Disclaimer: A big thank you for all involved in this article, first for taking time out to answer a question (or two); Dave Prazak, Allison Danger and LuFisto. Also a special thanks to Jeff D Gorman for the editing (help pre-posting) and to contributions from fans.
Change, a lot of change happens over a decade. Men walk on the moon, a tiny cube made up of little coloured squares takes over pop culture and in the nineties we got Springer. But also in the nineties we were given the in ring exploits of Melissa Anderson.
No? Maybe you know her by...Alissa Flash? Still nothing?
Raisha Saeed, Cheerleader Melissa, or even Wildfire? If the answer is still no, then let this piece take you through a decade of dominance: the story of the future legend.
Making her in-ring debut in on her birthday in 1999, Melissa Anderson has garnered support from fans across the world with her unique blend of hard-hitting strikes and technical manoeuvres.
Her wrestling isn't all that has garnered her the status as one of the greatest independent talents, but also her character portrayal. From a Syrian manager to a cheerleader, Anderson is a thespian in every sense of the word.
How many performers in professional wrestling can state they have the ability to effortlessly pull double duty on a show? Some names that spring to mind are Christopher Daniels and Mick Foley. This shows the category some people place her in, but are they right to do so?
Anderson began her career as the “Cheerleader” to the Ballard Brothers (Shane and Shannon) and managed them on the many occasions. She would continually interfere in their matches, which gained her great heat from the crowds.
However when The Ballards moved over to work APW independent shows, she received training from another independent legend and arguably the greatest professional wrestler alive, Bryan Danielson.
This training, along with ever-growing experience through her ringside role, Anderson was able to get into the ring on her 17th birthday for the first time.
Given this opportunity, she was able to take on Lexie Fyfe (now part of The Experience with Malia Hosaka.)
However it wasn’t until two years after, that she began to hone her craft on an overseas trip to the ARSION promotion in Japan. Amongst her matches she had said that one of her favourites was with Mariko Yoshida which took place on Aug. 25 2002.
This match, despite a tentative Melissa, was a great showing of the talent that Yoshida had and it clearly rubbed off on Anderson.
In 2004, Anderson received The Future Legend Award. This award has been given to the likes of Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit which shows the ability and impact Melissa has made within her whelm of wrestling. Also being presented the award in front of her father a former wrestler in his own right must have filled herself with pride beyond belief. This is a great honour from which a talent has to be nominated in order to achieve the award.
Just two years later, Melissa was given the pride and honour of giving the award to Mariko Yoshida which should indicate the level at which one needs to be to receive the award.
In the first-ever ChickFight tournament, in the infamous APW Garage. Melissa reached the finals in a steel cage but fell short of the victory.
Her career would progress some over the next year and she was to return to ChickFight (ChickFight II) shores and take on one of her said favourite opponents; Mariko Yoshida again. In the finals of the tournament, again however Melissa was handed a loss at the hands of Yoshida in the final.
Melissa was given the opportunity to compete on all ChickFight tournaments, in good contests, being named the Transatlantic Women’s champion. However the beginning of a career-defining feud was soon to begin as she would take on “The Croatian Panther” Wesna Busic, defending her recently won championship.
Throughout her time as a part of the ChickFight roster, Anderson was not far from controversy as a major incident had occurred during a brawl with British veteran Sweet Saraya.
As on ChickFight VII she was involved in a sketchy finish with Saraya with being trapped between the ropes whilst Melissa continued her assault.
This was an obviously kayfabe incident but the feud would take a turn for the worse at a Real Quality Wrestling show in England. During a kayfabe brawl, Melissa tore Saraya’s leg open accidentally on an empty Coca-Cola can and forced her to take off six months from active competition.
Met with the controversy, was overwhelming success as she has managed to win the ChickFight trophy on more than one occasion. She won it on her first occasion after defeating Jazz on ChickFight V (2006). On her second victory she overcame the odds as she defeated “The Jezebel” Eden Black in England back in January 2007.
Despite wrestling for several years on both the male and female circuits within North America and Japan, it wasn’t until she joined the ranks of Shimmer (America’s resident female-only roster) that she was propelled into the spotlight of TNA and WWE management.
Actively wrestling on almost all of Shimmer’s event in their DVD series, Melissa has certainly made an impact in the short four years of the company’s existence.
