Midway through Reign After Queendom, EVE co-owner Dann Read took to the ring to explain that an unfortunate spate of illnesses and injuries had necessitated a near-total change of plan from the advertised card. I mention this because to my mind, it demonstrates the incredible resilience and versatility of Pro Wrestling: EVE. Not only were they able to put together a show at the last minute but it was an extremely good show, with at least one MOTY contender even at this early stage.
The action kicked off with a match previously advertised as the main event.
Medusa Complex (c) def. Aleah James and Clementine: EVE Tag Team Title Match
Originally slated as a rematch between new champs Medusa Complex (Charli Evans and Millie McKenzie) and former champs Gisele Shaw and Sammii Jayne, Gisele Shaw was unfortunately unavailable on the night. Never ones to shy away from a fight, McKenzie and Evans instead issued an open challenge, laying their belts on the line. The unlikely respondents were Aleah James and Clementine, two of EVE’s newest stars.
This was good fun, though James and Clementine were clearly outclassed by the more experienced Medusa Complex. Still, they didn’t show themselves up, either. There’s something instantly likeable about Clementine, whose abundant energy and peppy attitude make her stand out against the crowd.
Aleah James, meanwhile, is one of BritWres’ most intriguing new stars. A London School of Lucha Libre graduate, James moves with the confidence of a far more seasoned wrestler, and this is almost certainly down to the sheer hard work she’s putting in: you’ll see her popping up across British indie promotions left, right and centre. The ‘Super Rookie’ is definitely one to watch over the next few years – I predict big things for her.
Predictably, Medusa Complex took the win without too much trouble, but this was a solid crowd warmer and a nice showcase for two new wrestlers looking to connect with the EVE crowd.
Skye Smitson def. Laura DiMatteo
Following Dann’s announcement, Laura DiMatteo took to the ring demanding a mic. Despite being scheduled for the main event title match, DiMatteo demanded an immediate match with Skye Smitson. Smitson, you’ll remember, cost DiMatteo her title match with Rhia O’Reilly at Wrestle Queendom 3 in January. Given the situation, DiMatteo’s anger seems entirely reasonable.
Smitson swaggered down to ringside and rose to DiMatteo’s challenge, with one stipulation: should Smitson win, DiMatteo would have to forfeit her main event spot.
DiMatteo has not had a lot of luck lately. One of the mixed joys of being a wrestling fan is watching your favourite continually fall at the first hurdle whilst remaining patient because you know that their day will come. DiMatteo’s day has not yet come. Sometimes it feels as though it never will. Watching her lose her title shot to Smitson was another in a long line of frustrations. It does work; DiMatteo is such an effective underdog that it feels natural for her to continually chase. But sooner or later, something is going to have to go DiMatteo’s way.
Smitson, on the other hand, has really come to life as a heel. She’s a perfectly good face, but she shines best when she’s allowed to lean into that obnoxious, swaggering Villainess persona she’s cultivated in her time on the indies. Playing the powerhouse foil to DiMatteo’s scrappy underdog is Smitson’s wheelhouse, and it’s a joy to watch her come into her own.
Nor ‘Phoenix’ Diana def. Mercedez Blaze
In another departure from the advertised match, Malaysia Pro Wrestling’s Nor ‘Phoenix’ Diana did not get her post-Wrestle Queendom rematch against Zoe Lucas. Instead, she took on Mercedez Blaze, whose mouthy heel persona is so entertaining it can be legitimately difficult to cheer against her.
At just 19 years old, Diana is still growing and evolving as a performer, though this is not to her detriment; she is an eager student and boasts a grasp of the fundamentals that others with a far longer tenure sometimes lack. Diana’s confidence, agility and poise make her exciting to watch, and her babyface fire is already well developed. She’s terrific fun to watch too: her small stature allows her to fling herself around the ring with astonishing velocity. It seems trite to say she’s going to be a superstar, but it’s also the truth, so let’s say it anyway.
Rhia O’Reilly (c) def. Jinny
It’s easy to write off Rhia O’Reilly as an all-mouth, no-trousers chancer who operates behind a wall of goons. Her enforcers are frequently the turning point in her matches, and you wonder how much success she’d have had without Livvii Grace and Nightshade in her corner. But then she pulls out performances like this, and you realise that O’Reilly herself really is a genuine threat.
Jinny is a natural choice for Pro Wrestling: EVE’s next title challenger. The crowd love her. She’s got her character work down to fine art, turning on a pin from swaggering fashionista to murder queen. Her ring work is assured and fluid, with a technical emphasis that sets her apart from many of her contemporaries. How long EVE will be able to hold on to her is anyone’s guess, but a run with the gold seems Jinny’s due at this point.
