On the 28th of August, The WWE released the first four episodes of the Mae Young Classic, showcasing the first round of the tournament. There were some highs and some lows, some eye-openers and some eye-shutters, but it was a fun watch nonetheless. From Kairi Sane’s elbow drop to Jazzy Gabert’s brute strength, here is a recap of the proceedings.
We opened up the first episode with Scottish brawler Kay Lee Ray taking on CMLL star Princesa Sugehit. Both women were able to show off aspects of their respective styles, with Kay Lee Ray showing off great heel work out of the gate by raising her hand after an attempted test of strength and slapping Sugehit in the face. Sugehit was able to hit several stiff kicks on Kay Lee that looked painful. An exciting fast paced match, Sugehit managed to get the victory with a Fujiwara armbar. One of the better matches of the first round, some may have been surprised by the decision to send Kay Lee Ray out in the first round. However, she looked impressive in defeat and is certainly someone that WWE would be keen to keep a close eye on.
Next we had the former member of the Straight Edge Society Serena Deeb taking on the relatively inexperienced Vanessa Borne (formerly NXT jobber Danielle Kamala). It was a cool moment to see Serena back in the WWE after some personal struggles, and this match was quite old-school in its approach. Serena was able to show off her old-school, OVW type of style whilst Vanessa worked as a typical if not generic heel. Serena picked up the win of Vanessa with a spear. Not a particularly memorable match, but for what it was, a fun match nonetheless.
From there we moved to former MMA fighter Shayna Bazsler taking on an MMA trained rookie in Zeda. This match told a basic story of Zeda trying to submit Shayna early, attempting single leg takedowns and even a guillotine choke, however Shayna was able to hit a counter on a suplex early and turned it into a Falcon Arrow, transitioning into a sleeper a tapping Zeda out quickly. This seemed to be a showcase of things to come, with Shayna being booked strong against Zeda. It was a fun match for what it was, and a recommended watch if you’re a catch wrestling fan.
The main event of the first episode was between the former Kimber Lee, now Abbey Laith and the former Alpha Female, now Jazzy Gabert. The crowd was really behind Jazzy, and they ate up her no-selling of Abbeys punches and her power offense. This aura was helped by a tremendous video package where Jazzy told us that she enjoys crushing little girls. Abbey was a great underdog, selling well for Jazzy and her power offense. The match ended with Abbey slipping out of Jazzy’s Omega Slam and getting her into signature Alligator Clutch. Whilst some may be surprised by the decision to have Jazzy go out in the first round, Jazzy looked like a star, and the WWE would be making a mistake in not signing her. It is interesting to note that she received the Cedric Alexander treatment as the Full Sail Crowd chanted ‘Please Sign Jazzy’ on a dark match the next day, so it will be interesting to see want WWE does with Jazzy going forward.
If you are short on time and can only watch one episode, the first episode was easily the best in terms of match quality, With the Jazzy/Abbey match being a top 5 match of the tournament.
The second episode opened up with veteran Mercedes Martinez going up against Chinese rookie Xia Li. The match was basically a showcase match for Mercedes. Whilst Xia was able to get a little MMA-inspired offense in with some of her strikes, Mercedes won the match with a seated Dragon Sleeper in short order. A good match fundamentally, and great to watch for any Mercedes Martinez fans, but it was what it needed to be, short and strong.
Easily the worst match of the tournament, the daughter of "Precious" Paul Ellering, Rachel Evers, faced off against the Dominican Brawler and Pam Grier lookalike Marti Belle. This match was tough to watch as Marti looked as coordinated as the runner on QWOP at certain points. Rachel was able to hit a couple of impressive moves, but the missed spots by Marti ruined the match. Rachel was able to end the match with an inside cradle. According to Dave Meltzer, the match was changed due to Marti’s poor performance. Even if you have the time, skip this match because it was horrible and easily the worst match of the tournament.
Next up we had my fellow Aussie Rhea Ripley up against the Booker T trained Miranda Salinas. After a basic back and forth, the highlight of the match came in the form of Rhea’s impressive dropkicks. Miranda was an effective heel that got the crowd to boo her. The match ended via a Full Nelson Slam by Ripley. The match was what it was, not great but not bad either. Rhea looked impressive moving deeper into the tournament and that’s what it needed to do.
The main event of this episode featured former TNA Knockouts Champion Mia Yim, known then as Jade, facing off against former deathmatch wrestler Sarah Logan. One of the better matches of the first round, the two showed great intensity and Sarah Logan had great facial expressions. Mia Yim hit a beautiful rolling guillotine choke, and Sarah Logan also hit Mia with some great strikes, with my highlight being Sarah’s hip toss into a running sliding knee strike. The match ended with Mia Yim’s ode to Gail Kim with an Eat Defeat on Logan. A really enjoyable back and forth contest, both girls showed their range not only in wrestling but as all round performers. This was easily the match of the second episode and one of my recommended watches.
