We’re up to the penultimate set of first round matches as the 2018 Mae Young Classic continued – with a sneak peek of a PROGRESS Wembley match to boot.
As ever, Mauro Ranallo recaps and previews, while the trio of Michael Cole, Renee Young and Beth Phoenix provide commentary.
First Round: Kaitlin vs. Kavita Devi
The pre-match package reminded us that Kavita Devi was involved in the women’s battle royal at WrestleMania… but she’s yet to debut on NXT TV. Unlike Kaitlyn, who’s making a bit of a comeback after over four and a half years out. They didn’t recycle Kaitlyn’s old music for this, by the way…
From the opening tie-up, Devi shoves down Kaitlyn, before the pair rolled into the ropes from the tie-up. An eventual snapmare and a diving clothesline puts Devi down, as some legdrops get Kaitlyn a near-fall, but Devi’s right back in it with a back elbow, then a body slam for some two-counts, before she booted Kaitlyn in the back. There’s a modified armbar that looked to force Kaitlyn to quit, but Kaitlyn escapes and armdrags her way free… only to get pulled into a Fireman’s carry. Again, that’s escaped as Kaitlyn elbows free as she returns fire with forearms and elbows, taking Devi into a corner for a cannonball and a spear for the win. A pretty by-the-numbers match, but given Devi’s inexperience and the potential ring rust on Kaitlyn, this was quite good. **¼
First Round: Toni Storm vs. Jinny
The pre-match video featured a LOT of PROGRESS footage from Jinny, while they recapped Toni Storm’s journey to the semi-finals in last year’s tournament. These two are extremely familiar with each other, and it makes for a very curious first round match-up.
Of course, there’s no desire to shake hands, and we start with both women locking up in the ropes. Toni quickly trips Jinny, which just angers her as she comes back in with another tie-up, but Storm remains on top as she wrings the arm, only to get decked with a forearm. Storm keeps up with a big boot that folded Jinny in half, before a knee in the corner had Jinny begging off in the ropes.
A reverse STO sees Jinny fight back as she hauls Toni into the turnbuckles, before a snapmare and a kick to the back earns a near-fall. There’s a floatover suplex too from Jinny for another two-count, then again after a Japanese armdrag that sent Toni back into the corner, as Jinny was all about trying to wreck Toni’s face. Another trip brings Toni into a seated surfboard as the Liger influence shone through again, but Storm again escapes – much to Jinny’s frustration. That quickly translated into a comeback though as a German suplex puts Jinny into the corner, ahead of a hip attack, before she put away Jinny with a Tiger Driver – the latest move to be renamed Storm Zero. Well, if you can’t use the piledriver or that neckbreaker slam, then why not. This was as good as you’d expect from these two, but they’ve done better – with more time. ***¼
First Round: Karen Q vs. Xia Li
Xia Li was in last year’s tournament, but she’s barely had a dozen matches since – and also hasn’t been on TV outside of this. Needless to say, they couldn’t resist going for the vaguely stereotypical “Oriental music” for this match.
They started with a stand-off and a bunch of feinted kicks… but whatever respect they had gave way when Karen slapped Xia… and that just fires up the relative rookie. The referee separates them, but Q takes advantage of it with a kick to the head, before some ground and pound leads to a rather more mocking bow. Karen keeps up with some kicks into a cornered Li, before a suplex out of the corner picks up a near-fall. A suplex is next, but Xia slips out, only to take a full nelson slam as Karen keeps ahead, but Li finally starts to connect with some kicks, including a superkick and a roundhouse that took down Karen for a near-fall.
Karen hits back with a Samoan drop, but misses on a frog splash as Xia capitalises with the Robinson special kick – tagged here the flipping axe kick (and not the ass kick, as I initially misheard)… and that’s enough for Xia to get the upset! A fun TV match – under five minutes felt a little short, but this didn’t feel rushed or anything. **¾
First Round: Mia Yim vs. Allysin Kay
Their first match was all the way back in January 2012 for AIW – and in any mixture, they’ve faced off over 30 times against each other since, whether it be in SHIMMER, SHINE, WWN, AAW or Impact.
They really hammer home the backstory of Kay having her nose broken by Yim many years ago… and we start with a tie-up and a shove-off before they just unload with strikes, first like a hockey fight, then into some ground and pound early on. Yim escapes and hooks herself into the ropes, a la Andrade Almas, which just suckers Kay into a dive… which sends her to the outside and into the path of an apron PK from Yim.
Mia rolls her back inside for more ground and pound, going for the nose, of course, before Kay gets free and just POUNCES Mia out of the ring. Some chops follow there, but Yim rolls back in and throws herself back to the outside with a tope… only for her follow-up to see her chop the ring post as Kay took over back inside. Allysin keeps up with some fish-hooking back in the ring, then a fallaway slam, before Mia caught her with a roll-through cross armbreaker. Kay quickly rolls through and powerbombs her way free, only to get caught with a heel hook that was fortunately too close to the ropes. The pair butt heads once more as they trade strikes, before a pump kick from Kay left both women down on the mat.
Mia’s back up with a handful of dropkicks, including a missile dropkick for a near-fall, before her attempt at a powerbomb’s met with a back body drop. Kay tries to come back with a Gory Bomb, but Yim counters into a Code Red for a near-fall. From the kick-out, Yim looked for Seoul Food, but Kay escapes and hits the Big D lariat, which I can’t believe got past WWE’s naming police, before more duelling head kicks left the pair back on the mat. Mia gets back to her feet, but gets caught on the top rope… only to catch Kay with the Seoul Food off the top rope… and that’s enough for the win! A fantastic main event, where both women’s history of working TV matches shone through. Action-packed without feeling rushed – well worth your time. ***¼
This week’s quartet of matches felt more well-defined than any of the prior weeks – very little was “disposable”, and everything told a story. We’re nearly done with the first round matches, which means that we’ll be getting longer matches… starting in two weeks!
Next week we have our final four first-round matches – which they don’t tell us, but they’ll be Xia Brookside vs. Io Shirai, Isla Dawn vs. Nicole Matthews, Rachel Evers vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto and Taynari Conti vs. Jessie Elaban.