SHINE took a little road trip in March, heading to La Boom for their debut in New York.

Trevin Adams opens the show from Queens, and we’re straight into action with Vanessa Kraven. Maybe not the first name I’d bring out for your debut in a new area, but hey ho. Kraven wanted an anything goes match against Dementia D’Rose, so we got one!

Anything Goes: Vanessa Kraven vs. Dementia D’Rose
It’s notable that D’Rose came out by herself, without any of the Cutie Pie Club with her. Trevin Adams is doing double duty on commentary and ring announcing, hurriedly doing the intros as Kraven jump starts the match.

Kraven ends some back and forth with a belly-to-belly, taking D’Rose into the corner for a cannonball, then a senton off the apron as the match spilled to the outside, where D’Rose finally got into gear, throwing Kraven into the ring post before missing a hip attack there. Of course, anything goes means we don’t have to worry about count outs, which is just as well since both women were hell bent on trying to throw each other through the guard railings.

Next up was a chair, which D’Rose used on the back of Kraven as I heard something that’s not exactly familiar when SHINE is in the Orpheum – crowd noise! Kraven manages to get the chair and issues some receipts, prompting Dementia to grab another chair from the crowd as we had a duel in the ring… with Dementia offering up her arse for some chair shots. Those didn’t work, but a shot to the head did, as Kraven almost picked up the win.

A choke bomb keeps the pressure up for Kraven, but a whoopee cushion out of the corner turned the tables around quickly as D’Rose goes back to those hip attacks, before a spear out of nowhere earned Kraven a near-fall against the run of play. They headed up top, where Kraven managed to counter a superplex into an avalanche choke bomb, but it’s still not enough. For some reason D’Rose tried to hit Kraven with a broom, but Vanessa blocks it and starts to choke Dementia with it… and eventually the referee waves off the match when Kraven stopped responding. Decent enough as a brawl, but the finish was a little weird – not least with the referee’s “checking” just being asking a question! **¾

Stormie Lee vs. Allie Recks
Lee got a hometown pop when she was announced from Brooklyn, as she was back in the more familiar lower-end of the card following her recent flirtation with main events. Recks, who’s made a few appearances lately for WWR, had to contend with a rather miserable Stormie, but was able to Matrix away from a lariat and take her into the corner for a lariat with some headscissors. It was a spirited showing from Recks, but Lee quickly hit back with a DDT of sorts to the leg, before wearing down on Allie in the corner.

It led to the Queens crowd turning on Lee, at least until Recks nailed a lungblower… which instantly took me back to that last WWR show where she hit nothing but lungblowers… but at least Lee was able to stop her by throwing some knees to the midsection. Eventually Recks broke free of Lee’s offence, nailing a jawbreaker and a big boot, before avoiding a back cracker in the ropes as a double clothesline seemed to affect Lee more than Allie. Another comeback from Recks led to a big spear for a near-fall, before a Downward Spiral out of nothing earned Stormie the win. Decent enough, and if Recks isn’t coming back, then the result makes sense… especially as Stormie said something inaudible to the camera for “next month”. **½

ACR vs. Amber Nova
ACR’s got a new look, having not been on SHINE since October 2017, where she beat Natalia Markova. The days of ACR in Las Sicarias are long gone, but there hasn’t been much direction since then… meanwhile, Amber Nova’s back for her second show, showing that you can have a Sparky Plugg gimmick without wearing a jumpsuit!

Nova tried to take the upper hand, scoring with a hiptoss as ACR just went into the corner to keep the pace slow. An armdrag succeeds next, as ACR seemed to be surprised by the relative rookie, who kept things close on the mat as Nova effortlessly caught ACR in Cattle Mutilation, before the hold was broken by rolling into the ropes. However, when ACR was able to use her strength, things turned around as she caught a crossbody and followed in with a suplex for a near-fall, before she started to wear Nova down some more. A series of butterfly suplexes nearly does the job for ACR, but Nova gets to the ropes when ACR rolled into a butterfly lock as she started to be more aggressive.

Finally, ACR takes off her leather jacket and marches Nova from corner-to-corner as the pace suddenly ground to a halt, before Nova almost won with a sunset flip. Nova keeps up by ramming ACR’s head into the turnbuckle with some headscissors, following up with a 619 and a crossbody, but ACR’s up at two before charging out of a guillotine before a series of kicks put Nova down for the win. This was alright in parts, but the sudden change of pace really threw me off towards the end, as the finishing series of kicks seemed to miss more than they hit. A gutsy showing from Nova, who has shown a lot of potential from these two showings… *¾

Ruthless Ambition (Maria Manic & Penelope Ford) vs. Rainbow Bright (Gabby Gilbert & Luscious Latasha)
Eagle-eyed viewers of NXT may recognise Latasha as the squash victim for Bianca Belair a while back… she was back in SHINE with her partner for the first time since SHINE 3, which sure says something, especially as they’re against a rather inexperienced team in comparison.

