On the 12th September, WWE will hold the live finals of the Mae Young Classic in Las Vegas Nevada, with Kairi Sane facing off against Shayna Bazsler. This promises to be a big event, as WWE recently announced a red carpet special with the likes of Ronda Rousey, Stephanie McMahon, the stars of GLOW, and several WWE performers will be at this event to witness the finals of the tournament. So, with the hype at a buzz and with people talking, let's break down the final and what WWE may choose to do going forward with each finalist.
The performances of each finalist
WWE have taken different approaches in booking each finalist, which leads itself to a degree of unpredictability. Shayna Bazsler has been booked to be a dominant force with quick victories over Zeda and Candice Lerae, whilst she was able to put in good performances against Mia Yim and Mercedes Martinez. They’ve booked her similarly to TJ Perkins in the Cruiserweight Classic in that she has tapped out some of the crowd favorites (Mia Yim, Candice Lerae)
Whilst she has been heavily featured alongside her MMA four horsewomen cohorts, she has not really been given the chance to put on a classic match, as her matches have been designed to put her over as a strong force. She is still a little green to wrestling with only 2 years’ experience, but her catch wrestling and MMA experience have helped her progression tremendously.
On the other hand, Kairi Sane has had the best matches of the tournament across the board, with perhaps only Abbey Laith matching her in terms of the quality of her matches. The Pirate Princess has been able to connect with the fans with her ability to sell like she is being mutilated. With impressive matches against Bianca Blair, Dakota Kai, Toni Storm and Tessa Blanchard under her belt, she has lived up to the hype that she brought from her performances for Stardom.
The one thing going against her is her relative inexperience in America, with her only previous experience in America being one a Lucha Underground taping, working with fellow Stardom Alum Io Shirai and Mayu Iwantani in a match against Pentagon the Dark. Other than that match, these matches are her first in front of an American audience, so going into the final, there may be concerned in putting her over the former MMA star in front of an audience that may not be familiar with her.
What will WWE do?
The winner of the Mae Young Classic is a tricky one to pick as there are a lot of moving pieces. A solid argument can be made for both women winning the tournament, so with that in mind, let’s look at each women's chances of winning
Shayna has been booked to be dominant during this tournament, and logic dictates that she would continue that against Kairi. WWE has teased the potential of a 4 horsewomen showdown, potentially sometime between Survivor Series and Wrestlemania. WWE may look at giving Shayna the trophy to help legitimize her when it’s time to start their feud with the WWE’s Four Horsewomen. Being that Shayna has had MMA fights near Los Vegas on PPV, a casual fan may be more familiar with Shayna. So if WWE is looking to portray Shayna as a major star ahead of this rumored rivalry, they may choose to give this to her as a way to help that perception.
Finally, with Asuka vacating the NXT Women's title, it is believed that the winner of the tournament will become the new NXT Women's Champion. Shayna may be that choice as there are more immediate opponents for Shayna to face. Along with a rematch with Kairi, matches with Ember Moon, Ruby Riot, Nikki Cross and Dakota Kai are interesting propositions for Shayna. Putting the NXT Title on Shayna could lend itself to more potential matches due to the makeup of NXT’s face/Heel dynamic.
That being said, WWE may be cautious in using the final as an angle. While not near the level of stupidity, WWE may be feeling the scars of the Women's Money in the Bank, where it was merely used to set up a story with Carmella and James Ellsworth. There may be a feeling that giving Shayna the trophy to help kick start the horsewomen feud may cheapen the importance of the tournament.
Secondly, it has not been officially announced that Shayna has signed a contract full time, where Kairi has. WWE may be careful in putting the trophy in the hands of a non-contracted performer. A major reason why WWE went with TJ Perkins and Gran Mettalik in the final of the Cruiserweight Classic over Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi was that neither guy had signed full-time contracts. This may be a reason to give the title the Kairi over Shayna. Finally, with the previously mentioned rumour spreading around that WWE are going to put the NXT Women's Title on the winner of the tournament. If WWE chooses to do the horsewomen feud, they may want Shayna to be on the main roster only. Kairi also needs more time in development, whereas Shayna is main roster ready as she can cut great promos. If you are putting the developmental titles on people, it is a smart idea to put the title on people that need developing.
With what was mentioned about the cons of putting the Mae Young Classic in the hands of Shayna, Kairi may be the better option for the future of NXT. She is younger than Shayna by about 8 years and can use NXT to help develop things such as promos, working the American style, etc. While a better in-ring wrestler than Shayna, Kairi is unfamiliar with American television, barring one Lucha Underground taping, and this lends credence to the argument that WWE may want to make someone with this tournament. Shayna has enough of a fanbase outside of the wrestling bubble, where a win could help establish Kairi Sane.
Helping Kairi’s cause, as previously mentioned, is that they may want the full-time performer to win the tournament. It has not been confirmed that Shayna had joined WWE full time, where Kairi has signed on full time. If they cannot sure up Shayna, then it will provide more value to a contracted performer to have the Mae Young Classic. It is a good tagline in the video package and gives that performer instant credibility, something that Kairi may need going up against Shayna.
One of Kairi Strongest suite could lead to the reason that they give Shayna the victory, and that’s her selling. Kairi is one of the best sellers in wrestling today are arguable ranks amongst the likes of Okada, and Styles, and even a Sami Zayn. If they want to put Shayna over as strong heading into a main roster program, they may feel that having Kairi sell like she is being tortured may prove valuable to Shayna as they push her as a dominant force.
Furthermore, with Kairi potentially winning the NXT Women's Title, there may be the feeling that the opportunity for matchups may be more limited. The only real heels in NXT right now are the Iconic Duo and Sonya Deville. Whilst there are live event wrestlers (Bianca Belair, Sage Beckett) who can move into that top heel role, you would need to turn someone like Ember Moon or Ruby Riot heel, and that may not be desirable for the drawing power of the NXT brand. Kairi’s options in NXT in terms of storylines may seem a little limited compared to Shayna. With this in mind, it may conversly help Kairi as NXT thrives on match Quality, and as we saw with her match with Bianca Belair, she is a versatile performer who can get great matches out of anyone.
One detrimental aspect that WWE may find is that Kairi wasn’t exactly their number one Japanese priority. WWE was a little more interested in her Stardom rival Io Shirai, who had signed a contract before a neck injury prevented her from being picked up. Kairi, whilst amazing, isn’t on that Io Shirai level, so you could argue that she wouldn’t be in that spot if Io was there. Maybe the WWE may see more stock in Shayna as she was a priority. With the addition of bringing Ronda Rousey, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir into the mix, they may feel that Shayna brings more to the table then Kairi, hence why Shayna may be chosen as the winner.
Lastly, Kairi’s winning may have to do with Vince McMahon’s demands. Vince has traditionally loved using celebrities on his program (Celebrities have never lost a single match at Mania) and with Shayna comes Ronda Rousey. Vince will want to use Ronda and may feel that Shayna winning may sweeten the deal. Whilst Vince traditionally pushes women based on looks, and Kairi may be a little more cosmetically pleasing, the fact that Shayna brings celebrity with her may be the reason why she is chosen over Kairi.
The match will be given 20 minutes, With Shayna winning by catching Kairi’s elbow drop and turning it into a Rear Naked Choke. This will be followed by a staredown between the four horsewomen of both MMA and WWE, and potentially the announcement of a future match between the women.
Who do you think will win the Mae Young Classic? Vote to make your voice heard!