News by Diva dirt

Asuka returns to form in time for TLC 

Asuka

It’s been a tumultuous year for Asuka. She seemed poised for a big push following her dominant run as NXT Women’s Champion. In January, she entered and won the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, punching her ticket to WrestleMania. She and the Miz won the inaugural WWE Mixed Match Challenge. 

At WrestleMania, she lost to Charlotte, unceremoniously ending her undefeated streak. The match was easily one of the best on the card, but the outcome felt premature. Surely there were more stories to tell using the streak.

It was an odd decision for someone with so much momentum, but there was no doubt she could bounce back. After all, the streak wasn’t what made Asuka so entertaining. It’s her timing, workrate, and in-ring presence.

Fans were hopeful when she got her next title shot, at Money in the Bank. Instead, The Empress of Tomorrow lost in uneventful fashion. After another loss to Carmella at Extreme Rules, she got lost in the shuffle. Losing to a seven-time Women’s Champion is one thing, but losing to Carmella in two forgettable pay-per-view matches was hard to understand.

Recently, Fightful reported Asuka received a renewed push because of the crowd reaction she got on the go-home episode of SmackDown Live before Survivor Series. When Becky Lynch stood in front of her to choose her replacement, the fans gave a surprisingly huge ovation. Obviously, Becky ended up picking Charlotte, but WWE took notice.

Asuka
Photo credit: WWE.com

In the last three weeks since, Asuka looks more like the character who debuted on the main roster, a year ago. Her win in the Battle Royal for a spot in the first-ever women’s TLC match evoked shades of her Royal Rumble win. She’s no longer gracious about losing to Charlotte. On Tuesday, the two put on an incredible match in the main event.   

It would be a shame to see her go to tag matches and comedy segments. That’s why she should win this weekend at TLC. After the last eight months of underwhelming booking, it would be fitting for her to finally win the SmackDown Women’s Championship at the event where she made her WWE in-ring debut.

This is also a good chance to create some new match-ups for the title going into 2019. Asuka hasn’t been in a real storyline since July, and it would give Becky another viable opponent other than Charlotte. If Charlotte and Becky enter the Royal Rumble, it opens the field for another woman to challenge for the championship.

Even if she doesn’t win, it’s hard not be excited about a match involving three of the best women on the roster. The title picture for the SmackDown Women’s Championship is more compelling than it’s been in months. Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come for Asuka.

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Becky Lynch the focus of next WWE Chronicle 

Becky Lynch

This morning, WWE announced that Becky Lynch would be the focus of the next episode of WWE Chronicle.

The show, which last featured Dean Ambrose, takes place during the events after Lynch was punched by Nia Jax, and prior to her in-ring return.

The documentary will highlight Lynch’s journey in “doctor jail” after the punch felt around the world, Lynch’s removal from Survivor Series, her evolution into “The Man”, and her ongoing journey back to action.

WWE posted this summary:

“SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch was gearing up for her highly anticipated match at Survivor Series against Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey, but after taking a punch from Nia Jax, the champion found herself in “doctor jail,” and the dream match was called off. Follow Becky as she looks back on her evolution into becoming ‘The Man,’ and join The Irish Lass Kicker on her journey back to the ring at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in a new edition of WWE Chronicle.”

WWE Chronicle is an original documentary series focused on “chronicling” the life of one Superstar’s journey through interviews, candid moments, and behind the scenes footage. This marks the first time WWE Chronicle as chosen a woman as their subject.

The series airs both on the WWE Network and WWE’s official YouTube page.

Watch the living journal of “The Man” on the Network and YouTube on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 12 p.m. EST, before Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: TLC.

Becky Lynch will defend her title against Asuka and Charlotte Flair in the first-ever women’s TLC match on Sunday, Dec. 16 at the TLC pay-per-view, live in San Jose. Kick-off show starts at 6 p.m. EST, and the main card starts at 7 p.m. EST.

