SHINE 24 in Review: Havok’s Back, Kay?

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In this modern world of empty excess, round-the-clock news and constant global instability, it’s difficult to find anything truly surprising or shocking nowadays. Indeed, I think the last three or four moments of genuine speechlessness I’ve experienced in my life have all been sport-related (including good ol’ fake sport), and even then they were spread over a pretty hefty period of time.

So you can imagine my elation upon watching SHINE 24 on Friday night, when SHINE kicked off their 2015 in explosive fashion with an excellent card featuring its fair share of solid debuts, a truly breakout championship performance and a shock return that absolutely nobody saw coming. Want to know more? Let’s jump down the rabbit hole:

Kicking off the show was “Bullet Babe” Amber Gallows, who defeated Amanda Rodriguez comprehensively, going straight after her opponent right from the off and simply refusing to relent, defeating Rodriguez after a couple of minutes with an STO. To Amanda’s credit, the up-and-comer sold Gallows’ offense like a pro and had a smattering of hope spots, including a very close roll-up, but Gallows was in a whole different gear that night, turning up the intensity 100%, with no wasted motion and no time squandered pandering to the crowd. Being accompanied to the ring by her husband, Bullet Club member Doc Gallows, was a nice touch and helps solidify Amber’s role as a fully-fledged member of the group – which is great news for SHINE too, as it now has one of the most successful and well-known active stables in wrestling represented on its roster.

Solo Darling and Luscious Latasha came to the ring expecting a singles match, but were interrupted by SoCal Val and her Valifornia stable (sans the injured Nevaeh) – the team of BTY (Marti Belle and Jayme Jameson), and Val’s “insurance policy” Andréa – former TNA Knockout Rosie Lottalove, who has apparently lost over 120 pounds since we last saw her a few years ago, and looks absolutely incredible. With Andréa by her side, Val – who is currently doing some of the best mic work in all of wrestling – proposed a tag team match between BTY and Darling and Latasha.

The ensuing match was a short, fun impromptu encounter, with Latasha taking the brunt of the damage for her team, being isolated by the more seasoned duo of Belle and Jameson, who made fast tags and were quick to neuter any fightback attempts. However, an inadvertently-misplaced fallaway slam from Jameson saw Latasha end up right in the corner of her partner, allowing Solo Darling – decked out Tony the Tiger-style, complete with box of Frosted Flakes (an apparently legal weapon, considering the referee’s indifference to it being used as such) to get the hot tag in a last-gasp effort to clean house – but in the end it was experience, numbers and brute strength that would come between Darling and victory, as BTY hit a huge double powerbomb to get the win. After the match, we got a sensational glimpse of what Andréa is capable of, entering the ring to rub salt in their defeated opponents’ wounds, with a big dropkick to Darling and a devastating spinning rack bomb to Latasha. With such an insurance policy in place, and with a team like BTY and the soon-to-be-returned Nevaeh in tow, Valifornia look set to be a truly dominant force in SHINE in 2015.

This might not be particularly thrilling news for Valkyrie, who are still a force to be reckoned with in SHINE despite having fallen in stature in recent months. The group came to the ring, with Allysin Kay – now seemingly the leader – declaring that they are here to re-establish their dominance.

Recognising the importance of solidarity and strength in numbers, the three wrestlers Valkyrie’s members were booked for singles action with – Leva Bates, Athena and SHINE debutante Jessica James – came to the ring together. James was up first, taking on Taylor Made – who’s been on a winning streak of late, and who has really come into her own as a singles competitor – but James had a few tricks of her own up her sleeve, showing some creative offense including her patented JJ Kick and a vicious headscissors takedown to a kneeling Taylor Made, before Made ultimately got the win with a neckbreaker.

After the match, Noemi Bosques – the pro boxer and enforcer of Made’s recent rival La Rosa Negra – came out to sneak attack Made, but was quickly subdued by Made’s Valkyrie cohorts. Negra was not at this month’s SHINE event, but it looks clear that her and Made’s feud is far from over.

Next up was Su Yung, coming straight out of Immortal’s “Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms” music video to take on Leva Bates, who, considering her attire and her cryptic, conspiracy-laden promo she released before the show, appeared to be some sort of masked anarchist vigilante. They had a cracking match too – Su Yung continues to show how much of a virtuoso she is in the ring with a string of fantastic moves, including beautiful senton to the outside, a textbook La Compada – driving Bates into the bottom turnbuckle simultaneously, and a rope hung neckbreaker that left Bates in a crumpled heap on the mat. Leva tried her best to match the aggression, briefly taking control of the match a series of stiff strikes and a sweet Northern Lights Suplex, but Yung quickly regained the advantage, locking in The Purge. However, she refused to let go despite Bates having a hold of the ropes, and the referee rang the bell. Although Bates got the DQ victory, her physical state after the match – and Valkyrie enforcer April Hunter‘s approving look – made it clear who the real winner was here. That’s what happens when you listen to Alex Jones, Leva!

