With Nikki Storm and Kimber Lee announced over the last couple of days as the 2013 Discovery of the Year and Breakout Star of the Year respectively, the final question that needs to be answered in our 2013 Awards season is the big one. Who was the Wrestler of the Year for 2013 – following in the steps of previous winners Madison Eagles (2010), Hailey Hatred (2011) and Ayako Hamada (2012)? As is customary, before we make our final announcement of our winner, we’ll consider a couple of really strong contenders who ultimately we didn’t go with this year, but would have been worthy winners all the same.
A lot of people – including us, it must be said – made a lot of noise about Madison Eagles this year. After missing the entirety of 2012 with a career threatening knee injury, the fact that Eagles is back and competing at such a high level again is worthy of incredible praise. We remarked when reviewing Eagles’ US return match (vs Jessie McKay at SHIMMER 53 in April) that she “laughs in the face of ring rust”, and that’s pretty much dead on. Standout matches this year include a cracker with Kana at SHIMMER 55, and a couple of matches with Jessicka Havok (at SHINE 9 and SHIMMER 60), and although she started experimenting with fork-based humour in the second half of the year, her credibility at the highest level is still there. Eagles deserves an award for her achievements in 2013, but she just misses out on our biggie.
We’ve mentioned her above, but Kana was also up for consideration. When you factor in her amazing work at SHIMMER over the year against the likes of Eagles, McKay, Kalamity and Kimber Lee, as well as her success in her native Japan, it has certainly been an eventful 12 months in the life of the 32-year old. She was a losing finalist in the tournament to crown the first Regina di WAVE Champion but rebounded to win the WAVE Tag Team titles with Mio Shirai, holding the championship for four months before dropping it in July. In JWP, she became the outsider who won the Openweight Championship and rubbed her accomplishment in the faces of the regular roster before dropping the belt back to Arisa Nakajima earlier this month. As well as her in-ring accomplishments, Kana has reinvented her look, wearing crazy face paint designs and more outlandish outfits to really make herself stand out from the pack.
Also coming close was another name we’ve heard from a lot of people this year as we’ve gauged opinions both from fans and people in the industry – Cheerleader Melissa. From winning the SHIMMER Championship in a Cage Match in SHIMMER’s biggest show ever (Vol 53 at WrestleCon) to holding onto the title throughout the rest of the year, this has been the extended run with the title that she didn’t get first time round (when she lost the championship in the ring before the DVD documenting her title win was even released). It has also coincided with a slow-burn heel shift that has resulted in some of Melissa’s most interesting work for some time. North of the border, she’s also been integral to ongoing storylines for NCW Femmes Fatales, and has been involved in some of their most highly praised matches of 2013.
Eventually though – we went with the same criteria we did last year when we picked Ayako Hamada. Who was the best in ring performer of the year? Who regularly entertained and impressed us most? Who raised up other people to her level? We ended up choosing a sensation… (more…)
After yesterday’s announcement of Nikki Storm as our Discovery of the Year for 2013, it’s time to move on to our announcement of our Breakout Star of the Year. This award, as we’ve mentioned before, is given to the wrestler who, in our opinion, took the biggest strides in 2013. The wrestler who became a player during this calendar year and became an integral part of multiple promotions by getting over with the crowd and making herself indispensable. The wrestler who went from just being a promising name on a card to becoming someone you’d actually pay money to see. Someone who “gets it” and someone who expanded their horizons in a major way. As usual, we had a number of potential winners to sort through, but by the time we got down to our final shortlist, we had three top contenders to win. Before we announce our 2013 Breakout Star of the Year, let’s have a quick look at those who came within a hair of winning the award this year.
Mia Yim came ridiculously close. This was the year where Yim really started to excel and fulfil the potential she has undoubtedly had since she started. This year, I’ve heard first-hand from people who really weren’t on the Mia Yim bandwagon tell me that this was the year that she changed their minds. Yim was undoubtedly one of the biggest breakout stars of Fight Season in October, and the SHIMMER weekend in particular, where her matches demonstrated what appeared to be a new confidence in the ring. Likewise in SHINE she’s found herself in more and more important matches as the year progressed, including discovering what might well be her perfect opponent in Ivelisse Velez. Santana Garrett also was amongst the final three shortlisted – having managed to not only debut for WSU and AIW, continue to impress in SHIMMER & SHINE, she managed to appear on TV for both TNA (as part of the Knockouts Knockdown PPV) and WWE (on their NXT brand) in this calendar year. Yes, depending on where you live in the world, those appearances may be either PPV or VOD, but she’s certainly moving in the right circles and making the right connections to get on the radar for the national promotions. Her matches weren’t as high up the card as Yim’s or our eventual winner, but as far as “breaking out” and reaching for the stars, Garrett is a perfect example of someone who has used 2013 as a springboard to bigger and better things.
