Saturday, September 30, 2023

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SHINE 25 in Review: A Gloomy Night in Valifornia

SHINE marked a big milestone on Friday night, with three enormous title matches to mark its 25th show. It’s been pretty cool to have seen the progress it’s made since I started doing these reviews at SHINE 5 back in 2012 – we’ve seen two championships be introduced, two epic, almost year-long feuds reach their culminations, countless wrestlers come and go, a host of stables form and mutate and an innumerable amount of classic matches be played out on that now-iconic pink canvas. Would SHINE 25 live up to that standard? Let’s take a look:

The first match saw members of two of SHINE’s prominent stables – Daffney‘s All Star Squad and SoCal Val‘s Valifornia – face off, as Valifornia’s Andréa and Jayme Jameson took on Solo Darling and the newest member of the A.S.S., Crazy Mary Dobson. A great way to start the show, with Andréa and Jaymeson’s strength and power being an ideal compliment to the unbridled energy of Solo and Dobson, and Val being a source of constant verbal entertainment at ringside. Andréa looked superb in her first proper SHINE match, as she and Jaymeson kept Solo isolated for large portions of the contest before Dobson finally got in and showed what she was capable of, with a multitude of moves including a brilliant handspring knee to the back of Jaymeson’s head. Finally, Solo would get the win for her team by planting Jaymeson face-first to the mat for the pinfall – arguably a shock result, considering the size and strength disparities and the wave of momentum Valifornia had been riding in the past few months since forming – but a deserved victory for Darling and Dobson nonetheless. Great to see Daffney back on our screens too!

Another stable who had a bad night at the office was Legendary. Thunderkitty was booked to face Leva Bates (cosplaying The Purge, according to other people who watched the show. I don’t bloody know) in singles action, only for Amber Gallows to come out and insert herself into the match at the last minute, because she’s in the Bullet Club, and she does what she wants. The ensuing three-way dance was a short, sharp burst of super-temporary alliances, the occasional interference from TK’s enforcer Leilani Kai and a host of stiff strikes, including a vicious three-way chop exchange and a barrage of superkicks from Leva to TK, the final one of which would win her the match. Amber Gallows, however, was less than impressed, taking out both of her opponents after the match in a surefire statement of what might be coming for Gallows’ longtime rival and former friend Santana Garrett.

The fourth of SHINE’s quartet of major stables, Valkyrie, had a mixed bag at SHINE 25 in terms of results, but one can’t deny their impact. Taylor Made rekindled her long-standing rivalry with La Rosa Negra in another solid, hard-hitting match that ended in disqualification after Su Yung, who had been standing almost motionless at ringside for the duration of the match, broke up Negra’s pin after a frogsplash. A brawl between Rosa and Made followed, bringing out Jessicka Havok, who went straight for Yung, catching her senton attempt and powerbombing her into the ring apron. Yung’s demeanour around this point changed drastically to her usual absent-mindedly possessed ways she has emanated since her transformation, with a sapience we haven’t seen from her in several months. She would cause her second disqualification of the night as she spat red mist into Havok’s face in plain view of the referee, before locking in The Purge and scarpering. Technically two losses in a row for Valkyrie, but it’s unlikely they’ll be complaining too much.

The final four matches were all top-shelf contests, and any of them could be considered a candidate for match of the night. In a cross-promotional match, Santana Garrett defended her NWA World Women’s Championship against “Portugal’s Perfect Athlete” Shanna. Shanna went all-out for the match, upping the ante with her aggression and showing no respect to the champion – stealing Santana’s headband of power and even snapping it and using it as a rope to tie Santana in the tree of woe, but Santana would prevail in the end, rolling Shanna up to retain the championship. Amber Gallows would come to the ring after the match to sarcastically applaud Santana’s performance, and make it clear that she is coming for her belt.

Valkyrie would get a consolation victory after their successive DQ losses as the group’s leader Allysin Kay defeated Leah Von Dutch in another great match. LVD is super-over as an established face now, while Kay does the insufferable cocky heel shtick perfectly, making for a vicious, back-and-forth race to the finish which had the crowd fixated on the action from bell to bell. After Thunderkitty – a previous victim of LVD’s “Dino Hunter” antics – came to the ring to create a distraction, LVD did well to regain her composure…for a while at least, as Kay rolled out of the way of the KLM and made Leah eat a huge discus lariat for the win. Another impressive performance, and great to see feuds and inter-wrestler relationships intertwine.

Thunderkitty’s antics would face retribution by proxy in the next match, as TK’s Legendary stablemates Malia Hosaka and Brandi Wine put their SHINE Tag Team Championships on the line against Leah Von Dutch’s good friends The Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee and Cherry Bomb), in a match where the titles could change hands via disqualification. Though this stipulation was put in place in an attempt to combat Legendary’s unsavoury tactics, it proved largely fruitless as Legendary, as Lenny Leonard mentioned on commentary, knew every trick in the book when it came to keeping the referee’s line of vision firmly away from their dirty deeds. It looked like it had worked like a charm – until Thunderkitty came in with a chair and accidentally hit Wine in the gut, allowing Lee to pin her and crown the Kimber Bombs as the new champions. Their celebration was short-lived, however, as Thunderkitty got her target right the second time round, causing a brawl that saw Leah Von Dutch enter the fray too, only for her to be taken out by the now-former champions too. A well-earned victory for the Kimber Bombs, but by the looks of things this rivalry is far from over.

The main event, a 2 out of 3 falls match for the SHINE Championship, saw defending champion Mia Yim take on Nevaeh, accompanied by her Valifornia cohorts – and if you thought Valifornia had had a bad night up until now, think again. The lead-up to the first fall was a feeling-out process, with plenty of blocks and reversals, before Yim got the pin shortly into the match via a German suplex. Andréa’s strategic positioning at ringside proved useful in earning the second fall, making the most of Nevaeh sending Yim to the outside and putting control of the match firmly back into Nevaeh’s hands, while Val continued to provide, erm…motivating statements from ringside. It seemed like it was working, as Nevaeh got the second fall with a German suplex of her own.

The deciding round of action was a sheer slugfest, as fatigue started to set in and left both women running on fumes. A superplex from Nevaeh to Yim resulted in both women small-packaging each other simultaneously, but Yim managed to lift her shoulder up in the nick of time to ensure her victory in the final fall and her retention of the SHINE ChampionshipAfter the match, Andréa entered the ring to berate Nevaeh for her loss, only for Nevaeh to shock her with a spear to send her packing and leave Valifornia in crisis, turning Nevaeh face in the process and setting up a new grudge for SoCal Val and her stable.

Another solid show from SHINE that got plenty done in a short space of time. The return to the 2-hour format that the first couple of SHINE events had is welcome, allowing for concise and well-thought-out matches that avoid spiralling into the self-indulgence that so much of the indy scene seems to do, while the character and storyline development continues to occur at an impressive pace for a monthly show, with Su Yung’s journey further across the Styx with Valkyrie, and Valifornia’s meteoric ascent and fragmentation being particularly engaging. A thumbs-up all around from me!

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