Reviews Wrestling

NXT Takeover Brooklyn Live Thoughts

August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY

I decided to see NXT Takeover Brooklyn over Field of Honor 2015 largely because that’s what my nephew, who would be visiting at the time, wanted. With all due respect to ROH and the awesome looking show they put on last night, the closer we got to this weekend and the more and more that was announced for NXT the more certain I became that I was lucky the way the decision went. Now having seen Takeover I can’t imagine having missed it.

It was a fantastic mix of wrestlers I’ve watched for years in ROH, Shimmer, etc, getting a shot on the “big stage” and unfamiliar newcomers similarly looking for a chance to to step up. And more than a couple of unbelievable moments and surprises.

Talk about a packed house.

The pre-“ppv” portion of the show started around 7:45. The capacity crowd was pumped up and whoever was in charge of match order and booking certainly knew what they were doing as sending Enzo and Cass out to open turned the hot crowd molten. Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady, Zach Ryder and Mojo Rawley vs Jason Jordan, Chad Gable, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder was a fun opener that set the evening off on the right note.


Eva Marie vs Carmella and Bull Dempsey vs Elias Samson were both short, functional matches that allowed the talent involved to get some experience and further their characters without overstaying their welcome. There were a couple awkward moments, and the crowd was merciless tearing into Marie in general, but these were fine outings for all four.


Awesome appearance number one of the evening for me came next, with a fatal four-way featuring Becky Lynch, Dana Brooke, Emma, and Charlotte. I saw a ton of potential in Rebecca Knox’s early appearance in Shimmer, and after a lengthy absence and talk of her career being over due to injury it’s fantastic to see her back, getting a huge opportunity and making the most of it. This was quite good… except for Brooke, who politely speaking has a LONG way to go. Emma, rocking her new heel persona, picks up the win in what looks like it could have been a botched finish. If it was though they recovered very nicely and Charlotte’s visual pin on Emma after the match followed by solidarity shown between her and Becky ended the segment strongly.

Triple H came out to hype up the crowd and open the “ppv” portion of the show. He pitched a cool idea to start the show, with him spotlighted in silence talking about what NXT is and then bringing up the lights to show the sold out crowd going nuts, and most of the raucous Brooklyn crowd actually seemed to comply reasonably well. Hope it came across on screen, because live it was pretty cool.

A legend enters his first WWE ring.

The first of three downright surreal moments for me was up next as JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER (!!!) entered a WWE ring to face Tyler Breeze. Watching Liger wrestle the likes of Brian Pillman and Chris Benoit many years ago is part of what made me a lifelong wrestling fan so this was quite the treat. Obviously Liger isn’t what he once was, but he still put on a great show against a game Breeze in a basic but thoroughly enjoyable match. Highlights included Liger stealing Breeze’s selfie stick for some posing, diving to the floor, and hitting his trademark Ligerbomb to win.

The Wolfpack is shown watching in the front row. I never attended a big ppv event before, so I never realized they bring the stars shown out right before putting the camera on them and then take them right back to the backstage area. Seems very weird – you’d think they’d at least be out there to watch a match.

The NXT Tag Titles were on the line next with The Vaudvillains vs Blake and Murphy (c) with Alexa Bliss. Surprisingly hot match, as the crowd was firmly behind the Vaudvillains from the start and got even more so when they announced their counter to Alexa Bliss – Shimmer regular Leva Bates as beloved NXT jobber Blue Pants. This was a solid match with a great finish paying off Bliss getting some comeuppance and providing a surprise title change that the crowd went nuts for.

The one man nation has arrived.

The debut of indie darling Uhaa Nation, renamed Apollo Crews, was next against Tye Dillinger. The first time I saw Uhaa wrestle live I remarked it was only a matter of time before he got signed. He is unbelievably agile for his size and has the look and bearings of a star. This was a short back and forth encounter that gave Crews opportunity to give the audience a glimpse of what he can do. While I can’t complain about his first impression on people being a standing moonsault, I do kind of wish they let him complete the following half of the Uhaa Combination and hit the standing shooting star.

While our seats had a fine view of the action, we were quite far away and the giant screens above the ring were very important to see close ups of the action and key moments. I mention this because during the entire Crews match (and half the ladder match main event) they defaulted to the NXT logo. I’m assuming this was due to technical problems, but in a venue that holds 15,000 people trying to watch a 20′ x 20′ ring you really can’t have this kind of thing happen.

“Joe’s gonna kill you! Joe’s gonna kill you!”

