Bunch of Fives – Drafting GFW's Women's Division (Part One – The US)

GFW LogoIt’s been an absolutely incredible week for fans of professional wrestling – a rollercoaster of emotions from seeing Undertaker‘s streak end at WrestleMania to seeing Daniel Bryan win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. From an incredible edition of Monday Night Raw to the tragic death of the Ultimate Warrior – the wrestling world has, for the last few days, pretty much revolved around WWE. There is, of course, a world outside of the one big promotion – and perhaps this week hasn’t been the best week to really get any major news coverage if you’re not WWE, but on this past Monday, former TNA founder Jeff Jarrett (along with his wife Karen) confirmed what many people had been speculating for some time – the formation of a new wrestling promotion. It’s called Global Force Wrestling, or GFW, and while the initial press release doesn’t go into any real specifics (we can assume they’ll drip-feed information until such time as a debut date or roster announcement is made), we can certainly speculate that their intention is to eclipse TNA Wrestling as the most prominent #2 promotion nationally. To do that, various things need to be in place – not least of which include a lot of start-up capital and a national TV deal – not to mention a roster of talent that people will want to see. And that’s an interesting point. We’ve heard that the Jarretts are actively looking for “undiscovered talent”, and that there are “more than 400 wrestlers from across the globe already in the evolving GFW talent database”. So that got us thinking.

It’s a slow news day today in the world of women’s wrestling (before the onslaught of SHIMMER weekend this weekend), and assuming the GWF promotion gets going, we might also assume that they’ll be interested in female talent for a women’s division. Now, that’s an interesting thing – they specify they’re looking for “undiscovered talent”, so we can hopefully take from that phrase that they’re not instinctively making calls to former WWE Divas and TNA Knockouts to cornerstone the division… so if we were The Jarretts, which “undiscovered” female names would fit the bill? Today and tomorrow we’re going to present two “Bunch of Fives” articles, one looking at US talent that might be bubbling up on the GFW radar, and one tomorrow, which will look at five non-US talents. It’s all highly speculative, not to mention subjective (everybody’s going to have their favourites), but armed with the brief to consider only female talent that have not been in WWE or TNA, here are the first five women we reckon Jeff Jarrett should be dialling.

BOF Athena by Dave Muscarella“The Wrestling Goddess” Athena

First up is the current AIW Women’s Champion, having recently won that belt from record-setting title-holder Allysin Kay. Coming back off a pretty serious shoulder injury, “The Wrestling Goddess” has barely put a foot wrong since her return in February, impressing in showstealing matches with LuFisto (WSU Mutiny), Mia Yim (AIW Girls Night Out 10) and Candice LeRae (SHIMMER Vol 62). Athena is the sort of athletic, progressive female talent that you just won’t find anywhere in either of the other national promotions – and her O-Face remains one of the most visually stunning (no pun intended) signature moves in all of wrestling, regardless of gender. She’s developed quite a rabid fan following on the indie level and a charisma that suggests that her fanbase would grow exponentially with more exposure, and you’d have to think that Jeff Jarrett would be impressed with some of her wrestling DNA, counting both Gen. Skandor Akbar and Booker T (both former colleagues of Jarrett’s) amongst her trainers. Athena has a world of potential in her, is still young and could easily be one of the centrepieces of any women’s division.

BOF BarbiBarbi Hayden

A second Texan on the list, but that’s OK – while Barbi and Athena may well circulate in some of the same areas, they’re pretty much nothing alike stylistically. Where Athena likes to fly, Barbi likes to suplex and stomp… and look fabulous while doing it. Currently the NWA World Women’s Champion, Hayden is in many ways a modern day interpretation of the classic NWA style of grappler, understanding that “working” means more than just doing moves, and making every facial reaction, every small movement and every break in the action mean just as much as any manoeuvre. She’s not long into her career, but things have certainly clicked with her in the last year especially, as she’s expanded her horizons geographically and had more eyeballs on her than ever before. Any division needs a self-absorbed “better than you” heel, and Hayden plays that part to a T, from the strut of her ring walk to her suggestive pinfalls, Barbi is only going to get better.

