Saturday 9 February 2013

Pro Wrestling EVE 'No Man's Land' Show Review (By Aiden O'Brien)

(Left: Alpha Female - Picture credit to John Searle)

Let me begin by stating that I am a fan of women's wrestling. I enjoyed watching the likes of Trish, Lita, Molly, Victoria, Jazz, etc back in the WWF/E. In 2006 I began following American female wrestling company SHIMMER and became a big fan of the likes of Sara Del Rey, Cheerleader Melissa, MsChif, etc etc. In 2007 I went to my first and only Chick Fight (a former promotion of EVE promoter Dann Read) show which was enjoyable enough and this was my second Pro Wrestling EVE show after their Saturday evening show in Nottingham in October 2011 after a Southside afternoon show, and the main event of that EVE show, April Davids vs Jenny Sjoden in an almost 25 minute classic remains one of my favourite women's matches ever to this day.

So in saying that I have to say I was very disappointed with this EVE show and didn't want it to appear like I was merely just another person not willing to give women's wrestling a chance and being unnecessarily critical. There was unfortunately a lot of sloppy, uncoordinated wrestling at times and a lot of hesitation between moves that you would expect from green rookies first breaking into the business, not by a promotion claiming to use the best women's wrestlers in all of Europe. But in saying that when the EVE show was good, it was *really* good as perfectly exemplified by the EVE Championship match between Emi Sakura and challenger Nikki Storm.

I'm not one to complain about late doors and show starts. In BritWres it's a common occurrence. However, and pardon my language, this show just completely took the piss. Whereas doors were only 10 minutes late opening at 2.40pm instead of half past, the show which was due to start at 3pm didn't kick off until well after 3.35pm with no conceivable reason as to why or no explanation given. Before the show even began fans were becoming bored and restless and women's wrestling can be a hard sell in front of certain crowds, especially the nightclub atmosphere in Preston. But then I'd estimate there was only a crowd of 150+ maximum and they did seem either keen on women's wrestling or willing to give it a fair shot as something to do in the afternoon before the main crowd. But while 150+ is by no means a bad draw in this day and age in England, this was the emptiest I've ever seen the Lava Ignite before first bell and there was almost an entire front row empty so me and a friend switched seats to that side.

The show got off to a great start with a three way between Kay Lee Ray, Shanna and Alpha Female. This was originally supposed to be two separate singles matches as Kay Lee Ray was due to face Blue Nikita until Nikita was involved in a car crash a few days before the show and KLR was inserted into the grudge match between Shanna and Alpha as Shanna was partly responsible for Alpha losing the EVE Championship to Nikki Storm in November. So you had Alpha immediately going after Shanna, but KLR wasn't afraid to get stuck in against Alpha and to show she was a very active part in the match and wouldn't take a back seat to Alpha's revenge on Shanna. The two smaller ladies were forced into teaming up briefly as Alpha was a lot larger and stronger than both of them individually but then when Alpha was removed from the ring. Shanna capitalized on KLR, throwing her out and then jumping off the top rope with a Perfect Press to the outside of the ring. This match flowed along nicely and was a great little match with a good story and the finish of Alpha hitting Shanna with her dominator finisher, but KLR breaking up the pinfall (something which the ref cocked up) only for Sara-Marie Taylor and a hooded Carmel Jacobs to attack KLR shortly after outside the ring so Alpha was left alone to hit yet another dominator onto Shanna for the emphatic three count.

She-X, Viper and Bette Noire, were attacked from behind at the top of the stairs at the entrance way by their opponents Ama-Reilly, Amazon and Rhia O'Reilly so the next match began with a bang as they were beaten down the stairs and then the two teams brawled around ring side. This was the first match where sloppy and uncoordinated became a running theme. Now in the context of a brawl between two teams sloppy and looking less than perfect works as it sells the hatred and intensity, but there was just too much awkwardness and weak strikes inbetween the two teams looking like they genuinely wanted to harm each other. And it annoyed me that considering the finish was a no contest from the two teams brawling around ringside, the first time the bell rang was when the match was thrown out. So officially the match never even started and it was ruled as a no contest, even when they did spend brief amounts of time in the ring against each other. So the finish left a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't an out-right bad match, it had it's moments.

