This year, Pro Wrestling Illustrated released their first-ever tag team ranking, the PWI Tag Team 50. Nine female tag teams made the list, including Team Sea Stars, who placed at #26 on the inaugural feature.
Team Sea Stars members Ashley Vox and Delmi Exo have been wrestling together since 2015, but their success reached a new level in 2020. Vox crossed further into television territory with time on NWA Powerrr, ranked #471 on the 2020 PWI 500, and #66 on the PWI Women’s 100. Exo wrestled for two dozen promotions, holds four titles, and also ranked on the PWI 500 and PWI Women’s 100, at #477 and #75, respectively.
In an industry that seems to shy away from women’s tag team wrestling, Team Sea Stars manages to successfully hold women’s tag team wrestling up to the spotlight where it belongs. Though they had stellar years individually, Bell To Belles was interested in learning more about Team Sea Stars as a unit, and how they managed to keep climbing towards the top.
Kristen Ashly of Bell To Belles had the opportunity to chat with the duo about wrestling during COVID, the Impact Knockouts Tag Team Tournament, NWA’s status, and how they keep the teamwork alive while still remaining close as sisters.
First, Vox and Exo addressed the big elephant in the room: COVID-19. They shared how they stayed busy during a time when indie wrestlers weren’t able to work, and how the pandemic forced them to focus on more important things.
Ashley: 2020 Delmi and I had a lot of great plans coming up, especially for Shimmer and ‘Mania week. Of course it’s no ones fault for how things fell through due to COVID-19, we somehow managed to keep busy. I would say, 2020 has been a heartbreaking year for us. Unfortunately, our father passed away in mid March from lung cancer. The last thing on our minds was stressing over COVID, it was more of mentally and physically trying to find happiness. With COVID-19 closing the wrestling doors for us and getting laid off of work, being stuck at home was a struggle. We didn’t have a distraction to go out with friends or do what we enjoyed every weekend with wrestling. Delmi and I turned to TikTok and that was our escape. TikTok gave us happiness, even if it was for a slight second. The comments and reactions we got from friends and fans was what motivated us again to create some kind of content during a hard time for us and for everyone else.
Delmi: I agree. Being left to your own thoughts without a healthy distraction became difficult. I would find myself frustrated when others complained so openly about losing opportunities from wrestling, because in the moment, wrestling felt like the least important thing in the world to me. I had left to Japan and was told my father could bounce back and when I returned I had merely a week with him before I had to say goodbye. I felt selfish and disgusted for chasing my dreams then, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d ever manage to get back in a ring without feeling that guilt, to be honest, but I think COVID actually gave me the break I needed. I’m much healthier now, mentally, and I have the same hunger to get after wrestling once it’s available to me like it once was before.
As easily one of the longest-standing tag teams currently in the indies, Team Sea Stars shared their secret to keeping a solid work partnership between family.
Ashley: Delmi and I joke a lot on how we’ve been tagging since Delmi was born. We use to wrestle in the living room growing up. I guess what keeps us strong is even if we disagree or argue like most siblings do, at the end of the day, Delmi is my sister. I know she is the one person I can always go to for anything.
Delmi: I think what makes us work as a tag team is we are both genuine individuals. Ashley doesn’t try to mimic me and I don’t mimic her. We both have different strengths that we bring to the team and I think we recognized that early on.
A year ago, the duo won the SHIMMER Tag Team Championships from Cheerleader Melissa and Mercedes Martinez at SHIMMER Vol. 115. They talked about the emotions behind winning the prestigious titles from two legends in women’s wrestling, and as still current champs, who they would like to defend their titles against next.
Ashley: It was pretty unreal. It was one of those moments Delmi and I couldn’t believe. We kept looking at each other before the match, and at the end when we heard that bell ring I couldn’t help but cry. That was the first time I cried in a wrestling ring. It brought a lot of emotions of where we started to how we got there. The SHIMMER tag team titles are definitely one of the most historic tag team titles in wrestling. It is an honor to hold those titles, and I’m happy it’s with my other half. We’ve never felt so happy and proud of ourselves. To be honest, we would love to have a match with Toni Storm and Jinny for the SHIMMER tag team titles, but who knows how the world will be next year.
Delmi: I couldn’t help but cry when I heard the bell ring and our theme music play. In that moment, my life flashed before my eyes. All the struggles, all the times I wanted to quit or give up, or was told I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t matter. In that moment it felt like all the sacrifices we made finally paid off.
