SHIMMER Ever On: The Legacy Of SHIMMER

It is 1 am on November 1, 2021, and I am 6 hours removed from the end of SHIMMER 119 and 120, safely at home, and overwhelmed with emotion. The last time SHIMMER taped at the Berwyn Eagles Club was two years ago, and it feels like it has been so much longer and like it was just yesterday all at once. The pandemic has such a strange effect on time, but the moment I walked up to the Eagles Club this morning, I felt a wave of calm wash over me. SHIMMER was back. SHIMMER was home. And I was home.

Before I can get into why SHIMMER 119 and 120 have affected me the way they have, I need to briefly touch on how SHIMMER came to mean so much to me in the first place. SHIMMER started as I began falling out of love with wrestling. WWE had monopolized the accessible market, and as a high school student, I didn’t have much in the way of awareness of the independent scene. When I started college in the wake of the Benoit family murder-suicide, I just stopped keeping up entirely, all while SHIMMER was growing and thriving in its early years.

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I wish I had known then what they were doing, because I wouldn’t have been away from wrestling for the next eight years. When I did return, it was because I saw something I never expected to see. WWE was treating women seriously, and Sasha Banks and Bayley blew the roof off the Barclay’s Center. They also signed Kana, now Asuka, and she reignited my passion for wrestling so much so that I quickly sought out her earlier work, and then I discovered SHIMMER. I fell in love with what I was seeing, and I made my first pilgrimage to the Berwyn Eagles Club in the fall of 2018, volume 105. I did the whole weekend, including the RiSE show on the Friday preceding the SHIMMER tapings. After the shows, I wound up eating pizza with Dave Prazak and Rosemary and got a mountain to chop me. I was hooked, and haven’t missed a Berwyn taping since.

SHIMMER tapings are special, not unlike a religious experience for me. The fans are loyal and they and the wrestlers know one another. When Mercedes Martinez recognized me from the fall 2018 tapings at the Spring 2019 tapings, it was a pleasant surprise. SHIMMER is a community, a family. And at today’s show, everything opened by paying respect to one of the SHIMMER family: Shannon ‘Daffney’ Spruill. Dave Prazak took to the mic and explained how Daff was critical in the formation of SHIMMER, because she made him want to promote women’s wrestling in the first place. It was touching, and it was heartfelt. It also had a slight air of finality to it, though I couldn’t quite put a finger on why.

Over the course of the day, there were other hints that this might be an end, if not the end. The fans welcomed Mercedes home after both of her matches, and I could see her on the ring apron nearly in tears after the second match. After defending the tag titles for SHIMMER 120, the Sea Stars hugged it out in the ring with obvious pride, but the length of that hug conveyed a terrible sadness that would or could not yet be spoken. The sale of the turnbuckle pads was announced with a gravity and finality that hasn’t accompanied previous sales, as this set was specifically called “once-in-a-lifetime” and “historic.” A member of the SHIMMER crew told me that this might be the end, at least for the next few years. The mood in the building was overall bittersweet. After two years, and 19 months since the original taping got pushed back because of pandemic lockdowns, everyone was thrilled to have SHIMMER back. At the same time, it felt like a final hurrah.

To a degree, this isn’t surprising. SHIMMER’s business model has long relied on DVD sales, and the decline of physical media has not been kind to the company, which has a backlog of over 30 volumes still to be released. The pandemic meant SHIMMER was unable to run its usual taping schedule, filming only a single volume in 2020 in Indianapolis. A small company like SHIMMER runs on tight margins, and the pandemic certainly had a profound effect on the promotion’s ability to even decide on having a future. And without speculating about the inner workings of Dave Prazak’s mind, the uncertainty and stress of maintaining SHIMMER from taping to taping are certainly factors behind how he decides on next steps.

Altogether, SHIMMER 119 and 120 crowned two new champions and saw the Sea Stars retain the tag team titles. The Sea Stars won their gold from Mercedes Martinez and Cheerleader Melissa back in 2019, clearly setting them up as the promotion’s young, flagship team to lead a new generation of talent. Today, Nevaeh defeated Hyan to become Heart of SHIMMER champion, a fitting title considering her long tenure with the company and that she was one of the original tag team champions. Finally, Zoey Skye, who had been one of the key players in sister promotion RiSE as Dust, defeated Kimber Lee in the main event of 120 to become SHIMMER champion. The emotion of that moment as it sank in was palpable. If this is it, those choices for final champions are meaningful and in keeping with what I understand SHIMMER to be all about. At the same time, they still leave the door open for future stories to begin.

Is this the end, or an end, for SHIMMER? I’m not going to say for certain. It’s what I’m given to understand, but I’ll believe it when I see it, or rather, when I don’t see it. If it is, I’m so glad I was able to be there for it, because today was a revitalizing experience. The pandemic has robbed so many people of their sources of joy, their ability to commune with others, the shared experiences that make everything worthwhile. I can only speak for myself personally, but my circumstances since the pandemic began have been absolutely detrimental to my mental health, and until I stood outside the Eagles Club, having made my long-delayed pilgrimage, I didn’t know just how much SHIMMER truly meant to me, more than I can even begin to express here.

We bade goodbye to Daffney and we welcomed Mercedes Martinez home today. SHIMMER is not the Berwyn Eagles Club, and if SHIMMER no longer puts on shows, that doesn’t mean SHIMMER is dead. SHIMMER is more than simply a promotion. It’s the idea, the ideal, that “American joshi is possible,” as Allison Danger said at the close of the very first SHIMMER taping. The modern landscape of American women’s wrestling is indebted to SHIMMER at a fundamental level. Whatever the future holds, I’m honored and humbled to have been along for even part of this journey.

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