She wrestled some of the world’s elite, like current Shimmer champion MsChif, former Knockouts champion Amazing Kong and the hard hitting Mercedes Martinez. The list goes on and it’s no surprise that she was snapped up by TNA Wrestling.
Her most memorable matches on the Shimmer series have been against long-time rival MsChif, the master of the main events Daizee Haze, and the explosive LuFisto.
The stand out match of her Shimmer feud with MsChif (covered in "feuds from the vault) was a brutal last woman standing match on volume 6.
Despite the lack of pure wrestling which had become common place in their matches in the past, the last woman standing was an out and out brawl.
This only confirms that Anderson is a chameleon; the ability to change her style depending on countless different outside variants.
A fan of Melissa’s, Zachery Haley said that "this match was one of his favourite moments of his time watching Melissa, as it is what peaked his interest in her talent. The reason for the spark of interest he contributes to the fact that he had never seen two women battle it out so viciously before.”
Cheerleader Melissa’s ability to change styles and put on great wrestling matches is also confirmed by Shimmers resident mastermind Dave Prazak.
I asked Prazak recently: “Yourself being a key aspect of women’s wrestling and having a major role in Shimmer, do you have a favourite match from her time in Shimmer? If so, why does that one stand out?”
To which he replied:
“Melissa has made so many great contributions to the SHIMMER product, I can't even select just one match as her best. The entire feud between Melissa and MsChif was one of the key rivalries that put SHIMMER on the map during our first year of operation.Those battles showed Melissa's creativity and ability to have exciting brawls. Her SHIMMER bouts against Sarah Stock displayed more of Melissa's technical wrestling skills. Missy Hyatt commented to me last week that she felt Melissa vs. Stock on our Vol. 18 DVD release was one of the best women's matches she had ever seen take place in North America, which is a huge compliment.”
This is a great indication of the skill that Anderson possesses so much so that one half of the duo spearheading the women’s scene in America can sing her praises to such a high degree.
Her dedicated work in and around the independents throughout 2005 and into 2006 saw her knocking at the door of World Wrestling Entertainment. To which she deservedly appeared on Heat in a losing effort to Victoria. However, surprisingly not being picked up by the WWE, she returned to Shimmer and other independent shows.
On the 20th consecutive volume of Shimmer Women Athletes; Melissa faced LuFisto for the first time in her career.
If ever there was a match that defined her style, her confrontation with LuFisto is one of the most successful. From brawling on the outside and the inside of the ring, to sound technical wrestling and finally the small cocky character traits such as blowing dust from her pom-poms.
This match was an outstanding showcase of talent by both women and was the show stealer on Shimmer Volume 20. To garner a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance chanting “Shimmer” is enough to send chills up any fan’s spine.
I recently asked LuFisto to comment on the match: "After wrestling Melissa on Shimmer Volume 20 and soon to be facing off in September, what are your thoughts on Melissa’s in ring ability?"
To which she responded in kind by saying;
"I was really nervous when I learned that I would be facing Melissa on Volume 20. I had seen some of her work and read some comments on boards and websites about her great wrestling abilities. Honestly, I didn't know if I could be as good as her and live up to the Shimmer fans’ expectations that night. However, when we first exchange a few forearms in the battle royal (Shimmer 19) l, I felt some strong chemistry... And when I got into the match with her, everything felt right. Wrestling her is a wrestling clinic and I felt like I could give her all the energy I had. Melissa is the kind of wrestler that pushes my limits and makes me better as a worker. I can't wait to face her again in September at NCW Femmes Fatales in Montreal."
If the match in September meets half of what their first encounter did then, that too will be a match worth paying to see.
Starting 2009 on high, during Jersey All Pro Wrestling’s premiere women’s only show, she wrestled a 10-minute match against; Nikki Roxx (TNA’s Roxxi). Despite the match lasting ten minutes, the night was not over yet as the fans would be spoiled with a second dose of Melissa as she faced Ariel.
Continuing the good form in 2009, the stage was set for one of the biggest matches of Anderson’s career. Wesna Busic. The Croatian Panther, as previously mentioned they have faced off in a breath-taking feud taking place in Europe under the ChickFight banner.
