I’ll admit it, I never was the biggest fan of women’s wrestling, and to this day, my biological biases are more or less in play. But my word, did the ladies of RISE do their damnedest to leave a lasting impression on not just me, but every single person in that building. Which, by the way, was the smallest, most intimate venue I’ve ever watched pro-wrestling. If the Berwyn Eagles Club and Legion Hall had a baby, but that baby stayed the same size its whole life, that would be the venue used by RISE (and AWS, another terrific local promotion here in South Gate, California).
The venue was teeny tiny, a well-lit Legion Hall of its own, maybe forty feet from back wall to front. Four rows of chairs were set up along the ringside area, with more seating in the back, and minimal standing room and, drum roll, no guardrails. Front row seats were hugging the ring canvas, putting fans inches away from the action. I guess the point hammered home here is this was an intimate, in-your-lap kind of show, devoid of the fear of dying due to a hundred pound rail caving in their kneecaps.
Ten matches took place over three-plus-hour show, which included two intermissions and a midnight meet-and-greet with WWE Hall of Famer Madusa and Joshi legend Bull Nakano. The photo op for the meet and greet featured the same WWF Women’s Championship used during the WCW Monday Nitro trash can incident. I’ll get to the matches in a second, but the opportunity to meet Alundra frickin’ Blayze and Bull was too much to pass up for a lot of fans, as I was maybe 60 or 70 deep at the end of the line. The popularity, and the importance, of these two bona-fide icons, cannot be overstated. I can only imagine how the pre-show seminar was for the women who partook.
Since there were a good number of matches, and since I’m typing this on my iPad like a goon, I’ll quickly break them down individually. Any misspellings of names are on me but, like, chill. The intentions are pure.
1. Maritza Janett/Hyannis d. Willow Nightengale/Trixie Tash
Good opener to start the crowd off hot, though maybe a little lengthy at over ten minutes. Willow was very popular with the audience and she looked most impressive.
2. Deonna Purrazzo d. Kylie
Crowd was into both women from the start, and this one was action all the way through. Outstanding chemistry between these two. Deonna is a star today, Kylie is a star tomorrow. Check out this match.
3. Priscilla Kelly d. Ayokah, Chelsea Green and ACR
Kelly continues to dazzle, but Green got the best of this match. Her intensity is up, and when she gets on a roll in the ring, she’s one of the best I’ve seen. Fun little sprint but left me wanting a bit more. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
4. Cheerleader Melissa d. Kikiyo by DQ
Short and sweet match, Melissa looked great as usual, and Kikiyo is a future star in the business. Went under three minutes before interference ended it, but the sample size they gave us makes me want a rematch with a real finish.
5. LuFisto d. Dust in a barbed wire bats match
This match originally had one bat covered in barbed wire, but LuFisto insisted on bringing out three more. Nutty stuff here, with good teases of bat-on-skin contact, with a wonderful payoff. There were no two better women for this type of contest. This will be another one for LuFisto’s best-of hardcore DVD.
6. Taya Valkyrie, Andrew Everett, Heather Monroe, and Penelope Ford d. Jimmy Jacobs, Ruby Raze, Sage Sin, and Savannah Evans in an elimination match. Taya was last person standing after defeating Jacobs
Taya was over as hell, and she was the star of this match, though Jacobs did some outstanding character work here, as well. His reaction to Taya snapping his princess tiara in half is worth the price of the DVD alone. Fun stuff for the 22-minute run time, it flew by. Ruby Raze looked great as the powerhouse of Jacobs’ squad. Recommended viewing.
7. Nicole Savoy d. Aeriel Monroe
Monroe captured my attention immediately, looking badass with a unique hairdo and getup. Savoy’s the new SHIMMER Champion, so of course she shined here, using a variety of throws, with at least one I’ve never seen before. This was just a great wrestling match, one that put Monroe on the radar and reiterates Savoy as one of the world’s best.