This was a non-title contest, and hopefully, Jinny’s loss won’t knock her out of contention for a near-future title shot. At this point, it’s getting increasingly difficult to predict who will eventually dethrone O’Reilly – and this is no bad thing.
Valkyrie def. Katey Harvey
Have you ever heard Father Ted referenced during a wrestling match? Much merriment was had when Valkyrie kicked debuting Bishop Katey Harvey up the arse. After a slew of Serious Business matches, this was a welcome turn for the occasionally daft, with plenty of back-and-forth banter.
That’s not to say it wasn’t also a very good wrestling match too. Pitting Harvey’s strong submission game against Valkyrie’s speed and athleticism, the central conceit here was whether Valkyrie could get things done without her bestie Debbie Keitel at her side. Tangling Valkyrie up in some seriously painful looking holds, Katey Harvey made a strong first impression. Chants of ‘please come back!’ were a little lost under Harvey’s rage at losing, but they were heartfelt.
Newly signed to NXT UK, Valkyrie’s impressive agility and abundant charisma make her a dead cert to succeed. Let’s hope we still get to see plenty of her at EVE.
Next out was Jetta, who had previously been scheduled to take on Nightshade and Skye Smitson with Laura DiMatteo. Adrift without a match, the Mouth of the Midlands reminded us that she had pinned Rhia O’Reilly for a 3 count during the She-1 and that O’Reilly had subsequently been unable to defeat her in a true one-on-one. As the winner of the inaugural Wrestle Queendom Rumble, Jetta stated her intention to maintain her winning streak throughout 2020 – her tenth year with EVE, and indeed, the tenth anniversary of Pro Wrestling: EVE as a promotion.
Naturally, Jetta’s bear-poking brought Rhia and co down to the ring to issue a patented beatdown. Fortunately for her, Laura DiMatteo and Rebel Kinney were on hand to make the save.
Nightshade def. Rebel Kinney
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Nightshade in singles competition, and it was good to have her back. This was a battle of the most brutal: Nightshade’s strength versus Kinney’s uncompromising style, complete with reversals and a healthy dose of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’.
Nightshade seems to have fully settled into her heel persona, even breaking from her previously nonverbal vocalisations to break out a little banter here and there. Her arsenal of power moves has expanded too, and she now looks every inch the threat she should. Watching her and Kinney bounce off one another like brick walls induced more than one wince. True female powerhouses aren’t exactly ten a penny, so it’s gratifying to see two very different kinds of powerhouse show what they can do.
Sammii Jayne def. Jamie Hayter (c), Skye Smitson and Nina Samuels: EVE International Championship Match
Firstly, full credit to Pro Wrestling: EVE for keeping this one under wraps right till the last minute. We haven’t seen Jamie Hayter since she claimed the EVE International Championship from Utami Hayashishita at last year’s Wrestle Queendom. This is largely because Hayter is absolutely killing it in Stardom right now, and making a name for herself in AEW to boot. She was greeted with a rapturous reception from the EVE faithful, which just goes to show that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Challenging her for the title were Skye Smitson, Nina Samuels and Sammii Jayne. Jayne’s presence was notable in that Gisele Shaw had chosen to blame her for their tag title loss, thereby disbanding their fragile partnership. Smitson had earned her shot from Laura DiMatteo earlier in the night. And Nina Samuels was there because Nina Samuels is brilliant.
This match is easily a candidate for Match of the Year. All four women were superb, each bringing something different to the fight. From Nina immediately attacking Jamie on the outside, to Sammii Jayne flinging herself with reckless abandon to the outside, this was a truly inspired four-way dance with just about everything to recommend it. Interferences which never overshadowed the in-ring action, false finishes which never felt contrived, it is fully a credit to all four women that everything about this match worked superbly well.
A special mention must go to Sammii Jayne, who has quietly been doing some of the best work in EVE of late, and whose success here feels fully earned.
It’s always a shame to say goodbye to EVE regulars, and Jamie Hayter is one of EVE’s brightest, most special wrestlers. She will be sorely missed, though she deserves every one of the accolades she’s racking up. And we can only hope this isn’t the last time we’ll ever see her in an EVE ring. But if it is, then this stellar match was a hell of a way to say goodbye.
Pro Wrestling: EVE will be back at the Resistance Gallery on 7th March.
All photos courtesy of Laura Mauro.