Pro wrestling is a male dominated profession, always has been. The vast majority in front of the camera and behind it, men. There were few exceptions back in the day like Lia Maivia, wife of High Chief Peter Maivia, mother-in-law of Rocky Johnson and grandmother of The Rock. She became a wrestling promoter in Hawaii.
Most times women did not have much say. They and little people on wrestling shows billed as added attractions.
Men sided with men. Males wrestling drew the big bucks, and women, something different, utilized once on a show as a break during the physical men’s battles.
Women, who can wrestle, also included the male referee in the action, eventually hitting, entangling or rolling over them to offer some comic relief.
The television ratings success of the syndicated Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in the late 1980s provided potential for a women’s wrestling company. GLOW, not known for four-star wrestling matches, programmed campy, Vaudeville style segments and cartoonish character portrayals. Males enjoyed it, especially since most of the women on the roster had looks like Babe the Farmer’s Daughter, Hollywood & Vine, the California Doll and Tina Ferrari, who is the only one to land in WWF as Ivory, a pretty good wrestler.
GLOW wasn’t a cookie cutter operation in terms of looks. It featured various shapes and sizes and hair colors and styles. Mount Fiji, a large women, the fan favorite, and bigger Matilda the Hun and Big Bad Momma the heels. Campy, yes, and the matches weren’t four-star, but male fans watched. Personal issues behind the scenes caused the end of its financial backing, and GLOW went dark.
Combining the premise of GLOW with solid wrestling from wrestlers better than Ivory is an interesting concept. Wrestlicious, based in Central Florida, tried in 2010 but is currently in limbo.
• Along comes SHIMMER.
Chicago-based, this women’s wrestling group is as rough and tumble as its home city.
In SHIMMER, women wrestlers prove they are just as tough as the men and can deliver quality matches, given the platform and time to display their in-ring talents, and fans are cheering for that match quality more than the combatant’s personal (eye candy) appearance.
SHIMMER debuted on Nov. 6, 2005. Established by Dave Prazak and run by him and wrestler Allison Danger, the promotion runs one main show every three months at the Eagles Club in Berwyn, Ill. Two DVDs worth of material are filmed and sold as single volumes, initially through Ring of Honor’s online store, before being nationally distributed through retail outlets.
Because of Prazak’s work with Ring of Honor, the two companies are closely affiliated with ROH promoting the SHIMMER brand by semi-regularly featuring the women wrestling on ROH shows.
In September 2008, SHIMMER started its own wrestling school for aspiring female wrestlers.
Prazak next turned his attention to Florida. In July 2012, the new women’s group Shine debuted under the direction of veteran wrestler Lexie Fyfe and Prazak. Shows run periodically at The Orpheum in Ybor City, near Tampa, on Internet pay-per-view.
Internet pay-per-view is a new way to attract fans and make some money.
Fyfe, who wrestles for SHIMMER, is training women’s wrestlers at the Slam Shack in Valrico, near Tampa.
• Traveling south of Tampa via I-75 and the Turnpike, Battling Bombshells opened in May in South Florida. La Rosa Negra, an international wrestler, competes on shows and leads a pro wrestling school and fitness center (The Spot) in Fort Lauderdale for men and women. Soulman Alex G, who has trained many, is also working there.
The Spot in Fort Lauderdale
• In New Jersey, Women Superstars Uncensored is a female independent professional wrestling promotion which debuted in 1996. Shows combine wrestling interspersed with serious and comedic storylines. The company tapes two DVDs worth of material during occasional weekend shows.
Although many of the shows are promoted by WSU, they have also worked with National Wrestling Superstars. As of October 2009, the promotion has a working agreement with Dragon Gate USA.
Dragon Gate USA is an American men’s professional wrestling promotion founded in 2009 as an international expansion of the Japanese promotion Dragon Gate. Gabe Sapolsky, former head booker of Ring of Honor, serves as the promotion’s vice president.
• During the summer in San Antonio, River City Wrestling, an indie group primarily featuring men, conducted a show with a women’s match (Angelina Love vs. Alissa Flash) the main event.
