This is no small statement, but Shine 38 may very well be the best independent live wrestling show I’ve ever seen.
This is anything but hyperbole, rather recognition of what happens when you combine an outstanding roster with equal storytelling, and pack a room with a crowd that absolutely adores this marriage.
Timing couldn’t be any better for WWN, with this the debut on the new FloSports network. If you wanted the perfect way to exit the gate, this is it. As Phillip J. Fry would declare: ‘take my money,’ good Sirs!
Why the love? Because Shine 38 accomplished the seemingly impossible in making every match of its 11 actually mean something.
By ‘mean something,’ I’m alluding to engaging storylines that all perfectly built and advanced on previous. This became glaringly obvious when a show closing free-for-all made alarmingly perfect sense. Almost like a biologist looking through a microscope, each subtle brawl in a maelstrom of chaos was a terrific composition of its own petri dish of music. Better yet, this brawl was also a realization that each of the aforementioned lucky 11 featured unique physical approaches. The refs – led by Frank Gastineau – did yeoman’s work to ensure this occurred.
Allow me to digress:
I challenge anyone to find a better extreme match – gender be damned – between Saraya Knight and Su Yung. It ended in a much-deserved head nod between the two, informal recognition that something special truly just occurred. I’ve got a strong feeling this will go down as one of top extreme matches of the year, if not longer. It pains me not to describe it out of fear of spoilers. They’re both still alive, and I’m shocked.
Anyone who knows women’s wrestling is aware Ivelisse Velez is an absolute gem of an athlete and person. I’m certain there hundreds of inspired female athletes the world over who chose this road because of her alone. Tampa is blessed to call her their adopted daughter, so says the multiple standing ovations. Ditto for Amanda Rodriguez; you’re a gem of a stable teammate!
Simultaneous kudos for Velez opponent Vanessa Kraven, who sneakily steals every show she appears in. Her prominent display on the Shine 38 poster served as long overdue recognition that arguably no women’s pro wrestler the world over is as powerful and engaging.
A shout out to our American Combat Wrestling friends, a promotion that continues to churn out excellent talents. This one was technical maestro at its finest. Aria Blake is sneaky good, always adding to her already robust repertoire. She and Brandi Lauren produced a wonderful display of fast grappling that left the crowd gasping for air. Fast. Seamless. Beautiful.
Priscilla Kelly is the realization that the future is bright for this prodigy and women’s pro wrestling as a whole. She loves and works the crowd, and they return the favor. We’ve written about athletes who don’t embrace their fans. Kelly is the reverse, and is infectious. “6!-6!-6!” is the new anthem of the Tampa Orpheum. (Well that and discount PBRs, I suppose.)
I’m certain when the gods designed pro wrestling, they had Leva Bates in mind. There is no one more creatively adjoined to her character…and each show produces a new one. Multiple people insisted they came to see Bates, and it’s clear why: her passion infectious, and Jessie Belle Smothers brought it out in the best of ways. These two make you smile Cheshire cat-esque; isn’t that why we tune in and/or show up?
Rachel Ellering and Tessa Blanchard have famous last names but also a shared realization of what a well-rounded athlete looks like. Both meticulously ensure each match builds into a powerful crescendo, the crowd standing and clapping in unconscious recognition. Ellering ran into Rhia O’Reilly, arguably Ireland’s finest independent women’s pro wrestler. Blanchard was a fill-in, by that I mean she and Raquel offered jaw dropping clinical grappling.
If you’re paying attention, Amber Gallows and Kennadi Brink are two of the premier personalities in all of professional wrestling. Gallows breaks the third wall with brilliance, and Brink is our favorite heel, period. I can’t help but form a smile seeing them emerge from behind the Shine Wrestling screen. You know they’ll go above and beyond to ensure you love to boo them. But you simply can’t. Bad guys are cool because of these two.
Shayna Baszler is a pro wrestler, and we should all be thankful. MMA and pro wrestling can be bedfellows, to include women’s. She proved that singlehandedly tonight. (I will never do BJJ with her standing across the mat!)
Andrea and Mercedes Martinez are ‘professionals’ in the best sort of way. Every one of their matches is an absolute war as they can’t help but leave everything out there. If you’ve ever wondered what goes through a pro wrestler’s mind why they do this…watch the eyes of these two. They certainly didn’t disappoint this evening, and never do.
Finally, LuFisto is a privilege. She reminds me of watching Ricky Steamboat, realizing you’re seeing someone that decades from now fans will declare one of the greatest of all time. Putting her up against Allysin Kay was recognition of this fact. Perhaps no women’s pro wrestler works harder to advance the genre through the rare physical style only the bravest endure.
Eleven matches…eleven bouts of brilliance. To recap: I was…
inspired, witnessed a terrific stable teammate, celebrated power style, enjoyed two technical maestros, watched a true prodigy, and danced to a pro wrestler creatively adjoined to character.
There were legendary athletes from famous families, a bout of highest level clinical grappling, premier personalities, MMA star prowess, and two true professionals on display. Finally, a #1 contender’s of an athlete a privilege to watch versus one who embraces the physical approach.
Not bad for a night’s work, eh?
A big hand to the wonderful crowd who let their love for this promotion, show, and athletes scream from the rooftops. Few crowds reward a world class show in equal moments…let alone packed with oodles of women, kids and those seemingly new to Shine.
Trevin Adams, David Puente, Lenny Leonard and the whole Shine Wrestling-slash-FloSlam crew should be proud.