Ooo pretty colours!
For someone who cares as much about pro wrestling as I do, you wouldn't know it from the contents of this blog so far. Let's change that!
Shine Wrestling is a Florida-based all-womens indy outfit, ostensibly started with the aim of providing talent from SHIMMER and similar promotions with more regular work (SHIMMER generally makes its money from DVD sales and tapes multiple releases' worth over a single long weekend per year). However, the production staff behind Shine - and of course the wrestlers involved - have done such a stellar job with the group that it's almost outgrown its own inspiration, and shows no sign of stopping. That being the case, it's a surprise that only now, with the 9th monthly show, that the company has begun the road toward crowning its first World...Floridian?...let's just say 'champion', alright? They'll have a belt. Doesn't matter what fraction of the globe it claims to cover if there's only 1 of them.
Anyways, I bloody love Shine - it's basically the only wrestling I'm willing to pay actual money for right now (the odd New Japan supershows aside) and it's worth talking about why. So here's my rundown of Shine 9, which aired live from The Orpheum in Ybor City the night of April 19th, 2013.
(or, for me, really damn early in the morning of April 20th, because timezones)
(Apologies for the dry presentation, will update w/ pics when I can)
Match 1: Courtney Rush vs. Allysin Kay (w/ April Hunter)
From experience, I know there were mixed feelings from the live viewers for this opening match. Part of that may have been down to the presence of 'AK-47' Allysin Kay who, as 1/5th of Shine's big heel stable Valkyrie (and with another 1/5th, April Hunter, in her corner) and half of the very impressive Made In Sin tag team, deserved to be higher on the card. Another factor might have been the tone, as this was almost a full comedy match, the kind of thing other-universe Leva Bates would specialise in (but not this-universe Leva, as we'll get to later). Personally, though, I don't share those views. There was so much of import on the card already that someone established would have to wind up jerking the curtain, and I really don't have any issue with comedy matches if they're done well, which this was.
This was, I think, Courtney's Shine debut, and she did more than enough to warrant future return visits. Obviously, I can't call anyone wearing a ThunderCats emblem on their butt 'bad', ever, but even so, she showed bags of personality, got the crowd's attention and held it, and managed the tricky balancing act of having a 'fun' match while still showing enough toughness and athleticism to convince as a proper badass. I do hope she trades in the Sharpshooter for a different finish in future, mind you, because I am very tired of that hold. Allysin was her usual dependable self - she always seems to be a lot more enthusiastic with the sillier parts of wrestling, so this match was right up her alley; her crazy-faced selling of even the most basic moves, and her interactions with Hunter, were a delight. There was a camera error in the first half of the match which was annoying, but it only cost the viewer 2-3 seconds, so little harm done.
Winner: Allysin Kay via Cut-throat Saito Suplex
Best Spot: Courtney trapping Allysin in the corner for a 10-punch, then alternating her punches between Allysin and April Hunter on the apron. Sounds simple, but I've never seen it done before...
Match 2: Title Tournament Qualifier - Su Yung vs. 'Sweet' Saraya Knight
Saraya has been enjoying a wonderful sort of 'second wind' for her career for the past few years; how much of that is down to her daughter joining WWE I can't say, but it's well-deserved limelight for the elder Knight who's previously been limited to the UK circuit. To say she was the favourite to win here is kind of underselling it...it's not that Su Yung is bad or 'weak' in any sense - hardly - but she isn't A) a recent SHIMMER champion, and B) scary as all hell. Saraya is both these things, which is basically cheating.
On the whole though, this was as much about elevating Yung as it was establishing Knight as a power player in her first appearance. Saraya's super-confident pre-match promo (and good promos are sadly rare in Shine) set the tone, with Knight basically battering Yung all over the ring with authority, including much hurting of the "lady junk" - no, that's not really legal, but if you were the ref would you wanna call a DQ on Saraya? Didn't think so. That said, Su refused to fold to most of Saraya's offense and fought back hard, trapping Saraya in her signature Yellow Fever scissored armbar several times. The body language by both really sold the story - Su has a wonderful catalogue of fired-up shrieks, and Saraya can communicate pitiless bullying massacre just by walking. I do wish the crowd noise was more consistent - unfortunately it's hard to boo a heel if you respect them as much as most fans do Saraya, but she played a few smart tricks to elicit the right reaction.
