Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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SHINE 20 in Review: Serena and Ivelisse Go the Distance


SHINE 20 ended in historic fashion on Friday night as Ivelisse and Serena Deeb waged war for a full hour over the SHINE Championship – with no clear winner as the timer reached zero.

Following Serena’s shock pin over Ivelisse at last month’s ten-woman elimination tag masterpiece, the stage was set for a rambunctious and unrelenting outing between two of the planet’s finest ring generals. What proceeded was a match that certainly got everybody talking, if not entirely positively – myself included.

The opening half hour was superb, with attractive, fluid chain wrestling and stiff, stinging strike exchanges, and when a “this is awesome” chant broke out at around the 25-minute mark I expected the gears to crank up a notch or two for what I assumed would be the final straight of the match – but the contest continued without the exponential bursts of life that were needed – and it soon became clear why.

To both women’s credit, they were running against the wind from the start, as the temperature and humidity inside the Orpheum were less than ideal for prolonged physical activity, as Lenny Leonard mentioned several times on commentary – and you could see it too, as both wrestlers were visibly dripping with sweat even by the halfway point.

Contrasting this match to last month’s incredible main event, it becomes clear that there’s a big difference in wrestling between matches that are “epic” and matches that are simply long – heck, Ring of Honor prove this on a nigh-on weekly basis – and after around the forty-minute mark it unfortunately felt like a time limit draw was such a foregone conclusion that every near-fall from there on in was pretty much rendered meaningless.

Despite this, the latter half of the match was sprinkled with sporadic flashes of excitement – Serena’s Valkyrie cohort April Hunter getting ejected from ringside after finally making referee Jamie Tucker reach the end of his tether with her constant interference, and said referee getting taken out later on from Ivelisse’s wayward Vertigo Kick and missing Serena tapping out to a tightly-wrapped guillotine choke were both moments that snapped me back into attention (it was 5am at this point where I live and I’m not a night owl by any stretch of the imagination), but as part of the larger picture it simply felt like too little, too late.

I can’t fault Serena and Ivelisse’s spirit, stamina and general talent in this match – what they were doing in the ring was clearly very good – I just don’t believe matches can last this long and still end up as a draw without appearing contrived and meandering in parts, especially when both wrestlers were so visibly shattered with so much time left on the clock.

That being said, I remain steadfast in my belief that both women are among the very best in the world at professional wrestling, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for what they did in that ring for our entertainment. With an inevitable rematch on the cards, I have all the confidence in the world that we will see Ivelisse and Serena deliver yet again very soon.

While the SHINE Championship remains in the hands of Ivelisse for now, Friday saw the SHINE Tag Team Championships change hands in the biggest surprise of the night, as the highly experienced but largely unfavoured team of Legendary – Malia Hosaka and Brandi Wine – pulled off a huge shocker, working double duty to pick up the belts from the Lucha Sisters of Mia Yim and Leva Bates.

They got their shot at the titles by winning the show’s opener, a four-way tag team match which included The SNS Express of Sassy Stephie and Jessie Belle, the Buddy System of Solo Darling and Heidi Lovelace, and the lone birthday girl Kimber Lee, whose partner Cherry Bomb was unable to make the show due to travel issues. This didn’t stop Kimber from stepping up and giving it a go though, tagging herself in at times and never backing away from the action. However, it was the veterans Hosaka and Wine who were the standouts of the match, getting the victory in classic heel fashion as their enforcer, former WWF Women’s Champion Leilani Kai, tripped up Kimber, allowing the team to hit her with a double gourdbuster while the referee was distracted and get the pinfall to end a decent opening contest.

The title match itself later on in the show was similarly solid, with Hosaka in particular looking the most impressive. Leilani Kai was even more prominent in this one, with Legendary taking advantage of her ringside presence pretty much every step of the way, as she took cheap shots outside of the referee’s vision, gave extra leverage during submissions, and ultimately was the catalyst for the finish, as she pulled at Mia Yim’s feet as Yim went for Lucha Strong, allowing Wine to grab the sneaky pinfall and win the belts for her and Hosaka. An odd booking decision – at least superficially speaking, as when it comes to younger standouts of the independent scene there’s always a possibility of something else being the cause. Either way, the fans at the Orpheum were vocal in their displeasure about the result.

