Based out of the English town of High Wycombe, Empress Pro Wrestling is the latest in a line of women-only promotions. They’ve only been around since the start of 2015, and with four shows to their name (as of time of writing), it’s fair to say that they’re not rushing things either.
Unlike most other promotions whose offerings are sold on-demand via Vimeo, SmartMarkVideo or the PivotShare rent/purchase/subscribe model, Empress Pro are using a site called Sellfy to sell their wares – in a digital download-only format. Bear that in mind if you don’t have a fast internet connection!
Empress Pro Invitational 2016 Semi Final: Kay Lee Ray vs. Kira Fox
Diving straight into the action here, with a tournament semi-final match, involving Kay Lee Ray (of brief TNA fame). Already this group’s in my good books, with no “one fall” pandering. Lets see if the fans keep it up!
Kay Lee Ray starts with an arm wringer on Fox, who reverses it twice into a hammerlock, before Ray moves it to a headlock takedown. Ray flips out of some headscissors, then catches Fox in a grounded headlock, with a noogie for extra measure. Fox works herself free, then offers a handshake, only to get cheapshotted by Ray.
Ray snapmares Fox to the mat, then leans forward in a rear chinlock, folding Fox in half before the expected fightback ends with Fox being pulled to the mat by her hair. After standing on Fox’s hair to pull it, Ray’s caught in a knee-bar by Fox, and eventually makes the ropes.
Fox takes down Ray with a tiltawhirl into a DDT for a near-fall, but the Scotswoman was back on top with diving double knees for a near-fall. Ray stays on top of Fox with a series of slaps that sends he into the corner, before she’s caught and taken down with a pair of headscissors. Ray nails an enziguiri on Fox, before levelling her with a Gory bomb and then a senton bomb off the top for the win.
Decent opener – a little slow at times, but I’d rather have a slow paced match go right than a fast-paced botch fest. **¾
Empress Pro Invitational 2016 Semi Final: Toni Storm vs. Xia Brookside
The 17 year old (!!) Brookside is the daughter of British wrestling legend (and current WWE trainer) Robbie, and I believe she’s still in her rookie year to boot. No pressure then, with the family tie-in! Storm was in different attire to what she’s usually in, opting for a sparkly one-piece that was reminiscent of the old GLOW shows.
We get the basics early on as Storm works a wristlock, which is reversed back and forth until Storm grabs a front facelock. Brookside uses the ropes to reverse another wristlock, as the holds continue. Xia keeps the wristlock on tight, even after Storm slams Brookside to the mat, but a waistlock takedown eventually breaks the hold.
A shoulder block gets Storm a one-count as Brookside gets sent hard into the turnbuckles, followed up by a backbreaker and a clothesline for near-falls. Storm cinches in hard on a rear chinlock, and after sending her into the ropes, Brookside tries for a flip into some headscissors, but the two lose balance and collapse into the corner of the ring.
Brookside hits a running bulldog on Storm, then connects with a head kick, before Storm slaps her back into the corner. Storm misses a hip attack, then takes a big boot as Xia looks to go to the top rope, only to be caught. Xia slips out and pulls Storm into a tree of woe, which she follows by landing a baseball slide dropkick.
Brookside pulls Storm into the ring makes the cover from there, except the referee holds the count up at two, expecting a kick-out. After some half-hearted mumbling about how “Storm’s hair was under the rope”, the referee admitted defeat and called for the bell. After half a dozen people shouted for the bell, Brookside was declared the winner. Well that was a botch and a half… a solid match, especially for a rookie, but the ending and the blown spot in the middle really took it down a notch. **¼
Little Miss Roxxy vs. Jinny vs. Freya Frenzy
This may be the tamest reaction Jinny’s had, as the kid-friendly crowd weren’t about to chant the obscenities she usually gets for PROGRESS. Freya Frenzy looked like she’d modelled her gear on DDP’s early outfits, and while I’m at it, what’s with the really vague ring announcing? Jinny got her usual Knightsbridge hometown announced, whereas Roxxy and Freya were just billed as “from the North East”. That’s a pretty big area, y’know!
Freya falls for the handshake from Jinny, and after teasing a partnership, Jinny whips her to the mat by the hair, as Roxxy and Jinny end up pairing up. A leaping double stomp flattens Freya, who replies by doing a stereo headlock/legscissors takedown on her opponents. A clumsy double bulldog follows, before Jinny avoids a corner charge, and Roxxy interjects in things.
