Ringbelles Retro: Rachel and Jessica being Excellent

Rachel Summerlyn Jessica JamesOver the last year or so I have noticed a change in myself in a number of ways – one of which is the number on the bathroom scales. A weight increase of around 15 pounds has meant that I have had to fill my wardrobe with new clothes, though it has also meant that some things which I bought in the past which were a little large for me have started to fit a little better. That includes a bunch of wrestling t-shirts which I bought without trying on at the time and then finding out that they were a little baggy.

What’s this all got to do with today’s Retro? Well, among the shirts which I’m wearing more often is the IHOP-inspired Rachel and Jessica’s Excellent Tag Team one. With that in mind, it got me thinking as to how there was a time when I would never have considered wearing a Rachel Summerlyn piece of merchandise.

I fully admit – and I even told her this when we spoke <a href="

“>during the Women Of Wrestling Podcast back in June 2011 – I was highly critical of her when I first saw her wrestle live in 2008. However, she turned me around and she became one of my firm favourites – so much so that I was pretty damn gutted when she retired from the ring. She had her official retirement this July though she had her last match more than a year and a half ago, not long after bidding farewell to Anarchy Championship Wrestling.

Summerlyn wrestled for ACW for six years, winning the American Joshi, Tag Team, Televised and Heavyweight Championships during her time there. For today’s Retro, we’ve got one of her Tag Team Title defences alongside Jessica James from May 15, 2011. RAJETT put the belts on the line against Cali Crush (Dax Daring & Jordan Jensen), The Halloween Crew (Black Rocker & Jack-O-Lantern) and Portia Perez & Super Electro from the Nothing Is As Real As A Dream show, which doubles up as ACW’s prom show, which should explain the formal clothing.


Ringbelles Retro: Former WWE Diva v Future WWE Diva – Ivory v Natalya

Natalya IvoryIt’s a clash of generations for this Retro as the past meets the future on the independent scene. On October 8, 2006, Big Time Wrestling held a show in Newark, CA with the Extreme (now Elite) Canadian Championship Wrestling Supergirls (now Women’s) Title on the line.

The titleholder Ivory – a woman who got her start in Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling in 1986 and won the WWF/E Women’s Championship on three occasions before being released from her contract in 2005 – put the belt on the line against Nattie Neidhart. While not a rookie – the third-generation wrestler had been stepping into the ring for around six years by this point and had toured the United Kingdom and Japan – she was seen as the fresh-faced upstart with a chip on her shoulder in her challenge to the veteran, who was enjoying her 20th year in the industry at this point.

Neidhart would go on to sign with WWE in January 2007 before debuting on the main roster a year later under the guise of Natalya, holding the Divas Championship one time at the end of 2010 and currently on her third season of Total Divas, which seems to be shaping her career these days.

We’ve spoken to Ivory for the Women Of Wrestling Podcast, and she remains the only wrestler whom we have had to split over two episodes because of the sheer bulk of information delivered. You can listen to the first half where she talks about GLOW, standing up Ricky Steamboat and bimbos in wrestling by clicking here; and if you would rather listen to her talk about her WWE years including working with the Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young, Miss Kitty being a locker room poison, her WrestleMania X-Seven match with Chyna and what the deal was with the purple scarf, click here. To be honest, they’re both worth your time, so download and have a listen to a fascinating women taking no prisoners.

Ringbelles Retro: More matches from the mid-twentieth century

Penny Banner June ByersA funny thing happened last Thursday. The Chicago Film Archives set up a YouTube channel featuring more than a hundred videos from the city – some of which are more than 60 years old. Some of the names featured included bona fide legends of the industry like Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Édouard Carpentier, Killer Kowalski and Dick the Bruiser, and there are also a few stars from the women’s wrestling world too.

Among the 101 contests are four women’s matches which may be of interest to you. Starting off, we have two contests featuring June Byers – the first is her defending the World Women’s Championship which took place between late 1953 and the following year against Penny Banner which features a blistering finishing sequence, and the other sees Byers against Violent Viann. The other two are a singles contest between Lorraine Johnson and Shirley Strimple, and a tag team contest pitting Johnson and Rose Roman against Strimple & Ramona TeSelle from late 1955.

Similar to the Mae Weston/Mildred Burke match which we posted about three weeks ago, the commentary isn’t exactly the most politically-correct which you will ever hear, but it’s nice to have a good handful of matches from a busy era for women’s wrestling. Have a watch.

