On Friday evening at 9pm EST on WWNLive.com, SHINE Wrestling presents their first anniversary show, SHINE 11, featuring the moment they’ve been building to all year – the crowning of the first ever SHINE Champion. The tournament has not been without a twist or two – Allysin Kay’s suspension at the end of SHINE 10 (she’s currently living it up in Japan), Jazz’s injury and Taylor Made’s apparent withdrawal in protest at AK’s suspension have all lead to a bracket that now includes two additional Fatal Four Way qualifiers, giving six women a second shot in the tournament after losing their initial qualifiers, and a wild card on each side in the shape of LuFisto and Amazing Kong. With all that in mind, we run the rule over the five women in our opinion most likely to raise the brand new strap above their head at the end of the night.
As the top heel in the promotion and leader of Valkyrie, Rain’s got to be amongst the first picks in anybody’s mind. She’s headlined three out of the last four iPPVs either in singles or tags since the formation of Valkyrie at SHINE 6 – and while last time out at SHINE 10 saw her drop in defeat to Angelina Love (tying their SHINE series at 1-1), her position amongst the top contenders remains undiminished. She’ll have April Hunter in her corner, but interestingly that might be about it. Ivelisse Velez is on the other side of the draw, so Rain’s side of the draw won’t see any help from her stablemates on this side of the draw – and with both halves of Made In Sin off the card, all of a sudden Valkyrie looks a little exposed. Possibly working against Rain winning is the fact that she’s been very vocal on social media about calling it quits this year – so she’s unlikely to be a strong long-term champion, but if they want a heel to win the tournament and set up a (short) babyface chase until the end of the year, Rain seems perfect. Also, with her possible opponent in the SF being either Jessicka Havok or Saraya Knight, a no contest or double DQ in that match might just mean an easy route to the final. Speaking of that match…
If Havok’s going to win this tournament, she may have the toughest draw of the lot, as she’s arguably got the toughest Quarter Final match against longtime SHIMMER Champion Saraya Knight – a woman who, much like Havok, likes a good scrap. We’re assuming it’s more likely than not that Havok’s coming through this match with a win (based on the logistics of flying in Saraya for future shows – although many people made that assumption at SHINE 9, predicting a Su Yung victory – and look what happened there), but if she’s coming through it, she’s coming through it with some lumps and bruises. It seems after her early run in the promotion as an out-and-out heel, Havok has transitioned across the spectrum to the babyface side – not through any change in her own attitude or style, but simply because of her opponents. From Portia Perez at SHINE 10 to Saraya Knight at SHINE 11 (and a possible SF against Valkyrie’s leader Rain), I think we can expect unanimous cheers for the Havok Death Machine. Can she ride those cheers to SHINE Championship success? Quite possible.
Jumping to the other half of the bracket, we should consider Leva Bates, who is coming into the tournament with the momentum of victory in SHINE’s biggest and grandest feud of its first year (against Kimberly.) Add to that a win over Valkyrie’s Taylor Made to secure her spot in the tournament and Leva’s side of the tournament almost has her nailed on as the heavy favourite in that half of the draw. Her first opponent is Mia Yim, who is coming off a big win over Mercedes Martinez in her own right, but SHINE has been a showcase for Leva for so long, she seems the more likely winner. A few options in the potential semi final, which we’ll discuss further down, but if SHINE had to pick its top babyface, and wanted its top babyface in the finals of the first title tournament, it seems likely that Leva Bates is the name they’d pick. But let’s not forget…
If SHINE wants a local babyface to be their champion, Santana has to be in the discussion. While she hasn’t had the benefit of a major spotlighted feud like Leva has, Santana has quietly worked her way up the card winning hearts on the way. She’s a totally different type of babyface to Leva – while Leva brings the geek chic, Santana brings the glamour – but both of them have credibility – and although Santana’s been branching out to a number of other promotions this year (WOW, SHIMMER etc), for me she’s more identifiable as a homegrown SHINE star than Leva, who was already a name on the indies this time last year… and let’s not underestimate that. She’s benefitted more than almost anybody else from the existence of SHINE, and short of breaking out scientific measuring devices, I’d wager that there’s not a more popular wrester on the roster than Santana. This may well be her moment.
Well, she said she was going to win the tournament on the most recent edition of the WOW Podcast, and who are we to doubt her? Seriously though, Ivelisse is a decent outside bet to go far (even if not all the way) in the tournament. Firstly and most importantly, she’s delivered consistently in the ring since her debut – but secondly because the other three women already at the QF stage on her side of the draw are all babyfaces (Leva Bates, Mia Yim and Santana Garrett) – ergo, they’re going to need a strong heel on that side of the draw. Kimberly is an option, sure – and if she wins she’ll rematch with Santana in the QF (they had a cracker at SHINE 10), but I think I prefer the fresh idea of Santana vs Ivelisse. Plus if Santana’s not winning the whole thing, Ivelisse going to the semis and losing there to set up a possible final of Leva vs Rain (so Leva has to beat both Valkyrie members back to back) is an interesting booking idea. Hell, what if Ivelisse *does* just win the whole thing? Wouldn’t that be an interesting dynamic in Valkyrie? When Made in Sin returns, would they have loyalty to Rain or the new SHINE Champion Ivelisse? So many interesting stories can be told with Ivelisse, so she’s our dark horse pick.
What about you? Let us know in the comments section, or via facebook/twitter as to your opinions. Have we forgotten an obvious winner? Is our logic totally out of whack? Feel free to let us know – but we’ll be back tomorrow night here on Ringbelles providing live coverage of the big night.
— Stew Allen