This episode started with the match-up between Progress Women’s Champion Toni Storm, another fellow Aussie, against the tall Englishwoman Ayesha Raymond. If you’re into the ‘sports entertainment’ side of wrestling then this match is for you. Toni really played up to the crowd with her hip attacks and over the top facial expressions. Ayesha played the part of a powerhouse well and these two women really complimented each other. Toni would pick up the win with a roll-up, which seemed strange considering WWE’s stock in promoting Progress. Another fun match none-the-less.
Next, we saw New Zealand striker Dakota Kai against The Great Khali trained Kavita Devi. A basic David vs Goliath type of match, Dakota played an underdog fighting against the power of Kavita. The highlight of the match was Kavita hitting a rare military press of Dakota. The match ended with a Double Foot Stomp by Dakota. This match was designed to showcase Dakota’s underdog qualities, leading to comparisons to Bayley. Fun, but somewhat forgettable.
Next up we had rookie and Willow Smith cosplayer Bianca Belair versus former TNA knockout Sage Beckett. Sage played the role of a powerhouse, and Bianca was a cocky heel during this match. This was a showcase for Bianca, who was able to show off her very impressive athleticism. She was reminiscent of a young, female Booker T with her general athleticism and attitude. The match ended with a Goldberg-Esque Spear from Bianca. The match was fine, merely achieving the goal of making Bianca look like a million bucks.
The next match was between the Shimmer ace Santana Garrett and the Scottish powerhouse Piper Niven. A really fun match that got the crowd engaged, the match told a similar story to several over matches in the tournament, that of the underdog trying to counter the larger opponent. Piper showed off her incredible athleticism with crossbodies and cannonballs, whilst Santana showcased her agility, particularly with a through the ropes DDT similar to Xavier Woods' variation of the move. The match finished with Santana missing her signature handspring moonsault and Piper hitting a Michinoku Driver. A really fun match that helped endear Piper to the WWE fanbase.
The episode kicked off with indie darling and the wife of Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae squaring off against Washington’s Renee Michelle. A showcase for Lerae, she controlled most of the match with Renee getting some offense near the end. The highlight of the match was Renee missing a second turnbuckle moonsault and Candice hitting a running dropkick to follow up. The match ended with Candice hitting her infamous Moustache Ride on Renee for the victory. The match was not particularly memorable and is one of the more missable matches of the first round, especially considering there's no shortage of good Candice LeRae matches out there.
Next saw former US Marine Lacey Evans squaring off against Brazilian Judo black belt Taynara Conti. The match was good considering that both women were rookies. Taynara showed off some impressive Judo throws and Lacey showed off good athleticism, especially with her springboard sidekick. The match concluded with a Trent Barretta inspired Dude buster from Lacey. It was a good showing for the two rookies and a very solid match.
The next match was between the Josh Barnett-trained Nicole Savoy and the daughter of "Desperado" Ricky Gonzalez, Reina Gonzalez. The match told the story of Reina neutralizing Nicole’s suplexes and working on keeping Nicole grounded. The match ended with Nicole making Reina tap to the armbar, showing Sexy Star how it’s meant to be applied without hurting your opponent. A match that was what it was, but it was fun nonetheless.
The main event of the show was former World of Stardom Champion Kairi Sane taking on Tessa Blanchard, the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Tully Blanchard. The match was an entertaining back and forth between the two. The two were able to showcase their abilities, with the highlights including Tessa’s Top Rope Senton and Kairi Sane’s impressive strikes being showcased with a multitude of chops and elbows. With match ended with Kairi hitting Tessa with her much gif’ed Diving Elbow Drop to pick up the win. Arguably the match of the first round, this match really helped put over Kairi, as she was able to show off her impressive offense, her great facial expressions and her speed, whilst Tessa was able to get over even in defeat. If you find yourself strapped for time and only able to watch one match, then this is the match to watch.
Round One Match Results
- Princesa Sugehit def. Kay Lee Ray
- Serena Deeb def. Vanessa Borne
- Shayna Bazsler def. Zeda
- Abbey Laith def. Jazzy Gabert
- Mercedes Martinez def. Xia Li
- Rachel Evers def. Marti Belle
- Rhea Ripley def. Miranda Salinas
- Mia Yim def. Sarah Logan
- Toni Storm def. Ayesha Raymond
- Dakota Kai def. Kavita Devi
- Bianca Belair def. Sage Beckett
- Piper Niven def. Santana Garrett
- Candice Lerae def. Renee Michelle
- Lacey Evans def. Taynara Conti
- Nicole Savoy def. Reina Gonzalez
- Kairi Sane def. Tessa Blanchard