Those scowls changed to gobsmacked faces soon afterwards though, as Allysin Kay and Jessicka Havok unleashed hell upon each other in their Last Woman Standing Match. Most fans had expected this to be the final chapter of their rollercoaster feud, as the pair took each other in and out of the ring, using chairs, bins, the stage, someone’s belt and goodness knows what else to try and keep the other down for the ten-count. In the end, it would be Su Yung, the newest recruit of Kay’s stable Valkyrie, who caused the finish, sneaking out to ringside and tying Havok’s legs up with a rope, preventing her from getting up for the ten-count. Kay would steal the victory – the first win/loss result of their feud so far – but it was Havok who would have the last laugh, getting a pair of scissors and hacking away at Kay’s hair. It looks like this feud continues for now, but I can’t see it going any further than the next encounter.

As for Su Yung, her new character since joining Valkyrie continues to fascinate, as she took on the plucky Justine Silver in singles action. While Silver put up a good fight, this was a dominant display by Yung, who had April Hunter pulling her strings at ringside. The finish was particularly notable, as Hunter distracted referee Frankie Gastineau, allowing Yung to don a white glove and lock The Purge – a Mandible Claw-style move, knocking Silver out for the count, then applying Yellow Fever to add insult to injury and make the referee stop the match, giving Yung a huge victory. It’s now two SHINEs in a row where Su Yung hasn’t been in the opening match – let’s see this roll continue!

Two women made their SHINE debuts on Friday in highly impressive fashion. Rising star and deathmatch aficionado Crazy Mary Dobson was drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Leah Von Dutch who was unable to make the show, and was given no respite as she faced Amber O’Neal in a highly aggressive outing. After matching each other move for move and with Dobson kicking out of O’Neal’s patented sitout facebuster, an enraged O’Neal took a steel chair to Dobson, getting herself disqualified and giving Dobson a win on her debut. Afterwards, however, O’Neal made a gun motion to Dobson’s head – a symbol of New Japan’s Bullet Club (which O’Neal’s husband Luke Gallows is a member of), perhaps? As if that stable wasn’t pervasive enough among the independent scene already!

Also making her debut was Candice LeRae, probably best known for her work in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and her tag team with Joey Ryan. She faced Nevaeh in a fun match and was extremely over from the get-go with her high-octane style of offense, eventually pulling off a surprise win with a roll-up. A great start to LeRae’s SHINE career – although if I can go the rest of my life without hearing Lenny Leonard use the word “vag-plex” again I’ll be happy.

For those of you who were into the main event the whole way through, that was probably your match of the night. For those who weren’t, “Portugal’s Perfect Athlete” Shanna and La Rosa Negra were on hand to provide a wonderful alternative. The pair went all-out right from the start with huge power moves, the use of the steel steps and the speaker boxes at ringside and plenty of comedy spots littered throughout – showing that Shanna’s not just a great wrestler, she’s got an aim with a football that’s more than worthy of the Brazil shirt she was wearing – before finishing as pro-boxer Noemi Bosques, who’s accompanied La Rosa Negra at ringside in recent months, landed a vicious right hand to Shanna, knocking her clean out and giving Rosa the chance to hit the Frog Splash for the win. A truly fantastic contest that had the crowd hot from the get-go and more than deserved the “this is awesome” chant that emanated throughout the building.

This was an excellent show. Everyone’s going to have a different opinion of the main event, so don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Whether you enjoyed it or not, their efforts can’t be faulted, and it’s a match that’s worth watching regardless. As for the undercard, Shanna and La Rosa Negra’s performance is simply unmissable, while Su Yung continues to impress. Legendary’s shock title win has thrown a whole new set of variables into the dynamic of the Tag Team division, while two impressive debut performances from Crazy Mary Dobson and Candice LeRae have made it clear that there’s plenty of life in this promotion to come. For better or for worse, SHINE continues to break boundaries and smash limits, and as long as they keep doing what they’re doing, women’s wrestling is all the better for it.

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