The first SHINE card of the new year saw Rain cash in her title shot, while the Cutie Pie Club were in action with their changed line-up.

At the end of 2017, Rain won the Survival Rumble to get herself a title shot… which she was cashing in on this show. We’re at the Orpheum in Ybor City, SHINE’s regular home, with Lenny Leonard on commentary here.

Chelsea Durden vs. Amber Nova
Amber Nova’s gimmick is that she’s carrying a spanner. Kind of like a not-snakey Absolute Andy, I guess. Or someone billed “from the garage”. Jesus. The crowd’s absolutely silent for both women, since this is a “Sparkle Showcase” tryout.

Nova’s had some experience with Impact, all in losing efforts, whilst Durden is a bit of a mainstay on the Florida indies, having held the Coastal Championship Wrestling title for over 18 months now. Amber’s ahead early with some armbars, but Durden charges her into the corner for some back-and-forth. An old-school pendulum backbreaker gets a near-fall for Durden, who became the aggressor, dropping a leg onto the face of Nova for another two-count, but Nova’s back in with a guillotine choke… until she’s charged into the corner. Durden breaks free and scores with some kicks, before grounding her in a full nelson…

Nova’s able to break free, throwing Durden’s head into the turnbuckles with some headscissors before throwing in some dropkicks… which led to a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall. More headscissors help Amber get into an Octopus hold, dragging Durden to the mat as the hold transitioned into Cattle Mutilation as the referee tried to count a pinfall.

Yeah… Durden was actually in the ropes, but thanks for trying!

Chelsea almost gets the win when she rolled through a top rope crossbody effort, before going for the Nova Driver – a wheelbarrow stunner. It doesn’t hit, but it’s the finish… which is a microcosm of the match really. Largely okay, but the big finish didn’t come off. *¾

Tesha Price vs. Stormie Lee
Well this is a red flag… Stormie Lee, who won in the main event last time out is damn-near curtain jerking. Never let it be said that SHINE do progression!

Commentary tries to piece together that Tesha is a trainee of Rain, whom Stormie beat on that last show… and Lee is all over Price in the opening moments, stomping on her in the corner before kicking away on Tesha’s legs. It gets the crowd behind Price, who fires back with some brief right hands as Lee cuts her off with more kicks… but this crowd really don’t seem to react for Stormie beyond the standard booing.

Stormie’s reverse DDT gets a near-fall thanks to a rather weak cover, and eventually there’s another Tesha comeback, featuring a dropkick to the side of the head that almost gets her the win. A handspring boot into the corner and a bulldog out of it gets a near-fall, but Lee’s back with a Fireman’s carry gutbuster and a Downward Spiral for the win. Stormie tried, but this crowd weren’t really buying much in this match. *¾

Dynamite DiDi vs. Holidead
DiDi’s got a Badd Blaster with her, so I guess party cannons are part of whatever her character is. That’s always been a problem with SHINE, a lot of the lower card roster is just… there.

Holidead started by taking DiDi into the corner repeatedly, but that earns her a couple of slaps and a drop toe-hold before she took DiDI back in with shoulder charges. A running kick misses, and allows DiDi back into it with some kicks to the legs, only for Holidead to push her away and miss a legdrop of her own.

DiDi’s back in with kicks to the front and back, before a handspring off the ropes is cut-off with a forearm to the back as Holidead targeted DiDi with backbreakers. Holidead stretches DiDi around the ringpost to keep up the back offence, before scoring with a headbutt to the nether regions.

DiDi fires back with chops in the ropes, but a big boot from Holidead puts her right back down for a two-count, before a modified Gory special almost forced a submission. Again, DiDi tries to fight back from the ground, but she’s taken into the corners for some clotheslines as Holidead looked massively comfortable, albeit a little nonchalant. Holidead takes too long to follow up as she tried to boot DiDi off the apron, and after getting hung up in the ropes, DiDi fires back with chops to take her into the corner, but Holidead slaps back before choking DiDi on the mat. Again, Holidead’s in control, albeit with a lot of choking on DiDi as the crowd seemed to fall silent again.

