ATHLETE APPRECIATION: Ivelisse

ivelisse-velez1It’s hard to be a wrestling legend by 27, but Ivelisse Vélez is the rare exception.

Thus, there’s a reason Vélez is featured prominently on Wrestling in Florida when describing the terrific independent, women’s pro wrestling scene.

Wrestling since the age of 15, Ivelisse Vélez’ incredible journey to 10 titles is matched only by her impressive roster of promotions, to include stops at: FCW,TNA, Lucha Undergound, Shine, and Evolve.

Hurancanrana and I thought long and hard about anyone even remotely capable of adapting to such a wide a swath of wrestling styles and fan bases. Let alone having to regularly compete in opposite gender matches, sans safety net. Simply put: Ivelisse Vélez is literally one of a kind.

Vélez’ list of opponents reads like a “who’s who” of the world’s best female wrestling talent. Highlights include: Cheerleader Melissa, Sexy Star, Saraya Knight, Santana, Paige, Natalya, Tamina Snuka, Mia Yim, Maria Kanellis, Angelina Love, and Leva Bates.

Then there’s male competition literally no female wrestler other than Vélez can claim match credit for: Tommy Dreamer, Killshot, Texano, Cage, Angelico, Prince Puma, and Anthony Nese all wrestled alongside Puerto Rico’s finest.

The Ivelisse re-appreciation began after incredibly successful l2015 seasons on Lucha Underground and Shine, with her claiming additional titles and/or defenses along the way. This appreciation cemented itself while viewing her ‘The Huntress’ DVD. Her first match? A mixed gender one, of course, alongside AAW’s Hammett.

Who is Ivelisse Vélez, the wrestler? I don’t really know: that’s what’s amazing. She’s a martial artist striker. She’s a high flyer. She’s a grappler. She’s a master of implements. Even while continuously fighting the injury bug throughout her career, she’s found a way to insert new styles, in tandem.

This skills development is nothing short of inspirational.

Ivelisee Vélez’ wrestling career began in native Puerto Rico, honing her craft on the Island. A contestant on WWE’s first season of Tough Enough, then Sofia Cortez lasted to the bitter end until the injury demons ended her run. Still, WWE was impressed with the talented, diverse, and steadfast Vélez. They signed her to a developmental contract in 2011.

She was let go in 2012, and moved on to the independent circuit . A year later, Vélez again landed back on her feet in prime time. TNA came calling.

Vélez ended up in a burgeoning Shine promotion the next year. Once more, Ivelisse Vélez was forced to reinvent. She adapted, she grew.

The hard work paid off. El Rey’s Lucha Underground liked what they saw, and soon Vélez held the promotion’s first Trios belt around her waist.

Here in Tampa, the name ‘Ivelisse Vélez’ is held in reverence. She is a legend of the local wrestling scene, a pinnacle of its Dragon’s Gate, FCW, Evolve and Shine Promotions.

More impressive than the nearly dozen belts and promotions, are the reinventions. Vélez survived no less than six career knockout punches, only to grow as a practitioner and no doubt person. .

The Huntress arrives to the ring with both terrific entrance music and a standing ovation. The latter? A group of – what else? – mixed gender fans who realize they’ve never seen anything like Ivelisse Vélez…and might not for some time. Little girls in the audience look upon this tiny but talented athlete in awe. She’s a woman who doesn’t cower to bigger opponents, most notably the opposite gender.

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