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The Naomi vs Mandy Rose feud is being overlooked, and it shouldn’t 

mandy rose and naomi square off in smackdown battle royal

Mandy Rose and Naomi have been feuding for quite some time. They’ve had a few matches here and there during 2018 – including a match-up during the Mixed Match Challenge tournament – but it wasn’t until recently that the two have been in the midst of a bonafide feud.

The two Superstars have been in each other’s cross-hairs ever since the Nov. 6 episode of SmackDown. More recently, they’ve been embroiled in a Twitter war. The war raged on and persisted until SmackDown GM Paige stepped in and booked the two to square off in one-on-one action for this past episode of SmackDown Live.

Anyone who watched this past episode of SmackDown Live knows that the match didn’t happen.

A WWE.com/YouTube exclusive interview with the SmackDown GM would provide an in-universe explanation for the match getting called off; Rose and Naomi lost all of their time to an unplanned Miz segment that dragged too long.

Frankly, if we had to bet on the real non-kayfabe explanation, we’d say that the match was cancelled because WWE don’t care about it.

It seems that WWE did not deem the prospect of Mandy Rose vs Naomi to be worth television time and instead put it on the back burner for next time. That is, if there’s a next time. Paige said that their feud isn’t over in her exclusive explanation, but has yet to reschedule the match for a later date.

It feels like WWE is actively ignoring the Naomi/Mandy Rose storyline, when in reality, they should be embracing it.

Mandy Rose & Naomi at the MMC
via WWE.com

For starters, these two have proven to have good chemistry in the ring together. The two have shared a ring in some capacity 25 times this year – only nine of which were televised – but only in either battle royals or tag team competition. Apart from one house show in Saginaw, Michigan, they’ve never wrestled one-on-one.

Every time they’ve shared a ring this year, the two put on solid work. Naomi has always been credited as one of WWE’s best pure athletes while Rose continues to improve with each match. Adding some new storyline driven intensity to their dynamic could make for a great match.

Mandy Rose stomping Naomi while referee Daniel Bryan looks on with concern
via WWE.com

Speaking of storyline, despite WWE refusing to give them their time of day on television, Mandy Rose and Naomi are hellbent on getting the attention they deserve by promoting their feud through social media. Ever since they missed out on last Tuesday’s show, the two have been trading some savage barbs against each other on Twitter

Their latest Twitter war has featured such jaw dropping moments as Naomi discrediting Rose’s latest “#thot shoot” – the tweet has since been deleted – and Rose retaliating by complimenting Naomi’s husband Jimmy Uso. Most recently, Rose fired back by claiming she stole Naomi’s spot on Total Divas.

Their fiery exchange has set Twitter ablaze and garnered plenty of attention onto the pair. If they’re willing to put this much work into moving their feud to Twitter, they are sure to do wonders in the ring and – most importantly – on television.

WWE would be foolish not to capitalize on the attention this feud is getting by not bringing it to television.

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Ruby Riott shows us the wrong way to get heat 

Ruby Riott

Last night’s Raw showed some definite improvement after two poor showings in a row. However, the Ruby Riott segment was tough to watch. That’s not an indictment of Riott as a performer. She has been much better at promo work since she made the leap to the main roster. It’s this angle she’s working with Natalya.

Now, the school of thought is it’s meant to generate heat, but it didn’t seem like anger directed at Riott. It was just uncomfortable, which begs the question if it was even necessary. If fans were meant to boo Riott, it worked in theory. There were some audible boos during the promo. But were they really booing Riott or showing distaste for the segment?

This certainly isn’t the first time an angle used a dead family member. Paige’s promo about Charlotte’s late brother, Reid Flair, immediately comes to mind. Some fans and industry insiders think there is no bad way to get heat. Heat is heat, and that’s understandable, to a degree. But there should be a better way to generate heat that relies on the talents’ ability instead of shock value. 

It seems like the women’s division could use more segments written by women. No one is suggesting there wouldn’t be controversial segments with more women on the creative staff. However, there is something to the argument that, while women’s wrestling has progressed, their voices are filtered through the lens of a man’s idea of female empowerment.

