DVD Review: “Women Of Honor” (ROH)

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Women Of Honor (Ring of Honor DVD)

In my opinion, 2012 was one of the best and most productive years ever for the unique artform that is women’s professional wrestling, particularly in the American market, where the ladies have had to struggle for acceptance and respect from fans, the media and indeed the industry itself. But they have succeeded, and then some. At this moment, the active roster of women’s wrestlers in this country is probably the strongest it has ever been, and at the forefront of that movement is Shimmer Women Athletes.

Shimmer has been running its own live events since 2005, as exhaustively-documented on the more than 50 volumes of DVDs released since then. They’ve recently partnered with the Florida-based Shine promotion, whose Internet pay-per-views feature a number of Shimmer mainstays. The new and steadily-evolving “iPPV” market has already been a serious boon to independent promotions over the past couple of years, allowing them to project their products to fans worldwide with minimal overhead, increasing exposure for the companies and boosting revenue for bookers and workers alike. But a significant factor in Shimmer’s success has come through their partnership with Ring Of Honor, which is currently the third-biggest wrestling promotion in America, but stands in good position to eclipse the chronically underperforming TNA/Impact Wrestling in the next couple of years.

During its decade in operation, ROH has put forth some of the very best matches of the 21st century; their former world champions include currently WWE/TNA stars Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins and Austin Aries, while current champion Kevin Steen has been on fire all year. “Women Of Honor” showcases the best of the collaboration between Shimmer and Ring Of Honor. It also functions as a nice introduction to the women’s wrestling scene in America and its leading talents.

It’s worth noting that, while the stars women’s wrestling strive to be regarded on the same level as the men, of course, in my opinion certain differences between the genders result overall in products that are fairly similar, but very much unique and distinct from each other, while being equally compelling on their own accord. Not everyone cares for the joshi game; many wrestling fans can barely sit through five minutes of Divas action on Monday Night Raw, let alone 20-30 minutes. The apostates can’t even appreciate one of the old Manami Toyota-Aja Kong classics, which basically defined the art-form at its peak; they would have no use for the material discussed herein, and that is entirely their loss.

The ROH DVDs have none of the sweet documentary-style content associated with WWE releases; they are simply compilations of matches, so there’s no backstory of promos to provide context, but the fan-base would already be up to speed on all that. (Curiously, WWE has never done a serious anthology of its own rich women’s wrestling history, which extends from the Fabulous Moolah down to AJ Lee. One would presume that such a thing would be easy to make, and a solid seller; it seems inevitable.) What this disc does offer is more top-notch joshi action than you’re likely to see anywhere, outside of Shimmer itself.

The double-disc set includes 33 matches, featuring 25 different women; there are also three mixed-tag matches. Allison Danger appears eight times. Sara Del Rey appears 15 times. Another standout here is Lacey, who also appears in 15 matches as a singles competitor, and also in a tag-match with Del Rey against Daizee Haze and Awesome Kong. Lacey, who retired to earn a Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and who’s now working on her PhD in China, was a major figure in the evolution of both Shimmer and Ring of Honor. Her dealings with Jimmy Jacobs made for one of ROH’s all-time enduring storylines, while in Shimmer she teamed with Rain to form the infamous Minnesota Homewrecking Crew, which was the dominant heel tag-team of Shimmer’s early years, the equivalent of today’s Canadian Ninjas (Nicole Matthews and Portia Perez). Lacey, Haze and Del Rey were the early triumvirate around which the ROH women’s division was built, and this DVD set captures those formative years nicely. Any Lacey fans out there will want this; looking back, thinking mainly of promos and angles she was involved in, one forgets how good Lacey was in the ring.

Certainly the most important thing of all about “Women Of Honor” is that it is probably the closest thing wrestling fans will ever have to an anthology devoted to the work of Daizee Haze, who wrestles in 23 of the 33 matches collected here, including all three mixed-tag matches (all against Lacey, by the way). Besides just wrestling, she was also a trainer for ROH and Shimmer, and she main-evented the latter company’s first four shows; she (along with Del Rey) also helped bring the joshi scene into Chikara.

Haze (who is also notable for being one of the few pro-wrestlers whose real name is not public knowledge) abruptly stepped away from the ring in August 2011, and it’s been almost impossible to find out anything about what happened to her. As such, the best year yet for women’s wrestling in America has taken place with one of its chief architects on the sidelines. One hopes she returns, but whether she does or not, her presence makes this DVD essential. There are also matches featuring the likes of Allison Danger (Steve Corino’s sister), Sarah Stock (aka Dark Angel, aka Sarita in TNA), Alexis Laree (aka Mickie James), Serena Deeb, Sumie Sakai, Jetta, Eden Black, Tracy Brooks, Mercedes Martinez, Nikki Roxx, Persephonie, Jennifer Blake, Ashley Lane, Tomoko Nakagai, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Ayumi Kurihara and former Shimmer champions MisChif, Madison Eagles and Cheerleader Melissa. The whole thing’s a lot of fun to watch, having seen how far all these ladies have already come Now that the industry has taken notice of their abilities, it will be even more fun to see what happens next.

sheltonhull@gmail.com

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