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Shine 28 ippv Review

July 24 2015 in Ybor City, FL

Match 1 – Malia Hosaka (w/ Leilani Kai) vs La Rosa Negra: ***

Quick start from La Rosa fires up the crowd. She’s developing into one of Shine’s most beloved fan favorites and is charismatic enough to get the crowd into a headlock. Classic heel tactics from Hosaka and Kai to take over. An extended beatdown leads to the surprising pin for Hosaka after a sitout faceplant. They’re not finished, as Legendary attacks La Rosa with a chair after the bell, then cut a promo on LVD (who’s off the show due to injury). Dominating win for Hosaka in a good opener.

Match 2 – Renee Michelle vs Amanda Rodriguez: **

Rodriguez clearly working heel, possibly further foreshadowing for the main event given her association with Ivelisse. She shows a vicious edge throughout the match, and wins with rope leverage and a handful of tights. Basic, slow match that was more about establishing characters than the ring work.

Match 3 – Su Yung (w/ April Hunter) vs Tracy Taylor: ***1/2

Psycho Su is still one of the most interesting characters in wrestling. Taylor’s looking to straighten out her former partner once and for all, while Su’s simpering in the corner. Taylor throws Su around the ring for a bit, but a slap to the face finally makes Su snap. She fires back, then firepoles down the building pillar from the top turnbuckle then hides under the ring. Su comes out the other side, then pulls Taylor under. Count still going. Back out and brawling, and both make it into the ring in time. After some back and forth Taylor’s takes firm control again, but retreats under the ring herself after a lungblower. Su goes for the mist, but Taylor counters with a kiss then a slap. Su FREAKS and and spasms around ringside, the implication being as a result of swallowing the mist substance. Taylor wins by countout, and April Hunter eventually carries her lifeless body to the back once she calms down.

Somewhat anticlimactic end to a suitably heated grudge match, but it’s original, continues the angle nicely and sets up future encounters. The under the ring stuff was intriguing at first, but didn’t go anywhere or have a clear resolution/explanation so ended up really detracting from the match by the third time.

Match 4 – Amber Gallows vs Leva: **1/2

Amber Takes exception to Leva mimicking her bullet babe gunshots and attacks at the bell. All Gallows early, in and out of the ring. Leva with extended offense after a backstabber, then they trade heavy shots until Leva stuns Gallows and hits a double stomp from the top rope. Before she can cover April Hunter comes out to distract her (on behalf of the absent Tessa Blanchard), but Mia Yim chases her off. Gallows hits a ddt off the distraction, but Leva persists and hits the pepsi plunge for the win. Gallows is so tall Leva had a lot of trouble setting up the move, with them both falling off the turnbuckles during her first attempt. Good effort from both with ok results but the match didn’t quite fully click for some reason.

Match 5 – Vanessa Kraven vs Jessica Havok: ****

Kraven’s height advantage leads to an interesting visual when they square off. A standoff leads to shoves leads to an exchange of heavy strikes to start. Havok gets the better of it and Kraven bails to the outside. Intense, see-saw battle. Highlights include a beautiful cannonball in the corner by Kraven, Havok reversing a piledriver attempt into the stretch muffler, and an exchange of chokeslam attempts. Kraven with a sunsetbomb(!) on Havok for the pin. Exactly the hard hitting match I wanted from these two, and I’d love to see a rematch. A clean pin on Havok should skyrocket Kraven, and indeed the announcers treat this victory as the big deal it is.

Match 6: Allison Kay (w/ April Hunter)  vs Mia Yim ***3/4

Lenny does a great job setting the stage on commentary, mentioning Mia breaking Kay’s nose in a previous match, Kay’s winning streak, and the importance of winning for either athlete to get into title contention. Mia’s presented as an equal match for the much larger Kay, and her credentials and ring style as well as Kay’s selling make it convincing. Good back and forth brawling on the outside. Kay busts out a pinkie’s up stunner, which is just fantastic. Mia with a series of rapid fire dropkicks followed by a missle dropkick 3/4 across the ring. She hits the package piledriver, but Leva is on the apron trying to bring the ref’s attention to April Hunter on the opposite side. April ducks out, and Mia sees only Leva and starts yelling at her for distracting the ref when she had the match won. Kay nails the discus lariat for the pin. Dissension for the Lucha Sisters afterwards, with Mia blaming Leva for the loss. She eventually shoves her partner, flips her off and storms to the back. Leva’s left muttering “I was only trying to help.”

