It was a new venue, and another farewell as EVE’s debut in Stratford doubled-up as Jayla Dark’s retirement show…

It’s EVE’s debut at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre – usually the home of Frontline Wrestling. Visually, it’s an upgrade the Resistance Gallery, and everyone has seats! Sierra Loxton’s on commentary, seemingly solo to start off, but Dann joins her after the opening bell.

Nightshade vs. Mercedez Blaze vs. Kanji
Kanji’s looking for her first win… and she’s gotten a bit of an uphill battle here to do it.

Kanji mouths off at Blaze at the bell, because Mercedes bailed outside to so some stretching instead. Nightshade’s staring at her too, before the pair of them went outside to bring Blaze in… so they could deck her with forearms. Nightshade reverts to form and cheapshots Kanji after all that, only for Kanji to try for a sunset flip… which gets blocked. Kanji tries for a crossbody, but it’s caught and turned into a swinging side slam, before Blaze came back and took her outside. Back inside, a shotgun dropkick takes down Kanji as Mercedes proceeded to hurl her into the corner with a butterfly suplex for a near-fall.

Blaze sits on Kanji in the ropes, but Kanji responds with a STO and a low dropkick, then with a springboard forearm for a near-fall. Nightshade is back, trapping Kanji with forearms and a release Northern lights suplex, before a ‘rana from Blaze put us back to square one. Livvii Grace gets involved, distracting Blaze as a back suplex got Nightshade a near-fall. Dann goes on one on commentary about the referee not throwing out Livvii Grace (which just comes across as weird when it’s the promoter doing it…), but Kanji’s right back with clubbering forearms before she caught both opponents in the ropes with clotheslines. A dropkick knocks Nightshade to the outside, before she tripped Blaze up for an elbow drop, which almost ended the match.

Nightshade’s right back with a tree slam for a near-fall, before a hip attack from Blaze set up Nightshade for a spear… only for Kanji to capitalise with a head kick on Blaze and a springboard stunner for the win. A pretty fun three-way, as the two who are used to tag teams came up short on the day. **¾

Trish Adora vs. Jetta
With Jetta having given up the tag titles 24 hours earlier, she’s able to focus on singles action… like bettering her run at last year’s SHE-1. This is a qualifier for this year’s tournament, by the way.

Adora worked a hammerlock on Jetta early on, which the veteran tried and failed to get out of until Adora switched up into an armbar. A wristlock followed as Adora worked her way up the arm, before Jetta finally countered in kind and got herself free. They move to a knuckle lock from there, but Trish was able to put on the brakes as Jetta was making a meal of the whole “push her back” deal, before instead opting to trap her in some headscissors on the mat.

Adora hits a shoulder tackle to take Jetta outside, which led to Jetta sliding under the ring as she proceeded to play Hide and Seek. Jetta sneaks back in and scores with a roll-up, before pratfalling Trish for a near-fall, only for Adora to respond with a pinning attempt of her own as Jetta seemed to be caught unawares. Dann laughs. So much so you can’t hear the comedy in the ring.

They shade hands eventually, as Jetta looked to come back out of the corner, eventually landing a back cracker for a near-fall. Jetta stays on top with an armbar, but Adora powers up and out with a sidewalk slam before using a Samoan drop for a near-fall. A neckbreaker gets Jetta right back in it, before a Muta lock was quickly escaped, only for Jetta to snatch the win with a small package as she countered Adora’s suplex. Eh. This didn’t really land for me, with the comedy taking up too big a part of the match for my tastes. **½

It sounds like someone’s being Tasered ahead of the next match…

Gisele Shaw vs. Emi Sakura
Emi refused a handshake at the bell, but quickly ended up in the ropes as Shaw was the early aggressor.

A knuckle lock sees Sakura force Shaw down, but Gisele’s back with some ropewalking into an armdrag takedown. Emi’s quickly back up with a Mongolian chop and some hair mares, before a Mexican surfboard had Shaw in trouble. Sakura works the right leg of Shaw, dropping elbows on it before a big boot from Shaw turned it right back around. Shaw takes Sakura around the ropes, before a side headlock on the mat kept Sakura in trouble. A suplex gets countered by Emi, who took Shaw into the corner for a crossbody ahead of a butterfly backbreaker, before a cross armbar ended in the ropes. Emi goes back to the arm, pulling down Shaw… but she’s able to get to the ropes and save herself.