Maria Manic, who looks more imposing since she switched from being blonde, tried to intimidate Latasha early, and had some success as she quickly tagged out to Gabby Gilbert… whose bid for a test of strength was pretty ill-advised, except it was a ruse as she stomped on Manic’s foot as she looked to make a fool out of Ford, nearly winning with a lucha roll-up. The Rainbow Bright team looked to have the match won, but Ford started a comeback with a rake of Latasha’s eyes, then a double DDT and an assisted moonsault as the tables turned, with Latasha getting isolated in the wrong corner. Commentary took a slight dig at the inexperienced referee as Ford slowly wore down Latasha, who then got racked by Maria Manic.

Somehow, Latasha held on, but found herself in a chinlock before firing back with a charge into the corner as she made the tag back out to Gilbert… who kept up those charges with some double-teaming to boot. Ford tried to get in but was met with a Samoan drop, before dropping Gabby across the middle rope as Manic ran in for a dropkick to really put her on the ropes. All four women ended up in the ring as Rainbow Bright were whipped into each other, before Manic’s F5 got rid of Latasha, allowing Ford to land a handspring cutter to Gabby for the win. An entertaining, almost extended squash, as Manic and Ford won the crowd over in their SHINE debut. I don’t know, but there’s something about the look of Rainbow Bright that just screamed “GLOW” to me. Or at the very least, “behind the times”? **¾

Kiera Hogan vs. Aerial Monroe
Much like with Dementia D’Rose earlier, Hogan was out on her lonesome – with commentary not exactly rushing to draw the link that “it’s because Candy Cartwright has a title shot later”.

Monroe took Hogan into the corner early as the pair kept the match on the ground. When Aerial tried a dropkick, she missed as Hogan took advantage, using a thrust kick for a quick two-count as commentary tried to call her the “Arn Anderson of the Cutie Pie Club”, right as she ripped on Monroe’s face during a camel clutch.

Hogan keeps up on Monroe, taking her into the corners for some avalanches, then a running kick to the jaw, but she was in no hurry to make a cover, and instead starts to focus on the neck as she wrenched away with a cravat. Monroe fought her way free, slapping an oncoming Hogan before a series of strikes led to a barrage of kicks that eventually saw Hogan pinned for a two count as she was folded up on herself!

Out of nowhere, Kiera fought back with a Fisherman’s suplex and some kicks, but it’s still not enough as the pair exchanged sudden strikes for near-falls, before Monroe chained together a rolling elbow and a sliding Downward Spiral for the win. This felt a little weird in the beginning, especially as we’re so used to the Cutie Pie Club hanging out in packs, but this turned into a nice little match – with Aerial Monroe getting a little steam under her with the win. **¾

SHINE Nova Championship: Candy Cartwright vs. Priscilla Kelly (c)
There’s new music for Candy Cartwright (unless they forgot her Cherry Pie knock-off), who came out with the war weary and rather reluctant Kiera Hogan and Dementia D’Rose.

Candy brought the fight early, shoving down Kelly as she knew she had back-up… but Kelly just roared back at her with a Thesz press as the champion snapped into life. Cartwright powdered to the outside after getting whipped into the corner, but despite being caught by Kelly on the floor she fires back as we saw an unusually aggressive Cartwright… although Kelly brought the fire as well, clubbing on Candy’s back as they continued to brawl around a cramped ringside area.

The crowd rained down their disdain as Candy marvelled at her handiwork, and again when Candy poured some hand sanitiser onto Kelly, which shockingly wasn’t anywhere near enough to get a cover. Kelly starts to hit back hard, folding Candy with a German suplex for a near-fall… which was the cue for interference as Dementia D’Rose pulled out Kelly behind the referee’s back and threw her onto the stage.

