Matthew Roberts took the journey to London to check out Pro Wrestling Eve’s two day tournament She-1 and fills us in on all the goings on.
About ten hours after arriving home from the Manchester Raw/Smackdown taping (which contrary to others from the TWM Family I actually really rather enjoyed) I found myself starting a two-hour train journey to London. Because five hours of wrestling was not enough for me. At least not with the prospect of FOUR shows in two days from Pro Wrestling Eve and their She-1 Series tournament.
Proudly acknowledging that they are “not for everyone” it can sometimes be forgotten (or pushed to the back of people’s minds who don’t know better) that amongst the “political” angle to Eve’s existence (and let’s be clear here, I am in no means saying that that in itself is in any way “bad” – in fact it’s absolutely vital and long may it continue) they genuinely produce and provide some of the best Women’s Wrestling currently in existence. No, scrub that. Some of the best wrestling, full stop.
The She-1 tournament, now in its third year, sees twelve competitors split into three groups of four, each facing their opponents within that group in a round robin format. The winners of all three groups then meet in a final to decide the She-1 winner, or the “Ace of Eve”. The line up this year was an eclectic mix. Alongside homegrown favourites like Millie McKenzie and Jetta, were American stars of Shimmer (and of the Mae Young Classic) Mercedes Martinez and Nicole Savoy, Joshi star Mei Suruga and even former WWE Women’s Champion, and recent AEW guest star, Jazz. In an aside Jazz became the last woman to hold the Women’s title under the WWF banner and the first to hold it under the WWE banner by virtue of her being the title holder when the Vince finally jobbed to the pandas. As another aside, WrestleMania X8 and XIX were the last times before this weekend that I had seen Jazz “live” in action.
The Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green is the home of Eve and, I have to admit, something of an acquired taste in some respects. But much like the fabled ECW Arena, there is just something about the otherwise indistinguishable building that seeps magic from its pores. From the moment you walk under the tube bridge and turn the corner on the cobbled streets, you know you are in for a treat.
If you thought the opening show on Saturday afternoon was going to be some form of “warm-up” for what was to come later you would have been blown out of the water right from the start as one of the favourites for the tournament, Laura Di Matteo, battled Gisele Shaw in a great opener. From there the fans, who were already on the back of dastardly (three time) Eve Champion Rhia O’Reilly, were urging on Gatoh Move’s diminutive Mei Suruga in her quest to overcome the odds against her much bigger opponent. Millie McKenzie proved that all the hype around her is not misplaced in a good match against Shimmer’s Nicole Savoy whilst two relative newcomers in Angel Hayze and Aleah James had a match the belied their inexperience compared to the rest of the field.
Of course the reaction for “The Princess Diana of Eve” Jetta was as loud as ever and owner Emily Read’s pre-match noting of Jetta’s recent tweets about promising to “punch Jazz in the tit” gave way to the menacing appearance of the legend herself. Although very comedy heavy, this still provided some stiff action, which was followed by a cracking match between Mercedes Martinez and Kasey to wrap up afternoon one of action.
The nature of the two day tournament came into focus at the start of show 2 as the news that Aleah James had suffered an injury which would remove her from the rest of the tournament was relaid to the fans. The action itself didn’t miss a beat though. Gisele Shaw and Millie McKenzie kicked things off on this one, with a role reversal taking place with Shaw being booed and McKenzie being cheered, which perhaps foreshadowed things to come in hindsight. My new favourite person, Mei Suruga, battled Jetta in another hugely entertaining match next before Kasey picked up a win over Angel Hayze in the pre-interval match.
Aleah James’ replacement was Mercedez Blaze who put up a valiant, but ultlimately losing, effort against Mercedes Martinez (as fans made it clear that they were behind “Mercedes with as S”), before Laura Di Matteo backed up her position as one of the favourites with her second consecutive win, this time over Nicole Savoy. Show 2 ended day 1 with something of a dream match as Rhia O’Reilly went head to head with Jazz in another strong effort that had fans hanging on every move. Post match there was a tender and heartfelt speech from Dan Read about Jazz and her contributions to wrestling, which saw most of the locker room hit the ring to applaud the veteran.