A competitive victory for Kay to put her at the top of the list for a title shot. The ending was flat. I don’t mind Kay cheating / getting an advantage to win, but being completely beaten by Mia was too much. It would also be a much stronger heel turn if things were tweaked a bit so Mia didn’t have a point. Good intentions or not, Leva DID cost her the victory. Great match otherwise though.

Match 7 – Shine Tag Team Titles: Andrea and Marti Belle (w/ So Cal Val) vs the Kimber Bombs(c) **1/2

Sponsorship of the match is mentioned both during ring introductions then at greater length by Amber on commentary, which I’m fine with as long as it continues to just be one match a show. Belle and Cherry start, with Cherry getting the better at every turn while Lenny ponders Valifornia employing Freebirds rules if they win. Quick tags from the Bombs early on. Marti bails and in comes the monster, but the Bombs keep control with more quick switches and effective double teaming. Belle with a distraction to give Andrea control. Both Belle and Andrea showing great heel mannerisms and expressions while working over Lee. Tag for Bomb after a Belle miscue and she works in a Cima-style dropkick to the posterior with Belle tied up in the corner. All four in and the match gets thrown out as two unknown wrestlers attack everyone. Daffney’s with them. They decimate Valifornia, then lay out the Bombs as they make the unlikely save for So Cal Val. Brutal DDT on a chair to Lee.Daffney promo promising retribution and introduces Amaiya Jade and Katie Forbes, the Iron Madiens. Lee sells the DDT like death as Cherry calls for more refs to help her to the back.

Strong debut, but it came at the price of cutting off what could have been a phenomenal match just as it was picking up. And Shine loses their only face faction in exchange for a fourth heel one. On the plus side, Andrea and Belle have awesome chemistry as a team. I think I like them quite a bit better than B.T.Y.

Main event – Shine Title: Santana(c) vs Ivelisse (w/ Amanda Rodriguez) ****

Ivelisse stares a hole through Santana during the champ’s entrance. Feeling out sequence with Santana countering Ivelisse’s strikes with chain wrestling leads to a great exchange of submission holds and pin attempts. Santana’s carrying herself like a champion and looks more confident and assertive in the ring than she has in the past. Unique spot playing off Ivelisse’s MMA background as she gets on her back and tries to lure Santana into attacking in an attempt to get a hold. Lenny’s doing a fantastic job of explaining these finer points tonight on commentary.

Ivelisse in control and starting to take shortcuts, choking Santana, getting extra leverage from Rodriguez, etc. After an extended period of taking punishment Santana fires back on the outside and wipes out Rodriguez with a big clothesline to neutralize her interference, but Ivelisse rams her face first into the building support column. Heated strike exchange back in the ring leads to an offensive streak from Santana, including a handspring elbow and turning a tree of woe into a handstand headscissors driving Ivelisse into the turnbuckle. Guillotine choke looks to finish for Ivelisse, but she converts into a DDT when Santana tries to fight out. Crowd is so happy to have Ivelisse back they continue to chant for her no matter what she does to turn them. Ivelisse favoring her leg, and Santana goes right for a submission. Ref calls for the bell. Santana wins and retains.

Ivelisse throwing a fit but barely standing. I don’t really mind the finish, but the desire to continue fighting through an injury and a controversial decision against the heel is not a good way to stop the crowd from cheering for her. Fantastic match otherwise.

Overall: A show with excellent action marred by too many screwy finishes. I would’ve kept Su vs Taylor and maybe one other as is and overhauled the rest. Shine is also dangerously low on effective babyfaces for the crowd to get behind, with four heel factions with managers now on top of Ivelisse and Rodriguez, the bullet babe, and Kraven. None of the factions are likable enough right now to turn  (the Iron Maiden’s debut will be for naught if they fight Valifornia, because the crowd will cheer Daffney by default not matter what she says or does) and the heel the crowd most wants to cheer for, Ivelisse, is essentially still in the middle of her heel turn. The individual angles are all fine, but taken together it’s too much. The booking really needs to be rebalanced going forward.

