Welcome to the 2013 Ringbelles Year End Awards – a trio of accolades where we acknowledge the standouts of what has been a bumper year for women’s wrestling around the world, and giving us plenty of candidates to chew over en route to picking our victorious three. Tomorrow and Sunday respectively, we reveal the Breakout Star and Wrestler of the Year – but first, we begin with the Discovery of the Year, and this was a complicated one. Let us explain, but first, we should mention some of the wrestlers who featured very heavily in our considerations.
The swelling of iPPV over the last year has afforded everyone great opportunities to find out about more stars, especially if we lack the means to be able to see them live. Instead of videos leaking onto the Internet and you having to stumble on them, live online broadcasts have meant that we have been introduced to new faces – many of whom have made an impression on us. As a result, we got the chance to enjoy the work of Barbi Hayden, who did a great job on two Women Superstars Uncensored cards in the latter half of the year; meanwhile, Xandra Bale also raised our eyebrows and was very unlucky to have suffered a fibula injury, as it meant she missed a potential standout match against Cheerleader Melissa at NCW Femmes Fatales XIII. Speaking of Canadian stars and WSU, Jewells Malone has also done some great work and enjoyed some quality exposure. Another up for consideration was Crazy Mary Dobson, who was a big hit for Insane Championship Wrestling: Fierce Females, and also made a good impression at the most recent SHIMMER tapings, and moved away from the death match stuff to also develop her wrestling skills in Japan.
The wrestler who just missed out on winning the accolade is Heidi Lovelace, who has really shone in 2013 with a great outing at National Pro Wrestling Day, as well as defeating Eddie Kingston in the main event of October’s Wrestling Is Heart show and was also part of one of the year’s best storylines, playing the infatuated party in a manipulative same-sex romance with Taeler Hendrix in Ohio Valley Wrestling.
The term “discovery” is an abstract one, and is subjective, depending as to when you were exposed to that particular wrestler. If you were to draw parallels with music, you could have someone who has been following a band in small venues for many years before they start to get signed to a major label, release singles and albums and start doing larger tours. One fan will discover the band at a different time to another, though both have experienced that initial exposure at one time. For that reason, the Discovery of the Year award goes to a woman who – like Portugal’s Perfect Athlete Shanna – made a big impact in the United States, but also had success in Japan…
While we at the site have known about Nikki Storm for a long time – this writer first saw her wrestle in 2009 – it was over the last 12 months that the rest of the world got to enjoy what British fans have been experiencing for quite some time now. Following her extended trip to the US in October, fans were talking about the mouth Scot, who made an impression both on the microphone and in the ring. While the final decision on who wins lies with us, we gauge the reaction of other wrestling fans, as well as from trusted educated sources from inside the industry to help focus us. Based on all those elements and more, the Glaswegian was our pick.
We have already chronicled half of Storm’s 2013, as she was one of our choices for wrestlers who had enjoyed a good first half of the year. You can click the link to read about it in depth, but January to June saw her regain the Pro Wrestling: EVE title from Emi Sakura in the best match of No Man’s Land 2, go to a no-contest against Rhia O’Reilly in a title defence at Queen of the Ring, and make her Bellatrix debut, beating regular roster member Miss Mina at Bellatrix 6. On top of that she travelled to Japan to spend five weeks wrestling primarily for the celebrated JWP promotion, even racking up a successful EVE title defence against Hanako Nakamori along the way.
The second half of the year saw Nikki again conquer on both foreign and domestic soil. In ICW, she sent Kasey Owens packing through an injury angle and then took on Kasey’s twin sister Leah, culminating in her winning a Bra and Panties Match at Dave’s Not Here Man in August by wearing many layers to protect her modesty. At the Fierce Females first anniversary show, she waged a heel v heel match against Portia Perez which saw Storm out-bastard her Canadian adversary – you can see the match here.
The following week saw Storm make her US debut, earning Match of the Night honours from us for her loss against Mia Yim at SHINE 13 before heading to Cleveland, OH the following week for Absolute Intense Wrestling‘s Girls Night Out double taping where she had a top outing against Kimber Lee and then notched up a win over Yim. From there, it was on to New Jersey the next weekend for WSU’s second Secret Show – where she beat Jody D’Milo & Hayden it to the final of the International J-Cup, where she fell to Shanna – and Blood and Thunder the following day, losing to Jenny Rose.
The positive reports continued to SHIMMER’s DVD tapings, where Nikki was given the chance to get some mic time en route to winning her first three matches in the promotion. She beat Su Yung and Veda Scott on volumes 58 and 59 respectively and put away Lovelace on volume 60 before having her Goldberg-esque streakended at the hands of Leva Bates. For a new face to come in and establish herself on the mic and on the win sheet very quickly was a big testament to how highly she was regarded coming into the promotion – and is reflected by her run in the J-Cup in WSU, and also getting the win over Yim in AIW, when Mia was a big title contender last year and has been steadily improving her game.
Before departing American shores, Storm racked up another win, beating Nikki Roxx at SHINE 14 in what was the veteran’s final match in the promotion. In fairness, the match was a bit of a disappointment, though it was the only one of her five week trip, so we can forgive that.
We approached SHINE VP Lexie Fyfe for comment on Nikki winning the award, and she replied:
I know [Nikki] has been wrestling since 2008 but stayed under the radar at least for us in the States. I started hearing about her last year and what I was hearing was good.
She contacted me this year and sent links to some of her matches and I was impressed. The girl can talk on the mic and she has wrestling skills to back it up. We decided to book her for two SHINE shows and she got booked for SHIMMER among other shows as well. I watched all of her matches at SHINE and SHIMMER and was even more impressed.
She takes constructive criticism really well and puts it to use. I think that Nikki is going to stick around for a long time and go really far in this business. She’ll only continue to grow and get better and she’s already really good. Watch out for this one!
When ask for comment, Storm kept quiet and preferred to say nothing – oh who are we kidding…?
Growing up, my favourite cartoon was Pinky and the Brain. Every night these guys would try and take over the world. That was their sole ambition, to take over the world.
I can very much identify with this and why not? This is only the beginning. Japanese debut in the Korakuen hall, wrestling for many of the major female US wrestling companies, winning the Pro Wrestling: EVE championship for the second time was my 2013.
What can a 5’1 girl from Glasgow do when she sets her mind on it? Absolutely anything.
Absolutely anything indeed. When you look at how much Nikki Storm accomplished in 2013, the response she received when she ventured into new promotions as well as her prospects for the future, it seems that the world is going to see a lot more of Nikki Storm next year.
– Lee Burton
– Photos by Rob Brazier Photography & Ringbelles