A good half year for… a few others

Few others
This week we’ve written profiles of eight females who have had, in our estimation, a great 2014 to date. But while we’ve written full articles about each of Serena Deeb, Ivelisse Velez, LuFisto, Barbi Hayden, Miss Mina, Mia Yim, Paige & Heidi Lovelace, that’s not where the story ends. We had a much longer list of potential inclusions that were discussed at the start of the process, and in this article, we’ll wrap up our ‘Good Half Year’ series by highlighting a few others who can also be proud of what they’ve achieved this year.

Kay Lee Ray did what Nikki Storm did last year – jumped across the pond and spent an extended length of time in the USA, showing fans over there exactly what fans in Europe have known for some time – namely that she’s an exceptional talent. While in America, she got to wrestle for AIW, SHIMMER, Zero-1 USA and SHINE and made fans wherever she went. Although nothing is confirmed, you’d imagine the Hardcore Daredevil made enough of a positive impression both with fans and promoters that she can start planning on making regular trips. Domestically, Kay Lee SHIMMER 62 Kay Lee Rayhas defended her title (and jumped off a car in the process) as Fierce Females starts to run more regularly, and she’s continued to be involved in shows both across Scotland and England.

• Although Ashley “Charlotte” Fleihr may not use the ‘Flair’ surname professionally in NXT, she certainly took a massive leap towards earning it at NXT’s Takeover show in May, producing a 17 minute title winning drama with Natalya which so impressed everybody it raised debate about just the very future of how women’s wrestling should be presented. With daddy Ric looking on, Charlotte produced the goods in a near faultless display, becoming NXT Women’s Champion and with it taking a huge step in her career. There are already rumblings that she might be rushed to the main roster (possibly even with Ric as her regular manager), but for now, that one night in Orlando earns her a spot in this list.

• She is now the most successful World of Stardom Champion of all time after beating Natsuki☆Taiyo, Alpha Female and Star Fire to notch up a record-setting eight successful title defences, and has also become a double champion by dethroning Taiyo to claim the High Speed Title. Now Io Shirai says her goal is to become the longest reigning World of Stardom titleholder. The current record is held by inaugural champion Nanae Takahashi with 602 days – Shirai is at 433, so should she have the belt at Christmas, she will have achieved that. The 24-year old also shook off a few bad memories by returning to Mexico in May – she was arrested on her return to Japan from a Mexico trip in 2012 on suspicion of drug-smuggling, though no charges were ever brought.

Athena started the year still on the DL, following her injury at a WSU Secret Show last August, but returned at WSU’s Mutiny show in February against LuFisto in a match that was hailed as WSU’s “Best Ever Match”, and then went on to win AIW’s Women’s Championship at Girls Night Out 11 & 12, defeating Mia Yim and Allysin Kay in a couple of belting matches in the same night. Many argue she stole the show vs Candice LeRae at SHIMMER 62 in New Orleans, and she went on to have four strong Athena AIW Champion by Dave Muscarellaperformances the following weekend in Berwyn. For her dedication to come absolutely roaring back after a pretty serious injury, nobody could argue that Athena’s had a great 2014 so far.

• At the start of the year, surely there was not a single soul in the world who could have cared about Alicia Fox. Splitting her time between wrestling on the main roster and in NXT (where William Regal on commentary would regularly put her over as his favourite female competitor), her only TV time on the main shows would be the occasional tag team match with Aksana. However, as then WWE Divas Champion Paige was working her way up the roster and she happened across a series of matches with Alicia Fox, something strange happened. Creative actually gave Alicia a smidgeon of a character – and my God did Alicia run with it. Her tantrum-throwing crazy gimmick isn’t exactly original, but Fox plays it with such gusto that she managed to get herself over and managed to make people care about her. Yes, fans are waiting for the post-match breakdown more than they actually care about her match, but kudos where its earned for Fox taking a sliver of a chance and playing it to the hilt. Her in-ring work has improved too, and although she’s been forgotten about in the last month once again, next time she’s got a chance to be on our TV sets, you can bet she’ll grab it with both hands.

Sammii Jayne was cannon fodder in the opening match of Fierce Females’ show final show of 2013. By the time the promotion returned in April she had risen in the promotion’s regard – exemplified by her beating Bete Noire and Viper at Coming Of Age to earn a shot at Kay Lee Ray’s Scottish Championship, though was defeated in her challenge last month. Despite falling short there, Sammii won the Scottish Wrestling Entertainment Future Division title, and is also working on a long-running feud with fellow rising star Debbie Sharpe. Things are all going in the right direction for the 21-year old.

Kimber Lee is the only two time, consecutive Ringbelles Award winner (Discovery of 2012, Breakout Star of 2013), so the spotlight is definitely on her in 2014 – and thankfully she’s remained consistently entertaining across everywhere she wrestles. In WSU, she and Annie Social finally won the WSU Tag Team Titles, impressed at AIW Girls Night Out, had a cracker vs Ivelisse at SHIMMER 62 and brought some Kimber Bombs joy in Berwyn Mickie Knuckles Matt Tremont WSU(plus a singles match with Hikaru Shida). She continues to push the envelope for great intergender action too, notably against regular foe JT Dunn.

