Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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SHINE 22 in Review: It’s Always Sunnier in Valifornia

SHINE 22 had a different flavour to usual on Friday night as a host of international stars from all four (okay, two) corners of the globe swooped down upon Ybor City to shake things up, while a new stable emerged ready to take on all comers, under the command of its confident, verbose leader.

Former SHIMMER Champion, Australia’s Madison Eagles, led the charge for the antipodean contingent, taking on SHINE Champion Ivelisse in the main event. After Eagles’ usual fork-based shenanigans it became clear that both women meant serious business, with the 6’1″ Eagles attempting a chokeslam as her first manoeuvre of the match, only for Ivelisse to counter it with an arm drag, and reply in kind with a flying crossbody to the outside, taking Eagles out and soundly waking me up in the process (having recently moved to a desolate corner of Southeastern Europe I found myself watching this particular match at 5:30 in the morning, but no complaints!).

What was to come was a masterclass in counter-offense. For large portions of the match, Eagles would use her dominating figure (standing 9 inches higher than the 5’4″ Ivelisse) to keep the Huntress grounded, using leg submissions and low lariats to do so. With a significant reach disadvantage, Ivelisse knew that she would need to rely on more than just her strikes, so turned to the submission game, first with a dragon sleeper, before later countering Eagles’ brainbuster attempt into a guillotine, only for Eagles to reverse it into a Northern Lights suplex. Ivelisse wouldn’t relent though, landing a beautiful springboard tornado DDT and rolling straight into a rear naked choke. It seemed as though Eagles’ size may have simply been too much, as she reversed the hold and went for her patented Hellbound finisher – but Ivelisse reversed that into yet another guillotine. Again, Eagles maintained some leverage, forcing herself free and hitting a German suplex for a near-fall, but the next time round, Ivelisse wouldn’t make the same mistake, hitting another tornado DDT and following up with a final guillotine choke, kept low, in the centre of the ring, passing Eagles out and giving Ivelisse yet another successful title defense.

The pair shook hands after the match, and a verbal confrontation ensued between Ivelisse, Allysin Kay, Mia Yim and the leader of SHINE’s newest stable “Valifornia”, SoCal Val, accompanied by Nevaeh – who Val announced as next in line for a shot at the SHINE Championship at December’s SHINE 23 – against whoever has the title following WWNLive’s tour of China next month. Not a contender anyone can deem unworthy, considering how she effectively had the title won at the previous show.

As for SoCal Val’s new project, Valifornia (consisting of Nevaeh and BTY (Marti Belle and Jayme Jameson) got off to a winning start in their first match as a group, defeating the team of the Lucha Sisters (Mia Yim and Leva Bates) and another Australian import, Kellie Skater, who were decked out in some sort of zombie killer gimmick that went way over my head (just like every costume Leva Bates wears. The books I read have words in them). The match itself was a decent enough, high-velocity spotfest that was a perfect introduction for the group, getting a solid win against high-calibre opponents such as the former SHINE Tag Team Champions. In the end, it was of course Nevaeh who would get the win for her team with a bridging German suplex to Yim.

Val’s presence wasn’t restricted to just those two segments, though. She also made an appearance on commentary for Scottish star Nikki Storm‘s match against Valkyrie’s Taylor Made, which saw Made get the victory thanks to an Ace Crusher, and planted the seeds for a possible feud with La Rosa Negra, who leapt to Storm’s aid to take a set of brass knuckles away from Valkyrie enforcer April Hunter. Val’s mic skills are superb (and her namedropping of Scottish wrestlers Noam Dar and Lionheart made me smile), but I was worried during this match that she was almost…too good, as her comments were so entertaining I found it hard to pay attention to the action at times – a rare occurrence when Nikki Storm is in the ring (after Adrian Neville, the best active British wrestler in the world, as far as I’m concerned). It was a solid match though, and it’s evident that Storm has developed a large and loyal following since she started making regular trips across the Atlantic.