All that said, Shine has a lot of amazing talent and strong work rate and this show was a good watch despite its flaws.

Categories
Japan Wrestling

Farewell Tomoka: A fan’s personal look back on a great career

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Tomoka Nakagawa and Aja Kong after Nakagawa’s penultimate match.

Although she was nearly a six year veteran at the time, Tomoka Nakagawa’s Shimmer debut on Volume 29 (in April 2010) was the first exposure I had to her work. Joining Nakagawa in the first appearance of joshi talent in Shimmer were Ayumi Kurihara, Misaki Ohata, and Hiroyo Matsumoto. She was impressive in a losing effort against Kurihara in her debut, and stood out a bit extra due to being the only heel of the four.

Nakagawa would become a familiar and important cornerstone in Shimmer, missing only one weekend of tapings from her debut until her retirement. The first three years continued to feature her heel persona, with her general mannerisms and penchant for spitting water in her opponent’s eyes antagonizing the crowd at every opportunity. It was highlighted by a short tag-title reign with partner Daizee Haze in 2011.

On April 6, 2013 Shimmer came to New Jersey during Wrestlemania weekend for Volume 53. It was my first live Shimmer show, and first opportunity to see Nakagawa (and many others) in person. Even more luckily for me, something that would prove very important happened at the last show of the previous tapings: Tomoka Nakagawa and Kellie Skater formed a tag-team, the Global Green Gangsters (3G).

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3G t-shirt by ShuperCousin Designs and signed by Nakagawa and Skater.

Skater was recently “reformed” and constantly trying to show her new partner that they didn’t need to resort to cheating to win. The dynamic was incredible and 3G immediately had the crowd on board cheering for Nakagawa to “change her ways.” The four way tag-title match from Volume 53 only gave a glimpse of what they were capable of, but the end made it clear we’d be seeing more of 3G in the title picture. One week later 3G would win the titles at the end of the tapings in a wild no-DQ match against cowardly reigning champions the Canadian Ninjas.

I attended my first set of Shimmer tapings in Berwyn the following spring, and the love for 3G as conquering heroes was off the charts. Their struggle, along with Skater and Nakagawa’s fantastic chemistry and charisma, made them two of the most beloved wrestlers on the roster, and their matches were generally highlights of every card. The support for Nakagawa was particularly apparent during her singles match against Saraya Knight on Volume 63, where the crowd’s cheers for her were deafening.  Another amazing live experience was the end of the fall 2014 tapings, featuring 3G, Madison Eagles and Jessica Havok against the Canadian Ninjas and the Kimber Bombs in a no-DQ, no-countout war that spilled through the crowd and all over the venue.

Nakagawa announced her retirement in late 2014, and wrestled her final match in Japan on December 4, 2014. Given the success she enjoyed abroad and what Shimmer meant to her, she chose to do one last US tour and have the last matches of her career in Berwyn the following April.

Being there live was an honor I can’t properly describe. From the surprise appearances of Aja Kong and Dynamite Kansai to Dave Prazak handling the introductions for one last 3G vs Canadian Ninjas match to the closing retirement celebration the weekend was a bittersweet roller coaster ride of emotions and excitement.

On June 7 at an Oz Academy show in Tokyo Tomoka Nakagawa received a ten bell salute, official ending her ten year wrestling career.

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Thanks for the incredible matches and all those years spent entertaining us. Best of luck in your retirement. You will be missed.

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Evolve 45 ippv Review

July 10 2015 in Ybor City, FL

Evolve had major booking issues to overcome as they lost two upper level stars (Biff Busick and Davey Richards) to injury just days before this show. The entire card got shuffled around to make up for their absences, and “hotshotting” of big matches that were previously being saved for future shows was promised.

Opening interview: The Premier Athlete Brand comes to the ring, including Trent Barreta’s return to Evolve after over a year. So-Cal Val sings their praises and riles up the crowd, but is interrupted by Gary Jay who wants his long awaited opportunity now.

