In a night that could have been a disastrous affair remembered for the seemingly endless technical difficulties, Pro-Wrestling: EVE’s debut Internet pay per view last night will instead — and thankfully — be remembered for the incredible performances put on by the oft-overlooked European talent, including but not limited to headliners Jenny Sjodin and Alpha Female, Nikki Storm and Kay Lee Ray.
Pro-Wrestling: EVE’s “No Man’s Land” (a term that dominated Twitter’s top stories last night) was the first opportunity for many around the world to sample the product, and meet for the first time, the talent on offer on the other side of the world. As promoter Dann Read told us on Diva Dirt Live earlier this week, women’s wrestling fans on the Internet (where the large majority of non-WWE fans can be found) have a tendency to overlook the talent in Europe in favor of what’s going on in the US and Japan, but after last night, hopefully that will change. Speaking to my fellow Diva Dirt writers — Katelyn (based in Australia), Steven and Cryssi (both based in the US) — who’ve never seen EVE before, they all gushed over at least a handful of talents on the show. EVE’s mission to bring the European talent to a wider audience, then, I’d say was a success.
The headline bout between Pro-Wrestling: EVE Champion Jenny Sjodin and Alpha Female was without a doubt the highlight of the show despite an incredibly frustrating finish that saw both counted out after crashing through the timekeeper’s table. This grievance aside, the match was edge-of-your-seat excitement up until that point. With two very contrasting styles — Sjodin as the technical submission specialist, Alpha as the powerful giant — the bout could have really gone either way, but thankfully, the scales tipped in the right direction; it was a perfect balance of sheer brute force and technical ability. As mentioned, the only thing that proved a letdown about this match was the way it ended. Fans, both at the Delphi Club in Sudbury, and at home, willed the match to go on, be restarted, or for both women to return at the end of the show and have a second match, but sadly, none of this materialized. Explaining this decision to Diva Dirt Live last night in a post-show interview, promoter Dann Read said had the match ended in a clean finish, “then what?” From a promoter’s perspective, for the sake of long term booking, I can understand why the match ended the way it did, but as a ravenous fan who was enthralled by the match, I was none too pleased. (Enter furious fist-shaking here.) Perhaps the other gripe was that the match didn’t close the iPPV, but again, Read’s reasoning last night on Diva Dirt Live for this made sense: the final match of a tournament usually goes on last, he explained, as well as asking the question of how viewers would’ve felt if that polarizing match finish closed the entire show? Good point.
As for the rest of the show, which was made up of a one-night Queen of the Ring tournament to crown the next challenger for Sjodin’s Pro-Wrestling: EVE Championship, as well as an impromptu tag team match, there were plenty of highlights. Firstly, the tournament format worked well, giving new audiences to see some of the talent not just once, but two or three times, allowing a real feel for what they can do. After a couple of decent if unexciting matches, the show really kicked into gear with the third bout — Rhia O’Reilly vs April Davids — and soon found its feet. The first round match between Kay Lee Ray and Carmel Jacob was phenomenal, and in my opinion, only second to Sjodin vs Alpha.
Scottish star Nikki Storm and daredevil Kay Lee Ray certainly benefited from their three tournament matches as they are left ingrained in fans’ minds now the show is said and done. Even though I’m already familiar with the EVE product, this is only my second time seeing Storm and first time seeing Ray, and both proved to be the bright prospects promoter Dann Read told me they were. Storm was likened by Diva Dirt’s Cryssi to US star Sara Del Rey, and in some ways, that comparison really rings true. Like the Queen of Wrestling, Storm is simply that damn good. Despite only wrestling for three years, Storm is a natural in the ring and brought an intensity to each of her three matches. On top of that, her calculating heel character is a breath of fresh air. Rather than being a “bitchy” heel, Storm’s character has several layers. She’s a smart heel, and it’s about time we saw more of those in women’s wrestling. Winning the Queen of the Ring tournament, Storm has certainly cemented herself as one of EVE’s top stars now, and with the skills, personality and mic work she showed last night, she should fit in nicely with the Alphas and Sjodins.