Ringbelles Retro: Fierce Females feuding pair… back in the day

Carmel Jacob Nikki Storm mrdavidjwilsonScotland is dominating news headlines at the moment, considering the country could vote to split from the rest of the United Kingdom in eight days. At the moment, the Yes and No campaigns are pretty even, but there’s one thing that everyone – Scots, English and the rest of the world – can agree on; there are some fantastic Scottish wrestlers.

Take Nikki Storm and Carmel Jacob, for example. As you can see from the photo to the right, they have spent time fighting for the same nefarious causes, while these days they are embroiled in a big feud in Fierce Females – and you can see what caused it by clicking here – but the pair have fought quite often in the past, including in this match which we bring to you right now.

When Storm and Jacob fought in this match for Scottish School of Wrestling back on December 11 in 2009, Nikki was into her second year of her career, while Jacob was into her fourth. The latter is already finding her Glamour Gym look with the furry boot covers while Storm’s character is already taking shape. However, you’ll notice some differences – for example, Nikki’s appearance is wildly different to how she looks now, while Carmel is wrestling as a babyface, which is a big departure from her regular antagonistic self.

Photo by David J Wilson

Ringbelles Retro: Natalya & Kharma face off in Japan

Natalya WWESome of the wrestlers you see on TV have storied histories in multiple countries from before they ever sign a contract. An immediate example is NXT’s Becky Lynch who wrestled in the UK, Europe, Japan, Canada and the US before taking an extended leave of absence due to a serious cranial injury. Paige worked across Europe and North America before moving to the United States. In this Retro, we look at current WWE Diva Natalya and former Diva and TNA Knockouts Champion Kharma/Awesome Kong wrestling in Japan.

Kong – wrestling as Amazing Kong – debuted in Japan in 2004 after being invited to train with All Japan Women, as she discussed in her first Women Of Wrestling Podcast with us five years ago. This Retro match comes from Natalya’s second tour of the country – she wrestled as Nadia Hart in mid-2004 before coming back in November the following year as Nattie Neidhart and entering a feud with Kong.

Have a watch of the contest below and see what Natalya and Kharma were like years before they ever set foot in a WWE ring.

Ringbelles Retro: There’s old-school, then there’s this

Mae Weston Mildred Burke“It’s a fast-changing world we live in. Men, move over.”

They’re the words which close out the video for this Retro featuring a match between Mildred Burke and Mae Weston from the 1950’s. At the time, it was implied that women’s wrestling was on the verge of becoming as recognised and respected as the male equivalent. Women’s wrestling has seen an upsurge over the previous decade or so because of the men being overseas fighting during the second World War – documented nicely in the Lipstick and Dynamite DVD – and was being celebrated as being something that would become the norm, though the voice-over on this video still has one foot in the sexist gutter.

More than 60 years on, women’s wrestling is still seen as a special attraction in some areas. In fact, Jeremy Borash announced it as if it was something of a departure from the men’s action during the filming of the British Boot Camp qualifiers earlier this month. Should things have not moved on further than where we are at right now?

At least there has been progress in the likes of promotions around the world like SHIMMER, SHINE, Women Superstars Uncensored, NCW: Femmes Fatales, Pro Wrestling: EVE, Bellatrix, Fierce Females, JWP, Stardom, OZ Academy, Pro Wrestling WAVE, Ice Ribbon, Sendai Girls and more. However, short of national TV shows like Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, Ladies Professional Wrestling Association and Wrestlicious, it’s been a bit light on the televisual front, as it’s always been seen as a sideshow act by global groups like WWE, TNA and WCW – though in its defence, TNA has produced a few all-women shows in its history, so it’s done more than most.

Still, minor rant aside, have a watch of some pretty historical footage. It’s the sort of thing which shaped Thunderkitty‘s wrestling style.

Ringbelles Retro: Paige’s early days

Britani Knight PaigeIt’s hard to imagine, but 21-year old former WWE Divas Champion Paige is an 8-year veteran of the ring. Debuting in her early teenage years, the Briton had been wrestling for three years by the time that this Retro took place.

The-then 17-year old – wrestling under her former moniker of Britani Knight – was also getting her international experience having worked in France and Norway by this point, and this contest took place in Langå, Denmark for Danish Pro Wrestling show on September 19, 2009. Her opponent is Miss Mina, who had been wrestling by five years by this point.

Knight had turned heel the year before and was making strides in the role of the antagonist, and you can see elements of the disingenuous frenemy which she is currently using in her storyline with current Divas titleholder AJ Lee – who she is slated to wrestle for the belt at SummerSlam on August 17.