SHINE returned to New York as they held a one-night tournament to crown a new champion.

Having vacated her title back in June due to a health scare – SHINE decided not to rush into finding a replacement as champion for LuFisto. The irony is though, that LuFisto was able to return to wrestling before SHINE even started the tournament to replace her. D’oh! Anyway, we’re in La Boom with Trevin Adams on ring announcing, while Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi are on commentary. Having seen PROGRESS’ show in the same venue… it’s very very dark.

Quarter-Final: Candy Cartwright vs. Ivelisse
There’s more new music for Candy here, as she’s perhaps gotten one of the tougher draws here. Ivelisse started by backing Candy into the corner – and into a bit of a temper tantrum as well – from the off. Candy tries to cheapshot Ivelisse from a handshake, but the former SHINE champ isn’t falling for that, nor an attempt to get thrown into the ropes as Candy’s usual game just wasn’t working.

Cartwright was able to build up a little momentum, catching Ivelisse in the corner with a dropkick, before she was again sent reeling with a barrage of chops. A bow-and-arrow hold from Candy had Ivelisse in some trouble, but she’s able to slip out and into a cross armbreaker attempt. We’re back to strikes, with Ivelisse catching Candy with an enziguiri, before the referee sent Kiera Hogan and Dementia D’Rose to the back. They had been at ringside, but hadn’t been interfering much, which is always suspicious when consistency isn’t a thing. Anyway, Candy’s upset at that but can’t really throw a fit because Ivelisse stays on her with clotheslines, before another enziguiri ended up with the referee being pulled into the line of fire.

Candy tries to use her belt on Ivelisse, but Aja Perera comes out to stop her since we’ve got to cram all of this INTO MATCH ONE. Aja removes the belt as Candy turned around into an Exploder suplex, with the referee revived sufficiently to count the pin. This was fine, if not a little overbooked… but hey, you gotta protect Candy, right? **½

Quarter-Final: Brandi Lauren vs. Allysin Kay
This was Kay’s first match in SHINE in almost a year due to injury, and the first time she’d be able to get her hands on Lauren following an on-off feud.

Kay went right after Lauren, taking her into the corners for boots and forearms before Lauren sidestepped a charge. There’s a neckbreaker for barely a one count from Lauren, but as soon as Kay fought back, she was quickly dropped with a clothesline… again for a count of one.

Lauren looked to go for Kay’s arm, which prompted a fightback before a jawbreaker from Lauren put a stop to that. A modified Dragon sleeper nearly forces the submission, before Lauren just takes a shortcut with some hair pulling… but Kay had a bit more in her, scoring with a neckbreaker of her own for… yep, a one-count. An Alabama Slam from Kay almost costs her the match as Lauren rolls her up… but they’re in the ropes, so Lauren pulls her away and looks for a Rings of Saturn, only for Kay to roll back to nearly pin her. The Alabama Slam’s good at the next attempt, but there’s a delayed cover which means Kay only gets a two-count from it, before a discus lariat put Lauren down for the count. This started off hot, with Lauren looking a threat before it wavered a little… but hey, this wasn’t the blow-off match, nor should it have been. ***

Post-match, Lauren catches Kay and Hotshots her arm across the top rope. Sore loser… and they move on real quick from there!

Quarter-Final: Stormie Lee vs. Mercedes Martinez
Stormie’s backing off from Martinez early as we have a bit of a gulf in class – at least in terms of their usual placement on the card here.

The crowd got on Stormie’s back early, calling her “Beetlejuice”, before she cheapshotted Martinez in the corner. There’s a response as Martinez hits a clothesline and a chop, before running into a knee and a neckbreaker as Lee was enjoying a fair amount of offence here. Some mounted punched on the mat had Mercedes covering up, as she seemed to be biding her time before mounting a comeback.

Another knee from Lee cuts her off as we’ve got another hair pull (who’s agenting this?!) as Stormie takes Mercedes back into the corner. Martinez responds with a leaping knee out of the corner, then a stomp off the middle rope, before a Kondo clutch (sitted modified cloverleaf) had Stormie drag herself into the ropes rather defiantly. Back in the corner, Mercedes continues to throw chops and forearms, before a leg takedown led to some more ground and pound, with a guillotine choke on the mat almost forcing a submission. Somehow, Stormie’s able to fight back with a Samoan drop for a near-fall, then again with a falling reverse DDT, but Martinez strikes back with an Exploder before hauling Stormie into the Romero special/Dragon sleeper combo for the win. This was another good showing, with Martinez giving Stormie something… but in the end the difference in class showed as Martinez booked her semi-final place against her regular tag team partner. **¾

Quarter-Final: Priscilla Kelly vs. Santana Garrett
There’d been some dissension brewing between the former Nova champion and the woman who’s (almost) won it all in SHINE in recent shows. Billed as the “World Traveller”, Santana came out in what looked like an approximation of lederhosen… and was instantly jumped by Kelly as she hit the ring.

