March 21, 2012

Rising Stars

In part 1 of this column, I delved into the female talent roster of TNA, gave my thoughts on each woman, as well as some educated guesses on which of them might be in danger of being cut. I also took a brief look at the women of OVW to determine if any of them might be good signees.

Now in part 2, I'm going to branch out into the independent circuit and give you a sort of scouting report. The reason why I wanted to do this column in the first place was because I felt the Knockout division in its current state had become stale and was thinking about which unsigned women out there might be good candidates to reinvigorate it.

TNA's new working relationship with OVW has finally given them a developmental system, a place to send current roster members to hone their skills, or in this case, a place to send new signees to prepare them before they debut. This has been going on for a number of months now and it annoys me a little to not see them taking more advantage of it. As of this writing, TNA doesn't have a single contracted female talent working in OVW, which strikes me as a waste of money. After all, they're paying for OVW's services, so wouldn't they want to make more use of them, especially considering the myriad of female talent they've given tryouts to? Granted, they've got Jesse Godderz training down there, but not a single prospective Knockout.

This is what I'm going to be doing today. I'm going to look at a number of female talents on the indies right now and give my thoughts on the women that I believe could be good potential signees for TNA. But before I begin, keep in mind, I'm going to be discussing women wrestlers who will be making waves in the future -- who may not be big deals yet, but whose stars I believe will be on the rise -- therefore, women who are the current queens of the indies (ex. Sara Del Rey, Mercedes Martinez et al.), you won't be seeing on this list. Something TNA has often had problems with is thinking long term, and that's what I want to address. This is about who's going to be great tomorrow, not who's great today. I'm thinking about the future of the Knockout division here...

I want to stress that I'm only giving my opinions here, highlighting specific women that stand out to me. I should also mention that this will only be about women TNA could potentially sign, so no one currently contracted to WWE or ROH.

And away we go...

The Blossom Twins
If ever there were a team that could justify the existence of the Knockout tag team titles, this is it.

WHY THEM: Think TNA's answer to WWE's Bella Twins, but better. Whereas the Bellas are essentially one-trick ponies, Holly & Hannah Blossom have a lot more going for them. For starters, they're better wrestlers -- both former OVW women's champions, and more impressively, they just made their debut in Pro Wrestling EVE (SHIMMER's UK equivalent). IMHO, they're better looking than the Bellas, who come off as more trampy than sexy to me. They also have more of an identity beyond, "We're twins and we look alike."

Their gimmick of baking cupcakes for people might seem a little silly to some fans, but it strikes me as something that would be perfect for hiding a secret heel persona. This is why I think the Blossoms might actually be holding themselves back by being the smiling happy babyfaces who hand out cupcakes to everyone, when them using the cupcake bit as a sort of smokescreen to distract people from the fact that, in reality, they might not be that nice sounds more interesting. This is just my opinion, mind you, but I think that, with a minor gimmick tweak, they could really take off.

As I understand it, they had a tryout at some point in the past, so they're on TNA's radar, but from an advertising standpoint alone I'm kind of baffled that they haven't been signed already. I mean, come on... beautiful twin women wrestlers? Get them on a banner, put it on with the other Knockout banners and that thing would sell itself! I can't believe I'm saying this, but TNA should take a lesson from the WWE in this case. Used properly, identical twins can be a pretty nifty marketing tool, and if they just happened to be wearing the Knockout tag titles -- all the better.

One of the reasons why the Knockout tag team division has been stuck in neutral almost since its inception is a lack of viable teams to build around and market. Well, TNA's not going to find any teams more marketable than this one. If they ever get tired of treating those women's tag belts like an absolute joke (sorry, ODB/Eric Young, but it's true), and decide to take them seriously, I say Team Blossom FTW!

My advice to TNA: Sign them before WWE does, because when the day comes that the folks in Connecticut get tired of the Bella Twins, the Blossoms are going to be in high demand.


Taeler Hendrix
Like the Blossom Twins, if Hendrix wasn't included in the OVW portion of part 1 of this column, it meant she was going to show up in part 2.