Mickie Knuckles has enjoyed a career resurgence in 2014. She defeating Jewells Malone at WSU’s Mutiny in February then controversially won the RESISTANCE Pro Women’s Championship in April by beating D’Arcy Dixon in a First Blood match. She followed it up in May by teaming with Matt Tremont to win WSU’s Queen and King of the Ring tournament, earning a title shot against LuFisto in the process. She also continued to accept booking with IWA Mid-South following her return last December, but necessary ankle surgery ruled her out of last month’s Queen of the Deathmatches tournament. She is expected to be healthy again for her WSU World Title challenge next weekend where she could become a double champion. Despite the surgery, Knuckles has to be happy with how things have gone for her in 2014.

• After having such a positive 2013, Nikki Storm was always going to have a hard time following up with an equal or better 2014, yet she’s managed it. We know (and love) Storm’s ability to ham it up, but anybody who doubted her ability to hang with the best in the world needs to see her match with Kana at SHIMMER Vol 65 in April – an incredible match that people were still enthusing strongly about in the days following. She also got a chance to hang with LuFisto in Montreal, Amazing Kong in Florida and challenge for the AIW Women’s Championship against Athena in Cleveland. All losses, but if anything Storm’s stock went up this year everywhere she competed – people take her seriously and more than just as a mouth. In fact, she’s so popular on SHIMMER weekends by this point that all it will take is to start programming her with heels and she could be the most popular wrestler on the show. 18 Nikki Storm LCW RosesDomestically, the return of Fierce Females has put Storm on the verge of the biggest Scottish female title, so Storm’s 2014 could have an even better six months to come.

Evie turned heel in her home promotion in New Zealand last year, and that played into her activity in Impact Pro Wrestling in 2014 – or lack thereof, because of her work overseas. While she was working in Japan and the US, IPW crowned Britenay as the Interim titleholder but Evie stole the physical belt for herself in May. In neighbouring Australia, Evie made it to the finals of the New Horizons Pro Wrestling Global Conflict tournament in the same month by beating Jay Taylor and Saraya Knight but fell to eventual winner Mercedes Martinez, and also lost the PWWA Championship to Shazza McKenzie. When you factor in that Evie was also unsuccessful in a SHIMMER Tag Team Title challenge in Japan, it doesn’t look that great – but you can’t judge a wrestler’s work on paper. By working in four countries in the last six months, working new opponents, learning new skills and putting together some strong performances, her star is climbing.

Demi Bennett is just 17 and has already hit some huge heights. She won the Riot City Wrestling Women’s Championship from Savannah Summers in May, has defended the belt a number of times already – including at a Melbourne Championship Wrestling show last month. She also enjoyed her first contest against international visitors when she lost to Mercedes Martinez at the Global Conflict tournament, which could be a taste of things to come. With an infectious personality, a natural ability and a world of potential, it’s scary to imagine how good she could possibly get.

• After claiming the British and European Championships, Liberty achieved the big one at Bellatrix 8 in March by pinning Courtney Rush in a thumbs-up contest. She also made it to the finals of the Queen of the Ring tournament at Bellatrix IX, defeating Skarlett and Erin 24 Liberty Saraya Knight BellatrixAngel along the way before falling clean to Lady Lory in what may be a flash forward to her first big title challenge. With her Scottish debut set to take place later this month, things are certainly going well for the 20-year old.

• While on the subject of Bellatrix, kudos also to Sammi Baynz, who has returned with a vengeance, racking up back to back Match of the Night honours at the promotion’s two shows this year. While the most recent streetfight draw against Blue Nikita was well received, it was their first encounter back in March which was the superior of the two encounters. The pair are scheduled to wrestle in a cage at Bellatrix X in September, and like Liberty she is due to make her debut in Scotland for Fierce Females in a couple of weeks. If you haven’t checked her out yet, do – after two extended breaks from the ring, Sammi is certainly making up for lost time.

• Finally we have Nevaeh, who started out the year with her best SHINE match against Leva Bates at SHINE 16 and she & Sassy Stephie challenged Bates and Mia Yim for the promotion’s Tag Team Championship in New Orleans, LA in April, though they were unsuccessful. The tandem were successful the following day against Heidi Lovelace and Solo Darling at SHIMMER 62, then went 2-2 at the following weekend’s DVD tapings. The Gem City Queen failed in her bid to become NWA World Women’s Champion against Barbi Hayden at WSU Queen and King of the Ring, but her affiliations in the SNS Express and OI4K have seen her fully establish a character which was vague for a while. She is much more marketable now than when she was one half of the SHIMMER Tag Team Champions, and we’re glad to see her star rising once again.

– Photos by Dave Muscarella (2), WSU (3), Ringbelles (4,5)

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