Winner: Saraya Knight via Sit-down Powerbomb
Best Spot: The above Powerbomb, or maybe that guy in the audience who kept screaming "AAAH! AAH! AAAAAH!" during Saraya's introduction. What was wrong with him?
Match 3: Rhia O'Reilly vs. Brittney Savage vs. Solo Darling
Another flattering showing for a newbie to the roster? This is becoming a theme...so yes, this was Shine's introduction to the very spunky and very oddly named Solo Darling, not to mention my own personal introduction to Rhia O'Reilly. Brittney Savage, of course, I was aware of from the previous 2 Shines, and I was hoping for a good showing for her here. Brittney is so close to being a really great all-round wrestler; she sells with gusto, always brings her personality into her matches, has a great look and a fitting moveset. The one area she stumbles a little at is transitions, i.e. the stuff that goes between moves, be it moving around the ring or setting up the next spot. Hers have seemed a little awkward or hesitant, which breaks the flow of the match and somewhat takes away from suspension of disbelief (the mental trick that lets a viewer get lost in a match and react like it's 'real'). She's not the only one with that problem - I'm merely singling her out because it's something she could've got some practice for in this match, where there's another body in the fray to theoretically keep things fast-paced, and...well, that didn't happen, and it annoys me.
Which is not to say the match was bad - it was just screwed for time, I think. Granted, with so many matches on the card, and so many of them demanding a big slice of time due to their import, someone had to pull the short straw, but in hindsight, it probably would've been better to cut down on the opener instead of this. 3-ways require a good length (fnar har har) to let everyone contribute and for the combatants to become realistically weakened from divided attacks - sadly we didn't get that here, so poor Brittney didn't get to do much and Solo went down to a move that came out of nowhere and didn't feel like the kind of thing that would deliver 'Instant K.O./DEATH' damage. What did we get? Well, Solo is basically adorable and instantly got over with the crowd. The opening stages, with heels O'Reilly and Savage trying to gang up on Darling and getting a thumping for their troubles, was fun. Though it clashes with my earlier whinging, Savage ducking out of the ring and leaving Solo and Rhia to wail on each other does make sense for her sneaky character, and O'Reilly dishing out most of the punishment is fine since she was easily the biggest of the 3. All the girls played their individual roles of underdog, sneak and bully effortlessly, too; it's just that there wasn't the right (or enough) interaction for those roles to gel together.
Winner: Rhia O'Reilly via Samoan Drop variation.
Best Spot: Darling and Savage trapping O'Reilly in a double-team Single Crab/Japanese Stranglehold combo, then Savage trying to elbow Darling out of it, only for Darling to counter and have both her opponents trapped in matching Strangleholds!
Match 4: Title Tournament Qualifier - Rain (w/ April Hunter) vs. Angelina Love
The second Valkyrie appearance of the evening pit group leader/mouthpiece Rain against the former multi-time TNA Knockouts champion Love (random note: surprising Angelina can still use her TV name elsewhere - don't TNA have the same legal ownership rubbish as WWE?) in the latter's first singles match in Shine. I've never been a fan of Angelina, though she's not bad per se - she's a fine wrestler who just doesn't do anything for my tastes, and is often an uncomfortable fit in the babyface role. That latter point is nixed here by virtue of opposing Rain, who can channel enough obnoxious energy to force a crowd to cheer for Zombie Saddam Hussein if he was on the other side of the ring. (he never is) (which disappoints me, really) By comparison, I do quite like Rain, although her ring work is rarely more than adequate; it's her personality that carries her showings. Also, I will never understand why she took her ring name from hands-down the worst Mortal Kombat character.
Despite my curmudgeonly whining, this was actually a very good match, although the significance of it (star babyface of other promotion vs. leader of top heel unit) was somewhat lost due to how stacked the card was. The spots were sparse but spread sensibly, and the work between them was deftly executed and sold accordingly. Simple holds made meaningful by taking the time to acknowledge them, face comebacks being teased then denied to play with audience emotions - old tricks, but it's surprising how many times they go unused or forgotten. This was pretty much exactly what a mid-card match should be: worthwhile enough to reward viewing, but not so showy it drains the crowd ahead of the main event(s).