However, The Panther was about to pounce on May 2, 2009. One fan; Shanti, stated that one of her favourite moments “was watching her take on Wesna in their TKO/Submission only match and the crowd was chanting her name like crazy.” This shows that despite being new to Shimmer taking on a veteran of the Shimmer ranks, the crowd were completely involved in the match through the chemistry and the talent on show by both women.
Dave Prazak had this to say on their feud:
"The Melissa vs. Wesna saga overseas for ChickFight, which made its way into SHIMMER rings here in 2009, are some of the most brutal fights you will ever see in women's wrestling on a global scale.
This feud, particularly in Europe is one of the main reasons for fans to buy the ChickFight DVD’s. The reason for saying this is apparent, as four years on from her debut in ChickFight, the pair faced off in a twenty minute match on ChickFight X.
Whereas all other matches if that episode were under 11 minutes. This shows the allowance of time that both women achieved through their chemistry and in ring ability."
The final trip in this article is to the number two company within North America; Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling. Despite only just debuting in the company a few weeks ago, the future legend has been incognito with the company for the past 12 months (since Jan. 7, 2008.)
The most important aspect of the debut was that she debuted alongside Awesome Kong, as Raisha Saeed. Most importantly she helped Kong to gain her first TNA Women’s championship.
Throughout 2008, the two would go on a winning streak destroying almost everyone on the Knockouts roster. However once her character got in ring time from TNA’s bookers, she was handed losses on top of losses.
This would continue to be the theme throughout 2008 and into early 2009. The Saeed character seemed to used as a prop, solely to get the new comers over.
Consistently every week was a loss, this wasn’t met kindly by her fans and everyone would say that “she is a wasted talent in TNA.” But nevertheless she continued to fight each week and more power to her for it as it was soon to pay off.
On the 26th May 2009, Cheerleader Melissa was given the opportunity to get away from the on screen persona of Raisha Saeed and eventually stand out on her own. Her opportunity came as she was in a match with former TNA Women’s champion; Awesome Kong.
The match was an instant hit and achieved critical acclaim from Raven: “Raven remarked it was the best women’s match he had seen in ten years.”
The efforts put in by both ladies was enough to open eyes in TNA management and finally the future legend was about to debut. Within two months of the dark match (whilst still carrying her Saeed gimmick) she appeared on television.
This match has been named by the majority of fans of women’s wrestling, as one of the TV match of the year. One fan (Zachery Haley) commented and said that “The two put on the best women's TV match since Bull Nakano vs. Madusa, RAW 4/03/95.”
This shows that the respect that fans have for both women’s ability is higher than the everyday lackadaisical wrestling fans. However taking the good with the bad, like a lot of things with TNA her debut seemed rushed.
An example of this is that in comparison to Sarita who had all of the glitz and glamour of a debut; hype videos and video packages. Whereas Alissa Flash (Melissa’s new persona) wasn’t give a single minute worth of hype, promo or video package. How is someone meant to get over without being hyped?
Also one thing lacking that was rectified on her next appearance; she wasn’t given an entrance video. Which may seem like a small aspect but it makes a difference to the observant fans.
Despite this, the future legend persona is a great gimmick to have, bringing in the old with the new. Also the second match between the two women was nothing less than superb, as expected from the two coming off of a heated debut.
Both matches are a definite watch for any fan of women’s wrestling, solely as it shows that real quality wrestling can be shown on a global scale.
The tag team match despite bringing two feuds into one match was able to outshine the men’s action (including a full locker room meltdown) and gain the highest rated segment of that iMPACT.
I want to just leave you with two of my favourite responses I have received from her peers;
"Every time she steps foot in a wrestling ring, Melissa gives it her all, and gives the fans more than their money's worth. The next 10 years of her career promise to be even better."-Dave Prazak, co-founder of Shimmer Women Athletes.
Melissa is one of the few women in wrestling that understand and are able to see beyond just tonight's match; she can envision the future whether its six month story lines, angles or just bringing a rematch back full circle. A big congrats to her on her 10th anniversary. – Allison Danger, co founder of Shimmer Women Athletes and predominant figure in women’s wrestling today.
This is where the story of the future legend ends and in closing I want to leave you with my take on “The Future Legend” Melissa Anderson.
“A candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long” - Let’s hope that Melissa Anderson’s career burns as bright as it can, for as long as it can.
- Steven D