Forearms from Shaw keep her ahead, as does a trip and a neck flip… but Sakura kicks out, and gets taken outside as Shaw went wild with the Air Canada tornillo. Back inside, Sakura lands a chop and a Vader bomb for a near-fall, before going in for a Kimura… and when that doesn’t work, Sakura goes for another cross armbreaker, which almost led to getting pinned. Shaw hit back with almost a desperation spinebuster, before she tried to shut up the Queen singalong with some forearms. Eventually Shaw turned it up with a big boot and a head kick, before a diving enziguiri caught Sakura for a near-fall… but in the end, it’s a La Magistral cradle that got Emi the win. I mean, keep Sakura strong and all, but this was meant to be one of Emi’s last appearances in EVE for now, but I guess Shaw looked good in defeat? ***

Faye Jackson vs. Rhia O’Reilly
It’s another SHE-1 qualifier, although this would be the mother of all upsets if the debuting Faye Jackson got in at the expense of the EVE champion.

Rhia’s got back-up out in the form of Livvii Grace and Nightshade, but she doesn’t need it early on as she threw Jackson into the corner ahead of some clubbering shots. The tables turn as forearms met O’Reilly in the corner before shoulder tackles proved inconclusive for Rhia… and more effective for Faye. Hip attacks follow for Faye, including one that knocked Rhia into her back-up on the floor, before Faye twerked all over her at ringside. Back in the ring, Rhia pulls Jackson into a backbreaker, before she stayed on top of her with a chinlock, following that up with the Curt Hennig neck flip for a near-fall.

Some clubbering forearms from above and a back senton flatten Faye for another two-count, before Faye was sent outside for a mugging, as Rhia feigned an injury. An attempt at the Rhiadjustment’s blocked, as Jackson pushed ahead, taking Rhia back into the corner for another hip attack, but a drop toe hold counters a cannonball, only for Rhia to run into a whoopee cushion for a near-fall.

More interference from Livvii and Nightshade see Grace run in to attack Jackson – prompting commentary to complain about the lack of a DQ. It ends with a stacked-up cannonball from Faye, before a Samoan drop drew a near-fall… only for Rhia to come back with a knee strike and a Rhiadjustment for the flash pin. I do like how they’re trying to make the knee brace a thing like Lex Luger’s “loaded forearm” back in the day, but this felt very much like we’re still having to establish Rhia’s gang as a unit. ***

Roxxy vs. Sammii Jayne
Commentary was all but calling this a title eliminator, saying that a win for Roxxy would put her right back in contention.

The opening exchanges didn’t create much in the way of an opening, before the pair threw in some lucha inspiration as Sammii hit a missile dropkick… with Roxxy bridging up and out of a cover. Sammii pushed on, with a lucha roll-up before she rolled back into an armbar, staying on the Geordie as she flowed from move to move seamlessly.

Jayne stays on the arm, but has to let go after she’s slammed as Roxxy came in with shoulder tackles and a STO for good measure. Roxxy takes Sammii into the corner for elbows and kicks, before a wheelbarrow roll-through and a stomp left Sammii in a heap. A shotgun dropkick from Sammii puts her back on top ahead of the Shadowfax baseball slide dropkick, before a diving knee almost got Sammii the win.

Roxxy struck back with an Anaconda Vise, before dumping Sammii high with a German suplex… only to be given an instant reply as the pair continued to go back and forth. A rather fortuitous slip almost got Sammii the win as Roxxy looked to be going for an Electric Chair… but Roxxy’s quickly back with Code Red for a near-fall. A Samoan driver from Sammii gave way to a bunch of near-falls as the pair countered back and forth, but Sammii’s straight back in with a leg lock, which ends in the ropes as we approached the final four minutes of the match. Sammii set up for a second Shadowfax, scoring it off the top rope for another near-fall.