Another DiDi comeback sees her set up Holidead for some Shattered Dreams and a Stunner out of the corner, but that’s only enough for a near-fall. DiDi just about connects with a missile dropkick for a near-fall before landing a spear and a double stomp… but Holidead is way too close to the ropes and easily grabs them to save herself. A backslide almost gets the win, but instead Holidead rolls through and countered out with some Angel’s Wings to get the win. This was fine by the standards of SHINE, but very clunky at times unfortunately. **

Brandi Lauren vs. Leva
The ever-evolving game of “what is Leva Bates this month” has her come out to some remix of the Spice Girls while dressed as… something from Overwatch. I don’t play many video games these days, and perhaps that’s a good thing. It’s been a common criticism of hers – she’s hard to market when her look is always changing between other copyrighted characters.

Still, it’s a better gimmick than Blue Pants. Even if it takes Leva so goddamned long to get ready to wrestle…

Lauren swings and misses at Leva early, who replies with a kiss for… reasons. Eventually Leva scored with a drop toe-hold and a low dropkick for a one-count as we hear an awful fake English accent. Leva disappears to the back for… more reasons, returning with more of her cosplay gear, including a fake gun that Lauren tried to shoot her with.

The crowd are silent throughout, as Leva nearly wins with a Northern Lights, before a spear picks up another near-fall. Another roll-through it cut-off when Brandi knees Leva in the midsection, following up with an elbow off the ropes as the match seemed to go into slow motion. Some cradle pins get Leva near-falls as Brandi boots her once again, before de-wigging and choking Leva with her hairpiece.

The wig gets booted out of the ring as the crowd started to wake up, but Lauren seemed to retain control, booting Leva for another two-count, only for Leva to rebound with a superkick… which she was unable to capitalise on. Some high kicks from Leva keep Brandi down, as do some knees in the corner, but it’s not enough to put Brandi away.

Leva runs into a spinebuster as she nearly lost the match in a heartbeat, but a back cracker out of the ropes sees the momentum swing back towards Leva… before Leva accidentally charged into the ref. He’s only down for a few seconds though as Brandi hits Leva with one of her cosplay guns, and the ref’s back up to count the pin just in time. This was okay in parts, but I just can’t get engaged with a character that always changes and never seems to settle into anything. **

Cutie Pie Club (Candy Cartwright, Kiera Hogan & Dementia D’Rose) vs. Aerial Monroe, Priscilla Kelly & Vanessa Kraven
After Aria Blake was booted out of the Cutie Pie Club last time out and replaced with Dementia D’Rose, we’ve got a new line-up… and a new-ish character as Dementia has dropped all of her wacky, sorta-demonic act in favour of someone who just wiggles her backside.

Kelly was out here, without her belt, which was a bit weird…

The match starts out hot, but it seems the main focus was between Kraven and D’Rose as the monsters of both teams reignited their match from SHINE 45. It’s a little out of control, to be fair, as the camera doesn’t quite know what to focus on as everything just… stops. Eventually the bell goes as Monroe and Cartwright end up in the ring, with the latter eating a right hand to the mush before tagging in Hogan, who ran into a big dropkick.

Kelly’s in for some armdrags on Hogan, but Kiera lifts her onto the apron before instead opting to throw some forearms as Priscilla replies with a big boot for a two-count. Priscilla pulls Hogan down to the mat for a PK, but again it is nowhere near enough, and Hogan’s back in with a snapmare and a wild superkick to the side of the head as Kiera took over.

There’s an audible “oh, not her again” when Candy tagged back in to run Kelly’s eyes against the top rope, but her offence here wasn’t as bad as it has been, scoring with a bulldog and a bow-and-arrow hold before cornering Kelly as D’Rose tagged in. Triple-teaming saw Kelly thrown into a Samoan drop, but it’s the Nova champion who’s being left to slaughter as Candy seemed to be trying to make a statement. D’Rose flat-out murders Kelly with a half-nelson backbreaker, but the Cutie Pie Club seem to be having a hard time keeping Priscilla down.

Hogan’s back with some charges and a diving kick to Kelly in the corner… for a two-count, before Priscilla finally made the tag out to Vanessa Kraven, who blasted D’Rose with a leaping knee as she came in. A big boot and a back senton crushes D’Rose for a near-fall, only for Dementia to come back with a whoopee cushion out of the corner as Kraven’s offence was nearly put to an abrupt end.