Even Natalya’s promo before Ruby Riott interrupted relied on references to her uncle, Bret Hart, rather than her own accomplishments or character progression. Having to resort to shock value, or referencing a relationship with a male superstar, is a byproduct of creative’s failure to see female superstars as engaging characters in their own right.

Ruby Riott and Natalya
Photo credit: WWE.com

The wrestling audience has changed. It’s tougher to get fans to boo characters using traditional heel tactics. But that’s also what makes decisions like this so confounding. It comes off as outdated in a time when wrestling could be growing past such lazy ploys. 

Natalya has to be signing off on this. They probably wouldn’t do it if she wasn’t comfortable with it, but it just doesn’t feel genuine. There is no emotional impact. The audience never even gets a reason why Ruby Riott is going this far. It’s a disservice to both women’s characters.

If people question the thought process behind an angle instead of the motives of the character doesn’t that mean you failed as a storyteller?  The pursuit of a reaction shouldn’t supersede the story you’re trying to tell.

For a counterpoint to this article, check out Chase Wilkinson’s article arguing that Ruby Riott wields discomfort as a weapon.

The post Ruby Riott shows us the wrong way to get heat appeared first on Diva Dirt.

Fighting with My Family poster and stills released 

Fighting with My Family is based on the life of WWE superstar Paige

MGM have released the first official poster and stills from Fighting with My Family, the upcoming biographical feature about the life of WWE superstar Paige. The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant adapted the screenplay from the 2012 Channel 4 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family, and helmed it in his directorial debut.

Fighting with My Family is a long-time passion project of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who produced it with frequent collaborator Kevin Misher and also stars as himself. Florence Pugh, who received acclaim for her performance in Lady Macbeth, plays the lead role of Paige. Her parents, legendary women’s wrestler Sweet Saraya and Rowdy Ricky Knight, are played by Game of Thrones star Lena Headey and Nick Frost, star of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. WWE superstar Zelina Vega portrays three-time Divas Champion AJ Lee, while Vince Vaughan appears as WWE trainer Hutch Morgan. MGM released a trailer for the film last month.

Fighting with My Family premieres in Los Angeles and New York on February 14th, 2019, and enters wide release on February 22nd. Check out MGM’s official summary, as well as the stills and poster, below.

“FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is a heartwarming comedy based on the incredible true story of WWE Superstar Paige™. Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her family and face this new, cut-throat world alone. Paige’s journey pushes her to dig deep, fight for her family, and ultimately prove to the world that what makes her different is the very thing that can make her a star.”

Credit: Robert Viglasky / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures© 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Florence Pugh as Paige in FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY.
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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Ruby Riott wields discomfort as a weapon 

Ruby Riott

Professional wrestling, especially in the WWE, can be a staunchly black and white product. The baby faces are champions of good meant to be cheered. The heels are nefarious or cowardly and meant to be booed. These visceral crowd reactions are engrained deep within every event-going fan. So, when a character or a storyline comes along that doesn’t automatically satisfy one of these two responses, fans are often left scratching their heads. Sometimes, like in the case of the ongoing Ruby Riott vs. Natalya feud, it’s not about being avant garde but ultimately a question of taste and moral decency.

In the past few weeks, Riott, a character who has become a leading heel in the Raw women’s division, has truly amped up her level of cruelty by callously using the real-life passing of Natalya’s father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, as lightning rod for colossal heel heat.

Ahead of the two women’s TLC table matches this Sunday, Dec. 16, Riott has destroyed The Anvil’s treasured sun glasses, put Natalya through a table and berated the Hart Dungeon product as a failure to her family, mocking her grief and presenting her with the gift of a table bearing her father’s likeness.

Some have begged the question, is this too much? Is this too personal? Too nasty? When a heel is meant to be booed and all an audience can do is sit in stunned silence, is this a bad way to build heat?

Simply put: no. A boo should not be the only acceptable outcome for a heel’s antics. In a world where kayfabe is all but a thing of the past, most fans operate under the assumption that the participants in any given storyline are made aware of the angles presented and work through them together.