Freya rolls up Roxxy out of the corner for a near-fall, before trying a wheelbarrow takedown on Roxxy. It went badly, as she was caught and held up for a DDT from Jinny for a near fall, with Roxxy breaking it up. The two heels took turns breaking up the others’ covers, before things descended into a striking battle… Freya then pulled out Roxxy from the ring so she could have a go at Jinny, who replied with a Japanese armdrag into the corner.
Jinny kept Freya near the ropes with kicks, before she stomped away in the corner, adding some double-handed chops into the mix. A jumping knee got Jinny a near-fall, as Freya weakly tried to fight back. Jinny tried to climb the ropes, but was brought down hard to the outside by Roxxy, whose first action in the ring was to take a drop toe hold into the bottom turnbuckle.
Roxxy took down Freya with a snapmare, then hooked the arms before drilling her with knees to the shoulders until Jinny broke things up. Roxxy took some forearms in the corner from Jinny, before returning the favour, and ultimately falling to the mat from the Botox Injection (reverse leg sweep into a knee to the face).
Jinny covered Freya instead after that, getting a two-count, before some chops and kicks sent her back to the mat for another near-fall. That was followed up by an Acid Rainmaker, before Roxxy ran in to toss Jinny out of the ring and steal the pin. Can we say “the wrong person won”? Roxxy and Freya looked like they needed a lot more seasoning, particularly with their striking, but this wasn’t hideous or anything close to it. **
We get no graphic for the next match, as instead we go straight to the entrances for our next bout:
Lizzy Styles & Nadia Sapphire vs. Queens Of Wrestling (Katey Harvey & Pollyanna)
Nadia Sapphire seems to be a vain loudmouth permanently holding a mirror and a can of hairspray. Lizzy Styles looked to be ill at ease in this role, before happily flipping off a fan (I thought this was a kid-friendly show?!) Their opponents are the universally beloved Queens of Wrestling – the pairing of Pollyanna and Katey Harvey.
Much stalling to begin with as Sapphire freaks out at a simple “Pollyanna” chant. We finally get underway with the usual basic grappling, and an early takedown from Sapphire, which ends up with her grabbing the ankle of Pollyanna, who fights back up into a wristlock. A hiptoss turns into a pinning combination for Sapphire, and an early two-count, before Pollyanna goes back to the wristlock, with some finger tweaking for good measure.
Pollyanna rolls out of a headlock on the mat for a one-count, before being caught in a waistlock. She again reverses it into a wristlock, then connects with some chops and elbows to Sapphire, who tags out to Styles. Harvey then gets the tag in, immediately wringing the arm of Styles, and landing a diving forearm in the corner. A cross body from Harvey and a back senton from Pollyanna leads up to a double dropkick for a near-fall, as the babyfaces worked over the heels for a while.
A Fisherwoman’s suplex didn’t even get a count as Sapphire ran in to break it up on impact, before she was tagged in as Pollyanna inadvertently kept the referee distracted. Harvey was choked over the ropes behind the referee’s back in some classic heel chicanery. Styles suplexed Harvey almost out of the ring, before teasing Pollyanna with a tag, but Harvey was able to get a boot up to an onrushing Sapphire… only to not make the tag as Styles had pulled Pollyanna off the apron.
Harvey tried to fight back on Styles, but took another couple of suplexes, before countering one with a DDT and finally making the tag to Pollyanna, who clotheslined Sapphire repeatedly. Pollyanna caught an attempted boot from Sapphire in the corner, and countered by swinging her legs into position as she bridged across the turnbuckles in perfect position for a double stomp. That got her a near-fall, before she went for a superplex, but Sapphire held on and returned the favour from earlier, landing a hip attack for a near-fall.
