The Ninja We Love to Hate: Being a Fan of Portia Perez

A strong wrestling promotion thrives not only on great in-ring action, but just as much on story progression and compelling heroes (faces) and villains (heels). Shimmer has always excelled in all of these respects, and in particular has featured some amazing heels that rile the crowd up to perfection. Without question, the best heel in Shimmer history is… Sweet Saraya Knight. But right behind her is Portia Perez, an incredible Shimmer mainstay who unexpectedly announced her retirement due to injury during the October 2015 tapings.

Portia’s been an integral part of Shimmer since close to the beginning, making her main show debut on volume 7. She came in as a plucky underdog babyface and teamed with Serena Deeb. It didn’t take long to abandon that approach, as in her very next match (on volume 9 against Josie) she was showing flashes of the charisma she’d become known for, infuriating fans, and using a chain behind the ref’s back to win. Despite her small size, youthful appearance, and less than impressive win-loss record early on, Portia’s natural ability to turn the crowd against her always made a win over her mean something for her opponent.

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While Portia was an accomplished singles competitor, she will perhaps best be remembered for her partnership with Nicole Matthews. The Canadian Ninjas are the benchmark against which all other tag teams in Shimmer are measured. They complimented and played off each other perfectly, and are currently the only two time tag team champions (as a unit) in Shimmer history. The Ninja’s greatest rivals were likely 3G (Kellie Skater and Tomoka Nakagawa), and the wars between the four of them were a sight to behold. My personal favorite of the Ninjas’ matches was an amazing contest against Ray and Leon, which I was lucky enough to get to see live.

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Portia’s individual talent for getting under people’s skin of course extended to her opponents, and she had a number of heated feuds over the years. These included taking issue with Serena Deeb returning from her time in the WWE, and making the rather huge mistakes of angering, and then mocking, Jessica Havok. Both were intense stories with logical issues and Portia fanned the flames expertly until the fans were dying for her opponent to get their hands on her (which they eventually did of course).

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The remains of Portia are somewhere under that pile.

But the longest and perhaps most memorable of Portia’s feuds was against Allison Danger, “highlighted” by Portia repeated attacking Danger’s previously injured collarbone, a Last Woman Standing match, and Portia threatening a pregnant Danger during an in-ring interview. Tension was kept up during Danger’s retirement role as a Shimmer authority figure and the feud was revisited a bit for Portia’s farewell.

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Portia announced her retirement on Saturday of Shimmer’s 10th Anniversary weekend, staying full heel and blaming the fans. Danger came out, pointed out that she had the ability to decide what Portia’s last match would be, and set up an eight-woman tag for the main event of Sunday’s tapings. It was a fun affair, serving both as a farewell to Portia and a celebration of Shimmer’s anniversary, with surprise appearances by the retired participants of Shimmer’s first main event (Dazee Haze and Lacey), as well as the involvement of Ninja rivals 3G (with the retired Nakagawa returning to second her former teammate).

After a fitting end that saw Portia’s attempt at cheating backfire to cost her the match, she had an (intentionally) awkward exchange with Danger and then Portia gave a retirement speech consisting of “I hate you all. Now I’m leaving.” It was fitting, if a tad disappointing. I personally wish she had let the kayfabe up a little here for her goodbye, but I understand the desire to perform to the bitter end and it was of course her choice. She went out of Shimmer as she spent her career – the consummate agitator.

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“You know this is awkward, right?”

Portia’s contributions to Shimmer did not stop in the ring. Starting around volume 36 she joined Dave Prazak during matches to provide color commentary, and the two became my favorite pair in short order. Their chemistry and banter is pitch perfect, and Portia knows the exact amount to scale back her character so her jibes at the faces never take away from the match or angle she’s trying to get over. While she’ll be missed in the ring, it’s my hope that she’ll continue to be involved in commentary and lend her unique and wonderful skills to enhancing the Shimmer product for a long time to come.

But either way always remember: Portia Hates Us.

Arcade Block October 2015 Review

October 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The advertised exclusive for this month was a physical version of Retro City Rampage, complete with SNES style box. A code for the downloadable version is also included. Fun old-school style game and a great inclusion. Another nod to the retro crowd is a fantastic baseball cap with the Atari logo and a breakout background.