Working with the belief that these personal attacks aren’t too personal for the performers themselves, it gives the promotion more freedom to play with the emotions of the audience. When every reaction to a match is all out anger from a fan, it can be exhausting. So, it’s refreshing to have something that makes you squirm thrown in for good measure. Something that throws off the equilibrium.

Riott vs. Natalya is not designed to be comfortable. It’s designed to be catharsis. An exorcism of grief for a woman who has given everything to a company she loves. Natalya’s promos opposite Riott’s antics have been moving and downright heroic in the face of true villainy. She elicits raucous cheers as she emotionally declares that she will drive Riott through a table.

When Riott declared that Natalya “needed a counselor”, she may have been right, but this storyline seems to be WWE’s attempt at therapy. What better way to get through the trauma of losing a beloved father and mentor than living out the hero’s fantasy of avenging his loss?

Every hero needs a villain, though, and Riott may be too good at playing one. When the punk rock villainess unveiled her “present” to Natalya this past Monday, the audience audibly gasped instead of booed. While the audience sat uncomfortably with the attacks, the story simply simmered.

The ending will be the same when Natalya ultimately vanquishes her new-found nemesis. She will be cheered like she has never been cheered before.

Riott toes the line of decency like caged tiger ready to strike. While her antics may not be getting the boos fans are accustomed too, the uniquely personal approach serves to inform the storyline and its characters all the better for it. Plus, it delivers something fans aren’t usually expecting, an intentional reason to squirm. Discomfort usually means something’s gone wrong within WWE storytelling, so to feel it used against them as a tool can feel alien to a fan.

In the end, it will feel all the better for everyone when Riott is driven through a table on Sunday.

For a counterpoint to this argument, check out Phil Lindsey’s article, coming soon to Diva Dirt. 

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Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir make in-ring debut next week 

Ronda Rousey, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke

Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir will make their in-ring debut for NXT TV in a tag match with Io Shirai and Dakota Kai next week. NXT General Manager William Regal made the match official after Kai and Shirai demanded a chance at the former MMA stars.

Duke and Shafir signed with WWE earlier this year, following in the footsteps of fellow Horsewomen of MMA Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey. Shafir debuted at an NXT Live event in July, followed a month later by Duke. Though neither has competed on NXT TV, they’ve played an active role in the feud between Baszler and Kairi Sane. They first became involved during Kairi’s title defense at WWE’s first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view, Evolution. Duke and Shafir were initially seated in front row to support their friend, but inserted themselves into the match after Sane threw Baszler over the barricade into their laps. Duke landed a devastating roundhouse kick to Sane’s head while referee Jessica Karr was distracted that secured the victory for Baszler.

They attempted further interference on Baszler’s behalf at NXT TakeOver: WarGames II, but were interrupted by Dakota Kai and Io Shirai. Kai feuded with Baszler earlier this year in a widely-praised bullying storyline. Shirai and Sane are both Stardom alumni and previously shared the Artist of Stardom Championship as members of Threedom. Despite Kai and Shirai’s intervention, Baszler managed to retain her title with a surprise roll-up. Duke and Shafir went on to assist Baszler in an unprovoked post-match beat down following a singles victory over Kai.

Jessamyn Duke first came to prominence on the eighteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, on which Ronda Rousey was a coach. Rousey picked Duke for her team, and Duke’s match with Raquel Pennington was awarded Fight of the Season. She lives with Baszler, as well as fellow NXT star Mia Yim. Marina Shafir, known as the Supernova from Moldova, is Rousey’s former training partner. She recently married fellow NXT star Roderick Strong, with whom she has a child.

Check back in with Diva Dirt for more news about the Four Horsewomen of MMA.

The post Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir make in-ring debut next week appeared first on Diva Dirt.

Mia Yim qualifies for No.1 Contender Fatal 4-Way 

Mia Yim

Mia Yim is the latest NXT Superstar to qualify for a fatal four-way match to determine the number one contender to the NXT Women’s Championship. NXT General Manager William Regal announced the match on Twitter just over a week ago, along with Bianca Belair as the first competitor.