Surreal moment number two sees former ROH and TNA world champion Samoa Joe on WWE tv against Baron Corbin. Nice package recapping the feud to bring the audience up to speed. Corbin saying he’s better than everyone else who worked hard to get to NXT because all he had to do was make a phone call countered with Joe saying “they called me” was brilliant. Corbin’s been played up as unstoppable, and I haven’t heard much good about his ringwork but he was fine here going toe to toe with Joe in a strong match. Joe’s victory points towards using him for more than training and putting over new talent, which makes me happy.

More superstars marched out to the front row thrown up on the screen and there’s Ric Fl— OH MY GOD IT’S KANA!!!!!!!!! My favorite wrestler in the world today recently announced a hiatus from wrestling in Japan, which apparently might have been code for “I’m negotiating with WWE.” There were rumors and supposition, but seeing her appear at NXT was a complete surprise. So happy for what this could mean going forward, and the fact that they put her next to Ric Flair and Sargent Slaughter and named her indicates that if she has in fact signed they’ll be bringing her in as the top tier talent she is instead of pretending she’s brand new because she’s not homegrown. I’m still in shock from this.

Incredibly awesome entrance for Banks, but not quite the best of the night…

Sasha Banks (c) vs Bayley was next for the NXT Women’s Championship. It’s weird how HHH comes across as supportive and important to NXT while Steph seems to be trying to make the spotlight rub off on her and claim credit for other’s success when their promos really aren’t that different. Still, I’ll take the extra attention for the women’s division and having her declare the women’s title match a co-main event was pretty cool.

Again the video package summarizing the feud was excellent and effectively conveyed Banks’ dominating, bullying persona and Bayley’s struggle to prove herself and prove herself while being outpaced by her compatriots. Bayley’s another former member of the Shimmer roster, but didn’t get too much time to shine there before being signed to WWE developmental. Both wrestlers were phenomenal here, and this easily took match of the night on a card filled with more established superstars and great performances.

Everything was pitch perfect. The in-ring story built move by move and had the crowd captivated the whole way. Banks is so good she had to work insanely hard to get booed by the New York crowd, and still managed it well enough to give the key moments extra impact. The meta-story of Bayley’s struggle and hard fought victory finally proving her legitimacy was amazing, and the crowd erupted for her win. And I’ll be damned if I ever thought someone could make a bell-to-belly suplex a believable finisher in 2015. The “curtain call” moment with Charlotte, Becky, Banks and Bayley was just right.

Different stage and name, but same super-awesome Mr. Wrestling Kevin Steen I've watched and adored for years.
Different stage and name, but same super-awesome Mr. Wrestling Kevin Steen I’ve watched and adored for years.

Well, if anyone was going to be able to follow that last match Kevin Steen (Owens) and Prince Devitt (Baylor) are certainly the right choices to try. Steen is an old favorite of mine of the indie circuit and has charisma and presence that’s absolutely captivating. Devitt spent most of his career in Japan, so this was my first opportunity to see him live.

Balor’s entrance live is beyond amazing.
The demon emerges for battle.

Kevin Owens vs Finn Balor (c) for the NXT Championship in a ladder match was the second and final main event for the evening. Balor’s full entrance in a packed, full sized arena is a sight to behold. Both wrestlers have legitimate star presence and this match felt like a big deal.

This was an excellent ladder based brawl with some brutal spots that didn’t feel excessive or out of place. New York loves Owens, but like Banks he did an impressive job of turning them against him enough for the story of the match to work as it was supposed to. The match kept building and felt like a real, evolving competition with Balor evetnually surviving Owens’ signature hospitalizing powerbomb to the apron to hit a doublestomp from the top of the ladder and retain his title. Perfect end to an incredible show.

And still NXT champion.  


What a night. Easily one of the best live shows I’ve ever been to, filled with great action, a wonderful roster with diverse styles, and downright magical moments and surprises. Shows like this are why I watch wrestling.

Exhausted but deliriously happy on our way home.
Reviews Wrestling

Evolve 47 Live Review

August 15, 2015 in Queens, NY

In addition to a great looking card, this was the first Evolve show I’ve been able to see live in quite a while, so I was quite excited for it. With the venue not too far into Queens and a two minute walk from the subway it would have been fairly convenient … if not for a combined hour and a half train delays getting into the city and then out to Queens. Sigh. The gamble that is public transportation. Hopefully better luck next time.

So I unfortunately missed the first two contests. On the lucky side I walked in right for the start of one of the matches I was most interested in.

Hero is not pleased after Bailey’s opening flurry of offense.

Chris Hero vs “Speedball” Mike Bailey 

Hero treating Bailey like a little kid during the handshake gave Bailey cause for a fiery start of brutal kicks that immediately captivated the crowd. Hero responded with equally vicious shots and the two just beat the hell out of each other in glorious fashion for the entire match.

Hero stalking Bailey for a rolling elbow.

