Is There a Place for Total Divas in the Women’s Wrestling Renaissance?

WrestleMania 32 marked not only the largest event in World Wrestling Entertainment history but, more importantly, a change for the better in the way women wrestlers—previously called Divas—are perceived.

Up until Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte wrestled for the newly christened—by legendary women’s wrestler Lita, no less—WWE Women’s Championship in Dallas in April, women in WWE had been officially referred to as Divas since the company trademarked the term in 2008. Previously, they had informally been called Divas amidst consternation as to who actually came up with the term: Sunny or Sable, two women of the Attitude Era who helped set the tone as to how women in wrestling would be portrayed for the better part of two decades.

Branding surrounding WWE Divas reached its pinnacle in 2013 when E! premiered an hour-long reality show entitled Total Divas, which chronicled the lives of mainstays Brie and Nikki Bella, Natalya and Eva Marie, and a rotating cast featuring Paige, Trinity, Alicia Fox, Ariane, Summer Rae, JoJo, Rosa Mendes and Mandy. The upcoming sixth season features the inclusion of Renee Young, Maryse and Lana and begs the question: with the women’s wrestling renaissance, is there a place for Total Divas?

After the presentation of the brand spankin’ new Women’s Championship that mirrors the men’s title, a stark departure from the sparkly, pink, butterfly-shaped monstrosity of the Divas era, and the accompanying press release stating that women wrestlers would now be called female Superstars, I was surprised at the announcement that a new season of Total Divas would be airing on E! later in the year.

To many people’s minds, Total Divas has been a blight on women’s wrestling in recent years, with AJ Lee cutting promos about the show in its early days, Sasha Banks dismissing it in a recent interview and, if my Twitter feed is any indication, many viewers only tuning in for a chance to see Daniel Bryan after his injuries eliminated him from WWE TV. Storylines such as Brie’s struggle to get pregnant, Nattie’s family woes and Eva’s ostracision from the rest of the group tick the requisite reality trope boxes, but Total Divas also touches on important issues couched in rote dramatics that tie themselves up nicely by episode’s end: Rosa’s navigation of pregnancy in a male-dominated industry, Nikki’s aspiration to change how women in wrestling are perceived, Eva’s ambition to become a better wrestler, and Trinity, Ariane and Eva’s reproductive health issues. I’m always one to defend the show on the grounds that seeing how women navigate a male-dominated industry is important and it is often rejected as frivolous bullshit, as so many things aimed at women often are.

However, I’m not sure there’s a place for Total Divas anymore. Firstly, and most obviously, brand recognition of name Diva is diminishing. While playing the show’s theme song to promote any women’s wrestling match, regardless of whether the competitors are part of the cast, is annoying at best and sexist and segregative at worst, WWE cannot justify it come the show’s season six premiere when there is literally nothing linking the show’s title and women wrestlers. How will new WWE viewers make the connection between the women’s wrestling match they’re watching and the cross-promotion urging them to check out the competitors on E! and vice versa? And with the negative connotations of the word diva, is the only similarity between it and female WWE performers the tantrums that they’re goaded into chucking for the cameras? The show could have longevity if its title was changed to something else but that’s risking the loss of an already dwindling audience and undoing all prior marketing.

Whereas I don’t think Total Divas can survive in this new era, it’s spinoff Total Bellas has a chance. Nikki and Brie Bella have always been the cornerstones of WWE’s attempt to market women wrestlers to a reality audience so a show dedicated to them makes sense. With both women possibly out of in-ring action for good, Total Bellas is the logical next step in their—and WWE’s—quest to position them as “the female John Cena[’s]”, who also appears in the show along with Daniel Bryan. Total Bellas could feasibly exist separately from the WWE women’s division and Total Divas.

This is not to say that Brie and Nikki are the vapid models who can’t wrestle that they are so often viewed as. Despite their connections to powerful men (not to mention their mother Cathy’s recent marriage to John Laurinaitis!), the Bellas have shown that they’re in wrestling for the long run. As mentioned above, recent Total Divas storylines have shown Nikki striving to reach the top of the industry and be taken seriously. While Brie’s trajectory on the show has been more about her personal life, during her days as an active wrestler, she was sometimes competing on Raw, SmackDown! and PPVs more than her champion sister.

This defence of the Bellas can also be extended to all of the women wrestlers employed by WWE over the past decade or two, whether or not they appeared on Total Divas, who busted their asses with the little they were given. To quote myself as only the humblest of writers do, I wrote recently for the Special Broadcasting Service that “The new generation of women wrestlers should be praised, and rightly so, but not at the expense of the women of the Divas dynasty that were granted opportunities based largely on their looks as opposed to merit or skill. Women such as Alicia Fox, Nikki Bella, Naomi, Natalya, Beth Phoenix, AJ Brooks, Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Melina and countless others did the best with the scraps they were given.”

So I give Total Divas to the end of its upcoming season. Barring a complete overhaul of the title and/or the show as a whole (could a more Breaking Ground-esque Total Divas exist on the WWE Network?), I don’t believe Total Divas is a show that can survive in a niche that relied on it being largely the only representation of women wrestlers on TV. Now that Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Natalya and others are being given time to showcase the athleticism of women wrestlers on WWE TV, Total Divas is a relic that belongs in a not too distant past that some fans would rather forget.

Fashion of Wrestlemania

Wrestlemania: The Super Bowl meets the Oscars. Wrestling’s biggest night, the second being the RAW after Wrestlemania. While some watch for the legacy, the drama, and the competition, I watch because everyone has their flashiest gear on. Forget the Hall of Fame ceremony the night before –  everyone just wears tuxedos and dresses that look like they came from the Macy’s formal sale rack. The real red carpet is that long ramp down to the ring on Sunday night. Join me for a snarky fashion break down of the WWE’s grandest stage.
THE PRE-SHOW
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The announcers
Renee Young kicked off the pre-show in a plunging white tuxedo jacket. She may not have been wearing pants – who knows. With a bold fuscia lip and a silver lariat necklace, Renee looks like pure class. She is later joined by Lita, who is gorgeous in a black lace jumpsuit. The women get the best dressed award as Booker T is just wearing a tuxedo. Cory Graves is as usual trying too hard in a thousand shiny patterns. Seriously, he is rocking a black polka dotted jacket with white lapels, offset by the Regis “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” black shirt black bow tie combo. Thankfully, he eases the over effort with an attitude of indifference. The regular announce teams are just in tuxedos as well, with the notable exception of Byron Saxton  who has given his only indication of a personality with a textured tuxedo coat.image2
Winner: Lita, possibly best dressed of the evening
Loser: Byron Saxton, always.
image310-Diva Tag Team Match
Both team Total Divas and Team BAD and Blonde went with the dominatrix route, but the Divas were the red and dominatrix team and the B&Bs were the purple and dominatrix. The Divas were per their usual, including Eva Marie who made her main roster debut in a typical cross front red lace two piece but with the special addition of a white cape that would have made Gwennie Paltrow jealous. Natalya carried their side in n exquisitely studded variation of her jumpsuit. On the other side, the B&B owned. Emma entered with Mad Max inspired shoulder pads that added to her new villain persona. Lana debuted in a purple halter leotard with a rhinestone embellishment that I want to wear to prom. The cut of the leg was a bit too high for daily wear, though Lana thoughtfully compensated for this with high boots and 0% body fat. Everyone’s extensions were on point, Naomi’s green and purple hair stole the show.
Winner: Brie Bella may have won the match, but Lana won the red carpet.
Loser: all of us who don’t get any Brie Bella after tonight. We’ll miss her being the only reasonable one on “Total Divas.”
The Dudleys vs. The Usos
The Usos took a detour from their usual very very brights and wore classic black – with some very very bright embellishments. Unfortunately, black pleather trunks look like garbage bags. The trunks were in tribute to the Usos’s uncle Umaga. I feel bad about saying they look like garbage bags now, but stand by it. They look like garbage bags with tributes to Umaga on them. Their entrance included leis, which sadly just fell apart. The Dudleys wore the black and grey camo pattern that my college boyfriend’s fraternity adopted as their colors. I was not impressed.
Winner: the tables the Dudleys brought out after their loss
Loser: the tables the Usos broke under the Usos
THE SHOW
image4Fifth Harmony sings “America the Beautiful”
They got five dresses the same exact shade of red. Incredible. It’s as if Stephanie told them, “I don’t care what bridesmaid dress you wear as long as it’s red,” and then they went above and beyond to buy from the same dye lot. And then got the same strappy  black shoes. Fifth Harmony are the best bridesmaids ever.
Intercontinental Championship Match
I didn’t have high hopes for the fashion in this match. Everyone wore kind of what they usually wear, except Zack Ryder who had a robe that looked like something out of a Marvel villain’s closet. The Miz made his entrance in a gold plated King Tut robe. This boxy robe had little give and did not flatter. Sin Cara, on the other hand, was cloaked all in smooth white and looked positively like an angel in a horned luchador mask. Dolph Ziggler rocked some half-ass Bo Derek braids. Sami Zayn looked really great for what he went through only 48 hours prior with Nakamura. Seriously, he was incredibly spry after that ass kicking.
Winner: Stardust, who wore yellow polka dots for Dusty.
Loser: eh, they all just look normal.
image5Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles
Y2J enters first in his Light Bright jacket, a choice that does not read well in a match during daylight. Chris Jericho is also wearing blue and pink glittery panties that say “G.O.A.T.” across the bum, which: same. AJ Styles comes to his first Wrestlemania in white tights with black and red embellishments and red gloves. The white gives AJ Styles a really gorgeous pop, particularly since er’rybody’s spray tan game is on point.
Winner: G.O.A.T. Panties
Loser: everything else about Jericho
image1 (1)Maria Menounous interviews Zac Ryder
That’s a bad look, Maria.
image2 (1)The New Day vs. League of Nations in a tag team match with no stakes
THE NEW DAY CAME OUT OF A BOX OF BOOTY-Os DRESSED AS DRAGONBALL Z. You cannot beat that. The New Day is known to take big risks with gear and hair AND bits and they pretty consistently pay off – DRAGONBALL Z is no exception. Last year, Rusev entered in a tank. This year, he and the League of Nations had to walk around Booty-Os. They are all wearing their shiniest panties though. The LoN manage to win but then right as BNB is bragging OH BAH GAW. IS THAT SHAWN MICHAELS’S MUSIC? It is, and he is in gear, despite it being hunting camouflage instead of sweet hot pink. And he’s not alone! He’s got Mick Foley and Stone Cold with him. They save the New Day  with their signature moves and Stone Cold even dances with the New Day – till he stuns them.
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Winner: Socko, who hasn’t aged a day
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a No Holds Barred Street Match
This is a chance for two guys who always wear the same thing to change it up from black trunks (sponsored by Jimmy Johns) and a black t-shirt and jeans – oh. Nope. They both went with their old tried and tries.
In a hilarious twist though, Dean Ambrose is wearing a black Suplex City shirt with DA over it. I am considering doing that to my own Suplex City shirt now. This match wasn’t as great as I want it to be either, even with the chainsaw and barbed wire bat teases. Sure, there were 13 suplexes but there were 0    Surprises.
Winner: Brock Lesnar’s sword/brass knuckles tattoo.
Loser: Kendo sticks
Women’s Championship Triple Threat
This was the most highly anticipated match for fashion (possibly tied with Triple H’s entrance). There was also so much potential for terrible costumes, between Becky’s hit or miss steampunk and Charlotte’s tendency towards Victorian Secret looks. Becky Lynch cosplayed as a gilded sea captain. Her purple and gold corset and steam punk shorts are actually gorgeous. Sasha Banks got her cousin Snoop Dogg (née Lion) to perform entrance, though the gal who sings the hook was singing off key along with a very obvious backing vocal track. Her gear was inspired by Eddie Guerrero. Single tear. Miss Flair makes an equally grand entrance with the help of her father. Charlotte wears a robe made from pieces of the Nature Boy’s robe. Her gear is obviously made to match in ode to her father. All three women look amazing. The match is also the best of the night, without question – three extremely capable athletes getting out there and doing good work.
Winner: womankind, who officially get a Women’s Championship after slumming as “Divas” for years.
Loser: malfeasance by Ric Flair
image4Hell in a Cell: Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker
Shane O’Mac got his own personal Jordan’s from Nike just for Wrestlemania. They are pretty fly. He’s also wearing a run of the mill jersey emblazoned with number 32 crossed to look like dollar signs. It is a very comfortable, functional look, but I would really rather he took his shirt off. He enters with his children for maximum sympathy. Kids, do you want to come watch Daddy almost die? You have to wear the same outfit as Daddy. Undertaker is wearing his usual deep cut black tank, hat and duster. This is the classic Undertaker, the Little Black Tank Top and Leather Pants of the wrestling world, though he probably got the studding done special for the day. The Undertaker has a smart mom bob now, and honestly looks great. It draws focus nicely to his neck tattoo. It’s much better than Taylor Swift’s bob, in my humble, though he could benefit from some waves.  He completes his look by flipping his eyes back into his skull.
Let’s face it: the Undertaker’s entrance is the best part of this match. It got very painful to watch very quickly. Yes, Shane jumped off the cage – but for no reason and to no effect.
Winner: ugh
Loser: justice.
The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Yeah, yeah, everyone looks normal. This match was where I was mostly checked out – until DDP came in. His yoga program is great! And then…SHAQ?! In TAPOUT gear?! Thank you for the palate cleanser.
Winner: Baron Corbin? Wha?
Loser: Fandango has lost his sparkle since he lost his dance routine.
BAH GAWD, THE ROCK HAS A FLAME THROWER
Pretty cool that the Wyatt Family comes out to interrupt his attendance record lies. Bray Wyatt is wearing a butcher’s apron that looks like the Necronomicon and his best acid washed jeans. But then – surprise Rock match! He isn’t supposed to really wrestle because of his movie insurance, so he takes 6 seconds to win. Having angered the Wyatts, he needs back up – which immediately comes in the form of John Cena! John Cena! He is wearing his formal cargo shorts and his meh Tampa orange t-shirt. Orange is a hard color to pull off, especially since John Cena seems to be more of a spring. He looks better in the cool pastel dress shirts he wears for dates with Nikki. But new t-shirt colors may have spoiled his return. Regardless, he looks very healthy and a lot leaner.
Winner: Rock’s bull panties
Loser: the child who got John Cena’s meh orange t-shirt.
The Main Event: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
Fact: only two people in the entire world can pull off leather bodysuits, and they are Beyoncé and Stephanie McMahon. She looks ah-may-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-zing. Leather body suit with studding, leather top coat, thigh high boots, and a spiked hairband holding back an incredible wavy weave. I believe I can pull this off for work tomorrow. She delivers an incredible speech that orders us to bow before her husband and  raises the question of how soon she will get nodes from an elevated throne. Her husband, Triple H, enters through lines of skull-masked NXT wrestlers. He is just wearing his regular black panties. He has surpassed spray-tan and is now spray-mahogany wood stain.  Roman Reigns enters to…less fanfare (they kicked off the sound, yo) in a gold embellished RR vest and cargo pants. Why do they wear cargo pants and shorts? Are they keeping their wallet and a compass in the side pockets? Steph’s eye makeup continues to be incredible even after she is speared by Roman Reigns. Roman ends up with a new belt to spice up his boring black outfit and the boos are once again turned down.
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Winner: Steph, kween of this Mad Max dystopian future
Loser: all of us who watched 5 hours for an ultimately dull main event

If They Only Knew – Remembering Joanie “Chyna” Laurer

this article was originally published on Wrestledelphia

When I was in sixth grade, I too wanted to be Intercontinental Champion.

Even when a wrestler’s career comes and goes before a fan becomes a fan, that’s not to say their impact on wrestling is forgotten.

And it certainly helps when said wrestler has a book available to be taken out at your public library, which is how one 11 year old who now has a penchant for typing words on the Internet became familiar with Chyna for the first time.

In the midst of the occasional misspelled wrestler name (Rakishi & Sean Michaels in particular will never be wiped from memory), there was the story of a woman who overcame difficult situations in her early life, found a calling and went for it. In the mid 90s.

Chyna was someone who commanded more than what WWF had to offer in 1996 when she came onto the scene. At that point in the company, there were roughly three female personalities on WWF programming–all valets.

Chyna was no valet. She may have arrived in WWF as an accompaniment to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, but she was no valet. She was a bodyguard and it didn’t take too long to figure that out, be it based on her stature or how very easily she would handle Marlena like a ragdoll.

Other women would also be tossed around by Chyna in her time as a wrestler. She was tall, muscular, and could match Triple H’s weights at the gym. It made sense to have her compete against other men, which in part was due to a lack of competition. But for girls watching the product and, thankfully, paying attention to the wrestling rather than what were surely transphobic comments, it sent a huge message, that we could be competitive, dominant, and the personification of superheroines. Girls in wrestling didn’t just have to be the beauty, they could be the brawn as well.

Sometimes when you’re a kid, you miss things that, as a grown up, you realize was in poor taste or just bad. If you’re captivated by someone on TV, you can immerse yourself in how cool they are and let your imagination run wild. That’s what Chyna could do. That’s why she was able to transcend what it meant to be a woman in the WWF/E in her time with the company.

Chyna’s involvement in DX, especially the early days of the faction, was essential to the group’s chemistry. Comedy needs a “straight” character and Chyna was the one rolling her eyes at the manchildren she called her friends and carrying them away if they ever got into too much trouble.

Ultimately, her departure from the company—and in a general sense the way the rest of her life played out—was not dissimilar to a Hugo novel. If you believe the DX book WWE published a few years ago, Triple H says it was Chyna’s idea for the Triple H storyline involving marrying Stephanie McMahon. Subsequently, she’s spurned by her love, tossed aside from the company, and only acknowledged in passing.

Everything did not dry up right away—after all Chyna, was the first woman to ever compete as a wrestler in New Japan Pro Wrestling, which anyone would probably kill for on their resume.

Sadly, the end of Chyna’s road was paved with neglect, being seen as a sideshow rather than a person with problems.

There will be no redemption song a la Scott Hall (who still seems to enjoy creeping Paige’s twitter… questionable). The door was never open for a prodigal daughter to return. But in spite of what WWE wants and allows, thousands will remember her as an inspiration and a pioneer.

National Pro Wrestling Day is a Time to Show Your Love for Wrestling

It’s National Pro Wrestling Day, folks, and what better a time to show your love for women in wrestling than now! There is so much happening, including Willow Nightingale making her Chikara debut as part of the Young Lions tournament! Also, the League of Lady Wrestlers, Toronto chapter, have released a set of valentine’s day cards that you can purchase to give to your loved ones, or hoard for yourself just like I’m doing!

NXT Hits the Road | First Stop: Cardiff

NXT has taken the road over the past two months outside of their Full Sail home to bring some of the best in pro wrestling across the Midwest and even the UK. We’ve got women all over attending these non-televised house shows and sending us their reviews! If you’d like to contribute to this series, or any coverage of local events, please reach out to us on twitter! First up, we have the amazing Ru Gunn from Voices of Wrestling who attended NXT Cardiff and it sounds like she had a whale of a time. Read for yourself below!

Continue reading NXT Hits the Road | First Stop: Cardiff

Lucha Underground Sets the Bar for Intergender Storylines

Season 2 of Lucha Underground just kicked off this past week, and El Rey is already proving it’s willing to go above and beyond all other currently televised pro-wrestling in multiple aspects, but specially with regards to their female workers.

Their take on intergender wrestling isn’t sudden and has been part of its product thus far, but they’re really showing that they’re the leading charge of how to have interesting storylines that really showcase the talent of the women. The most interesting part of this equation is how small of a roster they have, and the ratio of men to women, yet how much of a spotlight is shone on the girls.

In the premiere alone, we see Catrina as the new proprietor at the Temple, and she has a thirst for power that she is willing to manipulate however she sees fit. But the real star of this past episode is Ivelisse, to no one’s surprise, having had not one, but two back to back matches in one night. It’s such a rush to hear a crowd so vehemently behind her as a worker. Being tossed against her partners, Son of Havoc and Angelico, to determine who will be the #1 contender against Mil Muertes for the title- Ivelisse came out victorious before being immediately pitted against Mil. Having had the Gift of the Gods title already switch hands from Fenix to King Cuerno in this episode, it’d be a shock to see the Lucha Underground Championship belt holder to change as well. That being said, Ivelisse vs Muertes made for one heck of a David and Goliath match with enough of a nearfall in her favour, that one can’t help but be excited to see where these threads will take us.

Lucha Underground is doing a tremendous job showing the utmost respect for their workers, male and female, and we’re seeing as the new gold standard for pro wrestling.

Ring of Honor Will Highlight Women of Honor at February 6th Show

For months Ring of Honor has been including Women of Honor matches at their television tapings. While not being aired on their weekly television programming, they have been uploaded for viewing on their YouTube channel. Typically it has been one or two matches, varying from singles to tag team to four corner survival matches. In response to demand for more, Ring of Honor announced that at their February 6th Nashville television taping they would have a “special spotlight” on their women wrestlers. They will be filming multiple Women of Honor matches for an upcoming VOD release, in addition to debuting their newest female graduate from the ROH DOJO. A list of great talents has already been announced, including ROH regulars such as Veda Scott and Taeler Hendrix, in addition to the likes of Amber Gallows and Sumie Sakai.

Source

Lucha Underground’s Second Season and Comic Book

Lucha Underground is less than a day away from returning and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Wednesday nights have become prime wrestling viewing for fans all around, and it’s wonderful to have the combination of excellent storyline and beautiful technical work back for our weekly consumption.

Just before the return, which will see the introduction of Rey Mysterio since we lost Alberto back to the WWE, the folks at El Rey have composed a great recap video to either remind us of what happened, or as a little intro for those of you who may not have given the entire first season a sit down just yet.

And to add to the excitement, El Rey Network has released the first of four original comic books for free download! The debut issue, scripted by Fabian Rangel Jr. with art by A.C. Osorio, follows the international wrestling legend Rey Mysterio Jr.’s voyage to the “Lucha Underground” temple. Next three comics will be released bi-weekly and will help bridge story lines in between seasons and offer new information into the lives of Vampiro, Catrina, Mil Muertes, and notorious owner and promoter Dario Cueto among others, and we’ll make sure to update you with them as they are released.

This expansion on the Lucha Underground universe is helping fill the hunger all of us at Femmezuigiri have for great content with a lot of diversity and entertainment, and we’re going to continue working with them to bring you some exclusive interviews with the workers in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled, and get ready to watch with us tomorrow night!

Space Mountain May Be the Oldest Ride in the Park: Or How Sexual Harassment Has No Room in Wrestling

Imagine yourself all settled in to indulge in your favourite pastime– whether it’s getting all dolled up in your best swag, holding up your meticulously crafted sign or curling up on your couch next to someone you care about complete with snacks- both instances ready to scream your heart out. Your favourite workers have entered the ring and– BOOM! you get a glaring reminder that this place isn’t for you. This is a man’s game and no matter how much you cry out the odds are never in your favour. “This is how it’s always been,” they cry, “Why are you such a killjoy?”, and “Learn to play along, it’s just for fun.” Being in this community is full of constant reminders that this space is not safe and it’s our responsibility to play along if we wish to be included or leave.

All of the above was made abundantly clear during the 2016 Royal Rumble Divas title match in which the audience is blatantly reminded that women are objects who are at the whim of everyone else around them. You’re peeled in to a match that is showing exceptional prowess and mat work that has, up until recently, been unbeknownst to the women’s division but all eyes (read… cameras) keep cutting to Ric Flair. Don’t worry, Charlotte, Daddy’s here. It’s okay, WWE Universe, there’s still a man near the ring so everything is fine and dandy… nothing to see here. But look, they’re doing such a great job! They’re actually wrestling! Ric Flair has to prove he’s still the boss, so in his natural heel state he grabs Becky Lynch, turns her around, and kisses her against her consent. Talk about a jarring moment that filled me with rage and disgust. But it’s all in the nature and fun of pro-wrestling, except it isn’t. The fun was fully removed when you sexually assaulted a woman. Some would argue that Becky Lynch obviously consented to this outside of kayfabe, but take a moment and think about why– if she won’t do her job, someone else will. It is not a woman’s job to be harassed in the ring by men, and it shouldn’t be expected of anyone at this point (or ever). What a way to throw a wrench into the excitement of an otherwise wonderful match and suck any potential fun out of it, making it almost impossible to pay attention to what’s happening before me– at this moment seeing nothing but red. This extends beyond Becky, past her taking one for the team in the most horrid fashion imaginable, losing the match and getting buried with no room for revenge in a storyline. This extends beyond all of the women who are workers in, and outside, the WWE who are constantly put in these spots where we are treated as nothing more than mere sexual playthings. This extends beyond everyone watching who feels violated, who feels sick to their stomachs, who feel a deep and painful empathy because they to have experienced unconsentual sexual behaviour at the hands of others. It permeates into our culture for workers, for fans, for passersby where this is the norm, and the lovely motto of “Just don’t look” can’t be applied here. This affects everyone. Situations like this continue to fuel wrestling being an unsafe space for anyone who isn’t a cisgendered heterosexual white male. Unless you’re the Nature Boy himself, it’s all downhill from here.

Fellow Femmezuigiri contributor, Brittany Meyer, offered up some personal experience with this sort of situation and how toxic and misogynistic this community can be:

I fell out of love with wrestling after I was a valet, one time, for a wrestler I thought I respected. It wasn’t until the gimmick faded and the texts came from the person, and not the character, that I had to come to terms the fact that this is just spandex and dudes living out a dream on whatever ring that will have them. I have not seen him in person in almost three years, and in that time he had held a toxic relationship with a friend of mine, harassed other wrestlings friends on Facebook and Twitter, and has tried to manipulate me back into his life with suicide threats and promises that he’s getting better. With so many incidents proving he was untrustworthy and manipulative, I cut him out of my life. That was one year ago, and I have refused any message or friend requests since.

As a Chicagoan, I felt good about the fact he was seldom on the wrestling scene here since he’s located in Florida. I have gone to many shows in the greater Chicago area and have come to love one particular company, Freelance Wrestling. Freelance was started by some local wrestlers that I have been watching grow since I first moved to Chicago; they’re smart, driven, and produce one hell of show. They have been around for over a year, and I would religiously attend their events, often introducing friends of mine to live wrestling through their shows and having our own designated standing location by the ring so we could be in a good position to high five wrestlers and yell into the camera.

About a month ago, I saw they booked the unstable wrestler who I had pushed out of my life. I was nervous to attend this show, but I also didn’t want to shirk support of my favorite promotion just because he was in the opening match. Hoping the wrestler wouldn’t say anything to me or attempt to reconnect, I thought it would be best for me to not post about it on Facebook or twitter and quietly attend– thus sacrificing any potential world of mouth the promotion could get at the hands of their fans in order for me to have some peace of mind.

With his match in progress, I noticed he didn’t look at me and he mostly stayed on the other side of the ring; I thought I was in the clear. He won his match and I saw him blow a kiss across the ring to my side. It looked as if it went to a girl standing near me and just acted like nothing happened. I then watched him cross the ring and climbed over the ropes on my side. Now, I got nervous.

As a part of his scummy heel character, he usually asks for a kiss on the cheek when he wins a match. I was now concerned with the fact that he may ask me for a kiss and I would have to decline, in front of all the cameras, and audience members who will most definitely cheer him on. I was getting worried.

Once he hopped off the ring, he was just feet from me. He received a borage or high-fives from a friend before I saw him turn to me. Instead of him presenting h12276656_953088474758070_9296646_n (1)is cheek, I saw him lunge, face first, into my face. It looked like he was about to kiss me, and play all of this off as ‘just part of the show!’ Instinct kicked in, and I slapped him with my right hand to get his face away from mine. His lips didn’t touch mine; he just shoved me and ran off. 

I was mortified. I couldn’t believe that a show I love so dearly became a place of harassment for me directly. This left me to attempt to logically rationalize how to go forward– I guess I’ll avoid his shows since he’ll use his heel gimmick to get away with whatever he pleases. The bigger fear is how Freelance would response when I approached them. After approaching others within the community for advice most of what I received was unfortunate, but many of them offered condolences with the caveat that this was the sad reality of wrestling culture. It’s amazing for something that exists purely in the realm of fantasy that this was an acceptable ‘reality’.

The reality I was dealing with was the fact that I didn’t know how I could ever feel comfortable at a wrestling show again. My reality was grappling with the conflicting emotions of how something I love can accept this behaviour and side with the aggressor.  It may have been the reality, but I couldn’t rightly live with it. For myself, and for every person out there that had dealt with a similar situation and was too afraid to speak up since ‘This is just how it is,’ I needed to say something to the promoter. I swallowed painfully and sent out a lengthy message with a fear at the pit of my stomach awaiting the inevitable “Yes, we heard his side and we know you’re crazy; if you didn’t want to see him you shouldn’t have come.” The moment I pressed send, I began to cry. I’ve accepted the fact that I was targeted, harassed and nothing will be done about it. The unwelcome whiny outcast of the Chicago Wrestling community who spoke up and ruined all our fun.

It only took moments for me to get a response, but my heart exploded with joy. A profuse apology from the promoter thanking me for bringing the situation to his attention complete with reassurance that the footage will be reviewed with their team. More tears, now ones of pure joy. I was awarded the rare opportunity of having a voice and a valid opinion. Legitimate shock that I was allowed to enjoy wrestling without disgust or dread. Being believed and listened to was never a response that I could have anticipated, and I honestly cannot thank Freelance Wrestling enough- you have set the bar for integrity and I hope that promotions around the world can learn from your example.

It would be nice if the story ended there, but to no one’s surprise I’m sure, word got back to the worker of the interaction and the ever-changing “stories” began pouring out. He’s just doing his job and if he upset anyone in the crowd then he was doing it well. News flash: harassing women is no longer an acceptable way to gain heat or pops, and it never should have been in the first place. Instead of the story ending here, he took to his own social media to villainize the company for refusing to book him going forward.

Situations like the one Brittany so kindly shared with us are met with a lot of harsh skepticism and a tense request that we keep our mouths shut. This is not just an issue at a wrestling level but for women across the board. The worker currently isn’t being mentioned because of fear of further backlash, harassment and a furthering sense of dread with regards to attending wrestling events. We don’t want to see the promotions that go out of their way to be decent promotions hurt because of scorned men who don’t want to let go of their patriarchal privilege.

We’re finally getting our brief reprieve from having Jerry Lawler on commentary, but we’re not out of the weeds yet. Someone other than Mr. McMahon needs to tear down this wall and let wrestling fans know that there’s no more room for sexual harassment here. That one day, twitter feeds won’t be inundated with men explaining why it’s okay to ask if a female wrestler has breast implants.  Soon rape jokes won’t just be seen as ribs in t
he locker room, or in training centres, that are fun and lighthearted. Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 12.55.15 AMEventually, intergender matches won’t be rife with spots where our opponent drools and gets a huge pop from the crowd by miming that they’re going to fuck us or get their face between our legs. *Insert pathetic wolf whistle here* We’re here to let everyone, including Ric Flair, know that Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it’s high time we shut the old guy down and give him a rest– the park is desolate and he doesn’t even go here. We got off that ride ages ago and we’ll do just fine without it.

Happy New Wrestle Kingdom 2016

New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 10

 

On the surface, the news coming out of NJPW’s January 4th Tokyo Dome show is dire. Attendance for the annual spectacle dipped to 25,000, reflecting critically on what many have called attention to over the past year: the at times stale booking of NJPW matchmaker Gedo. If losing 11,000 fans wasn’t enough to cause panic, the next day saw the rumored and all-but-confirmed departures of top draws Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles, and the tag team of Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, for World Wrestling Entertainment.  On the upswing, however, Wrestle Kingdom 10 was an artistically satisfying, hugely significant show that is completely worth spending five hours with.

 

Leaving aside the NJPW Rumble (King Haku! Cheeseburger!), the main card featured nine matches, eight of which were for championships. The first of these, a four-way scramble for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, is easily the most exciting of the opening contests. Tag team wrestling is largely inconsequential in the United States in 2016 and NJPW’s Junior Tag Team Division, while exciting, has suffered from repetitive booking, but that’s hardly a reflection of the talent in the division. Matt and Nick Jackson, The Young Bucks, are by far the best tag team in wrestling right now, and no team, not even the other three in this match, can touch them. Just listen to them wrestle: The two are in constant communication with each other, in peril or otherwise. All four teams (reDRagon, Aerial Dogfight, and Roppongi Vice) have great tag team moves and work cohesively as a unit (which is more rare than you’d think), but it’s the way the Bucks talk to each other that puts them over the edge, in a way that’s over the top while belying the extreme cohesion you’d expect from a pair of brothers who’ve been teaming for over a decade.

 

The middle of the card featured two matches that symbolized a changing of the guard, and the evening’s one non-title affair. In the Junior Heavyweight Division, Kenny Omega lost his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship to KUSHIDA. The match more than set-up KUSHIDA as the new ace of the juniors, fighting, as he did, from underneath Omega and his Bullet Club back up, The Young Bucks. Omega’s a human cartoon on offense and when he’s selling, and that’s either a thing you like or have a big problem with. I happen to be a big fan, and Omega was over the top against KUSHIDA, who is a very serious competitor once the Marty McFly bubble vest comes off.

 

The evening’s one non-title match, between Tetsua Naito and Hirooki Goto, was interesting mostly as a means of tracking Naito’s progress as a scumbag heel. Naito is currently the dark horse of New Japan’s roster, a former semi-main event caliber wrestler who turned heel and really found himself as a member of CMLL’s Los Ingobernables. His heel persona took off in NJPW, but the creation of Los Ingobernables de Japón seemed to weigh him down a bit, if only because it feels so forced. Joined by junior heavyweight BUSHI and laughably named and attired heavyweight KING OF DARKNESS EVIL (with whom Naito nearly won the World Tag League), Naito’s matches have largely become a showcase for routine cheating and sneak attacks, and this match against Goto did nothing to shake that pattern up. After two Bullet Club matches that began with surprise sneak attacks, that a third match on the card began the same way was noticeable, and I can’t get over how backyard KING OF DARKNESS EVIL is. BUSHI, though, is a good compliment to Naito, someone who has spent time in CMLL and, as a masked character, was ripe for reinvention. The match does its job, which is to establish Naito’s stable as a legitimate threat while also establishing Goto as a threat to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

 

At the top of the card, Wrestle Kingdom 10 featured three matches that showcase what New Japan Pro Wrestling does better than any promotion going right now, in-ring and long-term storytelling. A title like the NEVER Openweight Championship may seem superfluous in a promotion that has two top-tier championships (or, I suppose, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship may be the superfluous one), but has largely been defined by the stout, hard-hitting brawling of Tomohiro Ishii and Togi Makabe, who switched the title back and forth several times over the course of 2015. With Makabe in the tag division, Ishii took on Katsuyori Shibata, who pinned the champion twice during the 2015 World Tag League. Looking at the two next to each other, the odds would seem to be pretty clearly in the larger man’s favor, but for all the pain and misery a Tomohiro Ishii lariat so obviously inflicts, Shibata’s kicks are capable of that and much more.

 

The NEVER Championship, thematically, is about proving one’s worth as a warrior, and Shibata and Ishii exchanged a sort of delicious violence that can be heard and felt, not just seen. Though the two come out of the gate avoiding each other’s strikes, they soon dare each other to take the other’s strikes. Ishii loses an opening kick battle, flinching with every blow as Shiabata dusts his off. Shibata is, throughout the course of this contest, a man who will not be denied. Every time Ishii has the advantage, Shiabata finds the will, somehow, to turn the tables on the Stone Pitbull. The brutality of his attack, focused around kicks and submisisons, is a beautiful counterpoint to Ishii’s lariats, chops, forearms, and disgusting suplexes. Ishii, for his part, is resolute and terrifying. Every blow seems like a killing blow. Every submission feels like an end. But Shiabata or Ishii gut up and get back into the fight until the point where they’re exchanging headbutts in the center of the ring. All of this to see who the better man is, which is simplicity itself in professional wrestling. I’ve never been much for tracking a wrestler’s “moveset” as a measure of skill, and the NEVER division is proof that such metrics are overrated. With both men working loud and brutal, it’s the subtle things that Ishii does, on the attack and in selling Shiabata, that put this over the top. You know he’s in trouble early from Shiabata’s kicks and the way each one makes him flinch though none are as lethal as the heart-stopping PK. And you know he knows he’s in trouble when he accidentally illegally chops his challenger in the throat, sees that it works, and purposefully does so again. Just an exhausting, classic encounter that revels in physicality.

 

Outside of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, there is likely no more important a title in wrestling than the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, largely because of the man who currently holds it, Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura is New Japan’s top draw and, in terms of sheer presence, virtually unmatched as far as charisma goes. Nakamura put out an open challenge to any wrestler in the world to face him for the title and was answered by AJ Styles, setting up a rare first-time-ever dream match between two stars of equal stature that’s actually worthy of the “dream match” billing.

 

I watched the match live, and while I forget what time it was playing and didn’t have the benefit of caffeine, I was really, really alive for it. Thanks to the invaluable live translation of E. Key Oide (@e_key_oide), I know that the announcers for the contest (which included Jushin Liger and Masahiro Chono) put over the match as a clash of two true originals in the world of professional wrestling, and that’s exactly what it felt like. By extension, this is what the IWGP Intercontinental Championship seems to represent: Stars that are IWGP Championship grade (as Nakamura’s t-shirt has it) but who stand just outside or above it, Nakamura being above it and his Wrestle Kingdom challengers (Styles here; Kota Ibushi, Tanahashi, and Kazushi Sakuraba in the past) just to the side of the dominant narrative of Kazuchika Okada’s ascendency to the position of New Japan’s ace. Unlike last year’s match against Ibushi, this one doesn’t start with The King of Strong Style toying with his opponent—there’s a certain amount of gamesmanship, to be sure, as when Nakamura catches Style’s pantomimed bullet and swallows it whole—Styles has nothing to prove to Nakamura, and the two wrestle an even contest from the start. While I find the story of Nakamura/Ibushi to be the best of his Wrestle Kingdom championship defenses, I absolutely love the pace of this match, a measured heavyweight clash that is punctuated by bursts and flurries of violence and technical wizardry. Both men are in scary-good control of their body’s motions and language, such that spots like an early-match counter backbreaker from Nakamura manage to look and feel more gruesome for managing to be a successful audible.

 

Despite how even the two are, Nakamura is on offense much of the time, with Styles opting to employ the Calf Killer as a defensive submission maneuver designed to neutralize the BomaYe. It’s smart, and gives Styles an edge after all the work Nakamura puts in on his back, but the BomaYe’s success as a finishing blow is such that Nakamura goes for it regardless of injury. On equal footing, the two break out the big strikes and moves, a particularly good near-fall being Styles’ counter knee lift into a brutal 450 splash. It’s a beautiful match that I can’t recommend enough, even if Nakamura and Styles’ tenures with NJPW are over and the future of the Intercontinental Championship uncertain except for its pending vacancy when Nakamura leaves for the United States. Their coda, a tag team match on New Year Dash that also featured Kenny Omega and YOSHI-HASHI in a match designed to make Omega the new ace of the Bullet Club and credible challenger to Nakamura’s championship, which it did, but now mostly serves as a teaser for a match that will not be happening. There’s certainly a number of possibilities for New Japan now, none of which I am qualified to speculate on, but as far as final images go, the mid-ring fist bump between Nakamura and Styles in the Dome is a particularly neat one, complete with the required zoom in.

 

The culmination of a years long rivalry that’s headlined the Dome on a number of occasions, Kazuchika Okada’s quest to defeat Hiroshi Tanahashi on a January 4th show came to an end in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 10, where he successfully defended the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and staked his claim as the true ace of New Japan by defeating the man who previously held that spot. It’s a contest that goes nearly an hour, which was rough going live, and really pays off well if you know the history of the two, just an old-school match wrestled at a classic pace, Tanahashi (who doesn’t look anything like he’s near 40 or ready to relinquish the role of ace) playing the sure veteran to Okada’s justifiably cocky younger rival.

 

The first time I saw the match, it was in sequence with the rest of the card, at the end of a very long night, and I just did not have the patience for it. About 10 minutes in, it seemed like the two would be doing everything in their power to go the 60 minute time limit, which, not including a video package and introductions, they very nearly do. The focus of the match is Okada’s leg, which Tanahashi works over fiercely with dragon screw leg whips, dropkicks to the knee, and targeted High Fly Flow splashes from all over the ring. Okada, never one to back down, often sacrifices his leg or knee if it means punishing Tanahashi. That means not selling the leg when he goes into sequences that involve his leg drops, but if that’s a flaw in the storytelling of the match, than it is a very small one in what has largely been a very satisfying epic novel. That legwork is largely what won Tanahashi the match at Wrestle Kingdom 9, the conclusion of which was one of my favorites of a major wrestling event, Okada exiting the arena in tears as Tanahashi played air guitar. It seems like the strategy will work for him again, only it wouldn’t make much sense narratively for Tanahashi to beat Okada in the Dome for a third time. This is the story of Okada’s ascendency, after all, and torch-passings don’t end with the bearer sucker-punching the recipient and taking the torch back.

 

While I’m able to appreciate the match more in a second and third viewing, I have to admit that my mind continued to wander from the match. There was a sense of destiny to the whole thing, and, in a wrestling match, that’s something I can’t claim to be that big a fan of. Okada fighting from underneath Tanahashi and establishing that he truly is the most dominant force in New Japan Pro Wrestling is fine and necessary, but this one just lacked the nuance of previous encounters and didn’t have a classic moment like Okada crying on his way out of the Dome. With both men in the semi-main event on their way out of the promotion, it’s good that Okada is being firmly planted as the new figurehead of NJPW. The next few months will be vital, both in building the promotion around Okada such that a situation like his and Tetsua Naito’s losing the Wrestle Kingdom main event doesn’t happen again, and in filling the holes left by styles and Nakamura. Wrestle Kingdom 10 showed that the way forward for New Japan is not without hope—this still-young year may be the most interesting in recent memory.

 

Match Results (Recommended Matches in Bold)

 

Pre-show) Jado won the New Japan Rumble

 

1) The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) def. reDRAGON (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, champions), Aerial Dogfight (Matt Sydal and Ricochet), and Roppongi Vice (Baretta and Rocky Romero) for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.

 

2) The Briscoe Brothers (Mark and Jay Briscoe) and Toru Yano def. The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, and Yujiro Takahashi) for the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship.

 

3) Jay Lethal (champion) def. Michael Elgin for the Ring of Honor World Championship.

 

4) Kushida def. Kenny Omega (champion) for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.

 

5) G.B.H. (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) def. Bullet Club (Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, champions) for the IWGP Tag Team Championship.

 

6) Hirooki Goto def. Tetsuya Naito.

 

7) Katsuyori Shibata def. Tomohiro Ishii (champion) for the NEVER Openweight Championship.

 

8) Shinsuke Nakamura (champion) def. A.J. Styles for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.

 

9) Kazuchika Okada (champion) def. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

And the surprise entrant is… — ROYAL RUMBLE 2016 Predictions

It’s that time of year that we all look forward to and end up leaving bitterly disappointed. We decided to go over the card and craft for you how we think Royal Rumble 2k16 will playout.

Pre-Rumble Tag Match

With all our feelings towards ECW it’s with great shock to say most of us are leaning towards a Dudley Boyz win since the pairings of Henry/Swagger and Young/Sandow seem quite far fetched, but it’s be cool to see what they could do with the latter of those teams.

rr_graphicss3Dean Ambrose vs Kevin Owens

Same as before, we seem to be at a draw on who we like more out of the two. There’s been some speculation that it might have to end with a double count out with both men trapped under a pile  of rubble and debris just to continue the trend of Ambrose losing due to hilariously convoluted means in gimmick based matches. If Owens wins then it can lead us on the pathway to the Owens/Sami Zayn title match that we all wish to see at Wrestlemania!

Charlotte vs Becky Lynchrr_graphicss2

Like a plot straight out of Mean Girls we’re going to see Becky show up and burn Charlotte’s diary since she’s just too darn mean. The inventor of the #DivasRevolution, the every woman – Steph McMahon, will then call out for a lumberjack match of the entire Divas division. Becky will call a no contest and snatch the belt and break it into pieces– one for each Diva and all they’ve contributed.

But in reality there will be a win for Lynch with a finish that allows Charlotte to keep the strap all to herself. Becky getting cheated will allow for a triple threat or 4 corners match at Mania between Charlotte, Becky, Paige and Sasha Banks. Becky getting cheated will get the crowd on her side for what will make for a really interesting future for the booking of the main roster women’s division.

rr_graphics2The New Day vs The Usos

Most of our predictions are looking towards how it’s going to play out as part of a Wrestlemania lead up, and this tag team belt match is no different. New Day is going to retain, and they have to avenge Francesca at this point. The only other way for them to do this is to give the Usos the belts so that they can win the rumble as a trio and then turn on another another– and let’s hope that this doesn’t happen. We need a good faction to stay in tact for a little while longer, I can’t handle another Shield upset.

Alberto Del Rio vs Kalisto rr_graphicss

The US Championship belt is almost like a poorly attended game of hot potato, so it’s looking like it’s Kalisto’s turn. It’s be nice to see someone hold onto it for longer than a week this go around.

rr_graphicsLet’s Get Ready to Be Disappointed!!!!!

We all know the only reason to truly watch the rumble is to see who the old school entrant is and we’re going way out of left field with The Great Khali.

As for the surprise entrant will most likely be Triple H. Even though there’s slight whispers of Styles, Triple H is going to come at the end just so someone can beat Roman. Who knows, maybe Sledgie will make an appearance. The smart move, despite our iffy feelings about Bullet Club, is to have Finn invade with Balor Club up from NXT and NJPW. It’ll at least make for something interesting to chatter about. Other things we’d like to see is a Diva entering the rumble, maybe even Natalya, and having them go far or even win.

So there you have it, folks. Don’t forget to follow us on the twitter for all the nonsense during the show where we consistently outshine the official commentary.

 

 

Ring of Honor’s Women of Honor: December 12th Review

Veda Scott at Women of Honor December 12

When WWE introduced the “Divas Revolution” in an attempt to make up for decades of treating their women talent as “less than,” every wrestling promotion took the hashtag and ran with it. Some pointed out they had been doing not only women’s wrestling, but intergender matches, for years. TNA boasted that they had given women’s wrestling plenty of airtime, in addition to World Title shots. However, Ring of Honor had been noticeably quiet up until fairly recently. While women are included in their shows and on television, it’s only in the context of a managerial role–Veda Scott and Moose, Maria and the Kingdom, Veda Scott and Cedric Alexander, Taeler Hendrix and the House of Truth. While’s there’s nothing wrong with women valets and managers, to choose not to do more in the midst of this was a little annoying for myself as not only a fan of women’s wrestling but also as a fan of Ring of Honor. I knew they used to have women’s wrestling, so where is it now?

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Enter the return of Women of Honor. As of now, they are dark matches being taped for YouTube, but something is better than nothing. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see any of these matches, but I finally had my chance on December 12th in Philadelphia during the TV tapings after Final Battle. We were going to get not one, but two women’s matches–a tag team match, and a four corner survival match. Eight women were going to be wrestling, and I was looking forward to seeing it, but nervous of the crowd’s reaction. So I held my breath and waited.

Tag team match: Deonna Purrazzo & Hania the Huntress vs Mandy Leon and Sumie Sikai

I’m not at all familiar with Hania or Sikai, but I had seen Purrazzo on NXT recently, in addition to wrestling Leon previously on YouTube. Leon definitely has shown improvement since the last time I saw her, and I think she could be great if she keeps working at it. The crowd was initially quiet, but eventually some “Let’s go Mandy” chants popped up. The Sikai and Purrazzo were definitely the strongest wrestlers, which helped the match considerably when they were in the ring. I thought I could relax regarding the crowd and then Sikai got some “Asuka,” chants, which, well, fuck you.

The match ran about 9 minutes, and Mandy and Sumie walked away with the pin.

Four Corner Survival: Kelly Klein vs Taeler Hendrix vs Kimber Lee vs Veda Scott

I was slightly more familiar with the competitors in this match, I’d seen Scott and Lee wrestle before, and Hendrix has become a familiar face with the House of Truth. I knew of Kelly Klein, but hadn’t seen her wrestle yet.

This match was miles better than the tag team match, which makes sense considering the collective experience in the ring. Kimber Lee just recently won the CHIKARA Grand Championship, and Veda Scott has won her fair share of championships. It was a hard hitting match and the crowd was very into it. Klein won via submission on Scott after about 12 minutes (music to end).

Something that stood out to me before the match was that Veda, Kelly, and Taeler all came out to Cedric Alexander’s, The Decade’s, and House of Truth’s music respectively, and Kimber Lee came out to generic music with no video package. Now, Taeler makes sense considering her affiliation with the House Of Truth, even Kelly and The Decade. I wish Veda at least came out to her own video, even if she came out to Alexander’s music.

I’m hoping Ring of Honor keeps up with the Women of Honor matches and thinks about giving some television time to these matches, and develops some storylines around them so they can fully integrate into the promotion. I was thinking out loud with my friend on the drive home from Final Battle about my concerns that Ring of Honor wants the benefits of claiming women’s wrestling, but not fully committing to it. Having 8 women in 2 matches that will never make it on TV fits that narrative, but I would like to be proven wrong.

NXT Takeover London: Predictions

In a surprise turn of events, NXT is going to have to pull out all the stops to measure up to the TLC PPV; that being said, we have no doubts that our fave wrestlers are going to deliver quality entertainment. This makes it harder to tease since there’s not a match on the card we’re not interested in.

Let’s take a look at what we have in store and our thoughts on how it’ll pan out:

Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin

Baron is surprisingly forgettable, despite the potential his character holds. This will be an interesting chance for Apollo Crews, actual ray of sunshine, to bring some excellent talent to an otherwise mediocre match.

We’ve had the joy of seeing Apollo crews climb through the roster pretty quickly, and can’t wait for what’s to come from him next… hopefully next time it will be against a more worthy adversary. Nothing can really stand in his way with the exception of Asuka and Joe, who we will see later tonight, but maybe the three of them will team up and do a little dance in the centre of the ring catching us all by surprise.

*Surprise twist: Apollo lifts Baron’s motorcycle and crushes him with it, but since Apollo shines bright like the moon he actually helps Baron to transform into a werewolf. Sadly, no one is packing and silver bullets, so it’s time to call up to our main roster comic book characters to help this story unfold.

Asuka vs. Emma

There is going to be some obvious interference on Emma’s behalf here, since that’s what’s been pushed over and over again, but it’s working. Asuka is our clear standout  in what will be a brilliant match of submissions.

*What can’t happen under any circumstances: In an effort to continue turn the tables on Asuka mocking them, Emma comes out in a kimono and Asuka’s mask. Thankfully, this won’t happen, but we don’t rule anything out in the WWE Universe.

Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady

It’s about time the realest guys in the room took home the tag championship since they’ve already turned our hearts SAWFT. The boys have recent pulled away from their comedy stylings as revenge for Colin’s knee injury, and it’ll be a feat of victory if they steal the titles and continue this aggressive streak they’ve started.

*You can’t teach that: What is “How to retain a tag belt in NXT for any substantial period of time?”

Bayley vs. Nia Jax

nxtakover

Bayley has hugged us all, but she can’t hold that belt forever, and it only seems obvious that Nia continues her undefeated streak and snatches the title from Bayley. It can honestly go either way for a multitude reasons, and it’ll be a treat no matter the outcome.

*Next level staring contest: The match has the potential to turn into a battle of who can hug the other for the longest, and the entire universe takes a nap and falls more in love with one another going forward.

Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe

nxtakover2

Do we dare predict that all three titles switch hands tonight? Why not go for broke and continue the upset.  Balor and Joe have had an interesting story ever since Joe came on the scene, from tag team partners, to a blow of disrespect, to sworn enemies, it’s nice to see characters develop and evolve over time.

*Montreal screw job gains a newer, happier meaning: Sami Zayn returns and blindsides both of them taking the title for himself and reigns over NXT before summoning Kevin Owens to come back down and prove himself once more.

 

Lucha Underground ramps up for it’s Second Season

Wrestling audiences are living in a blessed time, particularly on Wednesday nights when we’ve been spoiled for choice thanks to NXT, Ring of Honor and the most strikingly different TV product so far, Lucha Underground. Created by TV mogul Mark Burnett and film director Robert Rodriguez for the El Ray Network, Lucha Underground boasts a unique look and style and an impressive roster that includes familiar names such as Johnny Mundo (formerly Johnny Morrison) and Alberto El Patron (better known as Alberto Del Rio) and many from standout Mexican company Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA). Combining striking visuals, excellent wrestling and storytelling, Lucha Underground is one of the most exciting weekly wrestling series I’ve enjoyed since becoming a wrestling fan.

So what is it about Lucha Underground that has gotten so many rave reviews and dedicated fans,
like me, on the edge of our seats over the announcement of a second season? Other companies and channels have tried to create weekly wrestling shows. I remember MTV’s Wrestling Society X, which had a talented roster but tried so obviously hard to appeal and fell short. LU provides the familiar, heart-stopping standout action for TV trailers – Angelico leaping off of the roof of the boss’ office onto wrestlers below in the ring – and recognizable characters – the paid thugs, the woman fighting the odds, the bitch who orders her boyfriend around, and more. There are familiar moments glimpsed throughout: Chavo Guerrero can never be trusted, and the boss Dario Cueto is self-serving to the max. So far, so familiar, but this promotion is truly a cut above in terms of storytelling. Settling quite nicely into one of the best comparisons that pro wrestling is akin to a soap opera, we are gifted with vignettes that are recorded on film to mimic the aesthetic of a movie, and there is a plethora of backstory where the kayfabe of contracts and illicit shady dealings are made visible directly to the viewer. What a way to have the fate of a character decided! It’s refreshing to be subjected to promos that serve the same clear purpose as the matches and tell one entertaining, cohesive story.

One thing we truly appreciate is LU hasn’t fallen into the trap where you see the exact same characters week in and week out acting out the feud you got bored of a few weeks back. Instead, stories and characters are able to breathe and just when you think someone has fallen off the radar, their string is pulled and they’ve returned to develop a new twist.

They’ve also got the magic of the craft down pat with the inclusion of supernatural storylines such as Drago: a dragon reborn as a man and Catrina who raises her powerful charge, Mil Muertes, from the dead. It’s wonderful to see the out of the ordinary be played straight while still maintaining some of the camp and humour that makes professional wrestling such a well rounded art form we have all grown to love. That contrast, the release of pressure, is definitely needed to carry the show – a fact that the producers seem sharply aware of.

A promotion that is for everyone, but definitely is aware of it’s mature audience in terms of it’s pacing and tone. They utilize this both to captivate the viewers in the crowd, as well as at home. This is a stark reminder that you don’t need to go full “shock” in order to keep anyone over the age of 9 invested. It is possible to make a wrestling product that’s great for all, and it seems that El Rey has their eye on the prize – so much so that there were even whispers of them being in talks for Emmy nominations this past year.

With the recent announcement of a new season being released on January 27th, 2016, it’s safe to say that wrestling fans are eagerly awaiting a follow up to the finale from season one, Ultimate Lucha, which drew to a close with Dario Cueto fleeing the arena. Will the next season be staged somewhere else entirely and abandon the set which has become so much a part of Lucha Underground’s image and success? That would be both a gamble and brave move, a feat well worth the payoff. So fans, you can breathe a sigh of relief that the spray painted question mark was only asking us what’s to come next, not will we ever see you again.

Check out the trailer for season two, and tune in to the El Rey network for more lucha action.

Bald Spots, Beer Guts and a Champ No One Likes: Or TLC 2015 Predictions

Going into this weekend’s final PPV of the year for WWE we are met with the realization that TLC 2015 is completely unrecognizable from something in the Invasion angle. All guffaws aside, we put our minds and feminine wiles together to bring you a very accurate, and somewhat irreverent prediction of what is going to go down this Sunday night on the WWE Network. We aren’t emotionally invested, but some of us did shell out $9.99 for it, so here we go.

Continue reading Bald Spots, Beer Guts and a Champ No One Likes: Or TLC 2015 Predictions

Princess Kimber Lee as Chikara Grand Champion

At the 2015 season finale, Chikara’s new Grand Champion showed that gender has nothing to do with who is the best wrestler in the company. After the gruelling Challenge of the Immortals tournament final bout against the Wrecking Crew (Devastation Corporation and Jaka), Princess Kimber Lee’s team, Crown and Court (The Princess, Gentleman Jervis Cottonbelly and Los Icecreams) won 3 points to use at any time to earn their chance at immortality AKA title shots.

Following the title bout, in which, then champion, Hallowicked successfully defended his title against former champions Eddie Kingston and Icarus, Princess Kimber Lee exchanged her three points for an immediate title match. The reaction of the crowd was defeaning in its positive exclamations.IMG_1621 Hallowicked was not a well liked champion and Kimber Lee’s never say die attitude and technical prowess instantly wins her cheers every where she wrestles. Perhaps showing immortality on her part, the challenger repeatedly kicked out of the most devastating attacked the champion could muster. Using the nearly unbreakable Chikara special submission hold, Kimber Lee found victory via tap out.

The year end season finale show of 2014 saw its first Young Lions Cup winner go to its first woman, Heidi Lovelace.  IMG_1002One year later, Princess Kimber Lee is their first woman Grand Champion. These strides are so important to see some more diversity in wrestling and get us out of this horrendous rut we’ve been stuck in for quite some time.

***Big congrats to Kimber Lee, and we will have an exclusive interview with her soon.

Lucha Va Voom – Mexican Horror Story

It’s only a week away, so time to get your pants spooked off by one of the best wrestling shows around when Lucha Va Voom returns with their annual two-night Halloween spectacular shows on Wednesday, October 28 and Thursday, October 29 at The Mayan in downtown Los Angeles.

We’ll be giving you a play by play follow up after the show occurs, but you still have time to go if you’re in California. You’d be daft to miss it.

 This Halloween celebration will feature: All Mini Monsters Match; an exclusive U.S. appearance by Japanese luchador Mr. Cacao and professional wrestler KikutaroEvil Doctor’s vs. Mexican Masked Maniacs (Dr. Cerebro/Dr. Maldad vs. Extreme Tiger/Relampago); The Poubelle Twins (the sister duo of Fifi and Bibi dressed up as French Maids); multi-Guinness World Record holder Marawa The Amazing; a HEINO! Tribute to Vicente Fernandez (feat. aerialist Kate Minwegan); Miss Rita and the L’il Homies; plus Chickens; Aliens; Dirty Sanchez and much more.


Get your Tickets Here

Event/Date: Lucha VaVOOM’s “Mexican Horror Story” shows on Wednesday, October 28 and Thursday, October 29, 2015

Location: The Mayan (1038 South Hill Street / Los Angeles, CA 90015). Click here for map.

Doors: 7:00 p.m.

Start Time/End Time: 8:00 p.m./10:30 p.m.

Admission: Click here for tickets. General Admission tickets are available for $40 and Ringside Seating tickets are available for $55. 21+ event.

More info: Visit luchavavoom.com or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

At Ringside: Women Superstars Uncensored in Philadelphia, 7/11/2015

IMG_5271WSU holds a very special place in my heart. It brought some of my favorite wrestlers to a very near, convenient location to me. I have fond memories of excited chats and jokes shared with admirable athletes and being licked by Mickie Knuckles. I may be biased in favor of WSU for all the wonderful memories, but the product itself has given me very little reason to dislike it.

Yet, Sunday, July 11th began with some disappointments. My car proved to be unsafe to use when I had promised two friends I’d be the driver for both this and the CZW show later that night. I had to shell out for a rental, but at least made it early enough to find decent parking at the 2300 Arena (Formerly known as Viking Hall or Alhambra Arena, but most notably to everyone else: ECW Arena). The other disappointment: I knew I wouldn’t be seeing my long time favorite LuFisto, since she was suspended for attacking management in the previous show (after management interfered, costing her the company’s top belt)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayflI5g0IMM

While she’s snuck into other events in the past https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7f_lz5wSrk I knew she was scheduled to appear at Atomic Pro. She’s been a professional wrestler for 18 years and I knew full well she would not disappoint the fans that were expecting her there.

But I did have plenty else to look forward to. I was surrounded by friends. Excellent wrestlers were scheduled to appear and I looked forward to the double header with CZW.

But it’s wrestling. Can’t start it off without … lengthy promos! I gave up cable TV years ago—I hear y’all folks deal with hour long promos now. We didn’t have to suffer that much.. For the uninitiated, WSU, while owned by DJ Hyde/CZW, is directed, at this time by The Office, a cadre of multi lingual members: speaking Spanish, wrestler Amanda Rodriguez; articulating in French, manager Mille Rachelle, and leading the Office and elucidating in English, former spirit and tag champ, Sassy Stephie. It’s hard to find a more unsympathetic trio in the company at this time. It fell on this administrator to deliver the bad news that Shanna, Portugal’s Perfect Athlete, couldn’t  attend this show due a legal mix up with customs and was forced to return home. I understand that wrestlers have a bad rap with customs in Canada and the US. This was enough to prompt Shanna’s would-be opponent for the event, the Boy Diva Rick Cataldo, the company’s outspoken, cross-dressing baddest bitch, to come to the ring.

After a hilarious interchange of insults, it was conceded that Rick had won that match by default. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a live victory for a Cataldo match, so I was happy for him! BUT, if you know him, you know that he’s had dreams for this night. His previous appearance at the ECW arena was as a manager. Why should he be denied his chance at a match there? He was granted one with a challenge to Sassy Stephie herself. Satisfied, the Boy Diva left.

IMG_5712Amanda Rodriguez vs Pink Flash Kira

Amanda Rodriguez, oddly, was not dressed in business casual wear, but in wrestling gear. Stephie had promised her a chance at revenge on LuFisto via her student, Pink Flash Kira (LuFisto had later confirmed that she given Kira “wrestling clinics” but did not fully train her). Kira arrived to the ring, positive, confident and with dazzlingly colorful hair. Any concerns for the Office members outside the ring weren’t apparent on her masked face.

The opening bout moved more quickly than I expected and set a great tone for the quality of fights we’d see later on that day. Amanda seemed to be at a disadvantage in physical strength and Kira hustled, rushing her opponent frequently, denying a chance for a breather early on. Rodriguez retaliated by tugging at Kira’s mask. I thought Kira would have the final fall with a devastating lung blower but Amanda had just enough breath to kick out. She caught Kira with a DDT, and proceeded to test the wrestling knowledge of those in attendance. The CZW crowds that tend to populate WSU shows have a reputation for being bloodthirsty lovers of ultraviolence, merciless to perceived “fuck ups” in the ring. That reputation held true this evening but this crowd knew enough to erupt in boos at the final pinfall when Amanda blatantly pulled the tights, preventing Kira from getting the leverage needed to kick out.

IMG_6164Round 1 of the WSU Spirit Belt semi finals – Brittany Blake vs Hania the Howling Huntress

With the warm up match out of the way, it was time for the Semi finals with Brittany Blake vs Hania. At the preliminaries, Blake scored what was seen as an upset victory over Hania the Howling Huntress and “AK47” Allysin Kay eliminated Solo Darling. Due to scheduling conflicts, AK couldn’t make it and the Office, in a case of blatantly not watching the tape, had reinstated Hania (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nid8QipwmtQ).

Blake has over a year’s worth of wrestling experience, is a graduate of the CZW’s Dojo, and for a time, underwhelmed me, but I saw her style and skill evolve at other events in the Northeast.  She used to have slow strikes that barely registered. Her offense seemed limited except for a top rope dive, that felt out of place. Her style is now harder hitting. One of her best assets was her ability to take punishment. She still takes a licking, and when she reacts, you feel it but now, she gives it back as well. Impressive for someone with such a small frame—and the Tequila Sunrise she added for submissions is a great fit for her!

Hania on the other hand is trained by Sara Del Freakin’ Ray. She has a powerful and disciplined build. She toys with gravity mid-leap. Out of all the accidental hits I’ve taken from pro wrestlers (non work punches, errant dives, etc), she’s caused me the most pain from her HIGH FIVES alone. Despite Brittany’s improvements, the odds were still stacked against her. Hania still had a reach and strength advantage. As aggressive as Brittany became, Hania still had a bigger mean streak. Yet, the crowd that had previously watched near mute or with taunts to her matches suddenly found themselves cheering loudly for this spirited underdog. She struck Hania with force that even surprised the Huntress. But despite great escapes and an array of painful looking attacks, including that fantastic Tequila Sunrise, Hania handily won and proceeded to disrespect Brittany post match.

IMG_5566Round 1 of the WSU Spirit Belt semi finals – The Fallen Goddess, Athena vs Leva “Blue Pants” Bates.

Athena was my pick for the most logical winner from the start. She was a #1 contender for the WSU Championship and, pound for pound, she is an amazing athlete that manages to hold her own in all aspects in wrestling. Her repertoire of attacks leaves me breathless or screaming in fear for her opponents. She entered with three standard bearers to her theme song and emerged with a wolf like mask tucked under hood. I still get chills whenever I see photos from that entrance.

Leva is no slouch, either. Trained by the Dudleys, she is deceptively tough for her wiry frame, but I couldn’t see her besting Athena despite a slight reach advantage. Leva returned in her Netflix ninja Daredevil in training outfit from her previous WSU appearance. She had lost her planned outfit and luggage and apologized to the crowd before the contest began. I sincerely doubt anyone was holding a grudge against her, even without such a disarming and unnecessary apology. Cosplay is her thing; we love her wrestling even more.

The bout went off showing what I expected. Strength and tactical advantages from Athena however, there were many cases where Leva managed to use the Goddess’ momentum against her and a few counters that backfired. Most impressively was Leva’s arm bar being thwarted by a deadlift single arm power bomb. This counter couldn’t come soon enough and Athena had visibly nagging pains in her arm. Bates surprised me with her resiliency. She resisted painful submission holds and held her own in strike exchanges. She was surprised as well by her victory! Hania, a fierce rival to Athena, returned to distract her long enough for a roll up (no tights pulled). It did not seem like a welcomed or coordinated effort. Athena was quick to chase Hania after her loss.

Rick Cataldo vs Sassy Stephie

Cataldo’s presence is maligned by many in the crowd but I was happy to see cheers and bows from many of the faithful. But I’d think the self proclaimed, “Baddest Bitch of Them All” and frequent tag team fighter would have recruited some back up to counter Stephie’s Office mates (Bring in Eddy McQueen?). Full disclosure: as a hardcore fan of Cataldo, I knew that he was excited for this match. His wrestling bucket list included having a catfight in the ECW arena and he got his wish, rolling after a pounce from the Sassy one. They quickly spun on the mat, fighting with more conviction than I ever saw from Francine lunging at Beulah. This cat fight rolled over senior WSU official, Nick Papagiorgio, like a demented spandex-clad Katamari, eventually spitting him out onto his butt. The match had some funny bits to it, but I’ve had a grudge against Stephie for all she’s done to keep LuFisto down. I was hoping Rick would get his first win in the longest. But despite innovative and classic attacks from Rick, the Office worked together. Mlle Rachelle distracted the ref as Amanda Rodriguez tossed a, what seemed like, an over sized knuckle duster to Stephie, easily helping her get a win. The office was 2 for 2 that evening.

IMG_5930Tag Team Championship – TNA’s Doll House: Jade (FKA Mia Yim) and Marti Belle vs Annie Social and Kimber Lee AKA: Chicks Using Nasty Tactics (c)

Oh fuck, this was just all sorts of crazy-awesome in a ring. I lack cable, so I’m not sure what the Doll’s House was all about. It looks like two preeminent bad asses were playing the part of childish adults. Fortunately, seeing their pre-fight stretches in the ring after their toying with lollipops belied this image. They were hilarious, though, hamming up things with immature in-ring banter. Confidently striding to the ring was another pair of badasses: Kimber Lee sporting new violet hair and Annie Social rocking a mini mohawk. I could picture all the complaints people must have been making on the internet to the new look and I couldn’t wait for Annie not giving a single fuck to other people’s opinions.

Kimber Lee better be on everyone’s radar on the indie circuits. She’s a bump machine that has made a name for herself for taking savage attacks and getting through just fine, doing intergender fights and nearly decapitating people with her round house kicks. Annie’s a veteran no nonsense brawler that slugs the shit out of her opponents when she isn’t grappling. Seeing the speedy style of my fellow Caribbean, Marti Belle and the complementary power and submissions from Mia Yim/Jade made for a match packed with violent wonders. Displaying her own raw strength, Kimber Lee pulled a delayed vertical suplex to an unsuspecting Yim as well as trading and no selling each others’ over the head german suplexes. My only disappointment was the match ending too quickly when Annie snuck a pinfall victory over Marti. Clearly the champions took the worst of this exchange, but Annie had the wherewithal to shift from “punch people until they stop moving” to win quick and get out.

As they were leaving, the Doll House exacted revenge. They’d been using double team methods throughout the match to stay fresher (who’s using nasty tactics now?) and came from behind to choke out Annie and Package Piledrive Kimber Lee! The champions helped each other to the back, victors; the formerly saccharine smiles of the Dollhouse suddenly looked predatory.

IMG_5481CZW crowds love their badasses, so of course they chanted, “Please come back!” They also chanted “suplex city” for like two suplexes, so whatever.

INTERMISSION was an orgy of sweaty hugs and greetings from fantastic performers and friends travelling long distances to catch this show. Annie shared an anecdote about her hair cut. PWG was trashed in my presence. DJ revealed he would be debuting a new outfit. Dan Barry drew ISW’s Mike Rotch as an anthropomorphic penis. Lines were incredibly long to give financial support to some of my favorites and I wound up missing the entrances for Veda Scott vs Solo Darling!

Veda Scott vs Solo Darling

The date for this event was July 11th or 7/11. Solo Darling, the sugared up squirrel girl came to the ring with her Slurpee and a separate one as a gift for Veda. Scott refused this gift on nutritional grounds. After that previous hard-hitting match and the craziness of the cramped merch table space in ECW’s hallowed halls, a comedy match was overdue. Solo’s affectionate tendencies and fingers sought Veda’s for a handshake. While Veda was grossed out by the sticky, candy-covered grip, Solo soon discovered it was effective for multiple arm drag take downs. Veda sought to regroup outside and Solo adorably chased after her for a hug! Solo Darling is freaking adorable. She’s this tiny lady (that is taller than a stack of pancakes) that always tries to sneak in hugs to her opponent. Veda wasn’t having that. She struck the squirrel and then walked the GUARD RAILS in an old school rope walk variation ending with Solo’s cranium smashed to the guard rail… and then Veda yelled at me to take pictures (I love pro wrestling!). Veda kept the upper hand barely as they grappled back in the ring.

While Solo recovered from submission attacks, the fashionable lawyer-turned-wrestler finally accepted a drink from her gifted Slurpee and made a fatal rookie mistake. She reeled quickly from a brain freeze and spat the contents in the face of concerned referee Dan Yost. Solo rallied the last bits of her strength but her sugar rush was clearly near its fuzzy tail end. Solo refueled with her Slurpee and went a sucrose powered rampage. Solo ended the bout with her — get this — HUG FACTOR attack! A defeated Veda mewled for a Slurpee once she regained her wits. In her weakened state, she dropped her gift and cried all the way to the back.

WSU Championship – Tessa Blanchard vs Cherry Bomb (C)

An odd trend in WSU and CZW: the main championship isn’t always the main event. I find it odd. The part of me that listened to too many old wrestler rantings thinks this waters down the prestige of the title. I’m not a pro or promoter, so I don’t know what makes money. I know that I bought my ticket mostly to see Solo vs Veda and anything with Athena and was more than satisfied.

It was touching to see Tessa enter with the tribute yellow polka dotted knee pad. It had been a month since Rhodes’ passing and I don’t know if her upbringing had her meeting Dusty but he certainly made an impact on her family. My heart goes out to 2nd and 3rd generation wrestlers, especially if their kin were famous in the business. Standing in their shadows and being expected to take up the business like their forebearers must be intimidating. I won’t deny that this young wrestler overflows with charisma and is a —no pun intended— thoroughbred athlete.

Cherry Bomb was a controversial champion going into this match. Despite her prowess and experience in the ring, blatant interference resulted in her being awarded the belt. She is currently in the CZW faction #TVReady and regularly meddles in matches to aid their champion BLK Jeez alongside her husband, Pepper Parks. Furthermore, she sonically assaults the audience with a high pitched squeaking voice and appears to be half unaware as to how annoying it is. So in short, she’s a fantastic person to boo!

It is confusing as to how Tessa received a title shot. She hasn’t won in the appearances I caught her in WSU. She did remark on it in her pre-ring interview that it was a surprise to her as well that the powers that be saw something in her and she vowed to make the most of her chance. Oddly enough, I’m told that this is one of the few venues in which she’s not a heel. If her villainous behavior is like the 4 horsemen of old, however, I bet she’s just as beloved.

Maybe it was the rising temperature and humidity, but this didn’t feel like a main event fight. It wasn’t bad. There was some great wrestling but it felt more like a solid above average midcard fight. Cherry shrieked, eye raked, pulled hair and threw Tessa out of the ring. It’s not that it was bad, far from it, but I saw no way, short of interference, for a relative rookie to defeat Cherry Bomb. A BSE (“Best Superkick EVER!!!” her move title, not mine) caught Tessa and Cherry retained her title. When Blanchard came to, I was impressed by the defiant set of her jaw. Definitely easily getting everyone’s sympathy as a determined challenger but not giving me the feel of someone to be champion (yet).

IMG_4985

WSU Spirit Belt finals – Hania the Howling Huntress vs Leva “Blue Pants” Bates

Leva entered in costume again, but instead of Netflix Daredevil in training, she was a full on comic book Daredevil with a lucha style mask, Daredevil logo shirt and red pants. Bless the crowd for spontaneously cheering, “Red pants! Red pants!” I don’t even watch WWE shows and got the joke.

Hania entered with an air of arrogance that was delightful. Sometimes I forget how grueling it is to come back to fight more than one match after being spoiled by other tournaments. The main event started off slow and I was mentally writing it off until Bates did an impressive turnbuckle assisted knee dive into Hania, only to get her mask ripped off seconds later (PS: Daredevil was Leva all along!!!). Hania displayed that raw strength again, casually lifting and choking Leva.

The match was easily going in Hania’s favor and she was obviously more lively of the two. Hania critically miscalculated an attack and left herself stranded on a corner for Leva’s knees to once again strike her statuesque abs. You’d think with her physique, she’d work a gimmick where people would hurt themselves striking her abs. Leva’s follow up was a horrifying double stomp but this combination was not enough to stop the Huntress. Hania gained the upper hand and was getting ready for what appeared to be a superplex when Athena arrived. Tit for tat, she distracted Hania long enough for Leva to recover to a degree. Rather than come off her seat on the top turnbuckle, she played possum, waiting for Hania to climb up. Bates double under hooked, stood and jumped for the Pepsi Plunge. Head driven to the canvas from such a height, how could Hania get up in less than 3 seconds? Spoiler, she didn’t.

Your new WSU Spirit Champion was crowned and, oddly enough, began bleeding precipitously from the nose. Again, Leva’s expression was of surprise at her victory soon replaced with the sweetest expression of joy.  Announcer Emil Jay thought the afternoon’s show was over and began announcing the closing when Hania rose in anger to confront all involved. Athena answered her with strikes. Leva joined in, clearly not a friend of the Huntress and volleyed her between the Fallen Goddess. Hania thought to escape while she had her wits to the entrance way but was blocked off by Athena’s Standard Bearers.

Trapped with nowhere else to go, the villain ran and jumped the guardrail, hopping seat to seat towards the main exit of the building. Athena followed suit, seeking revenge. Leva stayed in the ring, trying to stop the flow of blood but still smiling at her victory. We’ve been denied happy endings for a while at WSU. The former champion was frequently attacked at the end of shows, or we’ve seen betrayals after other main events. This was a long time coming.

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I got to speak with Leva after the match. She was in high spirits, doing her best to be sanitary and not bleed on fans. She is the real deal with her enthusiasm and kindness. Also, to the chagrin of the ultraviolence lovers, had spilled the most blood of the entire evening out of both CZW and WSU shows. HA!

Those interested in watching this show and more can always order VOD from SMVOD or go now to the new CZWStudios.com which has all WSU and CZW content in one location for the monthly fee of $9.99 and is good for mobile streaming. I don’t use smartphones, so I can’t confirm that. The next WSU event “Excellence” will be September 12th at the Flyer Skate Zone at Voorhees, NJ. Details here. https://www.facebook.com/events/1663682497194281/ See you there!

A kick to wrestling's head