Friday, December 9, 2016

WWE's New Trio of Queens

Lee is one of three signings by WWE
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Times are exciting in WWE if one is a fan of women in wrestling. Sasha Banks and Charlotte headlined a pay-per-view, closed multiple episodes of RAW, and the brand's Women's Championship is arguably the most prestigious strap on Mondays. Smackdown's women's division is perhaps the most interestingly booked subset in all of the company. NXT's state of flux from the Horsewomen appears to be over as it has a few worthy challengers for Asuka's title and even more interesting characters in the wings to have an actual division. Rumblings of a women's tournament in the vein of The Cruiserweight Classic have seemingly been confirmed backstage (though not on screen just yet). With the emphasis on women, more signings should follow. WWE has sent out feelers to a ton of women across the globe, and as reported by Squared Circle Sirens, three signed with the company yesterday: Kimber Lee, Heidi Lovelace, and Evie.

Lee and Lovelace should jump right out at the page to any regular TWB reader because of their affiliations with Chikara for the last two years-plus. Lee became the first woman to hold the Chikara Grand Championship, defeating Hallowicked as an impromptu encore-cash in of her Golden Opportunity won from her team taking home the Challenge of the Immortals at Top Banana in December of '15. She lost the title back to Hallowicked in England earlier this year, but she's remained a stalwart in the main event scene, part of which was a heated yet mostly respectful feud with Lovelace. The two tangled in North Carolina for Lee's title, and later on in the year, Lovelace got her win back by defeating Lee for a shot at Hallowicked. Both women leaving Chikara around the same time is a huge blow to the company. From Top Banana through now, Chikara has set a tone where every wrestler, no matter what gender, has a chance to be on top of the company. Lee's title reign, Lovelace's emergence as another ace-level wrestler, and the all-joshi King of Trios final this year proved that Chikara was willing to put its money where its mouth was. Now, the Philadelphia-based, internationally touring company is left with only Solo Darling and Team Sea Stars (Ashley Vox and Delmi Exo) as the only women regularly competing in the promotion. Darling and the Sea Stars aren't a bad base, necessarily, but the push for Chikara to have more female competitors isn't exactly new. I'm sure the company has some women ready to start from its Wrestle Factory, but it'll need some names to supplement. Whether novice (Willow Nightengale), intermediate (Deonna Purrazzo), or experienced (Veda Scott), Chikara needs to do more than just replace Lee and Lovelace.

For those whose eyes sort of glaze over when it comes to following the indies, you're in for a real treat with both competitors. Lee is a Seattle native who came to the East Coast to train in wrestling several years ago. She landed under the wing of CWC competitor and current division bully Drew Gulak, and since then, she's hit the ground running. Her style combines big strikes, especially kicks, with some modern super-indie workrate stuff worked in. She's great fighting from underneath, and as she's shown in Chikara, she can work a character well. Lovelace is similar in that she loves kicking people. Trained by Billy Roc in Indiana, she matriculated into Chikara thanks to the working relationship between Roc and Chikara during that whole Wrestling Is... thing that popped up in 2013. Her big thing, outside of the kicks, is that she really knows how to take an ass-kicking. Seriously, she works underneath almost to the point of excess, and she's not afraid to take some jaw-dropping bumps. I swear she's made of elastic material or something. But the thing that may help her the most when she gets to Florida are her promo skills. Take a look at this one from before her Grand Championship opportunity against Lee:

If she doesn't get over in WWE, not just NXT or this women's tourney, but WWE, then it ain't her fault, brothers and sisters.

Of course, I haven't forgotten about Evie. She's in a blind spot for me because she started coming over from the Australian scene after I started having kids and couldn't keep up with the DVD releases as faithfully as I did beforehand. However, much like Lee and Lovelace, her style is kick. I tend to believe the folks who regard her, because they're trustworthy and because nearly everyone else from Southern Oceania has pretty much rocked my face off. She and Lovelace also have history, as they were the most recent former SHIMMER Tag Team Champions up until the last tapings.

I doubt that WWE is finished signing wrestlers. If it's going to put on a tournament with the same scope as the CWC, it's going to need more competitors than what it currently has, especially if current NXT women aren't going to compete in it. But this time, at least WWE's focus is on supplementing the raw talent in NXT and the current mainstays on the main roster with some faces people are familiar with. Whether it be Evie, Lee, and Lovelace coming aboard for the tourney or Mickie James returning to bolster Smackdown's women's division, things appear to be improving for women in WWE.