Firstly, an apology – I’ve been meaning to write this review for some time, but other commitments got in the way. However, these are excuses, and I’m remedying that right now by producing for you a review of ArenaChicks Volume 1.

We first heard of a new project from ArenaChicks founder Amber O’Neal way back in 2009 when she spent the interval between DVD tapings at SHIMMER taking down email addresses from the fans for an upcoming venture. We didn’t hear anything about it for a year, and assumed it had come to nothing. Then we got wind of ArenaChicks – a new DVD series being produced with CWF Mid-Atlantic in the North Carolina area of the US. This is the first offering of what O’Neal is hoping to become another viable stage for female wrestlers to ply their craft, so let’s take a look and see what it’s like…

Now, unlike shows such as SHIMMER, NCW: Femmes Fatales, WSU and Pro Wrestling: EVE, ArenaChicks doesn’t produce one night of action – instead, it has individual matches on a number of cards and collates them all onto one show. For that reason, this is a collection of what you may refer to as exhibition matches, rather than having shows which build to a crescendo of a main event. Because of that, you need to remember the matches are filmed in chronological order, which means the best or highest profile match may not necessarily be the final one.

We start with Allison Danger meeting Mia Svensson in a teacher v student situation, as Danger spent a lot of time working with Svensson back when she was living in NC, with the hard work paying off, as Mia is now the RWC/FLOW Champion. Svensson herself would admit that she is still learning, and that is evident in this opening bout.

Unlike what we have become used to in SHIMMER, Danger is a mouthy heel in NC, and spends a decent portion of the bout running her mouth about how she’s the better wrestler, and tries to school Mia at the start with technical wrestling. Not willing to be treated like a joke, Svensson’s offence consists of kicks to Danger, and soon focusses in on her shoulder. Commentators Amber O’Neal and Amber Gertner pick up on Svensson’s tentativeness and lack of killer instinct, which proves to be her downfall.

After missing a top-rope swanton, Danger goes for a pin which is counted for three by the ref (and the bell rings) but Mia shoulder was clearly up at 2. Knowing that it looked like a bullshit finish, the ref restarted the match, which Danger quickly won with a small package with her feet around the ropes – a nice improvised ending, though the match was a little long and lacked a little fire for my liking. Not to say that it was bad, just that it never really kicked into a high gear, which was a shame. It may be a different story these days, now that Svensson has another year under her belt.

17-year veteran Fantasia took on Sassy Stephie in match number two in a basic yet fine contest. Stephie took control early on with the heel tactics which you would expect – kicks, chokes, punches and forearms. The larger Fantasia tried to rally back but Stephie cut her off with a sleeperhold and hair pulls. An attempt at her Kiss My Sass finish goes awry when Fantasia counters with a powerbomb to keep the Sassy one down for the three.

Another big v small match follows, but with the face/heel dynamic switched around, with NC regular Kristin Flake wrestling Davina Fly, who you will know better these days as TNA/Impact Wrestling’s Rosita. Quite honestly, if she wasn’t so tiny, you would never know it was the same person…

Davina gets the early advantage with her speed, while Flake keeps trying to escape or hide behind her manager Justin Duke before getting the upper hand using her size and power. What you notice at this point is that Fly is such a sympathetic babyface and sells a beating so well, so it’s only logical that TNA has her as a heel. Those fools.

Kristin’s offense was eventually cut short by Davina using a jawbreaker and neckbreaker, but missed her moonsault after arguing with Duke, giving Flake the opening to hit an inverted DDT for the win.

Then comes my favourite match of the entire DVD – an intergender tag team match pitting Coach Gemini and Kellie Skater against Chiva Kid and Amber O’Neal.

This match is an absolute riot, primarily because of the Aussie Football Rules, which don’t really make much sense apart from the fact that any time Gemini blows a whistle, Skater takes her cue and nails her opponent with a FREE KICK~! I can’t explain why it’s so funny, but trust me – you have to see it, just to see how awesome it is.

As far as other notes from the contest, I had never heard of Chiva Kid before this match, but this dude in a goat mask is so agile and quick that he’s a joy to watch. Plus, Gemini is such a sneaky, unlikeable guy that you’re just asking for him to get battered. And he does – O’Neal got her hands on the whistle, blew it for a free kick, and Gemini got NAILED square in the face with a Chiva roundhouse kick for the win. Love this – just loved it.

But while that match was my favourite on the DVD, it wasn’t strictly the best. That bout followed, with Allison Danger stepping in the ring against Sara Del Rey.

This was by far the best match on the DVD, but you would expect that, considering how long they have been wrestling and a depth of their experiences, both together and separately. Former tag team partners, good friends and regular opponents, these two tore it up in one a humid summer evening, with Danger still being the cocky and mouthy heel, and Del Rey looking to shut her up with a complete beating.