La Rosa Negra was in action herself prior to this match, facing Thunderkitty, Legendary’s newest recruit, in what was another great contest which saw plenty of action both in the ring from the two competitors and outside from Legendary’s enforcer Leilani Kai and Rosa’s accomplice Noemi Bosques. Kai did all she could to sneak a win for her teammate, but ended up being hoist with her own petard, as TK ended up flying into Kai’s knee that was strategically placed for Rosa’s face, and Rosa followed up with a frog splash to get a well-earned victory.

Legendary’s SHINE Tag Team Champions Malia Hosaka and Brandi Wine made up for TK’s loss later on, as they defended their titles successfully against Daffney‘s Buddy System (Solo Darling and Heidi Lovelace) in a fun match that featured a plethora of outside interferences from the enforcers of both stables as well as Marti Belle and Jayme Jameson, who cornered Lovelace at ringside, allowing TK and Wine to hit a double gourdbuster on Solo for the win. Nonetheless, a fine effort from Solo and Lovelace, who I’m sure will find themselves back in the title picture sooner than we think if they keep performing at the standard they have recently.

On top of Taylor Made’s victory, it was a clean sweep for the rest of Valkyrie this month, as Su Yung, looking like she’d stepped straight out of a 90’s Norwegian black metal video, got a straightforward victory over Amanda Rodriguez, who was pulling backup duty for the second month in a row as Justine Silver had been rushed to hospital. As such, Yung’s scheduled opponent KC Cassidy was moved up the card, and Rodriguez was drafted in to fill her shoes. She put in another good shift for a last-minute replacement, but this match was all about Yung, whose transformation into Valkyrie’s possessed larbin continues with full force and in fascinating fashion, as she locked in The Purge for the victory by referee stoppage.

Also on the subject of Valkyrie, Allysin Kay immediately got back to winning ways after her defeat to Jessicka Havok at the last SHINE show, with a victory in a fantastic match against New Zealand’s Evie. This match was heavily strike-based, with Evie’s fast and frequent kicks providing a wealth of damage to Kay, before Kay was able to finish the job off with a thunderous discus lariat to make it three wins out of three for Valkyrie and put the humiliation of her previous defeat behind her.

As mentioned, Australian youngster KC Cassidy made her SHINE debut in a fine match against Ireland’s Rhia O’Reilly. Cassidy has an abundance of agility and a bunch of pretty cool moves, and she was able to get under the Irishwoman’s skin a number of times, before O’Reilly finally got the better of her with a simply brutal-looking spike DDT.

Finally, Leah Von Dutch‘s quest to rid women’s wrestling of its “dinosaurs” continued as she faced former SHIMMER Champion, Britain’s Saraya Knight, in what many considered a deathwish on LVD’s part. Sure enough, Knight made it very clear – both verbally and physically – that she was unimpressed with Von Dutch’s opinion of her, tossing her around the ring and unleashing a torrent of offense. It was her loose-cannon nature that would prove to be Knight’s downfall, however, as she hit a low blow on referee Frankie Gastineau after he broke up her submission attempt, causing Gastineau to call for the bell and give Von Dutch a somewhat jammy DQ victory.

SHINE always contains some of its most interesting and entertaining moments when it’s the international season, as it gives the company a superb opportunity to present fresh ideas and give its regular roster top names to be put over by, and this was no exception, with the overseas stars providing a wonderful addition to the show. The crowd were in fine form on this night too, staying in high spirits and immersed in the action from start to finish, which made every match twice as exciting. On top of this, SoCal Val’s sudden burst into the picture has also made things a ton more interesting, and with a large number of active stables now throughout the card, all with different agendas and goals, and with a incredible champion whose bullseye on her head just keeps growing and growing, things are looking extremely promising for the future. Let’s hope SHINE 23 on December 5th can deliver the goods just as well.

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