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The toys this month are a fun pair. Never played Fallout but it’s instantly identifiable an I like the mini-figure I pulled from the blind box. We also get a Titanfall K’Nex set, which is aweseme.

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The T-Shirt this month is a striking Call of Duty Black Ops III design from ShirtPunch.

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Conclusion

More great variety and value from Arcade Block. This is easily my favorite mystery box subscription of all I’ve seen/tried.

Impressive Heights Achieved

I recently attended the opening of a wonderful art exhibition called Figure in the Sky at Space 776 in Brooklyn. I found out about it via a friend of mine named Cora Kobischka who has some pieces showing, and I’m very happy she pointed it out.

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Postcard advertising the show.

Figure in the Sky features work from five artists and makes great use of the available space to highlight the works. The larger of the two rooms is somewhat bisected by a hanging cloth piece that breaks up the room, and the back wall is a window through which the other room (which is an exhibit in itself) can be seen. The setup makes the space seem bigger than it is and allows a lot of art to be shown without feeling cramped.

I enjoyed the entire exhibit a lot, particularly a couple of neat pieces by Takuya Hayaki that had fascinating use of color and texture. But I’ve always loved the use of shadow and monochrome in art, so the highlight for me were a series of pieces by Cora portraying various imagery in blacks and grays within the outline of egg shapes. They can be seen here, but are really best appreciated in person.

Near the entry is a captivating related exhibit in some sense created by visitors trying to toss monochrome painted eggshells (some filled with glitter) into a small opening in a clear wall mounted case. The remnants of the attempts, the debris that made it into the case, and the couple of shells simply pushed through the opening all combine to what I found to be an extremely intriguing illustration of the potential for beauty in chaos and destruction. Of course being at the premiere meant I was a witness to and participant in said chaos and destruction, which was fun too. 😉

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I adore art that gives as much to think about as it does to look at, and I found a lot of it at Figure in the Sky. The exhibit is open until November 9, 2015, and I highly suggest checking it out if you get a chance.

 

 

Nerd Block October 2015 Review

This month’s Nerd Block items were identified as “Tricks” and “Treats,” with three of each.

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The “Treats” consisted of a Bob’s Burgers Mad Libs, an exclusive Moe the Bartender coaster, and a Jem and the Holograms comic (Annual #1) with an exclusive Nerd Block cover. I live in a bubble so have never heard of Bob’s Burgers, but Mad Libs are always amusing. The Jem comic features a series of short stories with the cast interjected into various other famous properties, and was cute for what it was. The Moe coaster seems sturdy enough to actually use for its intended purpose (ie its not cardboard or paper) and I sure I know a Simpsons fan or a hundred who’ll love it.

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The “Tricks” featured monsters of all kinds. The exclusive Ripley and Big Chap Xenomorph Vinyl 2-pack seems of good quality and looks good (through the box, which I won’t be opening). Zombie Hunter Dog Tags are another decent inclusion and the type of collectible I expect from these kinds of boxes.  IMG_4164

Finally we have the monthly t-shirt, a Peltzer’s Pets design featuring Gizmo that changes to a Gremlin via glow in the dark. Cool idea.

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Conclusion

I have to admit Nerd Block’s been an odd experience for me. The variety of both properties and products is great, and the items all seem of good quality. But they just aren’t appealing to my particular tastes, and I will likely be giving everything here away. NB’s Arcade Block offering is FAR more suited to me. I’m not disappointed with having tried Nerd Block classic, but personally I can’t see anyway I’d renew my subscription after my next and last block.

Shimmer Weekend October 2015: Day 2 Live Thoughts

October 11, 2015 in Berwyn, IL

Day 2 of Shimmer’s 10th Anniversary weekend was Sunday October 11 and it continued right where Saturday left off, providing more surprises, fun, and great wrestling. Before any action the Canadian Ninjas came out and hilariously surveyed the crowd for potential partners for Portia’s last match. Later an amusing series of vignettes was played showing some of the efforts of both captains gathering members. The full teams were kept secret until the match though.

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Godzilla wins!