I couldn’t help but cry when I heard the bell ring and our theme music play. In that moment, my life flashed before my eyes. All the struggles, all the times I wanted to quit or give up, or was told I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t matter. In that moment it felt like all the sacrifices we made finally paid off.”-Delmi Exo on winning the SHIMMER Tag Team Championships in 2019
Team Sea Stars is a standout women’s tag team in a market that lacks depth of opportunity for growth within women’s tag team wrestling. The sisters were asked if the market felt frustratingly small for future opportunities, from their point-of-view.
Delmi: To be honest, I’m not sure how contracts work in terms of women’s tag teams. Me and Ashley haven’t been offered a contract as a tag team, yet. I think most women in tags also have prominent singles careers and have been capable of capturing contracts for themselves.
IMPACT Wrestling surprised indie fans with when they released the tournament bracket for their newly-revived Knockouts Tag Team Championships, revealing that Team Sea Stars would be facing Kiera Hogan and Tasha Steelz in the first round. The women shared how it felt competing for belts with such history, and if fans can expect to see them more on IMPACT in the future.
Ashley: All I can say is, it was amazing being apart of the Knockouts Tag Team Tournament. It was such a great environment to be a part of and [to] hear feedback from Madison [Rayne] and Gail Kim. The girls there we’re so nice to Delmi and I, and it was great just being around girls who support one another.
Delmi: The IMPACT women’s division is in a league of its own. I’m super happy to have been apart of the tournament, but I’m more determined to return to IMPACT
The IMPACT women’s division is in a league of its own. I’m super happy to have been apart of the tournament, but I’m more determined to return to IMPACT.”-Delmi Exo on her time at IMPACT for the Knockouts Tag Team Tournament
The last few months have been a tumultuous time for NWA, which went on a hiatus earlier this year after COVID-19 and the Speaking Out Movement. Both Allysin Kay and Marti Belle announced their free agency over the last month, leaving only Ashley Vox, Thunder Rosa, and Kamille listed as NWA’s female in-ring talent. To make it more confusing, Serena Deeb, who is newly-signed with AEW, is the current NWA World Women’s Champion, a belt that has been defended more and more frequently on AEW programming.
Vox was asked if she had any insight on when NWA would return, and if we can expect women’s tag team wrestling to appear if NWA Powerrr was to make a comeback.
Ashley: To be honest, I have no clue what’s going on or what’s to come for NWA. It’s been such a sad time for most wrestling promotions, and it’s been sad that I haven’t seen most of the NWA family. It was such a great place to be and I always had a blast being apart of NWA. I hope nothing but greatness and a huge comeback for NWA!
To be honest, I have no clue what’s going on or what’s to come for NWA. It’s been such a sad time for most wrestling promotions, and it’s been sad that I haven’t seen most of the NWA family. It was such a great place to be and I always had a blast being a apart of NWA. I hope nothing but greatness and a huge comeback for NWA!”-Ashley Vox on the status of NWA
Both women were ranked on all three PWI rankings for 2020, but the inaugural tag team list felt extra special for female tag teams who spend their career on the indie circuit. Team Sea Stars shared how it felt to be ranked at #26 on the historical PWI Tag Team 50.
Ashley: For a crazy year, I think being in this years PWI 500, Women’s 100, and Tag Team 50 has been incredible. It’s one of those things that remind you why you love wrestling. We went from never being ranked to being on all three magazines, this year.
Delmi: I know a lot of people tend to disregard the list, but it meant a lot to me. I’m thankful to have made these lists, especially since a few of my friends, I feel, are superior to me in the ring have not, and they’re the ones who have had the most influence on me.
Finally, Ashley and Delmi were asked what the future held for Team Sea Stars.
Ashley: It’s hard to say what tomorrow is like for Delmi and I, especially for next year. Some people have plans and some people just go with the flow. Delmi and I have faced everything together by going with the flow. Our goals from when we first started have changed through the years. We just hope to wrestle in front of a crowd. We just hope for the best year to come for Team Sea Stars.
Delmi: Just keep us in your thoughts. We’ve made it this far, further than two girls who trained in a barn should’ve have. Only time will tell what else we can accomplish with fans behind us and our stubbornness to not give up.
Order the digital PWI Tag Team 50 edition, or pre-order the physical edition, today. See our video interview with Delmi Exo following her PWI Women’s 100 ranking on our YouTube channel here. Return to Bell To Belles for news, opinion, interviews, and advocacy on your favorite women in wrestling.
If you use quotes from this article, please credit Kristen Ashly of Bell To Belles for the interview and transcription.