I was happy to get some sleep/rest after watching two shows of action, never mind actually wrestling in any of them but I was suitably refreshed by the time I returned to the venue on Sunday afternoon (after a minor panic with the Transport for London app telling me there were severe delays on the tube – there wasn’t) for show 3 and the final group matches.
You would think that with Block C done and dusted (two wins for Rhia O’Reilly had put her in an unassailable lead at the top of those standings) the matches would be nothing much to write home about. Well you couldn’t have been more wrong. Jazz against Mei Suruga was the match you never knew you needed to see until you saw it and the match between O’Reilly and Jetta was arguably the most emotional of the entire weekend. That Jetta sneaked a win just before the time-limit expired almost made me cry tears of joy should say it all. Kasey defeated Mercedez Blaze in Block A, whilst Mercedes Martinez sealed her spot at the top of that block with a win over Ayesha Raymond (who was a replacement for the injured Angel Hayze, who had to pull out of the day 2 shows) in a match that was going well until a seemingly mis-timed bump caused Martinez some issues. Luckily she was okay.
Someone who wasn’t was Nicole Savoy, who was also unable to complete as scheduled against Gisele Shaw and whilst her replacement Rebel Kinney put up a good fight it wasn’t enough as Gisele picked up her second win to finish Block B on four points. Which made the main event of show 3 very intriguing. If Laura Di Matteo won she would top Block B outright; if Millie McKenzie won all three would finish on 4 points and necessitate a triple threat match on show 4 for the right to reach the final. And yes, this is wrestling so of course that is what happened; but it was a very good match that set up a very enticing prospect on the evening show to come.
And that’s what kicked off the final show. If show three’s main event had been a little “predictable” in terms of the winner to set this match up, there was clearly cases for all three competitors here to win and take their place in the final. The crowd were firmly behind Laura Di Matteo but distraction from Rhia O’Reilly was enough to ensure that it wasn’t to be and McKenzie picked up the win to advance to the She-1 final. Post-match, Gisele took the microphone to tell a few home truths but made the mistake of saying that she was the “Fearless” one of Eve…and a certain Charlie Morgan returned to take umbrage with that. Although retired (and it was confirmed by Eve management on social media that as far as they know she has no plans to return) she did manage to send Shaw scurrying to a huge pop.
If the fans were unhappy with that last result (at least in terms of Di Matteo’s exit) smiles where back on everybody’s faces in the next match as Mei Sugura took on Lulu Pencil. No words could describe Lulu’s act if you haven’t seen it and whilst this was almost all pure comedy, there’s no denying it was fine entertainment. In a rematch from last year’s tournament, Kasey and Jetta faced off in another match that had a little bit of everything as well as a very popular win for the latter. The last match on the “undercard” saw Jazz win a Four-Way Match between her, Chakara (who was excellent throughout and was worth the entrance fee for her facial expressions alone), Mercedez Blaze and Rebel Kinney. It was little more than an extended tag match, with Kinney getting battered before making the hot tag to Jazz for the win. Still, it was a nice send off for Jazz.
And so it was time for the main event. Except Rhia O’Riley didn’t make it to the ring as a pre-match attack from an angry Laura Di Matteo meant she was unable to compete and it was decreed that the final was now to be a one-on-one between Millie McKenzie (wrestling her fifth match of the weekend if you’ve been following) and Mercedes Martinez. Perhaps it lacked a little bit in tension as it seemed incongruous that Martinez would walk away with the Ace of Eve crown but the two made you believe that any result was possible. Still, few were complaining when Millie took the crown and her heartfelt speech afterwards endeared her to the crowd even more.
All in all She-1 gave a great weekend of wrestling and all four shows had must-see moments. The genuine injury issues that led to quick reshuffles of the cards were handled well, the action was compelling and the promotion didn’t neglect the on-going storytelling either.
For more information on Pro Wrestling Eve and how to watch this show on demand visit https://www.evewrestling.com/
You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON. Thanks for reading!