Meanwhile, Kay Lee Ray, who may have suffered a concussion during her first match (unbeknownst to EVE management until after the show), is definitely a girl with a future as bright as her flame-colored hair. One must wonder if Ray is a fan of Jeff Hardy, because there’s a lot of him in her — from the flamboyant hair, to her Swanton Bomb finisher, to her daredevil style — but also like Hardy, there’s a natural charisma there that fans just can’t help but get behind. Considering the fact that Ray was injured in the first of her three matches and still put on two great matches following it, it’s incredible to think what she could be capable of when 100%. With Britani Knight now gone, Kay Lee Ray could be the next young prodigy in British women’s wrestling. Watch this space!
Though I pinpoint those four talents, I don’t want to take away anything from the others. Rhia O’Reilly and the Glamour Gym (Carmel Jacob and Sara-Marie Taylor) showed marked improvements compared to their first few matches in EVE. As mentioned, Jacob vs Lee Ray was a fantastic match, ranking up there with the headline bout. As for Sara-Marie? Well, an impression she certainly did make becoming the talk of Twitter for her extra-short booty shorts. (If you’ve got it, flaunt it!) April Davids, who like Sjodin is part of the Northern Shooters Gym, is just as talented as the champion and showed that last night in two great matches.
While the talent shone, that’s not to say there aren’t areas for improvement in terms of the production and broadcast. It should be stressed that the Internet pay per view was originally planned to feature more than it did — video packages were filmed and edited, commercials were due to air, and of course, two bonus matches were advertised — but right before the show, the power at the venue went out hence the late start (around 15 minutes after the advertised start time). With that in mind, certain allowances must be made. As promoter Read explained to us on Diva Dirt Live last night, the power outage affected several things that could have added to the ambiance of the show: the outage meant that the lighting trusses around the ring weren’t working, which resulted in less lighting than planned; video screens (titantrons) at the top of the ramp weren’t working; and the system which was to air the aforementioned video packages, commercials and bonus matches, stopped working. All of these things, obviously, would have enhanced the show and made it less “static” with just match after match, but a power outage can’t be controlled. There were also video quality issues for the first half of the show before the interval, but for those who did stick around, the second half was much better. As with any iPPV from an independent company with a small budget, it’s all about trial and error. The production isn’t going to be at a WWE level. To make a comparison to another female wrestling company on Internet pay per view, WSU’s first few shows were not perfect either. I’m sure this will be a learning experience, and like WSU, the EVE iPPVs in future — if there are more — can improve as they go on.
Structurally, one could nitpick at certain things such as the placement of the title match, but none of this harmed the match quality. I was left pondering why the finish to the title match was left open-ended for a sequel when we also had a tournament to crown the next number one contender. Of course, at the end of the show a three-way match was teased, but I’d rather see Sjodin vs Alpha 2 rather than a triple threat. That’s not to take anything away from Storm, though, as I’m sure technically, all three women could put on a masterclass.
Ultimately, while the story could have been the technical issues that plagued the show, the EVE talent made sure that didn’t happen. Instead, the story here is the talent that is on offer in Europe, and specifically in EVE. Much of the roster stepped up to the plate last night. I can only hope those new fans stick with EVE and spread the word.
Despite a shaky start into the world of Internet pay per views, No Man’s Land was most definitely an enjoyable show — well, if I block the Sjodin/Alpha finish from memory.
I’m going to stab you, Dann Read.
DVD quality replays of No Man’s Land will be available at www.diva-dirt.com/evelive from today for five days.
The two bonus matches originally due to air on the broadcast will be posted for free on EVE’s YouTube channel.
No Man’s Land, as well as the past four EVE shows, will be available on DVD from Monday at www.evewrestling.com.