SHINE 13 was a night of twists and turns as two best friends found themselves on opposing fronts, while a shrewd and villainous champion looked to continue her title reign against a familiar foe of late.

Circumstances out of SHINE’s control meant last month’s show had seen the company enter its second year in somewhat subdued fashion, but within minutes of SHINE 13 any worries of a repeat incident were thrown swiftly over the ropes (which, thankfully, were more secure than last month) as the women of SHINE – including a host of debutantes – brought things firmly back to the lofty standards we’ve come to expect month in, month out.

In the main event, Valkyrie leader Rain‘s SHINE Championship was on the line against a fellow veteran in Angelina Love. It was the third match between the two in SHINE with both women sharing a victory apiece prior to last night, so Love in particular had everything to play for, knowing a defeat here would likely see her have to make her way to the back of the pecking order. With Valkyrie enforcer April Hunter absent from her usual position at ringside, the playing field was levelled, and while Rain put her heel cunning to good use a number of times throughout the match, she showed that even on her own her championship credentials are not to be sniffed at, pinning Love – cleanly – with her patented Implant DDT after a great, evenly-matched contest to make sure the title stays firmly in Valkyrie’s hands for another month.

If there was a Venn diagram of heel stables in women’s wrestling (and I have no doubt that there is one somewhere), it wouldn’t take long to notice certain overlaps. One in particular is that of the returning Allysin Kay, who found herself in a dilemma of loyalty last night as she and her Valkyrie team-mate Ivelisse went up against the team of the new, slimline Amazing Kong and Kay’s best friend Jessicka Havok, who leads WSU’s Midwest Militia. Havok had already issued Kay with a “me or them” ultimatum, and for most of the match it looked like friendship would prevail, with Kay refusing to wrestle when she found herself in the ring with Havok. However, in a moment of insanity Kay lunged at Kong with a discus clothesline only for Kong to duck and Kay’s forearm to wipe Havok straight off her feet, before Ivelisse hit her with the Vertigo Kick to make it two wins out of two for Valkyrie. Neither Havok nor Kay looked too impressed with the finished, and it’ll certainly be interesting to see how this transpires in the coming months as we discover where Allysin Kay’s loyalties lie.

It was also a night of debuts, with three women working their first SHINE matches. Canadian rookie Xandra Bale impressed in her maiden match, putting in a good performance in the four-way opening match of the show against La Rosa Negra, Taeler Hendrix and the victorious Su Yung, who continues to impress on the undercard. Elsewhere, Nevaeh got off to a winning start in SHINE, defeating Leva (dressed in an awesome Silent Hill nurse costume) in a solid match thanks to a distraction from her friend Sassy Stephie. Stephie herself also impressed with her S-N-S Express partner Jessie Belle, defeating Amber O’Neal and the ever-impressive Santana Garrett in a fine tag team match.

The match of the night, however, featured another debutante in Scottish sensation and Pro Wrestling:EVE Champion Nikki Storm, who started her US tour in thrilling fashion going up against Mia Yim in what was billed as an International Dream Match. Both Storm and Yim brought the match to each other, with Storm her normal feisty self, showing no sign of nerves on her American debut. After about a million near-falls (including Yim kicking out of BOTH of Storm’s finishers) a brutal and punishing 450 degree double-stomp saw Yim come out the winner, but with plenty of heads turned towards Nikki Storm, who it’s wonderful to see finally getting the global recognition she deserves.

Meanwhile, it was a mixed bag of results for Daffney‘s All-Star Squad. Many were expecting the experienced Nikki Roxx to make quick work of rising Canadian star Leah Von Dutch last night, making only her second appearance for SHINE, and although Roxx triumphed in the end thanks to the Barbie Crusher, Von Dutch put in a gutsy, spirited performance, matching Roxx hold-for-hold for vast portions of the match and making a serious statement for herself as a performer. Daffney’s other client, Solo Darling, wasn’t so fortunate, losing to Mercedes Martinez in controversial fashion following a low blow while the referee was looking elsewhere. Roxx ran in after the match to prevent a further beatdown, only for Von Dutch to come out and even the numbers. Finally, Kimberly entered the ring to make the final save, exiting with the All-Star Squad, who may well have a new addition to the group.

SHINE 13 was certainly a welcome return to form for the company, with quality wrestling from start to finish and a real sense of importance to the occasion. The introduction of the SHINE Championship two shows ago has added structure to the events while adding a new caveat to the results of undercard matches. With Rain apparently retiring at the end of the year and a plethora of potential successors in the waiting, SHINE continues to keep us on our toes, with plenty to ponder while we eagerly anticipate next month’s offering.