Finally, Allysin Kay defeated Athena in a superb match-up that was exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from wrestlers of their calibre. Many people had been whispering that this was a potential Match of the Year candidate, and while it didn’t quite reach those lofty heights, it was a gung-ho race-to-the-finish that charged into action right from the start, with hard strikes and some marvellous mat-based sequences. Kay’s character is brilliantly detestable, almost a foil to the no-nonsense tactics of other SHINE heels such as Amber Gallows, taking every possible moment to taunt and goad both her opponent and the audience, even as far as lifting her pinkie mid-submission. Athena, who was making only her third SHINE appearance and her first in several months, was the usual bundle of energy and power that we’ve seen her be in other promotions, keeping up with everything Kay delivered to her and almost reaching the jaws of victory, going up top for the O-Face before April Hunter knocked her down, giving Kay just enough time to recuperate and to reverse the eventual O-Face attempt into a brutal discus clothesline for the win. It could’ve done without the interference finish, but it was subtler than most and I suppose it made sense considering Valkyrie’s numbers advantage. A thumbs up nonetheless.

In the semi-main, SHINE Tag Team Champions Legendary (Brandi Wine and Malia Hosaka) teamed up with their disciple ThunderKitty to take on The Kimber (Leah) Bombs,the makeshift team of the Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee and Cherry Bomb) and Leah Von Dutch, who were looking for revenge following a brace of losses in tag and singles competition at last month’s show. It was enormous fun too – while referee distraction is a tactic that’s part-and-parcel of tag matches, it’s not often that a team uses it as their flagship strategy – but that’s what the cunning and remorseless Legendary did, provoking interference from the non-legal match participants at every turn, forcing the referee to admonish their opponents and leaving them free to Hosaka, Wine and TK’s whims. Excellent stuff. Surprisingly enough, however, it wasn’t sufficient to win them the match, as the Kimber Bombs finally had enough and took out Hosaka and Wine on the apron, allowing Von Dutch as the legal woman to hit the KLM on ThunderKitty for the victory and spoil Legendary’s manager Leilani Kai‘s birthday. Not sure where it’ll go from here, but you’d think the Kimber Bombs will get another shot at those tag belts sooner or later after that winning performance.

In the SHINE Championship match, current champion Mia Yim took on Santana, who earned her shot after defeating Yim in non-title action at an FIP show a fortnight previously. If Yim’s fixation on former champion Ivelisse had been clouding her mind on that occasion, she showed no sign of any similar distraction this time, laying on the aggro early on and preventing Santana from using her speed and flexibility that she’s so well-known for. As the match progressed though, Santana started to pull herself together and up the ante, charging at Yim with everything she had and even hitting a suicide dive to the outside with pinpoint precision. As Lenny Leonard rightfully mentioned on commentary, it was great to see a woman like Santana, SHINE’s first truly home-grown star, have her dedication and her hard work pay off with a such a superb breakout performance – especially after coming back from such a period of misuse as she had in TNA. In the end, it was Yim who would retain her title after a Package Piledriver, but Santana can hold her head up high after a fantastic effort.

That wasn’t all though – after Santana and Yim embraced in respect of one another, Amber Gallows – Santana’s former mentor and tag team partner – attacked her and the pair brawled to the back. As Mia looked on, miffed, Valkyrie appeared out of nowhere and took her out with a sneak attack. The onslaught continued, taking out Leva, Athena and Jessica James who came out to make the save, and Allysin Kay took the mic to reassert the statement she had made earlier.

Little did she know what would happen next.

Jessicka Havok, Kay’s former best friend and now bitter nemesis, returned to a SHINE ring for the first time since defeating Kay in August and leaving for TNA, clearing all traces of Valkyrie from the vicinity and forcing them to retreat, disgruntled, to the back while the faces celebrated in the ring. A truly shocking and unexpected surprise – and one that begs several questions, few of which I’m capable of answering right now. Havok’s TNA status is of little interest to me (although I hope for her own financial and aspirational sake that she can maintain both positions), but if she’s back in SHINE on a regular, or even semi-regular basis then everything just got a whole lot more exciting. Sure, she’s got Valkyrie in her sights – but what about Valifornia and the newest addition to the SHINE roster, Andréa? There’s a lot we can work with here. This is very exciting indeed!

SHINE 24 was a huge statement to make for a first show of the year, and it ticked every single box. With not a single dud match, plenty of big surprises and more than enough storyline progression, it leaves us with plenty to ponder as we wait for SHINE 25 in March. All this without even having two of the promotion’s biggest names (Ivelisse and Nevaeh) even present – and when they get back in the picture the dynamic of the company will shift even more.

It’s also worth pointing out that this month’s show was one of the shortest ones in a long time – clocking in at just under two hours. It didn’t need to be any longer, and I’m glad SHINE’s higher-ups had the sense to book the show in this way rather than letting it spiral into self-indulgence like so many indy shows do. A great wrestling mind knows exactly what to leave out as well as what to include.

All in all, SHINE 24 gets a resounding thumbs up. Bring on the next one!

Miss the show? You can watch the replay on WWNLive.com.