tag matches. What happened? I mean, I get not wanting to focus the entire promotion around her, anymore. She had her run, she's not getting any younger, and it makes sense. At the same time, you'd imagine there'd be some interest in one last go at the MsChif/Melissa rivalry, especially with the SHIMMER title on the line, seeing as the title didn't even exist during their initial feud in 2006. So... is Chif turning at some point, and all of this non-importance she's in right now is just time-filler so Melissa can punch Saraya in the face for a while? Or, am I right, and is Chif actually going the way of the dodo and Nikki Roxx? Because, if she is, can you, I don't know... not do that, maybe? I don't know. It just bothers me.
2012 in SHIMMER isn't the worst thing going in wrestling, by far, but it also wasn't great. If you're actually wondering what I'd consider a "bad" SHIMMER show, I'd honestly say either the first few volumes just after MsChif won the title, another point where SHIMMER was reformatting their roster, or some of the earliest shows, where the roster and the creative direction just wasn't there, yet. Where the 2012 shows fit in, I'd say closer to the Volume 19-20 level, where you saw MsChif headline a show against Jetta with a match that I can't imagine either one likes to talk about, all that much. There were some good things about the year, mostly surrounding the push of Athena, who catapulted from the midcard to the Main Event in a matter of, like, 4 volumes. Meanwhile, Saraya Knight has been a rather interesting choice for champion, and her feud with Melissa has been pretty intense. While I'm not a fan of the Canadian NINJAs essentially being demoted in the process, I certainly understand why they did it, although I do find myself wondering whether or not the last two years of either Portia Perez or Nicole Matthews' careers in SHIMMER actually mattered, or if it was just all fan service or something.
Going in 2013, I would like to believe that SHIMMER is going to recapture some of the magic that made 2011 such an interesting year, but I'm smart enough to realize that they may not have all the players and pieces in place to do so for a long time to come. Great things take time to build, and SHIMMER, for better or worse, is still in a reconstructive phase.