More from the first round of the inaugural Mae Young Classic – and there’s quite a few names that the UK scene were familiar with this time as we got some of the best matches yet in the tournament!

You know the drill – JR and Lita on commentary, pre-match video packages… and we’re starting with a pair who call the UK their home.

Mae Young Classic – First Round: Ayesha Raymond vs. Toni Storm
Raymond’s perhaps best known as IPW:UK’s Amazon, and Toni Storm… needs no introduction on this site! JR announces her as the first PROGRESS women’s champion, and Storm mocks Raymond by swerving her on a handshake.

Bad move – Ayesha tries to strike out, and although Storm does her best to restrict those, it takes a while before a head kick leaves Raymond open for some hip attacks. Raymond comes back with a side slam, then an avalanche, before Storm lands a back cracker out of the corner.

Raymond’s left on the back foot with a release Northern Lights, but Storm gets cut off on the top rope and slammed down a la Ric Flair. Ayesha tries to follow up with a bit of rope walking, but she spends too much time playing to the crowd before missing a big splash… and Storm rolls her up on impact for the win. A bit of a weird finish, but this was a showcase for Storm – who’s already made her name in the UK and Japan ahead of this. **¼

Storm’ll face either Lacey Evans or Taynari Conti in the second round…

Mae Young Classic – First Round: Dakota Kai vs. Kavita Devi
Devi is the first Indian female in WWE – and was a trainee of the Great Khali. I’d dare argue that if she’d been around 18 months earlier, she’d have been in with Jinder Mahal’s crew. Dakota Kai is the former Evie, so cue a tonne of SHIMMER footage of the Kiwi… including plenty of kicks!

Devi tries to squeeze Kai’s hand at the opening bell, and the Indian Devi’s using her strength to stuff any takedowns early on. A lucha armdrag follows as Devi keeps hold of the wrist, hoisting the Kiwi by the wrist so she can do another lucha armdrag… but the crowd doesn’t seem to be too invested. This seemed to be right in the middle of that marathon first round of tapings, so it’s no surprise…

Kai sneaks in a sunset flip and a dropkick to mount a comeback, but a second dropkick’s swatted away ahead of a massive press slam from Devi. Some hiptosses from Devi follow, and whilst it looks alright, you can tell that she’s very raw in her progression – and as soon as Kai hits a running boot to her in the corner, a crushing double stomp gets the Kiwi the win. Basic stuff, but not an embarrassment or anything like that – especially compared to other women’s matches through the years. *¾

Dakota Kai will face fellow her fellow Antipodean Rhea Ripley in the second round – New Zealand vs. Australia!

Mae Young Classic – First Round: Sage Beckett vs. Bianca Belair
Bianca Belair’s fairly new to the NXT sphere, and gained her way into the Mae Young Classic with a win over Aliyah. Belair’s got quite a memorable look, especially if she hits you with her long braided hair… opposite her is Sage Beckett – perhaps best known on the indies as Andrea, or from her brief run in TNA as Rosie Lottalove. Sage is a completely different person to the trainee you saw back in the day.

Nothing’s happening from the opening tie-up as Papa Hales wanders in the background, but once we do get going, Belair kips up after taking a shoulder tackle. A crushing elbow just gets Beckett a one-count, but the taller Sage keeps hitting… and once she misses a charge into the corner, Belair gets her own foot in the proverbial door.

Bianca keeps up with some knees and a massive clothesline, taking down Sage for a two-count, before getting the same with a big splash. Beckett tried to fight out of a double chicken wing, and eventually throws Belair down before getting off a Bubba Bomb. Some right hands from Sage put Belair on the back foot, as does an avalanche and a diving dropkick, before Beckett puts her in a Tree of Woe.

Bianca eats the hip attack in the corner as Beckett followed with a Vader Bomb… but Belair rolls away, before whipping Sage with her hair as a spear gets the win. A fun TV-style match – perfectly acceptable wrestling given the time they had. **¼

Belair’ll face either Tessa Blanchard or Kairi Sane in the second round. I don’t fancy her chances…

Mae Young Classic – First Round: Piper Niven vs. Santana Garrett
Our main event of the latest batch of matches sees Piper Niven up against Santana Garrett – a match that wouldn’t be too out of place a lot further down the tournament. JR drops in a World of Sport reference, for those wondering how much of a threat that is to WWE in August 2017… both of these women are well travelled, with Stardom being their Japanese base most recently.

Niven easily takes Garrett into the corner from the bell as there’s loud duelling chants. Garrett uses the ropes to reverse a wristlock, before tying up the Scotswoman in a modified Octopus hold… which is powered out of, but Niven can’t capitalise. Piper monsters up away from another wristlock, but gets taken down with some headscissors before she obliterates Santana with a diving crossbody for a near-fall.

From a cravat, Niven tries to force a submission, but Santana punches free before she runs into an elbow for a near-fall. A variation of the old Million Dollar Dream follows from Piper, before a ripcord lariat gets her another near-fall, but Garrett comes back by springboarding into the ring into a DDT for a two-count on the former Viper.

A dropkick staggers Piper, who takes the Eat Defeat before a springboard elbow into the corner proves to be the end of Garrett’s latest offence, as a stuffed bulldog attempt led to another diving crossbody for a two-count. Santana gets up as Piper headed up top, and ends up blasting Piper with a left hand ahead of a headscissors out for a near-fall.

Garrett tries to finish with a Shining Star Press (a handspring off the ropes into a standing moonsault), but Piper’s rolled away and quickly finishes her off with a Michinoku driver for the win. Lovely stuff – wrestling is always better with David vs. Goliath stories, like we saw earlier with Jazzy Gabert and Abbey Laith; and it proved so again here with two capable performers doing their damndest. ***½

Piper has Serena Deeb in the next round. Sorry Serena!

Another solid round of Mae Young Classic action then, and the first round wraps up in the next episode as we await the WWE debut of Kairi Sane!