Harvey made the blind tag to Pollyanna and connected with a missile dropkick to Styles and Sapphire, and then we had our first dive of the night, courtesy of a low tope from Pollyanna. Styles tried to fight back though, landing running uppercuts in the corner, before being caught in a bodyslam from Pollyanna, which changed into a Fireman’s carry with a kick to the head from Harvey for the win. That was the best all-round match on the card so far, with solid tag team work from both sides. ***¼
Violet O’Hara vs. Violet Vendetta
Gotta love the similar names! O’Hara is out as a white meat babyface, whilst Vendetta also seems to be a babyface, with a touch of the burlesque about her. Maybe it’s the hair…
At 4’ 11”, O’Hara’s barely the same height as the top rope, so you’d guess she’d be the undersized babyface… or the small villainous heel. Definitely that one, as she cheapshots Vendetta following a handshake, before Vendetta fires her into the ropes for a clothesline. Vendetta comes back with a hiptoss that she rolls through into a cover for a near-fall,
O’Hara and Vendetta trade strikes, with O’Hara getting the edge before dropkicking Vendetta to her knees, and landing a bulldog for a near-fall. After leaping over a leg sweep and ducking a roundhouse kick, Vendetta catches a kick and shoves O’Hara to the mat, then locks in the STF, before O’Hara finally gets the rope break.
A drop toe hold sends Vendetta into the ropes, before a neckbreaker gets O’Hara another two-count. The seated Vendetta takes a dropkick for a near-fall as this threatens to get awfully one sides, but she avoids another kick then makes the roll-up , before dropkicking O’Hara into the corner as payback. Some corner charges from Vendetta follow, but O’Hara finally gets the boot up and lands a bulldog out of the corner for another two-count.
O’Hara argues with the referee, and lands on her knees from what looked to be an attempted Codebreaker, kicking out at two. A Thesz press out of the corner almost went awry for O’Hara, as Vendetta landed awkwardly, before O’Hara turned it into an armbar as Vendetta made the rope break.
Vendetta found herself tossed outside the ring with ease, and yes, we got that God damned “count one ahead of the referee” gimmick. After his screw up earlier, that may have worked… and we have another bit of dodgy booking, as O’Hara grabbed the referee’s hand to celebrate a win (even though Vendetta came back to the ring at the count of seven). When the referee waved it off, O’Hara just kicked him low, and there’s your DQ. *¾ for the finish alone.
Immediately after, Vendetta hit the Twist of Fate before meekly leaving the ring. Just… why? When you’re running shows once a quarter, with little in the way of storylines, what was the point of a DQ finish like this? It didn’t seem to build to anything on the show, and O’Hara danced away shrugging her shoulders, so… I don’t get it.
Empress Pro Invitational 2016 Final: Kay Lee Ray vs. Xia Brookside
The semi-main event here is our tournament final. Hey, they even have a trophy, and it’s not one of those traditional wooden things that’s ripe for smashing over someone’s back. The referee has recovered from the low blow in our last match, and after a sporting handshake, we’re underway!
In the early testing the waters session, we got some rapid pinfall reversals a la Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn from back in the day, which ended with Brookside having to abort a backslide as Ray went for a Gory bomb.
A hair assisted snapmare sent Brookside to the mat for a rear chinlock, before pulling her back up for a dropkick for a near-fall. An arrogant pin from a clothesline got Ray a one-count as she followed up with more kicks, before Brookside landed a Code Breaker to get her some breathing space. At this point I realised that the “count one ahead” gimmick perhaps wasn’t in full force, but rather the referee was doing some bizarre counting, where he’d audibly count the wrestlers down, then announce it to the crowd, like “1.. 1… 2… 2.. 3… 3…” and so on. That threw me for a bit.
Back to their feet, both women traded punches, before a chop from Kay Lee Ray sent Brookside to the mat. Xia ducked a chop then made her comeback with a knee strike and a clothesline before this time successfully pulling off the tiltawhirl headscissors. Another kneestrike followed for a two-count, before Brookside was caught on the top rope. Just like in her first match, she worked herself free, threw Ray in a Tree of Woe, and ran the ropes for the baseball slide dropkick, but Ray sat up to avoid it.
As Brookside slid to the outside, Ray got to the top and went flying with an axe handle smash that missed. Back inside, Brookside climbed the ropes again and connected with a crossbody for a near-fall, before Ray landed a savate kick and then a senton bomb off the top for another near-fall. Ray went for the Gory bomb, but Brookside countered with a kick, then attempted a reverse rana that didn’t go as planned, as both women fell back like an Electric Chair drop for a near-fall.
Brookside followed that up with an attempted kick, but Ray caught it and nearly transitioned her into the Gory Stretch, but Brookside flipped it out into a Code Red for the win! That was much better than I expected given how little experience Brookside had – but she’d do better cutting out some of the bigger spots at this stage of her career. ***½
Trust me, at only 17 and still a rookie, she’ll go far. And it’ll be more than because of her surname.