Belair remains undefeated in singles competition on NXT TV since her debut last year, and expressed resentment on social media at having to fight anyone else to determine her number one contendership. After over a week of feverish speculation, Regal announced yesterday that Belair would be joined by Lacey Evans, the self-styled. Belair overcame Evans in a hard-fought match last year, but Evans has since racked up a number of impressive wins herself, including a victory over Kairi Sane not long before Sane herself won the title.

Mia Yim earned her spot in the match by defeating Reina Gonzalez. Yim and Gonzalez both competed in this year’s Mae Young Classic. Gonzalez was eliminated in the first round by former American Ninja Warrior Kacey competitor Kacy Catanzaro. Yim advanced to the quarter-finals, where she was eliminated by eventual tournament winner Toni Storm. Though Gonzalez put up a decent effort, Yim got the pin after landing her Seoul Food finisher.

Mia Yim is a particularly interesting addition to the match given her well-known friendship with NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler. Yim lives with Baszler and Baszler’s fellow Horsewoman of MMA Jessamyn Duke. Yim suffered a leg injury late last year that kept her out of the ring for several months, and credited Baszler and Duke for helping her recover in an interview with TV Insider earlier this year. The NXT commentary team have regularly acknowledged their relationship, frequently referencing Baszler’s tutelage in submission maneuvers as a key part of Yim’s recent success.

If Yim prevails in the fatal four-way, her title match against Baszler would also be a rematch of their second-round clash in the inaugural Mae Young Classic, which saw Baszler force Yim to tap out.

Check back in with Diva Dirt for further updates on the NXT Women’s Championship.

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Rhea Ripley will defend her title against Isla Dawn next week 

Rhea Ripley

Rhea Ripley will put her title on the line for the first time next week as she faces off with Isla Dawn. Sid Scala, the assistant to NXT UK General Manager Johnny Saint, announced the match in the second hour of this week’s double bill.

Rhea Ripley claimed the NXT UK Women’s title two weeks ago after defeating Toni Storm in a tournament to crown the inaugural champion. Isla Dawn also competed in the tournament, losing to Storm in the first round. But their clash was close-fought, with Dawn dominating Storm for most of the match. Dawn continued to build momentum in recent weeks, with impressive wins over Nina Samuels and Killer Kelly, before calling out Ripley.

Ripley and Dawn both participated in the Mae Young Classic earlier this year. Toni Storm won the tournament in an acclaimed match with Io Shirai at WWE’s first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view, Evolution. Former Shimmer Champion Nicole Matthews eliminated Dawn in the first round. Ripley advanced to the semi-finals after her quarter-final opponent, fellow NXT UK competitor Tegan Nox, suffered a devastating injury to her knee. Nox had been heavily tipped to win the tournament. Ripley was subsequently eliminated by Shirai.

The announcement was received with some confusion on social media. NXT UK has aired two episodes per week for the past several weeks, due to delays in bringing the show to air. Usually, the second hour describes events in the first as having taken place “last week”, reflecting the original planned airing order. Ripley and Dawn had a verbal confrontation in this week’s first hour, just after Dawn’s victory over Killer Kelly. But when the moment was replayed in this week’s second hour, the overlay graphic read “three weeks ago”.

Check back in with Diva Dirt for more news on WWE’s newest women’s title.

The post Rhea Ripley will defend her title against Isla Dawn next week appeared first on Diva Dirt.

SHEvivor Series recap, results and exclusives 

SHEvivor Series

Pro Wrestling: EVE held their anticipated annual event, SHEvivor Series, last Saturday, and Diva Dirt’s Laura Mauro was able to get exclusive photos and videos, as well as a recap of all the action.

The event featured talent from all over the independent circuit, worldwide, and even some women of NXT UK and Impact.

The card consisted of five matches, including their traditional SHEvivor Series matches, promos, and a teary send-off as a finale. Below are the results and recaps of the entire SHEvivor Series show.