8. Kris Wolf (w/ Bull Nakano) d. Shotzi Blackheart (w/ Madusa)
Kris Wolf is the most out of control wrestler alive right now, in the most charming of ways. Pure, unfiltered energy at every turn. This match was brilliant without Bull and Madura ringside, but with them, it hit another level as they weaved in their old WWF rivalry into contemporary wrestling, and did so flawlessly. Pissed off, heel Madusa wielding a chair while legendary babyface Bull stares her down holding nunchucks, this ruled. Recommended.
9. Toni Storm d. Mercedes Martinez to retain her World of Stardom Championship
This was match of the night and a cut above everything else on the show, which says a lot. Storm was who drew me to this show, and she did not disappoint. Good mat-based beginning, and dripping with technical skill, these girls killed it. Mercedes, at 17 years in, still kicks ass, and Storm, at 22 years old, is already among the top women’s wrestlers working today. Her ceiling is unlimited. Highly recommend this one.
10. Delilah Doom d. Rosemary inside a steel cage to retain her Phoenix of RISE Championship
Oh my god, where do I even begin? This match had everything: A white hot, 50/50 crowd, a dangerous-looking cage, massive heat between the two performers, outside interference, and the biggest gusher I’ve ever personally seen on a woman. Candice LeRae territory. Doom was cut so deep she tried holding her own wound closed, so as not to spill blood everywhere, but that didn’t work. This match was the definition of brutality, fitting for a show titled as such. Another match I highly recommend checking out.
RISE 6: Brutality has set the bar for modern women’s independent wrestling, for what a women’s wrestling show should look and feel like. I’ve been to SHIMMER and I love it, I’ve watched Stardom and it’s fantastic, and companies like SHINE and Bellatrix do good work, but RISE is on another level right now, just seven shows into its existence (there was a half-male, half-female RISE card earlier this year, making RISE 6 officially the seventh show).
What makes RISE special, in my opinion, is the mind of Kevin Harvey, whose passion for this project, and for these talents, has bled through the proverbial page. A look through the company’s social media, be it Twitter, Facebook or the blog, shows just how much Harvey cares to get this right the first time. He’s building something big here, and doing it little by little, bit by bit, establishing critical relationships and securing key talent. This past month I’ve seen and met Madusa, Aja Kong and Bull Nakano, which would’ve been an absurd sentence to type just six months ago. But here we are.
RISE just gives a shit. In so many words. I’ve been watching wrestling for 25 years, and I know how, well, “carny” it can be, among other, less polite terms, and RISE doesn’t stoop to those levels with its business model. Despite the building being sold to capacity, I never felt crammed or suffocated as a result. A lot of promoters don’t care about your comfort while watching the show, but comfort is key here. And Harvey even tried putting this weekend’s events in iPPV, but when the live stream test runs failed, he pulled no punches about it and informed buyers or potential buyers immediately. There is a level of transparency here you won’t find anywhere else, and that is the best compliment I can pay this company.
I’m at risk of sounding like a gush piece, I know, but as someone who’s had… you know, opinions about women’s wrestling, I truly am surprised just how deep into it this company has gotten me. I don’t know, everything is clicking right now, and the level of taking care of fans is unheard of, at least in my experience. I didn’t even mention the venue had a full bar and grill attached to it, because Lord knows I like to complain about lack of food or beverage enough at shows.
Well, maybe it’s time to stop complaining and realizing what it is you like in this life. And I like RISE because, seemingly, RISE loves me, and anybody else who walks through those doors. Top to bottom, this was probably my favorite live show of the year, and I’ve been to some doozies from New Japan, PWG, ROH, AAW, and many others. Maybe it wasn’t a card loaded with five-star matches, so if you’re a workrate lover, these might not be the shows for you. RISE is creating tomorrow’s women athletes (like Kylie), recall. But in terms of sheer fan experience, of comfort, of feeling included and welcomed and like I ought to be there, this is it.
This is it.
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