WHY HER: Well, for starters, if we're talking about women with the right look for television, then look no further. With the Blossoms currently in the UK, Hendrix is the only woman in OVW right now who actually looks like a real star. She also stars in my dreams many a night, but that's not really relevant here. ;)

To elaborate, yes, Hendrix being drop dead gorgeous is what got my attention initially, but there's more to it than that. Hendrix is a wait-and-see at this point. She might become something great and she might not; it's too soon to tell. I've seen enough of her to believe she has real star potential, but I'll openly admit that she's not ready for TV yet.

In many of her matches that I've watched, I see a lot of the same things happening -- she'll hit one move that looks really nice and impresses me, then she'll attempt something else and not quite nail it. It appears as if something is preventing her from clicking 100% in the ring right now. And yet, she's the current OVW women's champion, she competed on the old ROH HDNET show against Sara Del Rey and even holds a win over Awesome Kong (before she became WWE's Kharma), so a lot of people in the business seem to believe in her and treat her like she's going to be a big deal despite the difficulties she has in a few areas.

                                                           Skip to 2:45

Hendrix is a unique case on this list because I would classify her as a great candidate specifically for a TNA developmental deal (convenient, since she already wrestles for OVW). She's someone who has the tools necessary to be a star, who has potential as a worker, but seems to be having some trouble tapping into it. Maybe she's hit her ceiling and maybe she hasn't; I don't know yet. She's only been wrestling for a few years, so hopefully she can improve with more experience. And I really want to see her improve because the wrestling aspect is the only thing holding her back. If she can just iron out the kinks in her ringwork, TNA could have a great find right under their noses.


Jenny Rose
(formerly Jamilia Craft)
Had I known that she looked like this under that mask, I would have encouraged her to take it off a long time ago.

WHY HER: This one is more of a hunch on my part. She's just someone I've got a feeling about. The first time I saw her was in an ROH match against Sara Del Rey, and I remember wishing they'd bring her back in the future because of how much promise she showed, considering how green she was at the time.

                                                 Skip to 10:20

Since then, she's lived, trained and competed in Japan, and debuted for WSU and SHIMMER in America, so she's been racking up an impressive list of credentials for one so young. I take this a good indicator that Rose is always looking to take that next step up the ladder in the business and isn't about to rest on her laurels like some women who seem content to peruse the same American companies and never really expand beyond that. Whether she ever gets signed or not, I believe Jenny Rose will be going places in the future and should be one to keep an eye on.


Veda Scott
I'm sort of cheating with this one since Veda currently works for ROH as a backstage interviewer. But as far as I know, she isn't wrestling for them yet, so I decided to include her anyway.

WHY HER: #1) Girls with glasses are sexy. #2) "It's Veda time!" is a fun, cooky catchphrase (even if it is an homage to Vader) that I could see moving merchandise. #3) Best. Ring gear. Ever.

I first noticed Veda in a Sparkle (SHIMMER pre-show match) posted on youtube by Dave Prazak. Despite being one of six women in the ring, she immediately stood out to me before the match even started; her personality practically jumped off the screen. I also liked what I saw once the match started and was even more impressed with her skills when I learned how young she was and how little time she'd actually been doing this.

Looking up her matches on youtube, I found that she apparently works as a heel quite a bit (at least in the matches I saw), which baffled me since she was such an entertaining face. With her size, look and personality, she seemed perfectly cast as a nerdy, underdog fan favorite -- I believe 'adorkable' is the technical term -- but surprisingly she plays a great snotty heel character as well. In a business where so many women are caught up in the idea of getting noticed by being sexy, it's really refreshing to see someone stand out by going the other way. Not that Veda isn't cute as hell, but she's attractive in a more wholesome way that could appeal to younger fans as well as adults.

Also, something that couldn't hurt her chances of getting noticed by TNA: She's friends with Dave Lagana. Just putting that out there.


Leva Bates
Speaking of women who appeal to all the nerds out there...

