Former Shimmer champion’s up tonight, and Io makes her debut.
Oh, and MATSUMOTO. HIROYO. DESTROY.
Round 1 continued:
13) Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Rachel Evers **1/2
Cole puts over Hiroyo’s character in addition to her in ring skills. Loves wrestling because it makes her happy. Problem is Rachel’s familiar to the crowd, so Hiroyo’s a defacto heel whenever she gets aggressive and actual gets some booed at various points in the match.
Rachel’s the “One woman Minnesota Wrecking Crew.” Eh, as nicknames go there are worse, but it feel forced.
They run down Rachel’s power lifting history and other accomplishments. “Does that make Rachel the favorite in this?” No. No it doesn’t.
This fed into the match being structured/presented as a power vs power contest, which is an interesting approach. Hiroyo actually displayed more speed and agility than Rachel overall as a result. They did everything they could to make Rachel seem Hiroyo’s equal (including Evers doing a strong style no sell of a German suplex), and it still didn’t quite feel right. Hiroyo eventual advances with the backdrop driver, which was a relief. Good match with some nice spots from both, although I thought they tried too hard to get Rachel over in defeat, and all it did was emphasize how far above her Hiroyo actually is.
14) Jessie Elaban vs Taynara Conti *1/4
“I just sort of throw my body at people.” Being a clumsy goof (her words) is certainly a unique gimmick for Jessie.
Jessie got a few flashes of offense, but this was all about establishing Conti’s new heelish attitude. She wins in pretty short order amid some pretty basic action. Effective for what it was, but the match itself had nothing to it.
15) Isla Dawn vs Nicole Matthews **3/4
Matthews is an ex-Shimmer champion, and was an alternate for last year’s MYC. “If I wasn’t in that tournament your weren’t showing the best of the best.” Heel vet with a chip on her shoulder is a pretty perfect role for Matthews. 😉
Isla’s the new to me competitor I’m most intrigued by, and her look, the way she carries herself, etc all combine to make her immediately striking.
Handshake? From Matthews? Ah, she is going dismissive/condescending to start: she pats Isla’s head on first break, etc. This becomes a story of Dawn’s strikes against Matthews using short bursts of offense to gain control and then just grinding Isla down. They worked the formula well, and this had markedly different style and pacing than other matches in tourney in an appreciated way. Nice showing for Isla and a well deserved win for Matthews (via the Liontamer).
16) Io Shirai vs Xia Brookside **3/4
They’re treating Io’s signing as big deal it is, which is great to see. I’m unfamiliar with Xia, but have heard good things. Clearly she’s well thought of since she’s getting the spot as Io’s opponent.
Kairi’s shown cheering Io. 🙂
Xia charges Io to start (in a show of determination, not as a cheap shot or anything), which is an awesome character moment. Io later counters a headscissors by landing on her feet, and the crowd is hers. Great point from Cole about Io being all smiles throughout but not in a mocking way, just because she’s enjoying what she does.
Xia makes enough of a fight of it to get chants herself at points. Io’s explosive offense, counters (that ducked strike turned into a crossface was a thing of beauty), and general star presence just wows the crowd. She wins with the moonsault of course, and helps Xia up post match. Can’t go higher on the rating do to the short length and dominant structure, but this great for what it was (a quasi-squash) and provided a hell of an emphatic intro for WWE audiences to one of the best in the world. Xia should be proud of her performance here as well.
Most of today was story first, but that’s fine and there was enough great action sprinkled in to make it a breeze to watch. And we saw Hiroyo, Matthews, and Io in WWE, which alone is worth checking out. Fine end to the first round.
I’ll likely be unable to watch live (or possibly at all) the next couple weeks, so will hopefully catch up on the quarters (and maybe the round 1 episode I haven’t reviewed yet) after the fact.