Our winner though? For our money, our winner stepped up in multiple promotions, gained confidence by the bucketload, delivered quality throughout and… well, she’s going to have to clear a little bit more space on her mantle for her second Ringbelles Award… (more…)
Welcome to the 2013 Ringbelles Year End Awards – a trio of accolades where we acknowledge the standouts of what has been a bumper year for women’s wrestling around the world, and giving us plenty of candidates to chew over en route to picking our victorious three. Tomorrow and Sunday respectively, we reveal the Breakout Star and Wrestler of the Year – but first, we begin with the Discovery of the Year, and this was a complicated one. Let us explain, but first, we should mention some of the wrestlers who featured very heavily in our considerations.
The swelling of iPPV over the last year has afforded everyone great opportunities to find out about more stars, especially if we lack the means to be able to see them live. Instead of videos leaking onto the Internet and you having to stumble on them, live online broadcasts have meant that we have been introduced to new faces – many of whom have made an impression on us. As a result, we got the chance to enjoy the work of Barbi Hayden, who did a great job on two Women Superstars Uncensored cards in the latter half of the year; meanwhile, Xandra Bale also raised our eyebrows and was very unlucky to have suffered a fibula injury, as it meant she missed a potential standout match against Cheerleader Melissa at NCW Femmes Fatales XIII. Speaking of Canadian stars and WSU, Jewells Malone has also done some great work and enjoyed some quality exposure. Another up for consideration was Crazy Mary Dobson, who was a big hit for Insane Championship Wrestling: Fierce Females, and also made a good impression at the most recent SHIMMER tapings, and moved away from the death match stuff to also develop her wrestling skills in Japan.
The wrestler who just missed out on winning the accolade is Heidi Lovelace, who has really shone in 2013 with a great outing at National Pro Wrestling Day, as well as defeating Eddie Kingston in the main event of October’s Wrestling Is Heart show and was also part of one of the year’s best storylines, playing the infatuated party in a manipulative same-sex romance with Taeler Hendrix in Ohio Valley Wrestling.
The term “discovery” is an abstract one, and is subjective, depending as to when you were exposed to that particular wrestler. If you were to draw parallels with music, you could have someone who has been following a band in small venues for many years before they start to get signed to a major label, release singles and albums and start doing larger tours. One fan will discover the band at a different time to another, though both have experienced that initial exposure at one time. For that reason, the Discovery of the Year award goes to a woman who – like Portugal’s Perfect Athlete Shanna – made a big impact in the United States, but also had success in Japan… (more…)
With the 2013 Year End Awards rapidly approaching, we have been covering the fortunes of our 2012 winners. So far, we have looked at how Kimber Lee continued her ascent after being named the Discovery of the Year, and we’ve given an update of Allysin Kay‘s successful 12 months since winning the Breakout Star of the Year title. Rounding off our recap of 2013 is the woman who we proclaimed to be 2012′s Wrestler of the Year: Ayako Hamada…
We justified our choice to select the 32-year old as our top grappler for the simple reason that when it came to in-ring match quality, nobody impressed us or entertained us more than Ayako Hamada in 2012, and that was illustrated in a quote from NCW Femmes Fatales booker Stephane Bruyere during a Women Of Wrestling Podcast this time last year:
All of my ten favourite matches I’ve seen this year, there’s six of her. That’s six out of eight she did at SHIMMER, and six of them are in my top ten favourite matches [...] She’s just amazing. She’s the best right now. When we talk about quality of matches, there’s nobody that can top what she can do. There are a lot of great wrestlers – we know Mercedes Martinez, we know LuFisto, we know Cheerleader Melissa – those are really, really great wrestlers and they had good years, but none of them had the year Hamada had this year.
