They made history together on Friday night at SHINE 20 in a match where they couldn’t be separated after an hour of wrestling, so it’s somewhat fitting that after we kicked off our “A good half year for…” series earlier today with Serena Deeb, that we follow that up with a hearty round of congratulations and acknowledgement for the other half of that one hour broadway – the current SHINE Champion, Ivelisse Velez. In the last six months, the Puerto Rican ‘Huntress’ has impressed by raising her game even higher after a superb breakout 2013, becoming the champion and focal point of one of the most visible women’s promotions in the world.
After teasing a crack between Valkyrie members Rain and Ivelisse during the second half of 2013, it looked for a while like the match would never happen, until Rain’s announced retirement in December last year was extended by one more month to accommodate a title match between the pair at SHINE 16 on January 24th. That battle saw Rain, in her final match, pass both the title and the torch to Ivelisse in a great match which started with a teased fingerpoke OF DOOM~! and ended with a Code Red and a new Champion. A Horsemen style beatdown at the hands of her former partners in Valkyrie later, and the new champion was officially turned babyface, setting the table for the rest of the year so far. We commented on the following week’s roundup on Ivelisse’s “self-confidence and determination” to get to this point, and I believe that’s still a fair assessment. It would’ve been easy to either coast along on the indies or even to simply give up following disappointments with both WWE and TNA, but instead, she got up, dusted herself off, redoubled her efforts, made herself an invaluable part of the SHINE dynamic, and made herself a proper star. That underdog determination, fighting spirit and never give up attitude is actually a key part of what has made Ivelisse such a watchable performer in 2014.
With a Championship comes an expectation to deliver in the main events, and that’s another area that Ivelisse has excelled in this year, defending her title against Mercedes Martinez at SHINE 17 on February 28th in a match which we called the “best match of the night by a country mile”, noting that Velez was now “one of the most dynamic and exciting female talents on the independent scene today”. Yes, Martinez is amazing (she was our Wrestler of the Year for last year after all), but Velez wasn’t just along for the ride – she matched her fellow Puerto Rican move for move, kick for kick. With SHINE being part of the WWNLive family, opportunities have also opened up for her to wrestle in FIP, Evolve and Dragon Gate USA, along with getting a fantastic showcase on WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans, where she wrestled three times on iPPV across two days as part of the WWNLive Experience, firstly defending her title as part of “A Wrestling Odyssey” against Jazz, then debuting for SHIMMER on Vol 62 against Kimber Lee in a cracking contest, and then defending against Martinez again at Dragon Gate USA’s “Mercury Rising” show. An incredible performance that weekend, especially taking into account that she was dealing with the tragic passing of a close family member the previous week. In wrestling, ‘the show must go on’, and as clearly emotional as Ivelisse was, especially during her match with Jazz, she kept it together and delivered another great performance. It’s an absolute crying shame that Ivelisse wasn’t able to appear for SHIMMER the following weekend in Berwyn – but it’s my fervent hope she’ll be able to make a future full SHIMMER weekend sooner rather than later. The dream match potential is off the charts there.
By now though, Ivelisse was proving any remaining doubters wrong. She’s the real deal. When we put together an unsolicited set of suggestions as to who the first women on Jeff Jarrett‘s GFW databases should be, Velez was a definitive no brainer suggestion. While WWE & TNA have both seemingly dropped the ball with Velez, we’re busy pointing out that “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.”
We still believe that… and nowhere has that better been displayed than with the interactions between herself and Serena Deeb – firstly their extended exchanges as part of the 5 vs 5 elimination match at SHINE 19 on May 22nd and then during their match at SHINE 20 this past weekend. We called the Deeb/Velez portion of the 40+ minute elimination match “the undoubted highlight of this entire match” – and their title match at the weekend could scarcely have been any better. Well paced, dramatic as hell and crucially, with the feel of an actual *fight* rather than an exhibition, Ivelisse and Serena kicked off what is hopefully an extended feud over the SHINE Championship with a near perfect one hour match. To be honest, the only concern would be how they manage to successfully top what was, in my estimation at least, the best match in company history. It’s going to be fun finding out, I guess.
Here at Ringbelles HQ, as we’ve been discussing and cutting down our longlist of names for this series of articles to the eight people we’ll eventually profile this week, the first name we’ve always mentioned has invariably been Serena, but it was clear watching the SHINE 20 main event that Serena’s not a runaway leader in the running for the best female wrestler of this year… far from it. Serena and Ivelisse came across like 1 and 1a this past weekend, and that’s really a large part of why Ivelisse is part of this list. I think a lot of people totally picked up on the star potential of ‘The Huntress’ last year, but the fact that she has managed to become one of the top handful of female wrestlers in the world this year is a testament to her talent and determination. What’s even more exciting is the fact that there are still so many things she can do and places she can work where she can get even more exposure and become even better. FWE have recently announced that she’ll be returning to that promotion this coming October, and well, there are plenty of all women promotions around these days that surely have to be considering bringing in Ivelisse too. The sky is the limit.