SHINE Week: Looking Back at One Year of SHINE Wrestling

As SHINE Wrestling celebrates its one year anniversary this week, Diva Dirt celebrates one year of SHINE with a series of features all week long, culminating with coverage of SHINE 11 on Friday, July 12.

In the fickle, judgmental world we live in today, it takes a great deal of courage, and perhaps a modicum of insanity, to break away from the norm and try something new and different. Fads and fashions have come and gone, stars have risen and fallen from grace in the blink of an eye, but every now and then something will come about from off the beaten track and reap the rewards as a result.

SHINE Wrestling has done just that. The brainchild of Full Impact Pro and EVOLVE promoter Sal Hamaoui, and with the help of former SHIMMER star Lexie Fyfe and the ‘Scream Queen’ Daffney, SHINE was created as a means of maintaining momentum and interest between the lengthy breaks in the SHIMMER schedule and give some new, up-and-coming talent the chance to show what they can do in front of a wider audience.

Within just one year, however, it has come into its own as a standalone promotion and one of the best ones out there, to boot.

For us viewers, the story begins on July 20th of last year, as SHINE 1 played out to an electric crowd at The Orpheum in Ybor City, Florida, and across the world on Internet pay per view. The main event of this inaugural show saw a dream clash of veterans, as the WWE-bound “Queen of Wrestling” Sara Del Rey faced former WWE Women’s Champion Jazz in singles action. “The Female Fighting Phenom” would go on to be the centerpiece of SHINE’s early shows, headlining the first five, including an unsuccessful challenge to then-SHIMMER Champion Saraya Knight’s title at SHINE 4.

Meanwhile, the under-card was growing at a rate of knots, with new wrestlers joining the roster every month to positive reactions (indeed, this week’s anniversary show will be the first without any debuts). Rising stars such as Santana, Su Yung and Kimberly have had their profiles elevated significantly from impressive performances in the SHINE ring, while established fixtures of women’s wrestling like Mercedes Martinez, Nikki Roxx and Rain have shown us exactly why they have the reputations they have, consistently putting on great matches and setting the yardstick high for the stars of the future.

The turn of the new year was a catalyst that saw SHINE bloom into something truly special. The formation of the heel stable Valkyrie at January’s SHINE 6, led by Rain and comprising the villainous tag team of Allysin Kay and Taylor Made with their cohort April Hunter and wildcard former NXT talent Ivelisse, shook the foundations of the promotion to the core, as they asserted their dominance over SHINE in the shows that followed. Still going strong despite a number of setbacks, Valkyrie show scant sign of slowing down any time soon.

At the same time, the first major singles feuds of the company were entering full swing, as we saw Reby Sky prove her mettle as a serious wrestler, coming back from two comprehensive beatings at the hands of Jessicka Havok to pull off a shock victory in their third match at SHINE 8, and force Havok to bite the bullet and declare her respect for the charismatic rookie.

The feud of the year, however, belongs to the magnificent, seven month-long rollercoaster rivalry between Leva Bates and Kimberly. After a brief run as tag partners turned sour and Kimberly’s mental state reached breaking point, they exchanged victories month after month in crazier and crazier circumstances, finally culminating in a brutal Steel Cage Straitjacket Match at the main event of SHINE 9 that saw Leva walk out victorious.

So what is it that SHINE is doing right? The format, for a start. While independent wrestling has embraced the Internet pay per view for some time now, the thought of a company working entirely through that medium on a monthly basis was unheard of prior to last year. In a downturned economy with a wealth of wrestling already available, monthly iPPVs were a huge risk to take, but the sheer quality of the product makes every show a joy to look forward to, and the chance to see such talent so frequently and with shows so readily available to viewers internationally has worked wonders for the company’s reputation, reaching in just a couple of months a level that would take lesser companies years. Women’s wrestling promotions are few and far between in comparison to their male counterparts, and SHINE’s ubiquitous nature on the women’s wrestling scene, from its frequent schedule to its professional-looking, regularly updated website and presence on social media, has been a normalizing force for the company, helping shake off the reputation of women’s wrestling as a novelty or a tokenism and propelling it into the independent scene’s larger leagues.

The production of the shows is top-notch, and broadcaster WWNLive does a great job with the live stream. Lenny Leonard’s commentary is clear, knowledgeable and entertaining – especially when accompanied at the announce desk by Daffney, whose role as SHINE hostess is sorely missed but who certainly still has plenty to offer as a manager. Combine that with a perfectly-balanced roster – featuring just the right number of rookies, veterans and everyone in between – and well-timed, well-booked, concise matches that showcase the best of the talent’s abilities without spiralling into the self-indulgence that so many indy matches fall victim to – and SHINE are onto a winning formula.

What’s next then? Well, this Friday will see SHINE hold a tournament to crown their first ever champion. 14 women will be competing for the prize – 14 of the biggest stars in women’s wrestling today; current and former champions of major promotions, rising stars hungry for a shot at greatness, and stalwarts of the industry keen to taste the glory of victory one more time. For such a young company, this championship has sure become a hell of an important one, and with the progress they’ve made over the past year it’s not hard to see why. In just twelve months SHINE has set a new standard for how women’s wrestling – and indeed all independent wrestling – should be done, both in and outside of the ring. Here’s to many more years to come!

Congratulations on a year well done, SHINE!

SHINE returns to iPPV for its one year show this Friday night. Order here.

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