When it comes to picking a Wrestler of the Year, it’s sometimes as easy as that. (more…)
As we continue to count down to the announcements of our winners of the 2013 Year End Awards next weekend, we’re taking a glance back at those we recognised last year. Yesterday we revisited the last twelve months in the life of our 2012 Discovery of the Year Kimber Lee, and today we’re turning our attention to last year’s Breakout Star of the Year, the classy one herself – Allysin Kay!
The Breakout Star of of the Year Award is meant to recognise someone who really upped their game in the twelve months prior. We’re fond of describing it in the terms of how someone goes from just being a wrestler on the card to being a *player* on the scene. Someone who makes you want to buy a ticket or order an iPPV. Someone who becomes an essential ingredient in a number of promotions – and for the year of 2012, that person was beyond doubt Allysin Kay. (more…)
Next weekend we start making our announcements of the winners of our 2013 Year End Awards. Once again, we will be presenting awards in three categories – Discovery of the Year, Breakout Star of the Year and Wrestler of the Year. But before we get to that, let’s take a look back twelve months and check in with last year’s award winners and see how 2013 has treated them. First, let’s look at our 2012 Discovery of the Year, Kimber Lee.
As we wrote last year when we made the announcement of Kimber Lee as our Discovery of the Year, the spirit of this award is to recognise someone who we didn’t know twelve months prior, but who “caught our attention in a positive way… and is therefore someone that we’re tipping to bloom and flourish in the coming years.”. Twelve months on, and I think we can assuredly say Mission: Accomplished – and still aged just 23 years old and continuing to impress and improve by the month, there’s little doubt that there’s a lot more to come from the native of Seattle. (more…)
And so it’s come down to this. With Kimber Lee and Allysin Kay installed as Discovery and Breakout Star of the Year respectively, it’s time to unveil the winner of our main Year End Award. To be honest, it’s been a strange year in that there are a number of contenders for the award, really depending on what criteria you use to determine what makes a “Wrestler of the Year”. Let’s take a look at some of the top contenders.
If you consider your Wrestler of the Year to be the one who elicited the most emotion from the crowd, then you may well choose SHIMMER Champion Saraya Knight. Her late career renaissance has been incredible, and was topped this year by winning the SHIMMER Championship, and reviving her long-simmering rivalry with Cheerleader Melissa. Nobody can hold a crowd in the palm of her hand like “Sweet” Saraya, and she’s taken that momentum with her throughout the calendar year. On a similar note, the WSU Champion Jessicka Havok (last year’s Breakout Star of the Year) has managed to create and foster a very fervent fanbase in a year that has seen her win the WSU Championship (twice), and compete for (amongst others) Crossfire, NCW:FF, ACW & Shine – winning plaudits everywhere she competed. It’s a shame, really, that with the transition of ownership in WSU, Havok only had one appearance in her “home” promotion in the second half of the year. Havok & Knight had achievements in 2012, but arguably the person who has had the most personal achievement in 2012 is none other than Emi Sakura, who started 2012 with absolutely nothing, having left Ice Ribbon in late 2011. From nothing, Sakura ends 2012 promoting her own shows in both Thailand & Japan (under the Gatoh Move banner), a regular gig in JWP and owning the oldest joshi belt in Japan (the JWP Openweight Title) and Europe’s Pro Wrestling EVE Title concurrently. From the outhouse to the penthouse, Sakura went from nowhere to become one of joshi puroresu’s most important names. And then, of course, there’s the dark horse pick – which for us this year was “Rate Tank” Kellie Skater. Skater started 2012 in Japan, and returned from the Land of the Rising Sun a much improved grappler. She had career-best performances in SHIMMER (such as Kana on Vol 48 and Yumi Ohka on Vol 50), had two outstanding matches with Evie back at home, and made a believer out of EVERYBODY in the Eagles Club that she was going to beat Saraya Knight for the SHIMMER Championship at Vol 51. In fact, had Skater won the title that night (or even the NCW:FF International Championship in Montreal the following weekend), there’s a great chance she could’ve won this award. Kudos to an outstanding year to all of these women.
However, for the sake of this award, we have chosen to take the term “Wrestler of the Year” quite literally, and recognise quite simply the best in-ring competitor of the year. Bar none. (more…)
It’s time for the second of our three honours which comprise the Ringbelles 2012 Year End Awards, and that brings us to the Breakout Star of the Year. While we define the Discovery category as someone who caught our attention and made us believe that great things are in that wrestler’s future, the Breakout Star award is for those wrestlers who have gone from being another name in another match to someone who has become a genuine player, breaking through that proverbial glass ceiling to being a must-have selection for promoters, and someone who fans are now going out of their way to see, learn more about and follow.