In the next tag team quarter final match the Owen Twins, twin sisters Kasey and Leah defeated The Lovely Peppers, Kirsty Love and Pollyanne Peppers. First time seeing the Owen Twins and I can see why they're getting so much publicity lately as they are two very attractive ladies. The Lovely Peppers were more quirky and alt as shown by using Gangnam Style as entrance music, but they didn't go all out with the dancing! This was just alright. This was the match where the sloppiness and attempting for stuff beyond their limits was really evidenced and the two teams just didn't gel well at all. The Owen Twins were the worthy winners but do need their fair share of work in the ring so that they can have the look as well as the skills, but they have got the raw natural talent for now.

Things got a little bit better as April Davids lost a handicap match against the Glamour Gym of Carmel Jacobs and Sara-Marie Taylor as her mystery guest partner failed to show up. I was expecting Kay Lee Ray to become Davids tag team partner after the Glamour Gym attacked her earlier in the night but it just never happened and I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking that way. April Davids vividly colourful language on the mic made sure she was the biggest babyface of the night to the point that the ring announcer had to take the mic in order to apologize for some of the words used. April valiantly battled the odds with elbows, suplexes and eventual running yakuza kicks in the corner (which are a great sight as it really looks like she hammers them home) but the two against one ratio meant that after an initial fiery start and comeback towards the end, the Glamour Gym dominated the match. A decent match, April was always going to be favoured as the underdog after that promo at the start, but I couldn't have helped to want an actual tag match to see April and Carmel face each other on equal ground.

(Right: Emi Sakura Before Her Title Loss To Nikki Storm - Picture Credit to John Searle)

Nikki Storm regaining the Pro Wrestling EVE Championship from Emi Sakura was far and away MOTN (or MOTAfternoon) and practically worth the price of the ticket in itself. For everything I said about instances of sloppy wrestling and hesitation in the previous matches, that made this match look all the more incredible as they did a lot of technical wrestling including reversals and counters, strike exchanges which actually looked like they connected and a fair amount of tense near-falls in the finishing stretch which really were gripping, edge of the seat stuff. And they did all this with everything looking crisp, fluid and above all believable as these two were determined to steal the show and ensure the one lasting and remaining impression of this show was the absolute classic these two put on. And while I took issue with the late start and over-all poor time keeping, some poor wrestling skills at moments and weak booking decisions, they will fade in time and the one thing that I will remember is Nikki Storm having the match of her life and standing toe to toe with one of Japan's best and holding her own. While I am a fan of women's wrestling I have seen very little Joshi to my shame (something which I will eventually rectify) but I can only summarize after a match like this and both April Davids and Kay Lee Ray going to Japan that it's not going to be long at all until Storm gets that opportunity herself. The match itself was a slow burner as they wrestled and struggled for basic holds which then built into the elbow exchanges and some incredibly hard chops from Sakura that soon left Storm's chest red raw as they headed more and more towards the big moves being exchanged. I felt for sure Sakura would retain the belt as I couldn't see her losing the belt on her first English defense of the EVE Title, and especially not on an afternoon show away from their home base in front of a crowd that may not have appreciated it, but in the end they had the entire crowd captivated and Nikki Storm was a more than deserving victor to take back what was hers. Absolutely fantastic match and at that moment in time was the second best women's wrestling match I have ever seen live.

Post match Storm attacked Sakura after the former Champion gave her respect so April Davids as a friend of Emi and someone who has traveled to Japan to train with her came to the ring to her aid but Storm attacked her too and laid her out. I've seen April and Nikki face off the once before so would really love to see them have a big time epic main event match for the EVE Championship down the line.