Bailey going strike for strike with Hero (rightfully) impressed the crowd and the in-match story of him fighting back against the mocking veteran was done to perfection and brought the crowd to life in support of him in measure equal to Hero (who is just so good every crowd I’ve seen refuses to boo him).

Beautiful deadlift German.

Fantastic, hard hitting match that was perfectly paced and had a great story. This tied the main event for match of the night for me, which is extremely impressive for my first look at Mike Bailey. Hope to see him return to Evolve regularly.

Respect shown by Hero after the match.

Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley vs Trent Baretta & Rey Horus

Rey Horus and Trent Baretta came out for their scheduled match, but Baretta’s former comrades came out to enjoy watching them beat on each other. Baretta making mocking hand motions to speed things up and checking his imaginary watch as Val went on and on was highly amusing. Baretta got on the mic when she finished and insulted Val until he successfully goaded Konley into accepting a tag matchof the PAB vs him and his “new best friend” Rey Horus (complete with hug to signify their impromptu partnership and “new best friends” chant from the crowd).

One of the numerous times Val was unhappy with comments from the crowd.

While the PAB is a bit too methodical on offense, to the point of losing the crowd, this started hot and picked back up towards the end. Horus had a couple of awkward spots, but overall looked good in my first exposure to him and I’d actually like to see him team with Baretta again sometime.


Baretta was the highlight inside the ring for me. His mannerisms are fantastic and add a lot to his performances, and his ringwork is high octane and fun to watch. Outside the ring Val stole the show. Her reactions to what her team is doing (or suffering) at any given moment are pitch perfect and significantly help fire up the crowd against them.

Insane pop-up German by Baretta to counter a superplex attempt on his partner.

Johnny Gargano vs Ethan Page

The latest confrontation in Gargano’s war with his former protege took the form of an anything goes match that spilled all over the venue. They spent very little time in the ring before brawling to the floor and into the crowd. On the one hand it was cool that they essentially did a circle around the ring and went through all areas of fans. On the other that meant I couldn’t see what was happening when there weren’t near me, which was close to three quarters of the match. What I did see was decent and they came up with some unique spots on the outside.

Page gloating about his brilliance after the match.

The end sequence was up and down. Gargano came up short on what seemed to be a lawn dart attempt across the ring sending Page into a chair wedged in the opposite corner and dropped him a few feet away. They picked things back up with a chair duel that broke pieces off of the plastic chair they were smashing together. Rich Swann came out to “protect” Gargano from taking anymore chair shots and completely unsurprisingly turned on him and helped Page put him down for the count. This was good, but felt like it was missing something that kept it from being great.

Page and Swann adequately explained the turn (and revealed Swann as Gargano’s mystery opponent for the next show), but the promo ran a bit too long and Swann needed to show more anger and resentment. It was too mocking/gloating for someone supposedly fed up with being in Gargano’s shadow. They’re also going to have to do something special with this going forward, because even with the face/heel dynamic reversed Gargano/Swann really feels “been there, done that.” We’ll see how it goes.

The champion gets ready to defend his title.

Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr.

This is the match I went to see. Thatcher is my favorite wrestler at the moment and what I’ve seen of Sabre so far has been extremely impressive, so to say I was psyched for this match would be a vast understatement.

Sabre trying to counter a short arm scissors with a head scissors.

I think the term “wrestling clinic” is thrown around too much, but if ever it was appropriate it’s here. Thatcher and Sabre spent the entire match fighting over holds and reversals trying to get an advantage. And that was the key: they FOUGHT for everything. Nothing looked like a “sequence,” it always looked like two guys desperately trying to gain an advantage over one another and win the match.

Sabre trying to fight out of a vicious looking armbar from Thatcher.

It’s extremely difficult to keep an entirely grappling based match gripping throughout and never lose the crowd, especially in the main event of a card that featured high flying, strikefests, and no-DQ savagery. It’s an accomplishment that speaks volumes about the skills of both men. I remember a particularly great stretch that featured an exchange of strangleholds for several minutes, and there were tons of innovative reversals and holds that had the fans oohing and aahing.


Sabre added some stiff kicks late in the match and Thatcher some suplexes, but it came back down to the grappling with Sabre focusing on Thatcher’s arm and Thatcher going after Sabre’s legs. In the end Thatcher reversed into a heel hook Sabre couldn’t get out of. Phenomenal match I’m ecstatic I got to see live.