As was mentioned in yesterday’s Roundup, the Breakout Star category saw the biggest field of potential winners, with fifteen women in contention for the award. Names on the list included Hiroyo Matsumoto, who challenged for numerous championships in Japan and earned another crack at the SHIMMER title on volume 51; Courtney Rush, who was part of the brilliant Queens Of Winning storyline and has been part of higher profile matches in 2012, showing how well regarded she is and how you can rely on her to put on an entertaining contest; Athena, who won the Anarchy Championship Wrestling American Joshi Queen of Queens and had big outings against the likes of Ray, Mercedes Martinez and Ayako Hamada, as well as challenging for both the SHIMMER and nCw Femmes Fatales International championships; Evie, who in the space of seven days in August won two of the most high-profile titles in Australasia and fought some staggeringly hard-hitting matches along the way; and Nikki Storm, who blossomed over the year from an entertaining prospect for the future into a consistently entertaining performer and the Pro Wrestling: EVE Champion – albeit for only a matter of minutes.
Three of the aforementioned names came within a gnat’s whisker of winning this award. However, we elected to give it to a woman whose rise over 2012 came to be because of an errant kick which caused her nose to explode… (more…)
The 2012 Ringbelles Awards week kicks off tomorrow, and in preparation, we are taking a look back at the winners from 2011. We have already seen how Kay Lee Ray‘s star has grown, how Jessicka Havok took 2012 by the balls, and now we look at what Hailey Hatred‘s been up to after spending a portion of 2011 holding six separate championships…
There was a mild irony of our timing when we revealed that Hatred had won the Wrestler of the Year title. We announced that the 29-year old had won a day after she lost the JWP Openweight Championship – a title which was instrumental in us choosing her as the winner, as she was the first non-Japanese woman to hold the belt in its 20-year history. However, we judge from December 1 of one year to November 30 of the next, in order to make sure all the awards are despatched and received before the end of the calendar year.
Hatred’s disappointments continued in January as she was unsuccessful in her challenge for the CMLL World Women’s Title – at the time held by Ayumi Kurihara – and was unable to wrest the Ice Ribbon International Ribbon Tag Team Championship, as she and Dorami Nagano lost to then-champs Hikaru Shida and Maki Narumiya. However, a return to the United States for half a year saw her amass some quality outings against world-class opponents… (more…)
As we build up to the 2012 Ringbelles Awards, we’re having a look back at last year’s winners and how they fared in 2012. Yesterday, we recapped Kay Lee Ray‘s 2012 after winning Discovery of the Year – now it’s the turn of the Breakout Star of the Year for 2011, Jessicka Havok…
At the time of us awarding her the Breakout moniker, Havok was the Women Superstars Uncensored Spirit Champion and on course to challenge Mercedes Martinez for the WSU World Title at the promotion’s 5th Anniversary card in March. Needless to say she won that match, holding both singles championships at the same time and establishing herself as the top woman in WSU. This was followed by her successfully defending the Spirit Title against Marti Belle not once, but twice – but also lost the WSU crown on her first defence against former champ Martinez, though regained it the same night in a 3 way also involving Brittney Savage. (more…)
Ahead of the announcement of the 2012 Ringbelles Awards – which start on Monday – we thought it would be a good idea to see what happened to the three winners in 2011. How has the last 12 months been for them? Well, let’s start with out pick for Discovery of the Year, Kay Lee Ray…
We selected the high-flier from Scotland for her strong showings over the course of 2011, which included strong showings against joshi talent Hikaru Shida and Tsukasa Fujimoto (the latter as part of a three-way with Erin Angel) at Pro Wrestling: EVE v Ice Ribbon in October and her thrilling deathmatch against old enemy Carmel Jacob at Insane Championship Wrestling. She ventured outside of the UK to wrestle in Denmark, and we surmised that because of the positive opinions garnered by her work, her profile would go from strength to strength in 2012. That’s exactly what happened, and she’s capping the year off being on the other side of the world… (more…)
As exclusively revealed in yesterday’s epic 2hr+ Women of Wrestling Podcast Christmas Show, our pick for Wrestler of the Year is none other than Hailey Hatred. In a year full of heavy competition for the award, it was impossible to overlook the incredible achievements of the woman who – up until two days ago at least – was carrying around six different titles, including the JWP Openweight Title.