Kelly’s all over her early with knees in the ropes for a two-count, before Santana was taken into the corners. Santana hits back with some chops though, knocking Kelly down to the mat for a one-count, before ended up getting stretched in the ropes by the first Nova champ. A dropkick in the ropes gets Priscilla a near-fall, as does a PK… and the frustration just allowed Garrett back into it as the pair trade forearms before they clonked heads. More forearms saw Santana take the lead, following in with a handspring elbow into the corner before a side Russian legsweep picked up the near-fall. Kelly awkwardly set up for a bridge that nearly gets the win, with a head kick being rather more effective… but still getting just a two-count as that frustration returned, and it again costs her as Kelly’s caught with a handstand headscissors off the top.

Priscilla manages to hit back with a German suplex, then with a STO for a few more near-falls, before Santana rolled her up with a small package – grabbing a handful of tights on the way – to get the win. So a rather underhanded way, and perhaps this is the start of something less “happy and smiley” for Santana, who was starting to run a bit flat in SHINE as of late. ***

Semi-Final: Mercedes Martinez vs. Ivelisse
The pair hugged before the match, seemingly caught off-guard at how the brackets played out. They circle each other for a while, with Martinez being the first one to attack, going in for a takedown as she looked to grapple, rather than strike.

We get leg grapevines and escapes on the mat, with Martinez grabbing the first near-fall before she was forced to try and roll out of a front facelock as Ivelisse took control. Mercedes rolls back and catches her tag partner in a guillotine choke, only for Ivelisse to escape as she grabbed hold of a leg in a bid to stretch Mercedes into submission. Ron Niemi makes a rather awkward segue into a plug for the Club WWN service as Ivelisse worked her way into another knee bar, but Martinez bridges back and almost pinned her, before countering into a butterfly lock as the larger of the pair started to build momentum. The Three Amigas suplexes almost came off, but Ivelisse countered the third into a small package for a near-fall, before she’s caught with a brainbuster for another two-count.

Ivelisse returns fire with a Dragon screw, before a snapmare’s shoved off… she stays on top of Martinez with some kicks for a near-fall, before following up with an Anaconda Vise that gets broken via the ropes. They keep at it, with duelling crossbodies leaving both women down briefly, before Ivelisse scored with another head kick for a near-fall.

Ivelisse telegraphs a Code Red though, and that prompts a fightback by Martinez, who barges through her with shoulder tackles before a running powerslam almost ends things. A seated surfboard forced Ivelisse to fight free, but only into the path of a boot to the head as Martinez was starting to leave it all on the table. The feed stutters a little as it returns to Ivelisse coming close with a head kick, then again with a mounted armbar that dragged Martinez to the mat… only for Mercedes to roll back and pin Ivelisse out of nowhere! If you’re into the grappling-heavy style of wrestler, then this one is for you – easily the best match in SHINE’s recent memory, and one that I was not expecting! ***¾

Semi-Final: Allysin Kay vs. Santana Garrett
These two have had one prior meeting, all the way back at SHINE 29 some three years ago – with Santana winning in a title defence then.

Unlike her first match, she doesn’t get jumped before the bell, and we start with Santana working the arm as she tried to build on the work that Brandi Lauren had done in the opening round. Much like the prior match, they keep it on the mat early as Kay escapes headscissors before booting Santana to the mat… but it earns her a snapmare and a kick as well as they remained incredibly even.

Santana kept up on the arm, pulling Allysin into an Octopus/double armbar, but Kay hiptosses free and manages to come back with a straitjacket strangle hold in a bid to force a submission. It’s rolled out of, but Santana runs into a knee as Kay picks up another near-fall, before she rolled Santana into an old school Lion Tamer. That’s quickly rolled out of, but Kay remains on top with stomps before she stole Santana’s headband as a way to mock her… only to run into a back elbow in the corner. There’s a fightback from Santana, who scored with a slingshot DDT in through the apron for a near-fall, before an attempt at a bulldog is countered. Santana manages to score with Sole Food for a near-fall, before Kay responded with a pounce to put the brakes on things. Another boot from Santana puts Kay down, but Allysin’s able to stop the Shining Star Press as she pulls Santana into modified single-leg crab – and there’s your submission. It’ll be Kay vs. Martinez in the finals – and given the injury story going throughout, you’ve got to think that Kay’s going to have a “come from behind” final. ***¼

SHINE Tag Team Championship: Cutie Pie Club (Dementia D’Rose & Kiera Hogan) vs. Twisted Sisters (Holidead & Thunder Rosa) (c)
Our non-tournament offering is the Twisted Sisters’ first defence of their newly-won SHINE tag titles – against a team they’d already overcome to win those belts in July.