Stupid purple water-shooting ninja uh, Rain via Implant DDT
Best Spot: Angelina copying Melina Perez' old corner leg scissors-into-a-kick, but improving it with multiple kicks and a very nimble roll-up afterward.
Match 5: Kellie Skater, Shazza McKenzie & Jessie McKay vs. Nikki Roxx, Santana & Mia Yim
Guess what? More new arrivals getting the red carpet treatment. In this case, the squad of Skater, McKenzie and McKay, all from Australia, over for the weekend for a SHIMMER taping. I don't think I'd ever seen them before this, though I was familiar with their names from past work; though few (if any) Australian promotions have secured any form of international coverage, these three have been successful enough to be semi-regulars on the American circuit for years now. Makes me wonder if they haven't in fact been on past Shine shows and I'm just forgetting. (I more than likely am) The other squad was composed of arguably Shine's best babyfaces, with Santana especially having been on a strong roll of late. On another note, this was Nikki Roxx' birthday, and she spent it working. That gal clearly has much more dedication to her work than I do - although that said, she does get to slam people on their heads for a living...
This one was a cracker, and again, very silly but in a good way. The bubbly spirits of the Aussies caught on with everyone very quickly, and despite some random booing (who the hell can find it in their hearts to dislike Jessie McKay, I ask you...) the crowd were enthused throughout. It was obviously going to end with a clusterf***, but it took its time getting there, and let all the participants show off individually first, with Skater's half-crazed mannerisms a particular highlight. It's a bit odd in hindsight that the birthday girl's team came up short, given that there was no real storyline reason saying they had to - and more surprising, Santana was the one to get pinned after a well-pushed undefeated streak over the last however-many shows. But, neither of those facts are really going to change much for future shows, and the important thing is, the match made everyone who saw it smile. Unless they're horrible people or have no mouths.
Winner: Jessie McKay (representing the Oz Squad) via Boyfriend Stealer on Santana
Best Spot: The 'body-popping' was fun, but the crazy rush towards the end, with roll-up-alooza from Roxx and McKay and everyone hitting their biggest moves was the joy for me.
Match 6: Title Tournament Qualifier - Jessicka Havok vs. Madison Eagles
Madison Eagles, former SHIMMER champ. Jessicka Havok, former WSU champ. Both the best in their home promotions for a good long while. They'd never faced each other before. That sort of pedigree carries a lot of weight of expectation behind it - except amongst those weird people who don't believe in Havok's ability, saying she got where she is purely through her intimidating presence or somesuch. Now, granted, WSU's tendency towards 'garbage' matches (by which I mean street fights and other things with weapons, not actual rubbish) does/did serve to mask the skill level of some of their exports - it doesn't require much technical prowess to wallop someone with a chair, after all. But, I really don't see how anyone can look at what Havok has been doing in Shine and sneer. Her ability to be a convincing scary hardass isn't just a matter of looks, it's in how she carries herself, all the time, and what she does with a match when she's in control. She has her heel motions perfected, and while I wouldn't call her my favourite it's never less than fascinating to see her at work.
Of course, normally Jessicka faces someone smaller or weaker than her, and it's a simple matter of lording it over them. Madison Eagles is not that sort of girl, so for the first time in a while Havok is on an equal footing, and the tale of her match goes very differently. Both ladies traded the advantage over a very even match that was perfectly paced to match the time it had - though if a future show is less cluttered, a longer rematch would be most welcome, because I could watch these two smack each other around for hours. This match pretty much had everything: big moves, innovative holds, comedy moments (love Eagles being caught out on the forks in her kneepads!) smart selling, brawling around the outside, super-tense near-falls, the lot. It's actually hard to talk about, since I'm usually looking for points to complain about and there wasn't really anything bad...it's just maybe unfortunate that there were other matches after this, since what the hell chance did they have of following it up?
Winner: Havok via Air Raid Crash
Best Spot: Both ladies hitting each other with Big Boots on the apron and tumbling off. Just because you know when a spot like this is gonna happen doesn't make the impact any less wince-inducing. Oof.