Kraven’s back with a choke bomb for a near-fall, as this time Candy remembered to break up the pin, but she runs into a ripcord forearm from Monroe as things got a little wacky. D’Rose and Kraven brawled to the back, and I guess Monroe was taken out by Candy… as Priscilla was left alone to dump Kiera on her head with a half-and-half suplex. Hogan fights out of a Tiger bomb, and almost gets the win with a swinging/bridging Fisherman’s suplex… but apparently Candy was still the legal person, and she shoves Kiera off to get the pin. The crowd didn’t like that finish, nor did Kiera, who looked slighted… so we still have Cutie Pie Club tension? Lovely… still, this wasn’t a horrible match, and if you’re here for the perverse pleasure of Candy Cartwright botches, this isn’t the match for you. **¾

So yeah, after the match, Candy’s all happy and dancing… Kiera is stewing as she realised what happened. Perhaps she realised she picked the wrong side when Aria was booted out?

During intermission they loop video footage, including the old Cutie Pie Club members celebrating Christmas and getting their Survival Rumble draw numbers. Why is this still in the rotation?

Natalia Markova vs. Jordynne Grace
Markova’s gotten some darker/louder music, so I guess she’s now the defacto bad guy in this? She’s got a promo too, announcing herself as being from Moscow, blaming “you Americans” for her losing all of her matches. Except she won ON THE LAST SHOW. Apparently she’s supposed to be undefeated, and she thinks the refs have been paid off… yay for stereotypical foreign heels, eh?

Markova’s “here on a special mission to show you what real women are like”. I swear there was something in here poking fun at mail order brides… Still, at least someone’s getting promo time and a character to build on.

Natalia’s attempt at shoving Grace just gets her an even firmer shove back as commentary tried to tie this all into election rigging and what have you. Remember when WWN was steering away from politics and real world stuff? The pair roll onto the mat and into the ropes as the camera reveals that the ring steps are just a mini step ladder, before Grace fired ahead with a side suplex before running into a cradle attempt.

Markova runs into another elbow as Grace seemed to have the upper hand… shrugging off Natalia’s offence and charging her down at will. A spinning heel kick gets Markova barely a one-count, but she’s back in control with a boot choke in the corner and a crossbody that picks up a near-fall. Grace runs into a right hand for another near-fall as Natalia unloaded with some kicks and a running X-Factor for a near-fall, before Grace charged her into the corner to break up a sleeperhold. Jordynne’s back in with a spinebuster, before leaping over a charge from Markova into the corner… and that’s where things went bad for Natalia as she took a Jordynne Bomb (Vader bomb) for a near-fall.

Somehow Natalia blocks a pumphandle slam and returned in with a German suplex, before she’s caught in the corner as Grace powerbombs her out for the win. A fun match, and hey, it’s simplistic, but add the talent on show to a basic All American Girl vs. Generic Russian Heel led to a match the crowd were somewhat invested in. Who knew?! ***

Yes, I still find it weirdly funny that Jordynne’s music is the same song that Daisuke Sekimoto uses…

Renee Michelle vs. Santana
A battle of Mae Young Classic competitors here, and we start with Santana escaping a waistlock as the pair went through some straightforward holds in the early going.

A lucha roll-up nearly gets Santana the early win, as does a series of other pinning attempts, before Santana’s wise to a cheapshot… things go a little wonky for a spell as we we return with armdrags to put Santana on top. Michelle avoided a charge into the corner, but Santana’s back in… until both women connect with high kicks as a few folks in the crowd boo.

Both women beat the count, as Santana’s back with a headscissor takedown out of the corner, following up with a handspring back elbow and a snapping suplex for a near-fall. Renee’s back with some strikes that knocked Santana down, before heading up top… but her springboard moonsault misses, allowing Santana to hit the Shining Star Press for the win. This wasn’t good. It felt like they’d choreographed a lot of the match, and while they were able to get back on track after the early wobble, the crowd just didn’t care. Santana’s capable of so much better than this, so I have to call this a blip rather than “both women suck”; although it worth noting that even commentary’s saying that she’s done all she can in SHINE… **

SHINE Tag Team Championships: Lady Chardonnay D’Arcy & Isla Dawn vs. Las Sicarias (Ivelisse & Mercedes Martinez) (c)
Well isn’t this a wacky set of challengers – Chardonnay D’Arcy and Isla Dawn, two characters that are pretty much diametric opposites… and as such, I don’t think anyone gave them a chance. Ah, the perils of having titles yet no division to speak of.