The compressed schedule on Sat forced one match to be skipped for time, so the tapings started with the delayed match being taped for volume 77. It was Thunderkitty vs Hiroyo Matsumoto. A lighter match with comedic overtones that still had solid action. Kitty tried to claim Hiroyo’s Godzilla mask, which didn’t end to well for Granite Cheesecake (ugh) as the Lady Destroyer (much better) lived up to her nickname and won with the backdrop driver.

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MATSUMOTO! HIROYO! DESTROY!

Volume 78 proper got underway with a spotlight on two newer talents in Solo Darling vs Amanda Rodriguez, followed by a couple of emphatic wins for mainstays Lufisto and Allysin Kay (over Veda Scott and Shazza McKenzie, respectively). The matches were fine and featured interesting style pairings.

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Leva Bates was back in full cosplay for her match with Rhia O’Reilly, portraying Batman’s most enigmatic foe. She posed several riddles throughout the match, including an amusing spot where Rhia was tied up in a submission hold and thought the answer to “What has hands but can’t clap?” was “me!” This was a bit long for what it was, and Leva needed to be louder on the riddles and answers to make it work to its full potential. Still, it was a cute idea for a comedic match and was fun overall.

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The finals of the tag tourney to name number one contenders was excellent, with Slap Happy (Evie and Heidi Lovelace) overcoming Vanessa Kraven and Tessa Blanchard to earn a shot at the Kimber Bombs once Cherry’s healthy. On top of the great in ring action, Kraven’s knowing indulgence of Tessa’s posturing and bossiness is pitch perfect and highly entertaining. The slowly building tension and eventual feud should be a joy to watch unfold. Slap Happy (how I love the team but hate the name) vs the Bombs will be great too.

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Speaking of the Bombs, Kimber Lee had the unenviable task of facing Jessica Havok. Another strong showing for Lee, and Havok is just perfect in her role. Hard hitting matched expected from these two, along with the also expected light comedy from both Kimber and Cherry (on the outside). Havok terrifies Cherry from ringside and, left without distractions, finishes Kimber with a chokeslam.

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Kimber’s quite happy… before her opponent is announced.

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Cherry’s making a poor decision.

Newcomers Liberty and Kellyanne English both looked great facing Courtney Rush and Kay Lee Ray, respectively. English in particular made quite an impression on the Shimmer faithful over the weekend. And allow me to once again profess my adoration for Rush’s new gimmick and the work she did with it. Fantastic reinvention of herself and there’s tons of potential there.

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Nicole Matthews and Mia Yim had a great contest that was matched in intensity by the crowd’s heckling of Matthews. She hit the roof over “Where’s your title?” and “Former champ” chants and Mia played along and egged her on exquisitely.

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Continuing the angle from 76-77 of Yumi Ohka’s heel turn and abuse of Makoto, Ohka came out with new ally Cheerleader Melissa to face Makoto and Hiroyo Matsumoto. Yumi was clearing having a blast with her new character: copious use of the whip she brought to the ring, taunting, booing the fans on her way out, etc. She and Melissa make a phenomenal team.

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The reffing was frustrating (do not STARE at the heels when they’re cheating, and give some sort or reason for not DQing them when if they grab you!!!), but a very good match otherwise which firmly established Ohka and Melissa as a dominate, reviled tag team. Makoto took her second Kudo Driver of the weekend (!) to end this one, and again looked strong despite the losses given the level of her opponents and partner.

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In the semi-main spot Sonoko Kato faced Kellie Skater. This was as good as would be expected from two top tier athletes. Lots of back and forth momentum swings and Skater gets a huge win to keep her near the top of the contenders list.

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Madison Eagles’ first Shimmer title defense was the main event of volume 78. Nicole Savoy has been incredible in her Shimmer appearances, and her two big victories on Sat leading to a title shot here was a wonderful way to capitalize on her momentum.

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The match was fantastic, highlighting Savoy’s potential and ability to hang with the very best. Besides the expected brutal strike exchanges, the grappling was excellent, and really felt like both combatants were constantly trying to gain/press the advantage and win the match. I found parts extremely reminiscent of Timothy Thatcher vs Zach Sabre Jr from Evolve 47, another fantastic match. This was definitely one of the weekend’s highlights.