Some hair pulling followed as we had a cat fight among the VIP area of the stage, with Candy reverting to type as the concept of a count-out was completely alien. Eventually they return to the ring, with Candy nailing a 619… but she’s caught up top and press slammed to the mat a la Ric Flair as Kelly rushed into the Trapped in Sin submission – only for D’Rose to pull the referee out of the ring. With that distraction, Cartwright was able to spray Kelly in the eyes with some Febreze air freshener, and a roll-up’s enough to get the win. Not much of a match, as this was a typical “heel with lackeys cheats to win” deal, but at least the crowd reacted properly to it as Priscilla Kelly dropped the title before leaving for a tour of Japan. **

The Cutie Pie Club had some party gear for Candy, crowning her and throwing confetti as things went a little overboard.

Brandi Lauren vs. Shotzi Blackheart
Since the SHINE title was the main event, I guess this was a buffer of sorts? Not that Shotzi Blackheart was in any mood for anything remotely resembling a low-energy outing… Lauren jumped Shotzi at the bell, but it didn’t work as Blackheart took her down into a modified version of the Muta lock as the offence was thrown thick-and-fast at the trainee of Jay Lethal. A running enziguiri dropped Lauren, who manages to turn it around by hanging Shotzi in the ropes, as a lot of choking helped to put Brandi on top.

Shotzi counters all of that with a lungblower, before charging into Lauren in the corner ahead of a Slingblade. A facebuster’s next, as is an elbow drop/back senton as Blackheart’s right back in it, only for Lauren to avoid a kick and turn it into a neckbreaker for a solid two-count. After using the referee as a human shield, for… reasons, Lauren tripped Shotzi to the mat for a Rings of Saturn… eventually leading to the submission. Short, and a little weird at times (watching it back several times, I still don’t get the peek-a-boo spot with the ref), but it gave Lauren a win as she continued to wait it out for Allysin Kay’s return. **

SHINE Championship: Mercedes Martinez vs. LuFisto (c)
This was Mercedes’ bid to become a double champion, as she came into this with the SHINE tag title around her waist – and as the crowd favourite too, even if the reactions were only slightly in her favour.

LuFisto took her time to get going, as Martinez’s feeling out process saw them keep the match on the ground, with the pair trading holds and counters. Some bodyscissors from LuFisto saw her try to restrain Martinez, but her challenger escaped and tried to counter into a STF, only for LuFisto to get free and begin wearing down Martinez with chokes in the ropes.

A chinlock continues to wear down Mercedes as LuFisto took delight in the crowd’s booing, but Mercedes is right back, going tit-for-tat with LuFisto as she too used the referee’s count to her advantage for some choking and kicking in the ropes. A Dragon sleeper with some clubbing forearms to the chest almost forced a title change, but LuFisto crawled her way into the ropes for a break. Some more kicks from LuFisto followed on the apron, as she went back to the ring to wrench away on Mercedes, trapping her in a seated guillotine for a submission attempt.

Penelope Ford and Maria Manic wandered down to ringside during the match for… reasons, knocking over the SHINE backdrop in the process, as they watched the two in the ring trade forearms, leading to the Three Amigas from Martinez, which was finished off with a rope-hung DDT for a near-fall. Another STF follows as Mercedes tried to eke out a submission, but a rope break ends that before a big spinebuster put down LuFisto for a near-fall.

LuFisto’s right back with a version of Emerald Fusion for a near-fall, but Mercedes is right back with a back suplex as they kept trading two-counts, leading to a Tiger Bomb that almost scored the pin for the champion. A Burning Hammer’s attempted, but Martinez escaped and replied with a Fisherman Buster… but Penelope Ford leaps on the apron and takes away the referee’s attention by grabbing onto Mercedes’ tag title belt. That distraction eventually costs her as LuFisto catches Martinez out of the corner with a Burning Hammer, and that’s your lot. A rather deflating finish, but it at least builds up to a new series of matches between Ruthless Ambition and the tag team champions – while firmly keeping them away from LuFisto for now! ***

Perhaps predictably, SHINE left New York with a new Nova champion as Candy Cartwright’s numbers game proved to be too much for Priscilla Kelly, whose eight month reign came to a rather dubious end. That wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but at least elsewhere on the card there’s stories being built to – that aren’t directly connected with or loosely related with her!

For the crowd reactions alone, SHINE 49 was a massive improvement on a lot of their recent shows. Whether this was a concentrated audience of big SHINE fans, or just a crowd that loved to make noise, the presence of a crowd that cared instantly elevated the product – and perhaps should be a sign that SHINE ought to consider these road trips on a more regular basis. Of course, Impact has taught us that moving away from your home base can do more harm than good – but if it’s in the name of having a product that doesn’t come across as having less atmosphere than the moon, can it really be a bad thing?