Welcome, one and all, to the Year End Awards here at Ringbelles, where we plan to acknowledge the successes of wrestlers throughout 2011 in three different categories. Coming up over the next week, we will feature the Breakout Star of the Year, as well as the prestigious Wrestler of the Year award being announced in the next Women Of Wrestling Podcast – but first, we name the female wrestler who we have chosen as the Discovery of the Year. But what does that encapsulate, you may ask? Well, here’s an explanation…

Some wrestlers spring onto the scene from comparative obscurity. Not to say that the promotions that they wrestled for in times gone by are bad, but perhaps they don’t have the national or international recognition that may be needed for said wrestlers to showcase their talents to the widest possible audience. Maybe that’s down to perception, DVD distribution or a lack of an online presence, but at some point, that wrestler gets a shot in a “larger” promotion and impresses an audience which may have been unfamiliar to said talent, and leads to them taking their work to another level. Perhaps they are rookies who have made a great first impression in their initial year, either with their wrestling or character – or maybe a combination of both. Perhaps they have travelled outside of their home country and wowed new audiences. For whatever reason, the Discovery of the Year is designed to be awarded to someone to keep your eye on over the next 12 months to see them grow and flourish.

A number of female wrestlers fulfil this criteria, so it would be worth mentioning who made it onto the shortlist. SHIMMER Academy graduate and dogtooth wearing redhead Veda Scott has become a hit since her debut in May, drawing plaudits in her matches against Portia Perez, Daizee Haze and even Josh Thor in Beyond Wrestling, and is likely to be a future star. California’s Davina Rose captured the attention of Serena Deeb, and impressed fans at October’s SHIMMER tapings, despite going 0-4 over the weekend. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, New Zealand’s Evie had a cracking match with Kellie Skater at PWWA‘s show in September in a match that would usually take Match of the Night honours, if it wasn’t for the amazing main event between Madison Eagles, Jessie McKay and Nicole Matthews. However, our choice for Discovery of the Year goes to a woman who – like Scott – creates a great visual first impression, and can back it up in the ring.

A year ago, few wrestling fans outside of Scotland would have heard of Kay Lee Ray. Debuting in 2009 at the age of 17, the flame haired Glasgow native spent 2010 making a name for herself in her home country, rarely making the trip south to England, and had not been to continental Europe or further to wrestle. However, in Scotland, Ray gained attention for her matches against Carmel Jacob, who was herself starting to gain more plaudits for her work as one half of the heel tag team The Glamour Gym in Pro Wrestling: EVE. It seems as if someone put in a strong word about a high-flying redhead who was making waves north of Hadrian’s Wall, as when EVE’s title tournament was announced for April this year, a big point was made of Kay Lee Ray debuting in the weekend’s tourney. And she didn’t disappoint.

Her debut in a four way match with Alpha Female, Jacob and Em Jay let her shocase herself, but was ostensibly a massive squash for the massive German, and the Last Chance Battle Royal later in the evening was a rapid match that was a vehicle to highlight Britani Knight‘s efforts to get back into the tournament (which she went on to win the following night). However, she flourished on night two, teaming with fellow teenage rookie Liberty to form a fast-paced exuberant team, though they fell to constant thorn in her side Jacob, along with fellow Glamour Gym partner Sara-Marie Taylor. Despite the losses, Ray had made her mark on a promotion that welcomed a sudden high flyer, to go along with fellow ariel artists Erin Angel and Super Janey B.

Her return to EVE in October for the EVE v Ice Ribbon cards saw her get the chance to wrestle joshi talent, falling to Hikaru Shida on the Sunday matinee show, and wrestling a 3-way against Angel and Tsukasa Fujimoto, with the Brits going down to the current ICEx60’s champ’s experience of working triangle matches. In fact, Ray experienced three losses that weekend, as she also lost to Shanna in the opening match of the Saturday evening event, meaning that in six matches in EVE, Kay Lee has yet to pick up a victory. However, what is telling is that her look, enthusiasm to work hard and skills saw her get two chances to wrestle against Japanese talent, and saw her not just keep up with them, but thrive and give them a run for their money. No doubt, Ice Ribbon should be impressed by her work.

Elsewhere, Ray worked at Pippa L’Vinn‘s Wrestling Factory in Manchester over the summer, taking on April Davids and Shelly Star, and even made her European debut, wrestling for Danish Pro Wrestling on November 19 in a mixed tag against (her again!) Carmel Jacob.

While we’re on the subject of Ray v Jacob, their war in Scotland culminated a month earlier at Insane Championship Wrestling‘s Fear and Loathing 4 show, where they attempted to destroy each other as part of the promotion’s first ever women’s Deathmatch. Described as “great”, “brutal” and “bloody” by fans in attendance in Glasgow, their contest proved that women are ready to engage in the hardcore gimmick matches, and was perfectly fitting for these two, as they brawled around the building, using thumbtacks, chairs, rolling pins and even an ironing board – one of the more jaw-dropping moments took place when Carmel monkey flipped Kay Lee down a flight a stairs. However, it was the redhead who ended up claiming the victory by delivering a facebuster into a pile of thumbtacks for the pin, and saw the heated rivals embrace at the end. It was a fitting conclusion to what has been a wild 18 months of heated battles.

When asked for comment, Ray responded:

I’m very grateful that you have picked me as your discovery of the year and would just like to say thank you to everyone that made it happen.

On a similar vein, EVE promoter Dann Read told Ringbelles:

I think the confidence we at EVE have in Kay Lee Ray is obvious and easy to see right from the the get go. It’s almost forgotten that she does not yet hold a victory in Pro Wrestling:EVE as her exciting performances have been so outstanding that they showcase wrestling at perhaps it’s very best – that at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter who’s arm is raised and who’s shoulders stay down but how much effort and energy was placed into the match by the performers themselves, the body of work that they have left behind them in the ring and most importantly of all – the impact it had on the paying fans.

The fact that someone who only began their training around 2 years ago is already able to deservedly stand on stage alongside some of the very best in the world is almost impossible to comprehend. It begs the question – just how good will she be in another 2 years?!

Kay Lee Ray is a naturally talented individual who deserves to be recognised and sought after by promoters and fans alike. Just because some of you may not have seen her yet – doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to do so.

So what’s next for Kay Lee Ray? Well, the world is her oyster – she is regularly booked in Scotland, has a pick of promotions in England, has started making a name for herself in Europe. Throw on top of that how she has been discussed on numerous episodes of Ice Ribbon’s Internet promotion 19 Pro and her coverage in Japanese wrestling magazines, and she must be a strong choice to represent Pro Wrestling: EVE if the rumoured EVE v Ice Ribbon 2 event takes place in Tokyo in March, which will undoubtedly send her profile sky-high. It is for that reason that Kay Lee Ray is Ringbelles’ choice for Discovery of the Year. If you’ve not had a chance to check her out for yourself, we encourage you to discover her too.

– Lee Burton