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After intermission volume 79 opened with Shimmer’s throwback wrestler facing another old style character in Charlie Chaplin. Leva’s costume and act were spot on and Thunderkitty’s swooning was highly amusing. This was kept short and sweet and started the volume off well.

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A couple of establishing victories followed, as Kraven continued to be built up as a singles threat with a win over Lufisto and Makoto got the first win of her debut weekend against Marti Belle. Marti’s temper tantrum over Makoto’s streamers was an added bonus.

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Chokebomb for the win.

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“I SAID NO STREAMERS!”

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Victory!

Some decent matches with foregone conclusions were next as new wrestlers and teams faced more established stars. Jessica Havok beat Sammi Baynz, Yumi Ohka and Cheerleader Melissa continued their partnership and defeated KC Spinelli and Xandra Bale, and Kay Lee Ray defeated Liberty. Good weekend for all of the newcomers overall.

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The next four-way match was kind of crazy. The crowd had been on Andy Long’s back all weekend as usual, and it was getting worse thanks to some particularly poor officiating in tag matches. Veda Scott had been riling people up by complaining that us booing her made her heart hurt. During the intros here Veda expertly exploited both things, giving Andy a hug during boos and generating an insane level of heat. The fired up crowd was now fully invested, and kept up the boos as Allysin Kay was introduced and managed to get even louder with cheers for Shazza McKenzie and Mia Yim. They made the most of the atmosphere and the match was a blast. The crowd remained super-hot for the rest of the day.

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Kellyanne English continued her impressive debut weekend in a competitive loss to Heidi Lovelace. Then in a brutal match that ranged all over the arena (someone really has to come up with something better than “ref’s discretion” to explain why they start counting people out and then stop for 10 minutes before continuing to count whereever they left off), Crazy Mary Dobson scored the upset of the weekend over Saraya Knight. I predict severe fallout from that.

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Four matches and four international superstars as opponents for Nicole Savoy makes me VERY happy. For volume 79 she faced her second Joshi opponent for the weekend in Sonoko Kato. As with both athletes other matches this was excellent. I’m amazed at the skill and poise Savoy has at this early point in her career. Having Kato in Shimmer was a great treat and I really hope she returns.

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Rhia O’Reilly tried, but her semi-main appearance ended up as just another victim of Godzilla’s path of destruction.

Main event time and Shimmer’s last match for Portia Perez. Danger (as non-wrestling captain of the opposing team) brought out Madison Eagles and Lexie Fyfe to start her team. The first shock of the match was next as Kellie Skater came out… accompanied by recently retired 3G partner Tomoka Nakagawa !!! Nice! 🙂 Tomoka was in street clothes and serving as a second for the team. Another surprise as the final member of Danger’s team was Tomoka’s other tag team champion partner and one half of the very first Shimmer’s main event, Daizee Haze (who has been retired / on hiatus for quite a while)!

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The Ninjas had a counter surprise in the form of the other half of Shimmer’s first main event (and also long retired) Lacey! Tag champion Kimber Lee rounded out Portia’s team, with Cherry Bomb seconding them. This was a fun spectacle, focusing more on antics and personalities than all out action (and rightfully so given Portia’s condition and the number of regularly inactive wrestlers involved). Portia appeared to sneak a win with illegal leverage, but the refs restarted the match and Daizee rolled Portia up for the win in a fitting finale for one of Shimmer’s best heels.

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Portia and Danger exchanged awkward stares and words after the match, and then Portia gave a retirement speech consisting of “I hate you all. Now I’m leaving.” It was fitting, if disappointing. I understand the desire to kayfabe to the bitter end and it’s her choice, but I personally wish she had let it up a bit during the Q&A on sat and here for her goodbye.

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“You know this is awkward, right?”

As usual I had a wonderful time at Shimmer, and the weekend was a fantastic celebration of its 10th anniversary. Here’s to ten more years! 🙂

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Pic with (most of) the Joshi contingent for the weekend.

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Tomoka Nakagawa’s appearance was a great surprise. Wonderful to see her again.

Shimmer Weekend October 2015: Day 1 Live Thoughts

October 10, 2015 in Berwyn, IL

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This October’s Shimmer weekend was an even bigger deal than usual, as it fell on Shimmer’s 10th Anniversary. It’s been a great ten years and volumes 76-79 were a wonderful celebration of that, presenting numerous surprises, special events, and of course phenomenal wrestling.