Post-match, Kay Lee Ray grabs the trophy and rather than smash it into Brookside, she hands it to her. But leaves the ring instead of celebrating. That was odd.
Fans Bring The Weapons Match: Rhia O’Reilly vs. Addy Starr
Oh dear, given that this is a small crowd, we may have little in the way of weapons. Needless to say, this is a no DQ match!
The Irish O’Reilly comes out with a bin full of goodies, whilst the Canadian Starr has a barbed wire baseball bat. They start by trading punches back and forth, and Starr immediately tosses O’Reilly to the outside and into her bin. O’Reilly fires back with shots around the apron, before she’s sent into the ringpost as the two brawl around ringside for a spell.
Back inside, O’Reilly scored a double-leg takedown, but Starr reverses out of it and stomped away as the advantage swung back and forth. O’Reilly’s sent to the outside again, but Starr gets sick of waiting for her to return, so she decides to meet her with a tope. Except O’Reilly saw it coming and Starr got extra friendly with the lid of the metal bin.
More forearms on the outside before O’Reilly rolled Starr onto the apron for a draping DDT from the middle rope. O’Reilly works over the legs, and sends Starr into the top turnbuckle, where the Irish flag was used to choke her Canadian foe. A Curt Hennig-like neck snapmare got O’Reilly a two-count, before she went for a rear chin-lock, and a double-arm pull.
O’Reilly turns it into a strait-jacket stranglehold, before Starr’s wheelbarrow takedown got blocked and turned into a facebuster. Does that takedown ever work?
O’Reilly briefly locks in a STF/surfboard variant, then gets a two-count from her efforts, before Starr launches a comeback with a backcracker. Starr kicks O’Reilly in the back for a two-count as one guy begs for tables, before O’Reilly lands a front facelock into a DDT (a la EC3’s One Percenter).
Going back to the outside, O’Reilly grabs the Riddler’s question mark stick, then smashes Starr over the back before using it to choke her with. The stick’s smashed into Starr’s backside, then her back, before O’Reilly stands in the corner, blocking Starr’s path to the barbed wire bat. Outside again, O’Reilly throws in an empty bottle of wine, and a stool, before bringing in a whip and a bin lid.
A stool shot gets Addy a two-count, but she’s blocked from using it again as O’Reilly goes back to the Riddler stick, but instead stands on the barbed wire bat and drives it into Starr’s back. And then her front. Starr gets the bat raked across the top of her head, before having to kick out at two from the resulting pin attempt.
Starr wriggles out of a Fireman’s carry and kicks O’Reilly in the head, before jumping out of the ring for a bag of the most painful items known to man… Lego! Starr lands a Northern Lights suplex into the Lego, which O’Reilly sold like she’d stood in it barefoot, before getting covered for a two-count.
O’Reilly got some revenge with a T-bone suplex into the Lego for a two-count, as that guy in the crowd begged for a table. Starr missed a bottle shot to the head, before O’Reilly set her up for a double kneedrop in the corner, a la Pollyanna’s stomp from earlier. A bin-lid assisted baseball slide came next in the corner from O’Reilly, who then missed a cannonball into the corner.
O’Reilly kept on top with some more bin lid shots, then a double-arm DDT into the Lego for a near-fall, before going out again for more plunder. This time she tossed the bin in (and failed), before finally putting it over Starr’s head to set up a dropkick into the corner. More shots with the Riddler stick followed, before a standard suplex into the Lego allowed O’Reilly to go outside to finally shut up that guy… by bringing in a decorating table into the ring.
The table gets set up in the corner, before both women put on the brakes to avoid going through it, ending with O’Reilly smashing the table in two, courtesy of an Exploder suplex into the corner from Starr. After being dragged into the middle of the ring, Starr gets a near-fall. She then sits up O’Reilly and prepares to hit a home run with the barbed wire bat, but O’Reilly avoids it, and eventually lands a Tiger suplex and a double-arm DDT into the Lego and that’s it! Rhia O’Reilly wins a fairly brutal, but unorthodox weapons match. ***
It’s tempting to grade this on a curve given the relative inexperience of those involved, but overall, this was a fun show to watch, even if the card had a healthy share of botched moves and booking in it. Come for the wrestling, and stay for the tag match and the tournament final, and you won’t feel like you’ve been cheated!