First SHEvivor Series match: Jamie Hayter (captain), Baynes, NightShade and Charli Evans vs. Kris Wolf (captain), Kanji, Little Miss Roxxy and Sadie Gibbs

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

Eliminations: Sadie Gibbs eliminated by NightShade. Baynes eliminates Kanji, then Jamie Hayter eliminates Roxxy, leaving Kris Wolf alone. Kris manages to take out Charli Evans, but NightShade and Baynes double-team Kris, and NightShade pins her for the win.

Shotzi Blackheart vs. Jinny

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

Rhia O’Reilly stipulates that the loser of this match must leave EVE. Shotzi and Jinny first spend some time throwing killer insults at each other. The match was a pretty even contest, with hold traded for hold. Eventually, Jinny stopped to trash talk Rhia, and Shotzi took advantage of the moment to roll up Jinny for the win.

Take a look at this video of these two badasses sharing chops and kicks.

Segment: Legendary Klondyke Kate comes out, followed by a ceremony inducting her into the Pro Wrestling: EVE Bishopsgate Institute Hall of Fame.

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

‘St. Thiccolas’ Jordynne Grace vs. Toni Storm

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro
SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

Lots of back and forth in this match, as both women are equally as talented. Toni gets Jordynne in an impressive octopus hold. Jordynne almost KOs her with the bear hug, but Toni fights back. Toni shows her strength by issuing a deadlift suplex on Jordynne. Jordynne gets the upperhand though, and rolls Toni up for the win. The crowd chants “Thank You, Toni” probably could be heard for blocks surrounding the event.

The athleticism these two professionals display is a marvel.

Second SHEvivor Series match: Sierra Loxton, Mercedez Blaze, Lana Austin and Kellyanne vs. Session Moth Martina and her kids: Princess Moth (Jetta) Angel Moth (Erin Angel) and Vegan Moth (Laura DiMatteo).

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

The match proved to be chaotic and fun, with lots of beer-related shenanigans. Mercedez is eliminated first via drunken countout, and the Moths keep switching in and out of the ring while the ref’s back is turned via Session Magic. Jetta gets angry at one point and stops the action, yelling “I have to ask myself one question: What would Princess Diana do?”

Lana Austin is eliminated via disqualification, after the Moths set her up – she gets framed for ‘hitting’ Jetta with a can of beer. Laura DiMatteo eliminates Sierra Loxton and Kellyanne in quick succession to get the win for Tina and the Kids.

After the match, Laura DiMatteo takes to the mic. Jordynne Grace answers, and they brawl. Rhia sets up a match between them at Global Women’s Strike 2 in Feb.

Segment: Kay Lee Ray comes out before the main event, says she won’t be competing and that she needs to rest for a bit, visibly upset. So the main event is now Charlie Morgan vs. Nina Samuels for the EVE Championship.

Charlie Morgan vs. Nina Samuels for the EVE Championship

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

Nina dominates during this match, but Charlie fights back every time. Nina can’t keep her down, but it takes a lot out of Charlie each time she retaliates. The crowd is 99 percent behind Charlie, which clearly helps motivate her.

Charlie hits Nina with a springboard senton bomb, but can’t get the three count. Nina climbs the wall to escape Charlie, after which Nina takes Charlie down with the GTS and pins her for the three count. Charlie is gutted after the match and says she doesn’t know how much more she has left to give.

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

But then… a promo video for Wrestle Queendom airs and Charlie says she wants a match.

The show ends with a teary send-off to Toni Storm.

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

Toni states to the crowd, that even with all the contract business happening lately, she’s not worried about British wrestling, because the promoters, the girls and the fans will make sure that British Wrestling remains the best in the world.

SHEvivor Series
Credit: Laura Mauro

Klondyke Kate adds that Toni and Kay Lee Ray had a match that made her hair stand on end. She cried afterwards, she claimed, because it was the start of women’s wrestling becoming what it should be.

Check out the entire show and all the action on Pro Wrestling: EVE’s On Demand service, and check back with Diva Dirt for more exclusives.

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