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Saturday started with volume 76 and a battle royal to determine the number one contender to Nicole Matthews’ Shimmer title. This is only the second battle royal in Shimmer and a nice treat to open the weekend. Top contender Madison Eagles had a strong showing, but was sabotaged by the champion and her partner Portia Perez (a lot more on her to come). Cheerleader Melissa looked to have won, but Candice LeRae returned from the outside (she had gone through the middle ropes, not over the top) for the surprise win. Great use of the format to tell several stories and vault someone new into title contention.

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Sonoko Kato had a great debut weekend and left a strong impression.

The Joshi contingent this time consisted of two returns and two debuts. Though new to Shimmer, Sonoko Kato is a twenty year veteran and it was wonderful to see her come to the US. For volume 76 she faced the always game Kimber Lee in a fun match that saw Kato jawing with Cherry Bomb on the outside in addition to the excellent in ring action. Was nice to see Cherry, who was recovering from surgery for a collarbone injury just two weeks prior. She was in good spirits and served as a manager for her tag team champion partner throughout the weekend.

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Glad to get to see Cherry Bomb and that her recovery is going well.

I adore Courtney Rush’s new look and gimmick. She never really connected for me previously, but her total commitment to the vicious, crazy edge of her new character is absolutely captivating. She had a good match with Shazza McKenzie to establish it.

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Welcome to crazytown.

Portia Perez came out for an interview and announced her retirement due to needing neck surgery. It was a bit odd as she never broke out of her heel character and at first I thought it was part angle. Danger came out and set up an eight-woman tag as Portia’s final match to main event volume 79.

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Kellyanne English had an impressive little match with Mia Yim in Kellyanne’s debut match. She looked great all weekend and would be a wonderful regular addition to the roster.

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Another debut saw Makoto facing a fellow Joshi talent in the returning Yumi Ohka. Makoto looked good in the somewhat overmatched underdog role before falling to the dominant Ohka, who was really going after the younger talent and showing a bit of a vicious streak.

 

Hiroyo Matsumoto returned to singles action in Shimmer after being out with injury to face up and comer Nicole Savoy in the first dream match for me of the weekend. Fantastic contest that skyrocketed Savoy up the card when she achieved a rare pinfall on the Lady Destroyer.

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The rest of the undercard was as impressive as the matches I’ve spotlighted, featuring great wrestlers and interesting matchups: Lufisto vs Taylor Made, Cheerleader Melissa vs Crazy Mary Dobson, and Kellie Skater vs Kay Lee Ray. A mini-tournament to determine number one contenders to the tag team titles (which weren’t being defended due to Cherry’s injury) was also started with Slap Happy (Heidi Lovelace and Evie) vs Saraya Knight and Rhia O-Reilly.

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LeRae made good use of the main event opportunity resulting from the earlier battle royal, looking great despite a losing effort against Matthews. A post match attack by the Ninjas lead to Eagles making the save and a big pull apart brawl. Matthews vs Eagles for the championship was set for volume 77’s main event.

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Due to scheduling issues saturday’s tapings began and ended early, so there was no intermission between volumes. Interesting start for volume 77, as wrestlers who didn’t appear outside of the battle royal on 76 made up 5 of the 6 competitors in the first three matches. Shows the depth of talent assembled for the weekend. Veda Scott vs KC Spinelli, Saraya Knight vs Xandra Bale, and Liberty vs Sami Baynz (both debuting) were all decent contests telling different stories, and built things up a bit for some mayhem in the way of a fun six-woman match with Kay Lee Ray, Allysin Kay, Candice LeRae, Kellie Skater, Marti Belle and Sonoko Kato.

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Courtney Rush continued her winning ways, but she didn’t intimidate Crazy Mary Dobson much. Kimber Lee snuck out a victory against one half of her potential future tag team challengers in Heidi Lovelace after Cherry faked aggravating her injury to distract the ref. Slap Happy’s opponents for the next day in the mini-tag tourney were set as Vanessa Kraven and Tessa Blanchard defeated the Lucha Sisters (Mia Yim and Leva Bates). Tessa’s posturing and Kraven’s reactions were great. It’s going to be glorious when Kraven eventually gets sick of Tessa and squashes her like a bug.

