By Michael Lanza
July 28, 2018 2:00 AM
With Manifest Destiny 2018 on the horizon, it has brought us this year’s annual Empress of Elite tournament. Initially, I had planned on making a bracketology type article for each and every competitor but my very busy schedule prevented me from being able to complete that task. For that, I truly do apologize, however it’s helped me be able to make a more focused and detailed assessment of the competitors who remain in the tournament. Thursday’s Empire has left us with four competitors in the tournament, three allies, and one Chiraq Savage. Each and every lady has made it this far not by luck, but by simply outperforming their contemporaries and making the most of the opportunities given to them. I have had the pleasure of not only following each semi-finalist throughout the progression of this tournament, but in their overall careers. This is truly a full circle moment, if you would have told me a year ago during a vastly different era of Empire that the next tournament’s semi-finals would feature the likes of a Kassidy Heart, Tyler Wolfe, and Sienna Jade who were all making waves in other companies I probably wouldn’t have believed you. However, it would have been a pleasant shock, because this is easily the most competitive Empire has been since its inception, the talent level in the women’s division is at a height it has never reached prior. Due to that, many people believe Empire is the best show in all of EAW and have even gone as far as to say that the women’s division is even more competitive than the male division currently. I can’t necessarily argue that. Here is my assessment of the four remaining competitors in the 2018 Empress of Elite tournament.
Weight: 135 lbs.
Hometown: San Diego, California
I got a chance to catch Sienna early in her mainstream career. In early January 2018, REVOLT! Pro Combat threw a free show at Terminal 5 in New York City, I was lucky enough to be an early goer as I scored a seat at the event. I knew from the moment she defeated Nina Sanada in rather easy fashion, she was going to be a star. Sienna Jade made an impact(no pun intended) on the wrestling world from the very moment she had a camera put in front of her for the world to see. You can argue that she has two career casualties to her resume, one in chasing Aria Jaxon out of REVOLT as she ascended to the top of the freeweight division, and two in ending the career of Lexi Sheckler at REVOLT 2. Her time in REVOLT cemented her as one of the most must-see marquee names in our business as she became one of the faces of not only the freeweight division, but the whole company. Along the way she found an ally and life partner in her soon-to-be opponent in these very semi-finals, Kassidy Heart. Together they formed the tandem known as Jaded Hearts where they were able to use the alliance to help one another reach new heights and maintain their positions at the top of the food chain. When she made her transition to EAW that dominance and prowess only continued as she was immediately placed into a top spot on the Empire brand, who was in the middle of a drastic landscape change itself. Sienna alongside her Freeweight Championship proved that her belt was one to be taken serious and one worthy of being considered the top belt on the brand, all the way to the point where the championship was merged with the Women’s World Championship at Pain for Pride in a headlining bout. She may very well be a favorite in this whole tournament considering she’s already reached the mountaintop and knows what it takes to win the big one. Her loss at Pain for Pride hasn’t seemed to knock her off her game one bit, it’s only seemed to make her even more focused as she’s gotten back to business and her winning ways. If you weren’t sure who to go with for this tournament and wanted to make a safe bet, Sienna Jade is your choice.
Weight: 120 lbs.
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Kassidy Heart has proven in this tournament that she is one of the top competitors on Empire. If anybody had doubts on if she could stand on her own two feet, this tournament has certainly silenced them. Jaded Hearts aside, I’d buy into the long term stock of Kassidy Heart as a solo act as she’s shown she is one of the top performers on the whole Empire brand. She holds something her partner Sienna Jade doesn’t, and that’s a win over our current Unified Women’s World Champion in Stephanie Matsuda. She also holds a victory over our current Openweight Champion in Andrea Valentine who she defeated in the first round of this very tournament. The trajectory of Kassidy’s career has been on a steadily upwards rise from the beginning and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Kassidy’s rise has been a slow burn but a wait well worth it. Unlike her counterpart, she didn’t immediately start off hot in REVOLT but she’d improve week after week and coincidentally, everything finally clicked for her after the merger between EAW and REVOLT. Now here’s what I would attribute that to, Kassidy Heart simply shines when the bright lights are on her. Moving onto a bigger company with a bigger audience and spotlight has brought the best out of her. Those Fox execs saw the same thing in her that I did, and that is a future star. It’s just a matter of when. “When” could very well be in these next three weeks if she advances in the tournament. Don’t let the pretty face fool you, Kassidy Heart made a name for herself in the independent scene before ever stepping foot in these parts. She wrestled men on a regular basis at So-Cal Ultraviolent and now she’s brought that toughness to the all-female brand in Empire as she looks to ascend to the throne and make her claim as the Queen of EAW. The only thing in the way is her best friend. This is surely going to be an interesting match up as I don’t expect either lady to hold back on one another and regardless of the outcome, I see them lifting one another up in an embrace. I do however fear the long term implications this match may bring, especially if one of them end up winning the whole thing.