Del Rey gets the early advantage with some tight technical grappling, culminating in a lovely Mexican surfboard/dragon sleeper combination before Danger cuts her off and busts out the cheap heel tactics.

As the match draws to a conclusion, Del Rey misses a Capo kick in the corner, with Danger hitting the STO for a near-fall, but the former SHIMMER Champion rebounds, hits the Capo kick on a second attempt then puts her away with a Royal Butterfly.

One of my new favourite wrestlers, Jessicka Havok, took on fellow WSU standout Angel Orsini in match six, with the former All Guts No Glory Champion breaking out her suplexes early, starting with a Northern Lights variety that sent Havok ducking to the outside. Jessicka gained an advantage with a slingshot, and then set her sights on Orsini’s throat by choking her, standing on her neck and going for a tapout by slapping on an upper-body figure four.

Angel fought back with a T-bone suplex, but both wrestlers ended up on the mat following a double faceplant, though Orsini recovered with a flapjack. The following STO failed, though undeterred, managed to take Havok down with a Flatliner for the 1-2-3 in a thumbs-up of a match.

Although the Ambers signed off after that match, another followed which had a pretty unique premise – a Dating Game Match featuring 4 men and 4 women split between two teams with an elimination format. The basic stipulation means that the last surviving male and female would go on a date. Therefore, we are treated to Brittany Force, Sassy Stephie, Cecil Scott and Michael McAllister against Davina Fly, Angel Orsini, Ben Tyler and Roo-D Lewis.

Surprisingly, Orsini was sent to the showers very early after taking a Stroke-type move from Force, putting the babyfaces at an immediate disadvantage.

Fly tried to even up the odds quickly with a quick cover on Force, but was unsuccessful and was worked upon by the sleazy Brittany – that’s not a knock by the way, it suits her character really well. Fly rebounded with a jawbreaker, a crossbody and an Ace Crusher to eliminate Force from the match.

The men took to the ring, with “Sleazy” Cecil Scott getting the heat on Ben Tyler, but after Tyler fought free and got the hot tag, McAllister was pinned by Roo-D Lewis, but was quickly evened up when Scott pinned Tyler. Roo-D was taken out by Scott, meaning that no matter what, the sleazy one would be going on a night out with Davina Fly or Sassy Stephie.

Davina tried to get the win with a headscissors and kicks to the face, but couldn’t escape from the Kiss My Sass, meaning Cecil Scott and Stephie would be going on a night out. Stephie was happy until she remembered the stipulation, then couldn’t get out of there fast enough, followed by a jubilant Cecil.

And for our joy and amusement, the actual date is also presented on the DVD, but for the benefit of not ruining the hilarity for you, I am going to let you buy the DVD to see it. Seriously, it’s worth the money on its own.

Also featured is a bonus contest from 2007 – a tribute to Sensational Sherri featuring Amber O’Neal, Allison Danger, Persephone and Talia “Velvet Sky” Madison against Cindy Rogers, GeeStar, Alere Little Feather and Becky “Cookie” Bayless – which is a nice little throwback. Though not an ArenaChicks contest, it was a fast-paced outing – as you would expect for a multi-person match – which ended when GeeStar was pinned by Persephone after she was tripped by Madison during a suplex attempt.

**

Overall, it’s a tidy first outing for ArenaChicks – the wrestling is fine to good for the most part, and it’s great that women have another promotion to ply their craft, wrestle new people and establish new contacts. The commentary is entertaining – though a little repetitive due to the fact that each match is recorded individually instead of collectively – and the presentation of the DVD is good too, which makes the entire product look more professional.

However, there are some issues which need addressing. The whole DVD is recorded on a single camera from someone standing on the apron, which is a bit of a disappointment, as cutting to a hardcam from time to time would help break things up a little bit. The fans are also somewhat unconditioned to women’s matches so don’t react as much as they would if they regularly appear. As a result, some of the matches lack a little heat that some crowd reaction could deliver, though that should be remedied in the future.

Finally, it’s a shame that the entrances aren’t part of the recordings, as many – myself included – feel that a story of a match begins the second that a wrestler comes through the curtain. For example, a wrestler can establish themselves as a heel to an unfamiliar audience by giving them shit the second they come out – and as the entrances are trimmed out, you have to try and work it out in the opening moments of the actual contest begins.

That said, these are all teething issues which can be easily addressed as more and more volumes are released. As you read this, matches are being recorded for Volume 2, so buy this DVD to check out its debut. And I don’t mean this as a sympathy purchase either – there is enough good content on ArenaChicks to warrant spending $15 on it to see the Aussie Rules Match, Danger v Del Rey and the date between Cecil Scott and Sassy Stephie. You can buy it by clicking the DVD cover at the top of the page.

- Lee Burton

Follow ArenaChicks on Facebook and Twitter