Eight months after Taeler Hendrix became the first woman to vie for (and earn) a TNA contract, two more women had the chance to take part in the promotion’s Gut Check. Ivelisse Velez (named as Ivelise Felez) and the Barbarian‘s niece Lei’D Tapa fought on last night’s Impact Wrestling, with Velez gaining the victory with tap out via a guillotine choke. The pair will return next week for evaluations.
Both had the chance to talk a bit about themselves before their match in individual profile videos, but while Ivelisse’s struck the right chord – talking about going into wrestling against her mother’s wishes, causing their relationship to be fractured – Tapa’s felt wrong for the heel role that she played later, as it showed her crying over the opportunity she was about to receive. It didn’t sit well with her monster character that she portrayed in the match.
As for the match itself, it only went four minutes so didn’t have the chance to make much of an impression – and Velez’s match with LuFisto at SHINE 7 last week was much better due to having more time to tell a story and make you care – but it was a decent enough TV outing, and the visual tale of Tapa being much bigger and more aggressive while Ivelisse used an MMA style made sure that the way they were presented was sufficiently different.
Both would have something to offer the Knockouts division. Velez’s MMA style would set her apart from other women on the roster, and it can’t be an accident that Ivelisse brings out a shootfighter gimmick in the same week that women’s MMA exploded into the fight zeitgeist thanks to the fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche last Saturday. However, such hot-shot cashing by TNA in may work against her, as there is the argument that why would you want to watch fake shootfighting when the real stuff has as much – or arguably more – drama?
Meanwhile, Tapa’s size and heritage are easy and great selling points. Towering over the opposition with wild hair, half of a story in a match is already told before the bell rings. Sure, she’s not as agile or mobile as others – but as a taller and larger athlete, that’s totally fine. She shouldn’t be running all over the place and flying everywhere, and that should be left to her smaller opponents. TNA tried out Isis The Amazon a couple of years ago, but she was too big and too immobile. Lei’D Tapa is a much more manageable size for a giant.
Mike Tenay also pointed out that Velez had pulled out of her MMA debut due to take place today in Cicero, IL. Looking at the card for the show, Ivelisse’s name is not on there, even though there is still a promo video on the page. One would assume that she is not fighting as scheduled, but whether she pulled out due to her participation in this Gut Check is open to speculation.
We’ll find out next week if either one earns a contract – and you would assume that Ivelisse has the edge considering she was the one who went over – but both put up a decent showing and should do well from the international exposure.
– Lee Burton
– Photos by TNA