In the fall of 2016, I take the train to Chicago to watch an all-women’s wrestling show. Not the first of its kind, not by a long shot, but it’s the first I’ve been to: a production of Shimmer Women Athletes, an independent promotion founded in 2005 with the goal of showcasing the world’s finest female wrestlers, women who?—?at the time?—?had few options when it came to plying their formidable skills on a grander stage.
A ring has been set up under the crown molding and fluorescent lights of Logan Square Auditorium, and a few hundred folding chairs surround the ropes. Heaps of merchandise form a blockade along one wall, each table helmed by a wrestler selling shirts with her own slogan on them, posters of her own face. In the 10-plus years of Shimmer’s existence, performers from Beth Phoenix to Becky Lynch (and Natalya, Paige, Bayley, Asuka, Ember Moon, Billie Kay, and more) have been part of the roster; Sara Del Rey?—?also known as Sara Amato, the assistant head coach of World Wrestling Entertainment’s developmental division?—?was Shimmer’s inaugural champion.
Tonight, the championship is carried by Mercedes Martinez, a 16-year veteran of the independent wrestling circuit and a sneering heel inside the ring. Outside of it, she’s confident and kind, sure-footed in her answers to my questions. “Respect,” she says, without a second thought, when I ask about the draw of competing for an all-women’s promotion … Read the Full Story HERE