Time to catch up on the Mae Young Classic, as we finish off the first round with a few WWE debuts, including that of Io Shirai.

We open with Michael Cole, Beth Phoenix and Renee Young gushing over what we’ve seen thus far… and then it’s straight into video packages for our opener.

First Round: Rachel Evers vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto
This was a bit of a mismatch, on paper anyway, not least in terms of experience.

We start with a tie-up, as Evers and Matsumoto ended up going to their knees before swapping out for shoulder tackles. After scoring with a shoulder tackle, Matsumoto ended up on the mat as Evers fought back, ahead of a gutwrench suplex that drew a near-fall. Matsumoto fought back, but connecting with a missile shotgun dropkick that nearly gets the W, before she went to the hair in a bid to throw Evers across the ring. A snapmare puts Evers down for a chinlock, as Matsumoto was really dominating her. Boots to the midsection followed as Evers was trapped in the corner, before a body attack took her to the mat ahead of a Vader bomb-style knee drop for another near-fall.

Evers lands a spinebuster to stem the tide, but a wound-up punch just turns it into some back-and-forth before a cutter from Evers and a back senton earned a near-fall. A powerbomb attempt’s countered with a back body drop, but Evers comes right back with a STO before a spinning legdrop almost got her the win.

Frustrated, Evers picks up Matsumoto for some right hands, but “Lady Godzilla” hit back with a clothesline before a small package nearly led to the upset. Determined even more, Matsumoto dumps Evers with a German suplex… but she’s back up to continue the fight, until a clothesline put her on the mat. Evers looked to get the win with a Jig ‘n’ Tonic, but Matsumoto flips out and powers her up into a powerbomb, before a Saito suplex got the win. This was real good – if not rough at times; a hard fought contest that could well have elevated Evers to Matsumoto’s level, if only in WWE canon. ***¼

First Round: Jessie Elaban vs. Taynari Conti
Elaban is another Performance Centre product who’s making her televised debut here. She’s got a rather geeky look to her, but that’s by design… meanwhile, Taynari Conti’s back in the Mae Young Classic, having done next to nothing since last year’s tournament, unless you count her brief association with the Undisputed Era?

Elaban offers a handshake, but the black belt Conti just bows before scoring with a Judo-style throw. There’s more of those as already she’s establishing dominance, but Elaban’s able to try and mount a comeback… even if it meant a Stinger splash was shoved off as she was pushed into the ropes. A STO-like takedown gets Conti some near-falls, before Conti moved into an overhead wristlock as she looked to wear down Elaban bit-by-bit. Elaban fires back with some forearms, but that just angers Conti who grinds the webbing of Elaban’s fingers into the top rope.

Conti perhaps got a little too focused on the arm, as she ends up kicking the ropes as Elaban had one last fightback, scoring a slingshot that planted the Brazilian into the mat, before a series of dropkicks found their mark. Another series of forearms connect, before an axe kick drew a two-count, before Conti caught her with a swinging side slam for the win. This was exactly what you’d expect from two PC trainees – not horrendous, but there’s a lot of experience to be gained. **

First Round: Nicole Matthews vs. Isla Dawn
Matthews comes into this tournament with a lot of international experience – even if that experience was about to be shortened thanks to the US border…

Matthews started by taking Dawn into the corner, topping it off with a patronising head-pat. There’s a receipt from the Scotswoman Dawn, but Matthews took her down to the mat… only to get tripped off the ropes as a double stomp saw Dawn treat her like a Goomba. A running Meteora gets a near-fall, but Matthews is right back in it with a neckbreaker as she starts to but the boots to Dawn.

A backbreaker from Matthews turns into a stretch as commentary wondered out loud if Dawn was perhaps out of her depth… but that’s of course the cue for a turnaround as Matthews gets briefly cornered. Another clothesline gets a near-fall, as Matthews continued to work away on Isla, using a double armstretch to try and force a submission. It backfires as Isla fought back again, throwing some forearms before a knee trembler put Matthews down.

Dawn keeps up with a back suplex, before a head kick led to a Fisherman’s suplex, but Matthews squirms out at two, before she’s awkwardly dumped with a back suplex for another near-fall. That could have gone south in a hurry. Matthews manages to come back with a clothesline before she rolls Dawn over into a Lion Tamer, forcing Isla to tap. This was okay, I guess, but again there were rough moments that almost were outright dangerous. **

First Round: Xia Brookside vs. Io Shirai
The youngest competitor in this year’s Mae Young Classic, Xia had her father Robbie at ringside cheering her on for perhaps the biggest mismatch in the first round.

Xia launched into Shirai from the off, but Shirai cartwheels out of headscissors before catching Brookside in the gut with a kick. Back elbows in the corner keep Xia rocked, and she’s kept in the corner too with a vicious pair of knees. Io only gets a two count from that strike, so she pulls Xia into a crossface… a hold that’s quickly escaped, only for Xia to get taken back down with a head kick.

Xia blocks a kick, and hits back with a jawbreaker and a facebuster, only for another Xia kick to miss as Io returned with an uppercut. A running Meteora into the corner knocks the wind out of Xia, who’s pulled out of the corner and left for a moonsault that saw the knees land in the midsection for the win. Pretty much an emphatic squash – including the finish! **¼

That’s it, all of the first round is complete, as 32 became 16! This final episode featured more squashes than I’d have liked to have seen, but given the 32 names included, it was kinda expected who’d be staying and going based on the pairings. So far, this has been solid, if not massively rushed in places.