WHY HER: Having been trained by Team 3D gives Leva a bit of an in with TNA. In fact, she worked a dark match at an iMPACT taping last year against Isis the Amazon. Said match was supposedly a tryout for Isis that thankfully resulted in nothing (seriously, Isis sucks). A fan video of said match made it online for a brief time, and while Isis was clearly meant to be the focus of the match, it was Leva who got over immediately with the iMPACT Zone fans while no one in the audience seemed to care about her opponent.

Her being on this list has more to do with her character and personality than her wrestling. Not that Leva is a bad wrester (she's another SHIMMER roster member), but those other qualities are what make her unique. Let's face it, in this business many female performers can seem alike; being unique is always a good thing. She's developed a bit of a cult following thanks to her cosplay gimmick of coming to the ring dressed as various comic book and science fiction characters. Something like that is really easy for people who are into that stuff to relate to (don't tell me there's no crossover there) and it makes her simple to market and root for as a underdog babyface.

For a lot of the same reasons as Veda Scott, Leva Bates stands out from the pack by not doing what so many others are doing and appealing to a different set of fans. She makes people notice her and that's going to take her a long way.


Kay Lee Ray
A while back, I watched a 4-corners match posted by Divadirt that was meant to spotlight UK-based wrestler Alpha Female. While I didn't see what the big deal was with Alpha Female, I walked away from the match wanting to know a lot more about Kay Lee Ray.

WHY HER: The hair. She's got this Claire-Danes-in-My-So-Called-Life thing going on. Not only does it make her stand out from the pack, it's just plain hot.

A fast-rising star in Pro Wrestling EVE, KLR really put herself on the map at their recent No Man's Land iPPV, in which she was entered in a big tournament. She was apparently concussed in her first match and went on to compete twice more in the same night (heavily vomiting in between matches, according to the promoter) and only going to the hospital after the show was over. This girl is tough as hell and she's a damn talented wrestler too.

Aside from her daredevil ringstyle (which I've always loved when women wrestlers use) and really impressive athleticism for someone her size, I kept trying to figure out why I liked KLR so much, but I couldn't put my finger on it until the fine people at Divadirt spelled it out for me in a podcast. And then it hit me -- she's a young Mickie James. She has that same innate likability factor that just makes people want to get behind and root for her that Mickie has.

                                                           Skip to 2:10

To my knowledge, she hasn't ventured over to wrestle in America yet, but if she ever does, I would strongly encourage TNA to give her a look because Kay Lee Ray is going to be a star sooner than later.


Jennifer Blake
She had a TNA tryout a while back. I'm still pissed that they didn't sign her.

WHY HER: Two words: It factor.

If we're talking about women with all the tools to be a star in the big companies, Jen Blake is one of those people for sure. She can play a great face, she can play a great heel, she's good on the mic, she's a terrific wrestler, she looks like a million bucks, she's got a marketable gimmick, she's already experienced working on television having spent the last few years competing for AAA, which technically doesn't omit her from this list since TNA have a working agreement with AAA, and if they wanted to use Blake, they could probably make it happen.

I've long thought that somebody needed to sign Jen Blake and have become increasingly flabbergasted the more time passes without this happening. I remember reading online reports after her tryout that said she had backers in the company and the belief was that she would be signed sooner or later. So my question to TNA is what the hell is taking you so long? This woman is a star waiting to happen!


I admit, I don't know much about Athena. Like with Jenny Rose, this is mostly just a hunch on my part.

WHY HER: I could give different reasons like I did for all the other women on this list, but for Athena, it pretty much boils down to her being one of the most exciting and insanely athletic women you're going to find anywhere on the indie circuit right now. Ass-kickers of this caliber don't come around every day. She's been making waves in SHIMMER recently and... oh, hell, just watch...


And that will be it. Thanks for joining me on this exploration of the current and potential future female talents of TNA. If I neglected to include one of your favorites on this list, you're more than welcome to complain to your friends and not bug me about it. Or, you know, write it in the comment section or something.

I don't know when my next blog for TNAswerve will be or what I'll be writing about, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. Until then...

Peace. Out.

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