Match 1 – Gary Jay vs FIP Champ Caleb Konley (non-title): ***

Good match with Jay showcasing some dives to the outside and impressive strikes in between being beaten down by Konely.  PAB of course get involved, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Konley reverses a superplex attempt into a faceplant then hits a double jump moonsault to finish. Gary Jay with a strong showing making the most of getting on the card due to the aforementioned injuries. Would be nice to see him return.

More gloating from Val, and here comes Rich Swann. He has a lot of history with Nese and Konley (including having lost the FIP title to Konley), but tonight he’s here to settle unfinished business with someone else…

Match 2 – Trent Barreta vs Rich Swann: ***1/2

Back and forth match with Swann playing the beloved babyface to perfection and Barreta doing his best to smother Swann at every opportunity. Insane half-nelson suplex on the apron to Swann in the middle of the match. After a crazy sequence of trading signature moves, the Dudebuster finishes. Solid return for Barreta that leaves him looking strong going into his next match with current Evolve/DGUSA champion Drew Galloway. Nice to have him back.

The PAB resume their celebration, but there’s one member left to wrestle and on cue here’s Andrew Everett.

Match 3 – Anthony Nese vs Andrew Everett: ***

I like the flow of sequential PAB matches since they’re already out, but the drawback is the PAB members wrestle so similarly 3 matches in a row is a bit much. Methodical attack from Nese with occasional athletic counters from Everett. Crowd got quite into it towards the end. Slight callback to Konley’s match, as Everett reverses a superplex attempt into a faceplant and hits a shooting star press to pin Nese. Good, but both are capable of more.

After his victory Everett goads Konley into putting the FIP title on the line in their impending match the next day. Teased dissension in the PAB but no fireworks.

And the PAB portion of our program has concluded.

Match 4 – Trevor Lee vs Chris Hero: ****

Great story with Lee going after Hero super-aggressively after coming up just short in their last encounter. Hero’s looking a bit big but still moving great in the ring and clearly in great shape conditioning-wise. Incredible strike exchanges (and think of the matches still to come in that regard). Lee’s constant countering of the piledriver played nicely on the ending to their first match. Lee’s backflip belly-to-belly is a thing of beauty. Hero with four brutal rolling elbows in a row for the win.

Hero takes exception to fan comments about Zach Sabre Jr. being better than Hero to hype a future match.

Match 5 – Zach Sabre Jr. vs Roderick Strong: ****1/2

Sabre is the proverbial hot commodity right now and there was a ton of anticipation for his return to Evolve / the states. Strong isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but he’s a solid performer that can mix it up with numerous styles and is a great opponent for Sabre. Match built beautifully, from careful (and even) counter wrestling to more intensive submission wrestling to crazy strike exchanges. Roddy of course also worked in some vicious backbreakers as well. Sabre’s wonderfully innovative offense is intense and exciting. Sabre wins with an incredibly painful looking arm submission after working the arm all match. Fantastic stuff.

Sabre brings a different kind of energy to Evolve and is a treat to watch. If possible this raised anticipation for the remainder of his matches even more.

Main event – Timothy Thatcher vs Evolve and DGUSA Champion Drew Galloway (non-title): ****

Thatcher is my favorite active wrestler. He throws out a challenge to Galloway to put the Evolve title on the line. Galloway recounts his own impromptu opportunity and the pride he has in competing, and puts BOTH titles on the line. Intense back and forth match here, with both basically just trying to beat on the other until he stays down. Wonderfully simple. Thatcher wins with a high angle Fujiwara armbar! A lot of attention has been made of Galloway’s foot being under the rope during the hold and the ref not seeing it, but Thatcher pulled him to the center before the tapout and I’ve seen many rope breaks where one wrestler doesn’t fully let go of the other before reapplying something, so this didn’t bother me at all. Result was a big surprise given the rebooking and ends with a great moment of Thatcher becoming double champion and the new “face” of WWNLive.

Overall: What a recovery in the face of adversity. The forced rebooking of the entire card didn’t hurt Evolve at all as they deliver an excellent show from top to bottom. No bad matches, several great ones, praise worthy performances from everyone and huge developments setting up future shows.

Highly recommended.