Match 7: Mercedes Martinez vs. Evie
As if being the longest-reigning WSU champ (a reign during which she beat basically every 'name' performer on the indy scene) wasn't enough, one quick Google image search of Mercedes should leave the uninitiated with no doubt that she is Not Someone To Mess With. The one downside to being so clearly kick-ass is that it's impossible for Mercedes to be a true heel before a crowd like the Shine audience, who appreciate good butt-kickers over everything else; hence she's been used in a tweener role, freely skirting the line between good and bad as need be. Evie, by comparison, is so tiny and cute it's impossible to imagine her as anything other than a twee babyface. A heel turn for her would be like branding a Swastika on a puppy; you don't end up with a dog of evil, you just get a fluffy thing with a wonky cross on its arse.
Naturally, Mercedes controlled most of the match, though enough time was set aside to allow for Evie to hit some big, acrobatic moves during her comebacks. The New Zealander seemed a little awkward at times, but recovered from her momentary wobbles deftly, and carried her share of the match well. Audience fatigue may have soured opinions a little on this one, though; this was, what, at least the 3rd match of the evening giving a star performance to a spunky babyface underdog, and while that's an easy story to get right it's still a story we'd all seen twice before in the same show. That plus the comedown after Havok/Eagles slightly hurt this one, though it's held up better on second viewing.
Winner: Martinez via Fisherman Buster
Best Spot: Evie's Frankensteiner from the top - which might have been botched a little, since Mercedes' landing looked horrifying. That said, she completed the match, and apparently was doing another show the next night, so I'm assuming (hoping) it was just a really sick spot and not an actual injury-causing accident.
Match 8: Title Tournament Qualifier - Ivelisse Velez (w/ April Hunter) vs. Jazz
First of all, I'd like to acknowledge April Hunter's contributions to the show - for someone who's ostensibly retired from full-time wrestling, making 3 separate appearances over 1 show is a lot of activity, and she's a great manager, always adding to the match but never stealing the spotlight from the stars. Now, Ivelisse has had a pretty crazy story over the last year or so: part of WWE's rebooted Tough Enough reality show (which doesn't seem to be getting another season - a shame, I thought it was very entertaining), she managed to convince the higher-ups over there to hire her for their developmental territory, and had a good run there, first as a partner for Paige, then later as a face when the show started hitting (web) TV - then she was released from her contract for no real reason, as is WWE's usual way. Luckily, the increased exposure she gained from that stunted run has led to her being a hot prospect for indy promotions, and Shine were quick to snap her up. Jazz, meanwhile, has been in the indy trenches practically all the time since her own (more successful) WWE run ended, and to her credit she's never taken the easy way out and traded entirely on her name value; when she appears on a show, she makes her mark. You'll know which mark. It's the one shaped like a bootprint on someone's butt.
This was probably the match I was most looking forward to, as a bit of a shameless mark for Ivelisse, and though it didn't quite reach the absurd standards I was hoping for, it was very good and had me on the edge of my seat throughout. Starting the match with her ribs taped, Ivelisse was selling the after-effects of an assault from a babyface gang at the end of the last show - something I probably should've guessed was phony, because really, who takes a month to heal from wrestling moves? However, Ivelisse is so good at this that she had me fooled, along with most of the crowd, right up 'til the moment when she pulled the tape away. It was surprising to see Velez control as much of the action as she did, trapping Jazz in her plethora of interesting and largely unique submission holds - though when Jazz fought back, Ivelisse cowered cartoonishly, because who wouldn't? Needless to say, with Hunter at ringside, there was a veritable ticking clock over the match, counting down to the point where a Valkyrie run-in would turn the tide...but this time, it didn't work out for them. What does that mean? Who knows, as the post-match con-fab between Velez, Hunter and Rain didn't result in much. Judging by the crowd's reaction, they were expecting Velez to either get beat down for failing or flip out herself, turning face either way, and...yeah, me too. Still, Shine's long-term booking hasn't let itself down on the previous shows, and if they wanna hold off on this, I'll trust them. It was a damn good match in any case.
Winner: Jazz via Jazz Stinger
Best Spot: Ivelisse's Gogoplata > Undertaker's Gogoplate. Any time I can actually think for a moment that Jazz will tap out, something remarkable has happened.
Mat - woops, nvm.
