After months of rumour, it’s finally here. WWE’s much-vaunted Mae Young Classic kicked off with what else… the first round!
Unlike last year’s Cruiserweight Classic, they’re dumping these episodes on the Network in chunks – August 28 saw four episodes released to cover the entire first round. Jim Ross and Lita are on commentary for the tournament, and once we get past the Stephanie McMahon-voiced opening video, you’ll notice the obvious live and post-produced commentary differences. Sadly, they left in JR’s gem about how “the format is very unique, single-elimination”… just like most Western tournaments!
Mae Young Classic – First Round: Kay Lee Ray vs. Princesa Sugehit
That’s “soo-hay” as opposed to what you feel after eating too much chocolate. Kay Lee Ray’s the hot favourite, and starts by chopping Sugehit in the chest… which earns her some stiff kicks. This crowd’s all in on this action, and given that everyone’s swinging for the fences, you can’t blame them!
Ray trips Sugehit on some rope running, before countering a Code Red into a Gory Bomb… but Sugehit gets the sunset flip off anyway for a near-fall. A standing Falcon arrow follows from Sugehit, along with some elbow drops, but Ray follows up with a forearm smash after dragging the Mexican to the outside.
Some chops from Ray are replied to in equal measure, but she kicks away the leg and followed in with a sliding Flatliner for a near-fall. The Koji Clutch comes next, but Sugehit frees herself and hits a Bubba Bomb before rolling Ray around into a near-fall. Sugehit hits some kicks for a near-fall, but Kay Lee recovers and drops the Princesa with a Gory Bomb! That’s still only good for a two-count, and Ray looks to finish her off with a senton bomb… but she crashes and burns, leaving her prey for a Fujiwara armbar as Sugehit forced the submission! Incredible pace for this TV-style match – just how you want to get something like this off. Shame that Ray went out at the first round, but given the bracketing you’re always going to get some bigger names going out early. ***
Sugehit’ll face the winner of Xia Li and Mercedes Martinez in the next round.
The video package for the next match covered Serena Deeb’s prior run in WWE – which ended when she was let go after (her own words) alcohol misuse. Hopefully she can be the Brian Kendrick of this year’s WWE Network tournament!
Mae Young Classic – First Round: Serena Deeb vs. Vanessa Borne
Borne beat Jamie Hachey (aka Jamie Jaymeson) in a qualifier on NXT a few weeks ago to get into this tournament… Jessika Carr’s refereeing this match, billed as WWE’s “first female referee since the 80s” – but not quite for the former Kennadi Brink!
Deeb’s all over Borne from the start, taking the rookie down with armdrags, before Borne takes her onto the apron and drops her with a headbutt. Borne stomps and drops axehandles on the more experienced Deeb from there, following in with a sliding headbutt for a near-fall.
A grounded rear chinlock keeps Deeb down, but a back suplex frees her… before some punches take Borne down. Next up is a neckbreaker, but Borne rolled her shoulder up at one, then takes a gutbuster. She misses a charge into the corner after riling herself up, and that puts Borne back in control, landing a swinging neckbreaker for a two-count!
Borne keeps up with some punches before dumping Deeb with a Samoan drop, but again the veteran kicked out, before hitting a spear for the win! Bearing in mind Borne was barely 20 matches into her career at this point, this wasn’t bad going from Borne, who’s clearly a work in progress at the PC. **½
Deeb will face either Piper Niven or Santana Garrett in the second round.
Charly Caruso’s in the 3D Control Centre this year, building up to our next match between Zeda and Shayna Baszler.
Mae Young Classic – First Round: Shayna Baszler vs. Zeda
Baszler’s been compared to Matt Riddle in how quickly she’s picked up the pro wrestling business – and the cameras show Ronda Rousey and Marina Shafir in the crowd cheering her on.
Shayna refuses to shake hands, and it’s on as Zeda takes her down early and grabs a leglock… but Baszler nonchalantly stands up and walks into an armbreaker. That too is countered as the ground game is strong here, with Baszler throwing in some punches in her bid to grab that cross armbreaker.
Zeda tries to stuff Baszler’s offence, but has no answer for those kicks… although she is able to get in some mounted punches then a monkey flip! That’s good for a two-count, and Zeda leaps into a guillotine… but Baszler suplexes out… and traps Zeda in a rear naked choke for the flash submission! That was a hell of a flash finish, but a good showing by Zeda on her first real bit of exposure.
Baszler’ll have the winner of Mia Yim vs. Sarah Logan in the second round.
Mae Young Classic – First Round: Abbey Laith vs. Jazzy Gabert
Jazzy Gabert’s better known as Alpha Female, whilst Abbey Laith is the former (Princess) Kimber Lee. Gabert tries to intimidate Laith at the bell, but Abbey charges at her with gusto… only to get shoved and screamed at as the monster German won over the crowd!
Laith’s thrown around like a ragdoll, as she’s made to make her speed count, utilising a jawbreaker… before an armdrag’s blocked and met with a big shoulder block. Gabert clubs away at Laith’s chest for a near-fall, before she uses a grounded Cobra clutch to try and force a submission out of the Washington native.
Eventually Laith escapes with headscissors, but Gabert fights back out into a rear naked choke, which nearly cost her as Laith rolled back for a near-fall. Gabert keeps up with a quick flurry of strikes before a scoop slam led to a rather cocky cover for just a one count.
Laith replies with an Octopus hold in the ropes, but of course she can’t keep it on and so resorts to some kicks to get a near-fall over the giant German. Gabert pulls Laith off the top rope, but that just earns her an armdrag and some scissors kicks as Laith kept her foe down, ahead of a senton bomb!
Gabert kicked out at two after that, and snaps back with a huge clothesline before blasting Laith with ground and pound punches as the Alpha Female emerged! Laith escapes from a backbreaker into a sunset flip… and ohmygod Laith wins! Abbey beat the monster, in a hell of a David and Goliath story – and this was proof that you can get over in defeat! ***¼
Well, this might not have been a home run, but to keep borrowing a baseball analogy, it was somewhere between a double and a triple. I’m not struck on his this was dumped in a “binge watching” block, as opposed to last year’s Cruiserweight Classic, but the in-ring so far has been solid – and a fantastic starting block for the rest of the tournament to build on.