Despite missing the opening I still more than got my money’s worth from Evolve’s latest show. Loved two matches and the other two were very good at worst. The roster is filled with exceptional talent wrestling diverse styles and as a whole things are clicking nicely. Thatcher is a fantastic champion and I hope his reign is a long one.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

A Fairly Marvelous Beginning

August 9, 2015 in Queens, NY


Marvelous Puroesu USA’s first event at the Queensboro Elk’s Lodge was presented with a lot of fanfare. Chigusa came out to start the show with a ceremony to introduce the core members of her roster: Penelope Ford, Renee Michelle, Davienne, and Takumi Iroha. She announced that they would all be traveling to Japan with her for shows / training and later returning to the US for more Marvelous Puroesu shows. Each of them then said a few words to the crowd, which was clearly unexpected as some fumbled a bit with what to say. It came off as genuine and endearing though and actually added to the casual, enjoyable atmosphere of the evening.


All three of the American core members faced Sumie Sakai, with Ford vs Sakai opening the card and Michelle and Davienne against Sakai and Willow Nightingale right after intermission.  Sumie’s antics are quite amusing and everyone in the ring with her seemed to benefit from her experience and got to show their own skills and potential.

The undercard was nicely varied in general, from heavy humor in Deonna Purrazzo & Brittany Blake vs Rick Cataldo & Eddy McQueen, to a hard hitting tag match in DJ Hyde & Rory Gulak vs Nate Carter & David McCall, to a three-way spotfest in Lio Rush vs Patrick Clark vs David Starr, etc. Some wrestlers clearly need more polish (and there was an obviously blown finish in one match), but everyone showed great effort and there’s a lot of potential here.

Nate Carter & David McCall had a great showing in their match and were a riot hanging out and taking pictures with fans at intermission. Nice, approachable guys with a lot of potential. Hope to see more of their work.
Nate Carter & David McCall had a great showing in their match and were a riot hanging out and taking pictures with fans at intermission.

A surprise appearance by the legendary Mick Foley added some amusement to the David vs Goliath battle of Cheeseburger vs Rex Lawless and gave a dose “anything can happen” to the show. The general feel of the card was one of fun and diversity, with a little something for everyone.

Quite the surprise - guest ringside enforcer Mick Foley!
Quite the surprise – guest ringside enforcer Mick Foley!

The main event was a great way to end the show. This is the second time I’ve seen Wantanabe live and he’s impressed on both occasions. Papadon was a suitable partner for Chigusa and both men did an excellent job making their exchanges with the woman believable.

They are unimpressed with Papadon's posturing.
Iroha and Wantanabe are unimpressed with Papadon’s posturing.

Of course the true draw of the evening was getting to see Chigusa live, and she did not disappoint. She had some great strike exchanges with Wantanabe, much to the crowd’s delight. It was a treat watching her wrestle Iroha, who held her own against the veteran and is certainly one to watch going forward.


Respect after the match. Iroha kicked out after a TKO from Chigusa a literal millisecond too late.
Respect after the match. Iroha kicked out after a TKO from Chigusa a literal millisecond too late.

Overall Marvelous Puroesu USA’s first show should be considered a solid success. The venue was pretty full (three sides of the ring with seats, with two rows on two sides and 5 on the third), the matches were varied and entertaining, and the whole thing was just all around fun. Looking forward to the future of this promotion, particularly the opportunity to see more of Chigusa and Iroha in the US.

Was lucky enough to meet and get a picture with rising star Takumi Iroha.
Was lucky enough to meet and get a picture with rising star Takumi Iroha.
Marvelous Puroesu USA t-shirt by Shupercousin Designs.
Marvelous Puroesu USA t-shirt by Shupercousin Designs.

“‘Cause I was Rowdy, before Rowdy was cool!” 


My love of professional wrestling started when I was young, and growing up I had three favorites that stood above the rest: Bret “The Hitman” Hart, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

Piper had a charisma that was unlike anything else at the time or since. Whether it be in the ring or during his perhaps even more incredible promos, he always brought an energy that was captivating and made him fascinating to watch. It was impossible to look away when Piper came on, and his words often echoed long after. He made everything seem real no matter how ridiculous, by virtue of totally committing to his role and the moment and a personality and style that just worked perfectly in pro-wrestling and always seemed genuine.

Piper’s matches weren’t always the technical exhibitions Hart’s and Perfect’s were, but he certainly could hang with the best of them when called for. To this day one of my favorite matches of all time is his Intercontinental title defense against Hart at Wrestlemania VIII. I remember being beyond excited for it in the weeks prior, and hanging on every move and counter for the entirety of the bout. The years since and subsequent viewings have done nothing to diminish my appreciation or enjoyment. From the pre-match interview that no one but Piper ever could have given to his one pinfall loss over an amazing career Piper was on fire that night, and with Hart more than capable of keeping up they created magic.

Roddy Piper is one of the main reasons pro-wrestling became such a big part of my life. He will be missed greatly.

Rest in peace Hot Rod.

Reviews Wrestling

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.

Japan Wrestling

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

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).

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.


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

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.