One year later, and the Mae Young Classic is back for it’s second go around, as WWE’s scooped up 32 of the biggest women’s wrestlers for this year’s tournament.
We open with a recap from last year’s tournament, won by Kairi Sane, then a Mauro Ranallo-narrated package that tells us this year’s winner will be decided at the Evolution pay-per-view in October.
There’s been a complete change on commentary, as Michael Cole leads the way, flanked by Beth Phoenix and Renee Young. That should mean we’re not constantly being told about the “unique” single elimination tournament format, or how long everyone’s got to fly home for. We’ve video packages before each match, introducing everyone as if the fans had never seen them before: a good move.
First Round: Tegan Nox vs. Zatara
Nox may be better known as Nixon Newell – she’d missed last year’s Mae Young Classic through injury. This is her televised WWE debut, and the crowd at Full Sail were solidly behind her.
The pair work over each other’s arms, but it’s Nox who’s the early aggressor, taking down Zatara with headscissors and a dropkick, sending her to the outside as Nox 619’s out of a dive attempt. Back inside, Zatara trips Nox and scores with a low dropkick, before she pulled away at Tegan with a curb stomp. Zatara takes Nox into the ropes as she goes after the previously-injured knee, wrapping it in the ropes before working into an Indian deathlock. Nox makes it to the ropes, then mounts a comeback with uppercuts and a forearm, before a knee strike and a flying crossbody finally put down the Chilean for a near-fall.
In response, Zatara hits her own missile dropkick and some knees into the corner for a near-fall, before she missed a diving knee, allowing Nox to hit her with a Shining Wizard for the win. A pretty basic outing, but both women had plenty of offence for the time they had. Remember, these first round matches aren’t going to come close to ten minutes, so don’t expect anything earth-shattering! ***
Tegan’ll face either Isla Dawn or Nicole Matthews in the second round.
First Round: MJ Jenkins vs. Rhea Ripley
In her pre-match package, Rhea Ripley vowed to do better than last year, where she felt she “made a fool of herself”. Jenkins is a recent NXT signee, having been trained by the Dudley Boyz and done some dates for Impact and SHINE.
Ripley’s completely changed her look since last year’s tournament, and she’s no interest in sportsmanlike conduct, ignoring a handshake. Jenkins hits a nice springboard armdrag as she flies around the ring… only to see a springboard into the ring cancelled by way of a dropkick in the ropes as Ripley tried to end this early. Low dropkicks from the Aussie nearly put MJ down, as did a hard clothesline, before Jenkins was taken into the corner for some boots as Ripley looked to be in control. A stalling suplex from Ripley leads to an awkward landing for MJ, before an abdominal stretch led to MJ firing back as she counters with a hiptoss.
That comeback’s really short lived as Ripley pushes away MJ… but Jenkins is right back with uppercuts and clotheslines as she tried to make a dent. Jenkins scores with a head kick from the apron before a missile drop knocks down Rhea for a near-fall, only to get caught with a pump-handled Blue Thunder Bomb as Ripley got the win. This was as close to a TV squash as you’re likely to get in this tournament – but WWE’s strapping a rocket to Ripley, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. **¼
Ripley will face either Reina Gonzalez or Kacy Catanzaro in the second round. That last match really highlighted one of the annoyances of WWE Production – quit telling a story and breaking apart mid-flow to tell us there’s a cover. It makes the story you’re trying to get over hard to follow!
First Round: Lacey Lane vs. Vanessa Kraven
This is a David vs. Goliath-like match, with Kraven’s nickname being “The Mountain”. On the flip-side, the Dudleyz-trained Lacey Lane is pretty new to wrestling (comparatively speaking), and she starts by trying to chop down Kraven with kicks.
Lane looks for an early crucifix, but she’s having to stick and run… and it backfires early as she tries for some rope-walking with a bit of springing in the ropes… and she loses her footing. Recovering, Lane’s able to hit back with a handstand kick before leaping off the apron… but she’s caught by Kraven who throws her into the apron before suplexing her from the floor into the ropes, where she’s left hanging for some chops. Back inside, there’s a cannonball from Kraven for a near-fall, before she followed up with some chops and a Canadian backbreaker. Lane manages to rebound in the ropes as she began a fightback, catching Kraven with a thrust kick and a forearm into the corner, only for Vanessa to reply with a Black Hole Slam for a near-fall.
Another cannonball comes up short as Lane escaped, before she was forced to back off from some punches, then hit a crucifix pin for the upset. A decent match, but with Lane being signed to WWE, you get the feeling this underdog win is something they’ll try and build off of… otherwise you could argue it’s a case of “the wrong one won” given the banana-peel like finish. **½
First Round: Killer Kelly vs. Meiko Satomura
The pre-match packages showed Meiko Satomura’s WCW appearance from over twenty years ago. That I remember that makes me feel old… You don’t need to be told that we’re big fans of Killer Kelly on this site, and that this was her tournament match in the MYC kinda caps off a rather insane year for the Portuguese native.
The pair try to sting each other early on with kicks as commentary were left rather stunned by the fact they were able to call a Meiko Satomura match in WWE. Meiko nearly wins with a side headlock, but Kelly counters with headscissors, only for Satomura to work her way free and nearly flatten Kelly with a forearm. Kelly looked to get a Dragon sleeper in, but Meiko kicks her way free… only to get wiped out with a pump kick that looked rather snug! Staying on top of her foe, Kelly looked for a surfboard, but Meiko scrambled away, then came back with a lucha-style armdrag out of the corner before trapping Kelly in a STF. Fortunately, Kelly’s able to make the ropes, but Satomura stays on top her with a series of kicks to the chest.
An arm whip takes a dazed Kelly down before a knee drop earns a near-fall, but the former wXw women’s champion is able to hit back with a suplex that nearly gets the upset. Another pump kick’s side-stepped by Meiko, who hit back with an uppercut before cracking Kelly with the cartwheel knee to the back of the head… but somehow Kelly’s back to stop her on the top rope as a spider German suplex was teased.
Instead, we have to make do with a spider Dragon sleeper, before a she slips out and pulled Meiko into a Tree of Woe ahead of the Shibata-ish dropkick! A Fisherman’s suplex almost gets the win, leaving Kelly in a state of shock… and as she looked to finish off Meiko with a German suplex, she ends up losing her grip as Satomura countered with an overhead kick, before a death valley driver planted Kelly for the win. In the confines of the TV format, this was an absolute cracker of a match – and another string in Kelly’s bow, regardless of the result. She’s proving she can hang with the best – now it’s all about turning those Ls around, as you’d argue that the result here went the way everyone expected.
Meiko’ll face either Mercedes Martinez or Ashley Rayne in the next round. Christ, that cartwheel kneedrop looks even stiffer on the replay… ***½
So, an impressive quartet of matches gets this year’s tournament underway – it’s clear from the off who’s being focused – and we go off the air not knowing who’ll be in action next week. Ah, that makes it even more fun!