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In another dream match for me Jessica Havok faced Yumi Ohka. It was a great, hard-hitting affair. Ohka showed some edge again and frequently bent the rules trying to get an advantage over the larger Havok. Jessica eventually caught her in the chokeslam for a big victory.

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Makoto faced more tough competition in the form of Cheerleader Melissa. She had a good showing but again fell prey to the onslaught of a relentless, more experienced foe. Melissa broke out a rare Kudo Driver to get the victory though. Given the level of her opponents Makoto looked strong despite these defeats. Melissa attacks her after the match and Ohka comes out to “save,” but instead completes her heel turn and helps Melissa destroy Makoto. They leave together in an apparent new alliance.

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Kudo Driver. And that’s it.

In the semi-main spot Nicole Savoy picked up another huge win over Evie in a fantastic back and forth match. Savoy is so “on” right now it’s almost scary and displays instincts far beyond her experience. It was wonderful seeing what she could do over the course of the weekend against high level, veteran opponents. Evie herself is also incredible and I’d love to see these two wrestle again.

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The main event had been building for quite a while, as layers for the feud between Eagles and Matthews were being established even before Matthews threw a fireball into Eagles face to win the title. Given their history this Shimmer Title match was no-DQ. This was the appropriate war we all wanted, and they threw everything they could at each other (including Kay Lee Ray at one point). Eagles defeated Matthews with a Hellbound to a chair to become two-time Shimmer Champion and provide the perfect finish to the first day of tapings for 10th Anniversary weekend.

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After the tapings was a special Fanfest and Q&A held nearby the venue. It was quite nice as there was more time (and space) to meet the wrestlers and get merchandise and pictures. The Q&A would have been a bit smoother with some prepared questions, but it was fun and interesting overall.

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Was great to meet and get a chance to chat with Nicole Savoy. She just keeps getting better and better and is definitely one to watch going forward.

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With the new Shimmer Champion.

A suitable celebration of the 10th Anniversary of a phenomenal wrestling promotion. And that’s only day 1. 🙂

Day 2 thoughts to follow.

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Photo op with Lady Destroyer Hiroyo Matsumoto, while wearing a shirt of hers designed by a friend of mine.

Burnt to Perfection

This past Sunday I attended Food Network’s NYC Wine and Food Fest, an incredible celebration of delicious food and beverage featuring endless tasting booths of the highest quality ingredients (I’m still drooling over the lobster roll and kobe beef samples) and masterful live cooking demonstrations by professional and famous chefs.

It was during one of the latter that the unexpected highlight of the day happened for me. At the beginning of Andrew Zimmern’s demo (featuring an interesting fusion dish and a wonderful discussion of Mexican food), two seat numbers were chosen at random for a couple of amazing prizes. I sadly did not win the trip to Mexico, but tickets to the premiere of the new movie Burnt starring Bradley Cooper did just fine. 😉

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The screening was at MoMA, and was definitely a bit of a surreal experience. The theater was downstairs off of an entrance a couple doors down from the main museum one and looked to hold about 300 people. There were tons of photographers both at the door and inside around an area set up set up in a hallway for pictures/interviews as the stars entered. Ticket holders were directed behind it and downstairs to the theater. Most of the cast was in attendance and was introduced by the director before the show.

The movie itself was fantastic. I adore glimpses into the cooking world, and Burnt is a love letter to that world, celebrating the drive and skill that goes into the art at its highest level without shying away from the problems and pitfalls that come with wanting to be the very best. The story of Cooper as a disgraced chef making a comeback to earn his third Michelin Star unfolds wonderfully and is anchored by a myriad of amazing performances and cinematography that draws the viewer right into their world. The director stressed that they had researched and trained extensively with chefs of the highest caliber and that all the actors did their own cooking. It really shows, adding an impressive feeling of authenticity and making the movie even more compelling.

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A movie about the attempted comeback of a down and out chef won’t appeal to everyone, but I loved Burnt and highly recommend sharing Cooper’s journey when the movie comes out next week. Huge thanks to NYCWFF for the unique opportunity to attend the premiere.