Commentary plays up how Candy Cartwright isn’t at ringside, as the Cutie Pie Club seem to unify when it suits her… and we start with the champions choosing to throw forearms rather than shake their rears. Hogan and D’Rose powder to the outside, but get met with baseball slide dropkicks before D’Rose takes a fair amount of double-team as a wheelbarrow into a senton squished her for barely a one-count.

Holidead comes in and easily lifts up D’Rose into a Tree of Woe, as we’ve more offence… which we just about see as a low dropkick and a boot from the apron sandwiched D’Rose for a count of one. All of this begins to prompt some cheating from Hogan as the challengers turn it around, as an Earthquake-style splash gets D’Rose a near-fall. Holidead again tries to power through D’Rose, but this time it backfires as she’s taken down for a flying seated splash… but she rolls away and returns fire with a Samoan drop before both women tagged out. Thunder Rosa almost wins with a dropkick in the ropes, before she looked for a wheelbarrow bulldog… only for D’Rose to turn it into a backbreaker. A spinebuster follows from Holidead as all four women were in the ring, leading to Hogan getting booted in the face before Rosa scored with a flying stomp to Hogan for the win. A solid tag match – but ultimately just a “good first defence” as SHINE figure out what’s going on with that division. ***

SHINE Championship Tournament Final: Allysin Kay vs. Mercedes Martinez
Allysin came out with a can of Monster (I think), so perhaps she’s expecting a long final?

We start out strong as Martinez hits a Saito suplex out of the gates, before Kay hit a backdrop suplex of her own as both women looked to be throwing bombs early. Rather than keep up, Kay decided to head outside for a breather, before they resumed throwing forearms, leading to the pair of them collapsing at the same time after a duel shot.

On the outside, they continue to trade shots, but Martinez rakes the eyes as she looked for a shortcut… but Kay returns the favour as she took the former tag team champion into the corner for some boots. Kay goes for the Japanese strangle hold, but Martinez is able to power out as commentary reminded us how many chances both women have had at the SHINE strap without winning it. Martinez hangs up Kay in the ropes, then boots her by the apron before the pair continued their brawl around ringside. The motif continued in the ring as Kay cornered Martinez with shoulder barges, then back outside as the tournament final seemed to be more of a brawl than the technical masterclass we had in the semis, especially when Kay sprayed some of her Monster in Martinez’s face. That’s NOT a euphemism.

There’s kicks from Kay as Martinez was trapped by the guard rails, but back in the ring Mercedes turned it around as she went all Shibata on Kay with a stalling dropkick into the corner. Martinez continues to stomp away on Kay for a near-fall, but a suplex brings the returning Kay back into it, allowing her to follow up with the Lion Tamer for another submission attempt.

La Boom were solidly behind Martinez though, and seemed to like it when she pushed out and mounted another clothesline-heavy comeback. A Northern Lights suplex gets a near-fall, as things descended into another slugfest, before a double-arm DDT almost scored the win for Martinez. Kay hits back with a jawbreaker and another poke to the eye, only for her posing to the crowd to backfire as Kay’s brought out of the corner with a powerbomb for another two-count.

The tit-for-tat continues with a discus lariat for a near-fall, before a release Fisherman buster from Martinez got a delayed near-fall. In the end, Martinez looked for the Anaconda Vice again, only for Kay to slip out into a leg grapevine… and with the crowd chanting “no”, Martinez tapped as Allysin Kay won her first SHINE title. Much to the delight of that one guy right by the crowd mic! ***½

Post match, Martinez hooked pinkies with Kay, while Ivelisse just flipped her off. I guess that’s our first feud, as long as LuFisto isn’t back for her belt?

A marked improvement on recent cards, SHINE 53 clearly benefited by having only the cream of their roster on the show. Granted, SHINE can’t run full shows with just a twelve-woman roster – although there is some middle ground between that and the line-ups we’ve seen where the line-up is padded out with names that maybe aren’t quite ready for the exposure? Still, if you’ve ignored SHINE, you should definitely dip into this show and at least make time for that Ivelisse/Martinez semi-final.