A powerbomb from Sammii’s turned into a ‘rana for a near-fall, only for Sammii to roll back out and land that powerbomb anyway. Both women are swinging for the fences here, with Roxxy’s crucifix bomb almost doing it… but the seconds continued to tick away as they went for flash pins, see-sawing on sunset flips before a struggle for a backslide led to nought as time just ran out. It’s been a while since we’ve had a draw, and this was worked pretty well – even if things started to get scrappy at the end, as you’d expect in a panic. Perhaps the best thing on the show so far. ***½

They replay the Jayla Dark video that closed out the prior night’s show… because all we’ve got now is the retirement match of the former Bete Noir. While I’ve been a little critical of how she’d been in exile before this retirement tour, Jayla was a fairly big part of EVE back in the day, and I guess technically never lost in the original EVE tag title tournament…

Tsukasa Fujimoto vs. Jayla Dark
We get streamers for Fujimoro and Jayla, as Dann reminisced to get us going.

Fujimoto hits a running dropkick early, only for Jayla to send her outside as Jayla looked to take a big risk in the opening minute, setting herself up for a body press into the crowd! Back on her feet, Jayla chases Tsukasa around the ring with a plastic light saber, as Dann’s presumably buggered off to help catch the earlier dive. Tsukasa gets the saber and “kills” Jayla, then the entire front row, as crowds will likely be down for a while…

Back in the ring, Fujimoto floats over Dark, only to get wiped out with a clothesline for a near-fall, before Fujimoto began to try sparking duelling chants. Jayla’s back with a slam for a two-count that Fujimoto bridged out of, following up with a wheelbarrow roll-up for a near-fall. A shotgun dropkick keeps Dark down for a near-fall, before a crossbody was caught as Dark stalled her way into another slam. After a missed back senton, Fujimoto was back in with a kick and an Octopus stretch, only for Jayla to get free and land another lariat for a near-fall. The back senton connects at the second try as she proceeded to score a hattrick of them for a two-count, only for Fujimoto ro respond with some dropkicks after trapping Jayla in the ropes.

Fujimoto looked for a Code Red, but Jayla slips free, only to get dropped with an enziguiri. Back-and-forth chops follow, with Jayle blasting through Fujimoto ahead of a superplex attempt… only for Dark to be shoved down for a missile dropkick that only got a one count! A Rainmaker-like lariat gets a similar one-count for Dark, who then went for a death valley driver… which still wasn’t enough!

Fujimoto misses a moonsault and ends up eating a running knee… before she went back up for kicks. Dark caught one, and headbutted her way free as a release Northern lights suplex followed for a near-fall. A second pin’s ignored by the ref as Dark had to yell to get some more counting going, which cost her a win. Fujimoto’s back to the kicks, cracking Dark in the back repeatedly, before a PK led to a Tsukasa going for repeated two-counts. One more PK still doesn’t get the job done, before a springboard enziguiri almost put Dark away… only for Fujimoto to go up and hit a Code Red for the win. A nice, pacey outing here as Jayla went out with a loss, and a heck of a match. ***¼

After the match, Jayla got her farewell speech, after catching herself mid-sentence from swearing on a family show, talking about what wrestling gave her, and how she’s “okay” with what her legacy is. as the roster came out to give her a final farewell in wrestling.

Compared to the last retirement show EVE did, this had so much more of a “regular show” vibe – with normal matches and none of the zaniness. Don’t take this as a negative against EVE, but I’m fed up of what’s felt like constant goodbyes this year. Kris Wolf. Charlie Morgan. Kay Lee Ray. Viper. Jayla Dark. It’s clearly not by design, but it’s left the promotion under a cloud that at times it’s felt like they’ve struggled to poke through, as any positivity quickly got overshadowed by yet-another-retirement.

The other big takeaway from this show was the new venue – I’m not privy to finances or anything like that, but if EVE can make the finances work, Stratford ought to become at least a regular venue. While the promotion’s heart is at the Resistance Gallery, that venue has some rather obvious limitations, not least the size and overly-intimate atmosphere when it’s beyond capacity.