Annoyingly before the second co-main event and the last match of the afternoon the show took a long intermission. I have no earthly idea what could justify that after starting the show over a half hour late. There should be no excuses for such unprofessional display by EVE management there. But anyways the last match of the afternoon was a 15 woman 3 Minute Warning match. This was a combination of a rumble and a gauntlet match as the match would begin with two wrestlers (Kay Lee Ray and Carmel Jacobs as announced the night before) and eliminations could happen via pinfall, submission or over the top rope. If 3 minutes were to expire without an elimination then another wrestler would enter the match. If an elimination occurred within that time period, it would prompt another entrant until all 15 woman had entered the match. Of course with April David's partner no-showing this was announced as a 14 woman 3 Minute Warning match. Of which only 13 women entered as April David's did not come out with no explanation given as to why if you weren't counting that the match was a woman short. KLR and Carmel quickly ended up leaving the ring and brawled around the venue, Ray leaping off the bar onto Jacobs. By the time Peppers came out as the third entrant, Jacobs had crawled back into the ring while KLR decided to take a rest outside the ring and Pollyanna was dispatched via Jacobs air raid crash before the 3 minutes expired. Leah Owens was out next so her and Carmel double teamed Ray briefly but when Jacobs set KLR up in the corner for a running attack from the twin, Carmel instead clotheslined her as she was running for a very pitiful looking three count. The other Owens Twin was out immediately after but rather than get revenge on Jacobs for eliminating her sister, she instead attacks Ray and allows Jacobs to rest? Wrestling logic bafflement. But then Ray eliminates Kasey via a swanton bomb. By this point I can't remember if anyone else had come out by then but Shanna, Bette Noire, Rhia O'Reilly, Kirsty Love and Amazon all entered the match as KLR and Jacobs had brawled away from the ring and back up the entrance way, still officially both in the match. Kirsty Love was thrown over the top rope by the team work of O'Reilly and Shanna. Amazon entered the ring with authority, teaming with Shanna and O'Reilly to eliminate Noire. Viper entered the match after her partner had already entered - Wrestling logic bafflement #2 as it would have made booking sense to feature a little of the earlier tag match which went to a no contest - But then Viper was quickly eliminated by the AmaReiNna trio. Alpha Female came out next to square off against the trio and the visual of Alpha and Amazon face to face did look like a big deal. Sara-Marie Taylor came out next as Jacobs and KLR returned brawling through the crowd and Alpha eliminated O'Reilly and Amazon over the top rope, but Alpha and Shanna both went over the top rope themselves together which I missed as my view point was on KLR eliminated Sara-Marie Taylor. Obviously I wasn't the only one distracted as SMT got in the ring to state it didn't happen and her elimination was never noted. Steve Austin at the 97 Rumble it was not. KLR threw Jacobs over the top rope and began to celebrate her victory on the turnbuckle but Taylor pushed her over the ropes to win the match. A 14 women match featuring 13 women and won by someone who was eliminated a minute before the end - Wrestling logic bafflement #3. A lackey heel winning a match to be able to challenge the strong heel Champion - Wrestling logic bafflement #4.

(Below: Shanna & Carmel Jacobs Double Team Kay Lee Ray - Picture Credit To John Searle)

This show was a shambles. From the late bell time to the unexplained interval between main events this meant the show ran overly late and only gave a 40 minute gap between it and the announced first bell time for the PCW evening show. If it wasn't for the Storm/Sakura match I would have written the show off entirely as while you can overlook a little sloppy wrestling and the annoyance I felt with the late start time and un-needed interval will fade in time and be forgotten about, you can't deny that there are talented female wrestlers in Europe right now and others with potential down the line if nurtured correctly and promotions like EVE are needed to ensure that this happens. I would pay to watch any show featuring Nikki Storm, April Davids, Kay Lee Ray, Carmel Jacobs, Alpha Female and Shanna as they stand right now and hope that one day some of the other wrestlers on the card I felt needed work eventually step up to that level. But there was just too many little things that overall dragged down what should have been a quality showing for the strength of women's wrestling in Europe right now.

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