BOF Heidi by MarkedOut PhotographyHeidi Lovelace

WWE inducted Lita into their Hall of Fame last weekend – and I know this is a pretty broad stroke comparison, but if part of Lita’s appeal was her punk-rock inspired “one of the guys” tomboy attitude and her fearlessness in the ring, then perhaps the closest you’d get to finding someone like that on the indies would be Heidi Lovelace. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that there might not be a more varied female wrestler in all of the US than Lovelace – from high-flying moves to weapons-filled brawls, I’ve seen her excel at both (she’s even entered in IWA Mid South‘s Queen of the Death Matches tournament in a few months time!) I’ve seen her wrestle men and women equally and get standing ovations for it. I’ve seen her be the “punk rock rag doll” and be thrown around by bigger opponents, and I’ve seen her wrestle on top too. I’ve seen her wrestle singles or tags – and those tag matches be as varied as AIW’s sleazy “Social Network” and the adorable “Buddy System” in SHINE/SHIMMER. Crucially for GFW, I’ve seen Heidi work TV style matches during her time in OVW, so unlike most female independent stars the Jarretts might evaluate, Lovelace knows how to work that style, do backstage skits and promos and take TV cues. Heidi’s still a work in progress, sure, but honestly, there may be nobody with more potential or range on the independent circuit today. She’s not your typical Diva/Knockout, but if you ask many people, part of TNA’s mistake all these years was to market themselves as “WWE-lite” rather than a real alternative. Heidi’s the embodiment of that.

BOF Melanie Cruise by Ichiban DrunkMelanie Cruise

Picking just five spots is a difficult thing to do, so we’ve tried to pick different styles as we’ve gone along – archetypes, if you will. Here’s the “monster heel” spot, and while there were a number of options for this one, we decided to go for Chicago’s Melanie Cruise. Truth be told, the six-foot Cruise never used to be one of our favourites here at Ringbelles HQ, but she’s blossomed into a really effective heel, most notably in SHIMMER & Resistance Pro and ended up making us happily eat our own words. She learned how to use her height, and specifically how to work as a ‘big girl’ – and it paid off. That’s not to say she’s not agile either – her top rope leg drop is a work of art. If you need someone to ragdoll a babyface or be a catcher for a high-flyer, Cruise is a solid pick. In SHIMMER she’s effectively worked squash matches against the likes of Xandra Bale that can leave the crowd breathless but yet had competitive and legitimately good matches with the likes of Ayako Hamada, Hiroyo Matsumoto and Mia Yim – all taking Cruise to a level way above where she could’ve reached just a couple of years ago. Of the five women on our list, Cruise is arguably the one talked about least – but she’d be a fanastic pick for a number of different roles in a new promotion, and she’s certainly worth a look for GFW.

BOF IvelisseIvelisse Velez

OK, we’re not really outright breaking our own rules here, but I guess we are bending them somewhat – as the current SHINE Champion has featured on both WWE *and* TNA TV within the last few years, but as WWE released her from developmental before she ever debuted on the main roster and TNA never even had the sense to sign her up after her Gutcheck last year (other than a couple of one-shots on taped PPVs), we feel it’s fair to call her if not an “undiscovered” talent, certainly an under-appreciated one by the national companies. Anybody who’s seen Ivelisse on a SHINE show in the last year or so can’t have failed to be impressed by her intensity and kick-based ferocity, and while SHIMMER’s Dave Prazak has often pointed out that “not every indie wrestler should be on every indie show otherwise every promotion ends up the same”, we still can’t quite comprehend why Ivelisse isn’t being booked for every single one of the all-female promotions around the continental US by now. She’s *that* good. She made her debut for SHIMMER last weekend in a memorable match with Kimber Lee, and we hope that’s the start of something special there. As far as we’re concerned, Ivelisse is a first round draft pick for any promotion looking to feature women’s wrestling.

So… what do you think? Remember we’ll be back tomorrow with five more picks – specifically non-US picks – for the Jarretts to consider. Feel free to reply in the comments below or via the usual social media means if you have any thoughts on the subject. Do you have a US-based talent that you think we overlooked? Let us know. Picking just five wasn’t an easy task!

Jeff & Karen – we hope this helps 🙂

— Stew Allen
— Photo Credits: Dave Muscarella (Athena), MarkedOut Photography (Heidi), Ichiban Drunk (Melanie)

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