But before we get to talking about the winner, it’s only right to run the rule over the rest of the “Class of 2011″ in this category. Last year’s winner Madison Eagles would, quite frankly, have been right on course for a second consecutive year as the world’s best if not for some injury issues which have played havoc with her career this year. Despite shoulder/knee injuries, she’s still put forward a phenomenal year of matches at SHIMMER, quality performances in Chikara & Femmes Fatales and a universally beloved triple threat match for the SHIMMER Title at PWWA’s last show. On her day, Eagles is still unmatchable – but unfortunately for her (and us), those days have been depressingly few this year.
Longtime WSU Champion Mercedes Martinez was also in heavy contention. It’s doubtful there’s another US-based female who produces in main event level matches as regularly as she does – whether it’s in WSU, SHIMMER, Femmes Fatales or anywhere else. Sara Del Rey again excelled in a year that also saw her achieve her dream match in Chikara with a one-on-one battle with Aja Kong at JoshiMania. Speaking of Joshi, we deemed Ayumi Kurihara as being the top contender for the award amongst the native Japanese talents. She’s had an incredible year ever since picking up the final NEO Championship as the promotion closed on New Year’s Eve 2010, adding a SHIMMER Tag Team Title reign with Ayako Hamada, a WAVE Tag Team Title reign with Kana and the CMLL World Womens Championship at her own self-produced show in November. And what about Kurihara’s WAVE tag team partner Kana? Kana exploded internationally this year with her US debut for SHIMMER & Chikara, and domestically stepped up her profile with her work in WAVE and her run in SMASH (which saw her become the first SMASH Divas Champion). For what it’s worth, if we presented an award for “Technique of the Year”, Kana would reign in a class of one.
In Europe, EVE Champion Jenny Sjodin went from hype to reality, becoming someone who many think is the standard bearer for the new hybrid style of wrestling – increasing her worth with much acclaimed performances against April Davids and Emi Sakura on the EVE vs ICE Ribbon weekend.
All worthy of consideration, but for us, we’ve had a name pencilled in for Wrestler of the Year for a few months, and it was always Hailey Hatred. (more…)
We have reached the the halfway point of Ringbelles’ Year End Awards for 2011. On Sunday, we announced that Scotland’s Kay Lee Ray is our pick for Discovery of the Year, and now we move along to the woman who was named the Breakout Star of the Year.
The difference between the Discovery and the Breakout Star awards is primarily down to the perception fans have of that wrestler. The person may have been known to the audience, but what have they done to go from being a name on the roster to being a priority in people’s minds – who is going to that next level, essentially turning from a star into a superstar?
In all honesty, there have been a number of women who have captured the attention of the wrestling audience. Courtney Rush‘s name change from PJ Tyler, coupled with her changing her repertoire to incorporate more suplexes saw her immediately get over at SHIMMER in March, while fellow Canadian Kalamity has skyrocketed to the nCw Femmes Fatales International Championship, beating LuFisto for the belt, and also had a great outing against Hailey Hatred at SHIMMER in October.
While we’re on Canadians, Nicole Matthews has added more stamps to her passport, making her debuts in Japan and Australia this year, and lining herself up to be the next challenger to Cheerleader Melissa‘s SHIMMER title. In the UK, Britani Knight is poised to be a big smash in 2012 after widening her drawing power by winning the Pro Wrestling: EVE title and making a big splash in SHIMMER, teaming with and fighting against mother Saraya not just in Berwyn, but elsewhere in the world. Nikki Storm did a great job establishing herself by heeling it up to the nines at EVE as well as going undefeated at EVE v Ice Ribbon in October, defeating joshi talents Hikaru Shida and Tsukasa Fujimoto along the way. Also capturing the imagination of the audience was April Davids, who won more than she lost during her visit to Ice Ribbon in July, and had a fantastic match with training partner and EVE Champ Jenny Sjodin in October.
However, while all of these women had great years, one woman has established herself as a future main event talent, and could be a dominating presence, considering her gimmick, her aura and her entourage. (more…)
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. (more…)