• Where WWE signed model looking types, attempting to turn them into wrestlers (sports entertainers), the company does offer a few women more noted for their athleticism. At the new WWE Performance Center in Orlando, the ladies train separately from the men with lead coach Sara Del Rey, an established wrestler. In some instances, Del Rey has her work cut out, developing sports entertainers who wrestle.
TNA found women who wrestle. Some had looks. Others power. Some could fly. Others grounded. TNA created the Knockouts Division, and its rating success proved male fans were interested in more than T-n-A.
The Knockouts Division showcased the in-ring talents of the wrestlers. They were featured in a main event on TV, stole the show at a couple of pay-per-views and even had their own TV special. Cuts in talent and agents hurt the division, but a few key pieces remain in place.
Battling Bombshells, SHIMMER and Shine are focused on women who wrestle -- no matter the size, shape and look. Showcasing their wrestling talent in the ring is more important than showing their talent out.
To each his -- or her -- own.
• An Inside Look At SHIMMER
Promoter Dave Prazak
How and why did SHIMMER form?
Prazak: “We launched the promotion in late 2005, during the time frame that I was working for Ring of Honor, and had just quit IWA Mid-South, where I had been booking the women’s division. I had wanted to try to do a series of all female shows, initially with IWA Mid-South, but after my departure, I decided to give it a shot on my own, and have Ring of Honor initially distribute the DVD series via their web site.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for women’s wrestling all over the world and was a big fan of the Japanese women’s scene during the 90’s. I felt there were enough talented women in North America to put together an all female promotion where the emphasis was put on the wrestling content rather than taking either the ‘Diva’ approach like WWE or comedic approach like GLOW had in the past.”
How difficult was it to launch a women’s wrestling group?
Prazak: “It honestly wasn’t very difficult at all. I had built strong working relationships with several female talents within the wrestling industry during my time working for IWA Mid-South and ROH, so it was relatively simple to just round up 18 female wrestlers and give the idea a go.”
What makes SHIMMER successful?
Prazak: “I think SHIMMER offers a very unique product in that we present female wrestling in a much more respectful manner than you tend to see on national television. We also bring in talent from all points in the world to participate in our events, with countries like Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia heavily represented, with multiple performers from each region on every show. It’s not something that wrestling fans can really experience anywhere else.”
How physical is the wrestling in SHIMMER?
Prazak: “For fans who are used to the WWE Divas style of wrestling, it tends to be more physical. We feature wrestlers who don’t mind having a hard hitting match, if that is what will give the fans their money’s worth.”
The type/style of women wrestlers who compete in SHIMMER are?
Prazak: “Our goal is to present the most well-rounded show possible, featuring a variety of different styles of pro wrestling. We have skilled technical wrestlers, high flyers, hard hitters, some brawlers, and even a bit of comedy here and there.”
Is it because of SHIMMER, other women’s wrestling groups formed?
Prazak: “There has always been women’s wrestling in some form here in the United States previously, but within the eight years since we launched SHIMMER, several other promotions in other regions of the country have popped up which choose to present a women’s wrestling product with a similar style. I’d like to think that we provided a bit of a boost to female wrestling in North America with our initial success, which has allowed promoters in other regions to do the same.”
Can women handle the type of physicality fans are accustomed with men’s wrestling?
Prazak: “It all depends on the wrestler in question. There are male wrestlers who will complain when they are on the receiving end of some brutality in the ring with a larger, stronger opponent, and those wrestlers quickly get weeded out for not having the ability to take it. The same is true for female wrestlers. We’re careful to select wrestlers with the right attitude in combination with athleticism t be able to hang with the other wrestlers on the roster without any issues.”
Is it harder for a woman to be as physical as a man because of the body structure and greater risk of injury?
Prazak: “I don’t think so. There’s no higher injury rate among female wrestlers compared to male wrestlers. We don’t do any man versus woman matches on our events. It’s all women competing with other women, so it’s no different from any other sort of female sport in that respect. They train hard to do what they do and are fully prepared before getting into the ring.”
YouTube Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel )