Greg McNeish reviews 5/15 SHINE 27 iPPV

SHINE 27 iPPV
June 27, 2015
Taped on: May 15, 2015
The Orpheum; Ybor City, FL
Review by: Greg McNeish

Welcome to my first (and hopefully not my last) written review for Wrestleview.com, looking at the latest iPPV offering from women’s promotion SHINE Wrestling (available at WWNLive.com #CheapPlug). This show is headlined by Santana making her first title defence against former champion Mia Yim, in a rematch from the show previous. Without further adieu, the ladies are ready, so let’s take it to the ring.

Leva vs. Tessa Blanchard

Pretty solid encounter from these two. Blanchard carries herself with a TON of poise, and great charisma to back it up. She’s only been at this wrestling thing for a year or so, and that shows at times in hesitations, hiccups, and a lack of variety in her attacks, but she is showing every sign of being a huge prospect for the future, and one that I don’t think anybody thinks will be long for the indies. Leva continues on with her Purge character, which is really just an evolved form of what she was doing two years ago, before forming the Lucha Sisters for their Tag Title reign. It’s interesting, her costumes are always incredible, and she’s certainly committed to the act, but even after all this time, she still hasn’t quite found a way to make it truly connect with the crowd, especially when she’s on the sell. All that adds up to this being a match with some very good moments, but also some glaring flaws. Still, pretty enjoyable as an opener. I do have to question the way they built to Leva grabbing a roll-up finish, as it didn’t really come at a time that felt satisfying. Better to put it at the end of Blanchard’s finishing sequence, or just after cutting off Leva’s, than at the tail end of Leva getting her biggest shots in. Little sequencing issue that had a big impact on the feeling walking away.

Amber Gallows vs. Xandra Bale

After emotions ran high in the opener, it’s time to settle in for the long haul, with the Bullet Babe and the Suicide Blonde. Xandra Bale makes her first return to SHINE since debuting back at SHINE 13, in Sept 2013, and the young Canadian brought good energy to her offensive flurries. She’s not a big personality, but she has a nice focus on believability on the sell that makes her perfect for this sort of enhancement role. Amber Gallows is pretty similar, utilizing simple, targetted, believable offence, and a demeanor to match, rather than being a bombastic, cartoonish character. Put those together, and you get a match that has a realistic feel to it, but not a terribly engaging one, and that showed in the lack of crowd reaction. This was compounded by structuring the match as one long section of control for Gallows, followed by a sustained comeback by Bale, before finishing it off quick and dirty. Any energy they had was sucked out of the match by the time Xandra was stepping on the gas. This structure would have worked with a shorter match, but for how much time they had, we really needed a few quick bursts of offence from Bale, to break things up. Not a bad match, but one that wasn’t very satisfying.

Thunderkitty vs. Leah Von Dutch

New look for LVD, and man, she is dressed to kill. I don’t mean that as a sexual comment; I mean that with her camo pants, take-no-prisoners wrist tape, and battle-ready hair braids, she’s literally dressed to kill. We started to see a new aggression from her a few months ago, and with this change in attire, the transformation took a big step forward. Really feels like it’s clicking for LVD. That was matched quite well by Thunderkitty’s continued growth as a heel, living up to the “thunder” in her name more and more, every time she goes out there. They came together here with a really intense match, some great striking, and paced the whole thing beautifully. Crowd was amped up, and rightly so. This was a good one. Strong victory for LVD set up the post-match well, as she called out Leilani Kai, only for Malia Hosaka to lay out the hurdles she’ll have to clear to get there. That’s the rest of the year in programming, right there. Thumbs up.

Valifornia (Andrea & Jayme Jameson) vs. Daffney’s All Star Squad (Crazy Mary Dobson & Kimberly)

THE QUEEN OF ALL THINGS HAS RETURNED!!!

It really is a breath of fresh air to have an act so unapogletically fun back in the fold. Over the past year or so, that’s an element that has been largely disappearing from SHINE, after being its spiritual core until that point. As the product and promotion has grown up, it’s lost some of its charm, and this new iteration of the All Star Squad went a long way to taking some of it back. So, while this match was a disjointed mess, with a weird, jumbled finish, even that made it more of a throwback to SHINE’s earlier days, when they first rose to prominence in the indy scene. Had enough bright spots to get us through, and just kind of break things up in the middle of the show.

Allysin Kay vs. Tracy Taylor

This one didn’t really come together very well. Allysin Kay is quite talented, but she doesn’t seem to have a knack for bringing people up to her level, and that was evident here. Tracy Taylor is a lovely lady, and she doesn’t do anything wrong, but she just doesn’t do a whole lot to make an impression. When she was here most shows, teaming with Su Yung, she had a place on the roster where she didn’t need to stand out to be effective. Now that she’s popping in a few times a year, the fact that she doesn’t stand out means that the crowd just doesn’t react to her, and she doesn’t really have the tools to change that. Her selling is okay, but her offence is just so bland. When it came time for her comebacks, there was no hook, and no energy. It just fell flat, and when you combine that with these two having some timing issues together (which happens, whatevs), it made it so that this match simply couldn’t deliver.

Brass Knuckles on a Pole
Taylor Made vs. La Rosa Negra

As has been the case throughout this feud, this was a FIGHT. 2014 was a huge coming out party for both of these ladies, in SHINE, and that has only continued by working together. La Rosa Negra burst onto the scene by having a few matches that were deliberately booked to “steal the show”, and the crowd (particularly the large Puerto Rican component) got into her in a big way, but this program with Taylor Made has seen her develop a character in and out of the ring that has real legs and upward mobility. Taylor Made, for her part, made gains without making waves, by being such a workhorse for Valkyrie, especially during the Tag Title tournament (working three matches with a concussed partner), and the big Survivor Series-style elimination match a few months later, when she survived through the entire 45 minutes, in the ring for probably half of it. Her ringwork was clearly there, but much like La Rosa, she didn’t have a character that could generate real heat on her own. It’s been so interesting to watch April Hunter slowly step further and further into the background of Taylor Made matches, as Made has needed less and less help enflaming the crowd against her. There can be no doubt by this point that Taylor Made is ready and able to work with any babyface on the roster, and to create something special with them.

Anyway, a match happened, so I should probably talk about it, especially since it was a really good one. Item on a pole matches are the object of ridicule in wrestling fandom, thanks to the exploits of one Mr. Russo, but when they make sense, they can be very satisfying. Such was the case here, where brass knuckles have been an integral part of the feud, with both ladies making use of them at one point or another. She who possesses the knucks possesses the power, as it were, so why not make it a chase to get your hands on them? They had an intense match, as we’ve grown accustomed to, and built in a simple, effective dramatic trigger with the corner dropkick to the, uh, “lady junk”. Taylor Made used it early on as a big game changer, and La Rosa Negra responded in kind to cap off her final comeback, before scaling the pole. That’s just good storytelling, folks. This being SHINE, and this being a Valkyrie match, there were obviously SHINEanigans, with April Hunter introducing a second set of knucks, leading to La Rosa Negra straight kicking out of a knuckles shot to the jaw, which has been built as a finisher. I forever criticize finisher kickouts specifically so that they can be saved for moments like this, at the climax of a blowoff match, when it’s time for the babyface to just meet out justice. That’s exactly what they did, and I could not be happier. At this juncture in SHINE’s three year history, this has to go into the books as one of the best booked and best executed feuds the company has produced. Well done, ladies.

SHINE Tag Team Championship
Legendary (Malia Hosaka & Brandi Wine) vs. (c) Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee & Cherry Bomb)

There was a lot to like about this match, but it had a glaring structural flaw that kept it from hitting stride. First the good. Legendary were locked in on control, with Brandi Wine taking a more hands-on role in garnering the hatred of the audience than at, well, any point in this team’s history in SHINE. They’ve always been an act that hinged on whether Malia Hosaka was feeling it or not, while Wine was more or less just there, never making things worse, but not making things better, either. So, it was nice seeing her more animated here, keeping the pressure on for the entirety of the team’s time on offence. For their part, the Kimber Bombs did a good job on the sell, and they always stay engaged on the apron, making thee in-peril section flow really well. That brings me to the fatal flaw: The Kimber Bombs were made to look absurdly weak. They didn’t get any offence at the opening bell, had next to nothing in the way of comebacks or hot tags throughout the match, and the ending was super quick. The match was 95% or more Legendary running offence, and with this seeming to be the end of this program, all it did was make the champions look like garbage, as they move on to other challengers. The work they did was fine, but the match just wasn’t put together very well, and it’s not the first time a Legendary match has run into this exact issue. It’s especially disappointing because Malia Hosaka is really good at, as I like to say, eating it for babyfaces. Sprinkle in 30-60 seconds of that into this match, and it’d be a winner.

Anything Goes Match
Su Yung vs. Jessicka Havok

Definitely a mismatch in card position, this was always going to be a victory for Jessicka Havok. There are two ways you can play a match like that: Commit to building one moment where the audience holds their breath thinking it’ll go the other way, or just having a lot of fun, so that we don’t care that it’s predictable. I say that as someone who thinks predictability in writing is a good thing, by the way. They took the latter route here, and had a pretty fun brawl. Su Yung is someone who has never really interested me, and I find her control work to just grind things to a halt as often as not, so this match type really worked for her. There were enough toys, and enough back-and-forth chaos that we didn’t have any long periods of sustained control. They paced things well, too, and didn’t go overboard with crazy spots, focussing more on character and keeping a fun atmosphere for the audience both live and at home. It wasn’t masterful, or grippingly dramatic, but it was fun and entertaining, and I’ll take that any day. I did feel like the finish was dragged out more than necessary, with Havok landing a nice kill shot, then taking a couple minutes to gather chairs in the middle of the ring, to land one more blow that didn’t have the kind of satisfactory impact to make it a worthwhile catharsis. Su Yung isn’t hated enough for that sort of calculated blowing-her-out-of-a-cannon to be warranted or effective. That took the edge off an otherwise fun match, bringing it down a notch, but still leaving a satisfying product. Works for me.

SHINE Championship
Mia Yim vs. (c) Santana

This was their third SHINE main event together this year, and that’s always asking a lot of wrestlers to bring enough uniqueness to the action to keep things interesting. That’s doubly true in this case, where both are fan favourites, and there isn’t any animosity between the characters, besides wanting the title. So, the deck was stacked against them, but overall they delivered a pretty good main event. Mia Yim took the reins as the agressor in the match, after some tight matwork early on. That continued until she tweaked her knee coming off the ropes, which is a classic dramatic device in wrestling that is criminally underutilized, these days. Santana took control at that point, and rather pointed did NOT target the wounded limb, presumably as a sign of sportsmanship. Still, Mia Yim couldn’t shake the effects, and it particularly cost her when she used her knees to block a Shining Star Press, only to not be able to capitalize. That was all the champ needed to retain.

Mia Yim looked very good here, both showing an aggressive streak that is new to the SHINE audience, and with her leg selling, which was superb. With Santana not touching the leg with her own offence, the onus for telling the central story of the match fell solely on Yim, and she nailed it. Great showing from SHINE’s first transitional champion, to end this run in the main event. As for Santana, her growth throughout SHINE’s history has been nothing short of spectacular. She came into the company as a fun babyface, good at drawing in the crowd when in peril, but not much beyond that. First, she learned to crank up the velocity, without getting sloppy, then how to put the pieces of a match together. Just as she was on the way out the door for her run in TNA, we witnessed a breakthrough performance on the mat against Serena Deeb. Since returning, she’s quickly re-established her connection with the crowd in the Orpheum, and on this night carried herself with the kind of presence and poise that truly makes someone a main event talent. That said, I was – and in fact still am, several weeks later – still iffy on the way the match came together, on her end. As I said, Mia Yim tweaking her knee was the central story of the match, and Santana didn’t touch it once. I assume that this was a choice to show sportsmanship, but it’s just that: An assumption. At no time did she reach towards the leg, then pull herself back, or gesture to it and tell Yim, the ref, the audience, or even herself that she wasn’t going to target a fluke injury. Heck, she didn’t offer a handshake to Yim, with a promise not to go after the leg, only for Yim to kick her hand away and tell her to bring it. Nothing. I’m giving the character the benefit of the doubt that she chose not to take the easy road, but I could just as easily draw the conclusion that the young champion was showing her inexperience, and either didn’t recognize the opportunity, or doesn’t have the ability to change her gameplan on the fly, to take advantage of openings. Maybe it sounds like nitpicking that I’m hung up on this point, but I’d like to remind everyone that Mia Yim’s knee was THE central story of the match. I’m not deciding to focus on this; they did. So, while the action was good, and Yim’s performance was terrific, as we were coming down the stretch, I couldn’t shake the feeling that only one woman in that ring was trying to tell me a story. That was fine when Santana was a popular midcard act. It’s not fine when you’re asking me to pay $10-15 ($20 Canadian) to see her at the top of the card. Santana has done nothing but grow in this company, and I have no doubt that she can do it, but the clock is ticking and the pressure is on. It’s time to take it to the next level.

Speaking of which, last year’s champion, Ivelisse, made her return after the main event, to lay down the challenge for the next show. I thought this was very well done, with Ivelisse being quick and to the point on the microphone, which isn’t something I’ve been able to say very often in SHINE’s past. She just said that she was back, she’s coming for the title, and they posed to close the show. Let Lenny Leonard fill in the details, and expand upon it with a Youtube promo as the next show approaches. When we’re live on iPPV, in the Orpheum, the simpler the better. Kudos on hitting the nail on the head, with this one.

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Overall, this was a pretty darn good show, from start to finish. With a bigger opener than we’re accustomed to, a main event and ending angle that satisfied, and a fantastic blowoff to a midcard feud in the middle, we had the high points to get us through the low points, and an easy-breezy pacing that had us ready for the big moments when they came. Can’t ask for more than that.

Hopefully, I’ve been easy enough to get through with this review. Got any thoughts on the show? Want to sing my praises, or bombard me with hate mail? Leave a comment below, and until next time, keep on SHINEing on.

Twitter: @GregMcNeishWV