Athena & Billie Starkz vs. Ronda Rousey & Marina Shafir (WR Unreal 11/16/23)

Match Reviews

At this point, enough people will have heard about the silly no contest finish. Obvious thing out of the way, it was a poorly down way to keep any of these workers from having to job to each other. The big red flag here is that we all know the Horsewomen should have won the match just based on the finish. Athena cheats, she gets caught, Rousey & Shafir win by DQ. Instead, they go the fakey route of calling it a “no contest” so no one has to lose, but I just wish if they wanted to go that direction anyway that some better suited fireworks could have accompanied it.

But really, there’s a lot of problems that this match inherits from elsewhere coming into it. The main issue is that the match isn’t really sure who we’re meant to root for. The immediate impulse is to root for Billie Starkz, the young underdog in the equation. But that’s complicated by Billie’s recent full fledged heel turn on ROH programming. Even then though, it would have been easy to assign her as a de facto face absorbing punishment, but the match denies us that as well, with Marina instead absorbing the brunt of the offense in the match’s longest control segment.

What results is an odd match that sort of resists any attempts to get emotionally invested. Shafir’s no natural face in peril, and while Rousey’s big spots cast her in the hot tag role, there’s just not enough here to really get behind her fully.

All that being said, there’s still quite a lot to enjoy here. In those few moments where Marina’s allowed to work over Billie on the mat, she’s a cool yet charismatic bully. Ronda gets to focus on a lot of her best strengths in these settings–tossing people about and firing up. Hell, she even delivers on a few cool double teams with Shafir, and takes a particularly gross neck bump off a Starkz German as well.

On the other side of the ring, Athena’s a consistent highlight. She’s not given too much to do here outside of some signature spots, but she’s extremely fun whenever she is around though. The great bumping, the stiff strikes, even the character work via her interactions with Billie are all strong. As for Starkz herself, I find that she’s really showing her strength when committing to simple character fundamentals. As a babyface, it was her bumping and selling that stood out the best, and now as a heel, I love her focus on small stolen advantages. While working over Marina with Athena, Starkz constantly pulls at the hair, grabs at the eyes, drags Marina across the ropes. It’s such small, basic stuff, but it comes together really well for Billie.

Beyond that though, the match does sort of fall apart even before the silly finish. The last few minutes are fun, but they are very much the kind of modern indie-style tag of everyone getting their shit in, and double team moments that feel just a little too cute and contrived for comfort.

Fun stuff, especially if you can stomach the ending, but otherwise far from any of these women’s best work.

Rating: ***1/4

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