Weight: 155 lbs.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
All of 2018 the phrase heard around the wrestling business has been “Astraea Better”. We’ve even had several variations of the catchphrase as some people have used it to prop themselves up. Her influence cannot be denied, her ability to go all the way though? That is yet to be determined. Astraea is hands down the most polarizing figure in all of Empire. Her meteoric rise to the top of women’s wrestling as one of this industry’s most popular figures has been met with it’s fair share of critics as well as a cult-like following. To take a word from her former entrance theme, these outside factors have left her quite “Unfazed” to say the least. Astraea has continued to push through in the face of adversity to reinvent herself, and give the people another reason to believe in her ability to one day become hands down the top dog on Empire. Her detractors love to focus on her shortcomings but overlook the fact that these shortcomings have also served as lessons for Astraea, it’s built character for Astraea. Astraea Jordan is someone who had a good chunk of her career taken away from her due to injury, that was the very first adversity she faced in her wrestling career and it was a major one. She did seemingly the impossible by coming back from it and getting even stronger in result of it. So much so that a rehabbed knee was still athletically superior to her contemporaries in the EAW Performance Center where she dominated the NEO Combine. Astraea’s first shot at gold came at King of Elite 2018, it was unsuccessful but still an impressive showing as this was her first time truly in the spotlight, going against a polished veteran in what was the prime of her career. She had the advantage for the majority of the match and had several close calls, I truly believe that had the Astraea of today been in that match, it would not have even been close. Astraea is not only 100 times better than she was in January, she’s also now 100 times better than the Women’s World Champion at the time was and is. Her second shot came at Terminus where she competed against fellow semi-finalist Sienna Jade for the Freeweight Championship, Payton Darkstar was also in that match. Payton took the pin but the loss still weighed heavily on Astraea who took that frustration with her and channeled it into becoming even better. She defeated a longtime rival in Madison Kaline at Pain for Pride, and then lost to Stephanie Matsuda on the Empire season 12 premiere. I believe that Astraea, with no outside distractions could have very well won that match. Stephanie Matsuda is quoted saying she didn’t beat Astraea, she simply survived Astraea. One half of the Unified Tag Team Champions isn’t something to gloss at, especially considering she won it by going toe to toe with quite possibly the next Unified Womens Champion in Cameron Ella Ava. Astraea has all of the tools to win this whole tournament, it’s drill time. (See what I did there?)
Weight: 153 lbs.
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Tyler Wolfe is probably not somebody most people had advancing this far in the tournament in their mock brackets. If you did then hats off to you. That isn’t to say that I personally didn’t expect Tyler to make it this far, as I am very familiar with her work prior to EAW unlike the mainstream audience. Some would liken this a Cinderella run in the March Madness tournament, but if you’re in the know of the wrestling world and the independent scene, then this is far from a surprise. Perhaps she’d been EAW’s best kept secret. She’s probably the darkhorse in the semi’s simply due to the fact that she’s the least known and opponents don’t quite know what to expect from her. Meanwhile she’s someone who’s done her fair share of homework on each opponent before facing off against them and has used that to her advantage. I’m not quite sure that’s going to be something that will continue to help her win however, because people have no choice but to take notice now. Tyler Wolfe has arrived and the Empress of Elite tournament is now in her grasp. One comment I saw a fan make was the fact that she’s been here for too short of a time period for her to be seriously taken as a true contender. Are we forgetting that the very first Empress of Elite tournament was won by someone who was only two months into her EAW career? This isn’t a tournament of who’s been here longer leading to a false sense of who “deserves” it more, you prove you deserve it with the current work you put in for the tournament. When you get in that ring, that’s how you show you deserve it. So far Tyler Wolfe has been putting in some impressive work. I knew Tyler was special when she outlasted several other elitists including every other female talent in the 24/7 Battle Royal at Pain for Pride, where she’d finish in the final three alongside Jack Ripley and Mark Michaels. Tyler has been using this tournament as a coming out party and she is the one name we’ll all walk away remembering. No matter how the tournament ends for Tyler she’s already a winner just due to the fact that she’s made it this far despite the expectations of otherwise, but that’s not going to satisfy Tyler. Tyler didn’t come here to settle for making it this far and that’s it, she came here to win the whole thing and never settle for less and that is why a Tyler Wolfe win would not surprise me. Astraea Jordan’s go-to phrase is “Astraea Better”, but Tyler’s nickname is “Better Than You”, next Thursday will prove who is truly better.
The only sure thing in this Empress of Elite tournament is that a member of #JadedWolfeHearts will be in the final. Will the trio prevail, or will #AstraeaBetter prove to be more than just a catchy phrase? Find out next week on Empire and August 18th at Manifest Destiny!
Michael Lanza is a broadcast journalist and columnist who has covered pro-wrestling since the late 1990s. He has a BA in Journalism as well as a BA in Media Ecology, and worked ten years across Canada as a Hockey, Basketball and Pro-Wrestling analyst. He is an occasional host of Canada-based talk show “Off The Record” which is known for being highly controversial, as Lanza prides himself in asking the ‘tough questions’ and conducting interviews in an unscripted, uncensored fashion.