No sense in not acknowledging this - after Jazz/Ivelisse, an intermission was called while the backstage staff erected the cage for the last match. The cameras kept rolling for the first little while, since they had an angle planned, where all the girls present (well, except Valkyrie and the two in the main event) came out to the entrance to sing 'Happy Birthday' for Nikki Roxx. They even brought a cake! Of course, anyone who knows anything about wrestling can tell you that cakes are only brought out for the sake of being used as weapons, and so it was here, as Mercedes Martinez pretended to be all friendly before cheap-shotting Nikki to the ground and breaking the cake over her head! This was all handled very well, with hostess Daffney's horror and "J'accuse!" faces pushing the vileness of Mercedes' actions. Also: the camera lingering over Mercedes as she retreats, with Brittney Savage on the side of the frame kinda shrugging as if to say "Meh, big deal". And people wonder why I like her so. This is all presumably set-up for a Mercedes/Nikki match on Shine 10, which will be their 3rd in the promotion. Score's currently tied at 1-1...
Unfortunately, after that, the intermission continued...and continued...and then the live feed cut out because they'd gone over their timeslot. The good news is, watching the show on demand now means the huge time-gap has been erased, but it shot the live experience in the foot; I basically had to quit watching at this point since it was past 5am and I work Saturdays. As a result, unlike the rest of the card, my thoughts on the next match are based entirely on a single viewing.
Match 9: Arkham Asylum Cage Match - Leva Bates vs. Kimberly
Now, the Shine production team put together a really great music video detailing this feud, but for the sake of completeness (or something) I'll give you a rundown here. Kimberly had been with Shine since the first show, and she just couldn't win. Even when she had everything going her way, some unexpected or underhanded trick would lead to her taking the pin, and it was clearly frustrating her. By the time Shine 5 rolled around, she was booked in a tag match against Made In Sin, but couldn't convince anyone to be her partner - I mean, who wants to pair with a loser? As it turned out, Leva Bates didn't mind, and the two put forth a great effort...but were ultimately thwarted, with Kimberly again getting pinned. Leva tried to be sympathetic, but this was the final straw for Kimberly, who attacked and beat the snot out of her temporary partner. Thus began a series of matches over Shines 6, 7 and 8. Leva took the first, her first victory in the promotion, then lost a Last Woman Standing rematch, before winning the subsequent I Quit match after Leva was K.O.'d and couldn't respond to the ref. Obviously, they needed to one-up the previous gimmick matches with an even crazier gimmick for this one, which most suspect to be the blow-off, so how about surrounding the ring with chicken-wire fence and making it so a winner can only be called when the other girl has been wrapped in a straitjacket? Seriously.
While I have loved how the storyline between Leva and Kimberly has developed, the individual matches have been...not so good. There's usually at least some fun spots to be had, but the girls seemed awkward when trying to 'connect the dots' between sequences, and seemed to run out of ideas long before they ran out of time. Though they managed their time a lot better this time around, the match still wasn't quite as crazy or brutal as the tone of the feud has perhaps demanded, although I give props to both girls for trying their best to make it work. The cage in this case was kind of a small, malformed thing - if they'd been working to standard 'escape the cage' rules the match would've been over in about 20 seconds - though its unsafe looks did lend the match a certain extra tension and it was used well. What wasn't so helpful was the bloody straitjacket, which is one of those gimmicks that sounds a lot cooler than it is; they couldn't really manage a plausible near-fall with it, and it took Leva forever to actually get it on Kimberly for the win, which killed the mood.
Winner: Leva via jacket-ing following a Backcracker
Best Spot: Leva's dropkick from the top of the cage, if only for the sheer guts it took to even try. You'd never see me trying to stand on something that wobbly, that's for sure!
So, that was Shine 9 - a damn good, if very long, show. The best of Shine? No, not really - I'd go with Shine 7 as the best I've seen so far. 9 somewhat suffered by a few technical issues; I mentioned some in the body of the review, but there were also teething troubles with the audio, its quality dipping at random moments and the entrance music cutting out during the Aussie team's entrance before Match 5, and the order of matches felt somewhat random and chaotic rather than the sensible build from smallish openers to progressively bigger, more important affairs seen on past cards. Even with all that said, though, I don't regret my purchase of the event in the least, and I'm already eagerly awaiting what comes next from these girls. I don't really have a rating system for wrestling shows, but if I did this'd be a 9 out of 10, aptly enough.
Shine 9 and all previous shows are available as on-demand video from WWN Live. For more information, check out the Shine homepage.