Dawn and D’Arcy jump the champions before the bell as I guess they’re the defacto villains here, but the champions are quickly back in with chops before Chardonnay went to work on Martinez with short-arm clotheslines. Mercedes hits back with chops and suplexes, completing her Three Amigas with a swinging rope-hung suplex before knocking Dawn off the apron. Chardonnay’s isolated and double-teamed by the champions as Ivelisse tried to force a submission with a seated full nelson, before opting to hit a Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall. A guillotine choke nearly forces the win, but D’Arcy’s able to charge her into the corner as Dawn tagged in and blasted Ivelisse with double knees.

The Brits double-team Ivelisse for a while and almost get the win, but Ivelisse is able to trip down Dawn and make a tag out to a fired up Martinez, whose wheelbarrow attempt is switched into a curb stomp for a near-fall as the advantage changed hands repeatedly. D’Arcy and Dawn combine to get a near-fall on Martinez after a low dropkick… but a Northern Lights from Mercedes keeps the back-and-forth going, as does a spinebuster as Dawn and Mercedes were left looking for tags out.

Those tags follow as Ivelisse kicks the heck out of the two challengers, before she’s charged into the ropes as the champions looked for a double-team finisher. D’Arcy capitalises with a Tower of London to Martinez as she was crotched on the top rope… with Ivelisse barely breaking it up in time, before Martinez barely gets a one-count on a reverse brainbuster on D’Arcy.

We’re back to Dawn and Ivelisse with kicks, but a capture suplex to Dawn doesn’t stem the tide as Ivelisse is forced to roll through D’Arcy into a kick before Martinez pulled D’Arcy into a surfboard sleeper for the quick submission. Enjoyable stuff, but I wasn’t a fan of how tags wandered in and out of style in this match. I really wish SHINE had a tag division to speak of, rather than these one-and-done matches, but you can’t have it all I guess. ***

SHINE Championship: Rain vs. LuFisto (c)
Rain’s cashing in her Survival Rumble title shot despite losing later in the same night… and she’s out with Tesha Price for, erm, moral support. Of course, Rain was the first ever SHINE champion, but lost the belt nearly four years ago… and it looked to be a short match as LuFisto instantly went for Rain’s midsection – a part of her body that she suffered massive injuries to in a car wreck.

That early flurry sent Rain to the outside, where LuFisto joined her as she seated her challenger before Rain ended up whipping the champion into some chairs in the front row. The pair brawl into the bar as the referee didn’t start counting, or admonish Rain as she had the crowd hold LuFisto up for some chops to the chest.

A single shot to the gut gets LuFisto back in it as they go over to the merch table and to the bar, but it’s Rain who takes over, throwing the champion head-first into some steps by the stage, before LuFisto uses some chairs. Yep, this really is relaxed rules as they headed up onto the stage, where LuFisto dropkicked Rain out of a chair.

The crowd brawling continues for a little while until LuFisto tried to seek refuge in the ring, but Rain sweeps the leg as she was on the apron, before going back in for some running elbows into the corner, A running Ace crusher puts LuFisto down, as does a knee strike, but it’s barely enough for a two-count, so she followed up with a straitjacket-like submission.

A crossbody from Rain nearly gets the win, but Stormie Lee’s back out attacking Tesha Price… and that distraction allows LuFisto to get back into it, attacking Rain in the gut before running in with some knees and a cannonball in the corner as Stormie’s left Price down and out on the outside… just in time for LuFisto to get the win with a gourdbuster front suplex. This was fair, but there was too much crowd brawling for a match that’d had nary a month’s build – even if you factor in the briefly touched-upon past of the two! **¾

So… we have nearly 15 minutes left on the VOD… what’s up? Rain eventually recovers and goes after Stormie Lee, throwing her into the crowd (as in, into the fans, not their seats) as the show goes off the air. Huh.

SHINE’s first show of the year wasn’t a flat one, but there is a lot of fluff here. One of my biggest bugbears with SHINE, and a lot of women’s wrestling in general, is the lack of defined characters. There’s too many who are either happy/smiley or grumpy/sad faced… and that’s the only thing that defines them as heroic figures or as villains. While the Markova/Grace match may have been the age old “foreign heel against all-American babyface” story, at it drew a reaction… because those characters are defined! As for the wrestling, well, SHINE’s never been about matches which draw a lot of snowflakes, but they really need to start to develop storylines in 2018 if they are to have any chance of expanding outside of their regular audience in Florida.