By John Moore
Below are some scouting notes on a few of the women in the Mae Young Classic that I either have seen live or have watched on other non-WWE platforms. The purpose of this piece is to give you an abridged scouting report on a few of the many women in this Mae Young Classic tournament, especially since these are a lot of new faces to take in. I’ll even leave some notes on some first impressions to some of the newer women. You may find that you have seen them throughout your wrestling fandom or through your own wrestling experiences. Feel free to comment in the comment section if you want to add to my scouting list or feel free to add any details I missed. Of course, you guys know I cover a lot of wrestling for this site, so I’m not Goku where I can instant transmission to every single wrestling show at a blink of an eye so some women, I just won’t even know or have limited exposure of. Thankfully, I’m sure you’d be covered on everyone else some way or another.
WWE Mae Young Classic Competitors (in order of the Parade of Champions entrance)
Serena Deeb: She was the second person to walk out but Serena is probably the person I’m most happy to see compete in this tournament (even more than my favorite in the tournament Kairi Hojo). This is not Serena’s first rodeo in WWE either. Serena played a huge role on Smackdown as a member of the Straight Edge Society where CM Punk shaved her hair completely off on live television on January 22, 2010. Her finisher in WWE was a homage to her SES leader Punk in being a gutbuster version of the GTS. Deeb ended up getting cut from WWE with the rumor being that she wasn’t living out the straight edge gimmick in public. Punk even made a reference to it on Smackdown. I was disappointed because I thought she was really tearing it up in the independents along with Sara Del Rey before and after her release. I thought Deeb had the potential to be the top female in WWE along with AJ Lee. That’s the way FCW was pushing it and Deeb and AJ performed exceptionally well. Another note is she supposedly retired from pro wrestling in 2015 when she had a one-off match with James Storm against Mickie James and Magnus as a part of Storm’s gawd awful Wyatt Family ripoff, The Revolution. Since she’s un-retired, that’s even more reason to be happy for her. I hope she get’s more than just one match here and she would make a great coach or player-coach (a la Brian Kendrick) in NXT/WWE.
Vanessa Borne: I don’t want to rag on Borne too much after what I critiqued about her NXT match this past Wednesday, but she’s still seemed a bit too green. It’s not her fault. It’s just like Aliyah where she should be working more live events. For one she needs to learn to sell better. She also needs to find a better finisher than the move I call “The pick up and put down”. She does have good upside as WWE has mentioned she was a Phoenix Suns cheerleader so the athletics are there. WWE has had some success on Smackdown with former Laker Girl Carmella and Former Orlando Magic Dancer Naomi having success on the main roster.
Xia Li: I’m assuming she’s one of the fresh Chinese recruits. Go China! That’s my motherland. Her fan dance was cool.
Rachael Evers/Ellering: You may know her father as current NXT talent Paul Ellering, the one who cuts the promos for the Authors of Pain. Her father was also the manager of the legendary Road Warriors/Legion of Doom. She’s more than just her father’s daughter. I haven’t seen her compete on a bad match on her side. I’ve seen her do well in live matches. She wrestled Candice LaRae a month or so ago in the APW promotion and looked good with how she added a lot of motion to a Triple Threat without the match falling into a scripted pattern. Evers has competed a handful of times on NXT so it’s interesting that she’s hasn’t been signed to a WWE contract yet, especially when her father is working for NXT. You would think that Paul Levesque would be a huge proponent of her due to her father’s legendary status and her own powerlifting background. Powerlifters are to Hunter are what bikini models were to Big Johnny (Do we call him Johnny Bella now? I digress).
Sage Beckett: Sage has a cool story and if you’ve been watching TNA for a while you may remember her. My memory is vague on this one, but I believe she came into TNA about around the time Awesome Kong was on her way out initially (right before Kong became Karma). Sage was known as Rosie Lottalove and they were billing her as being north of 300 pounds. Man or woman, at about 5’10”, that’s not a healthy amount of body weight to be carrying around. From that time to now she has lost 100+ pounds of weight and developed good conditioning. Good for her. And from what I remember, she was not bad in the ring. She was trained by Brother Ray and Devon Dudley at the Team 3D Academy.
Kay Lee Ray: You may know her if you watch European wrestling promotions. She even wrestles in Progress and has done well there. Like Marty Scurll, Kay Lee Ray was also first received large-scale television exposure from TNA’s British Bootcamp. She was on the second season. I’ve gone on the record in saying I’ve only watched two episodes of that show, but she was solid there. There was an entertaining scene where Nikki Cross clearly outperformed her in an elimination round but the TNA judges went with Ray over Cross, and we got the first glimpses of Crazy Nikki Cross with Nikki straight up having a mini tantrum at getting eliminated. Ray was fine but she was a bit cookie cutter and not as crisp in the ring. She has evolved since then and has added more of a punk rock edge to her. She’s lightening it up n this tournament it seems, as it looks like she’s going for more of a babyface Lita approach. She definitely has the moveset of Lita with good flips and strikes.
Tessa Blanchard: The daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Tully Blancherd. Like Evers, she’s way beyond just having a name (there are no Lacey Von Erich’s in this tournament). Tessa is really good. I feel like I say a lot of people are good, but WWE has done a good job in putting together top tier talent in this tournament. Blanchard did receive a WWE main roster cameo as the hot brunette in the Sheamus and Cesaro bar fight when the Shamus and Cesaro tag team was born. Blanchard is currently dating Ricochet and the reason I bring that up is because via Ricochet (who I see as a living version of Dante from Devil May Cry as far as athleticism is concern), Tessa is also roommates with WWE’s Apollo Crews (f.k.a. Uhaa Nation). What impresses me about that is the amount of immense pro wrestling ability concentrated in one household is off the charts. Just imagine a Ricochet vs. Tessa vs. Crews Triple Threat and imagine the great quality you can get from that (and Tessa has competed in intergender matches before, it’s a part of the pro wrestling experience).
Toni Storm: I felt like I would be writing a lot less, but this goes to show the high-quality talent WWE is bringing aboard for this tourney. Toni Storm vs. Dahlia Black was the first women’s match I watched completely in Progress due to a recommendation from Haydn Gleed, and Storm was one of the better women wrestlers in the industry from what I picked up. She’s so good that Progress decided to make her their inaugural and current Women’s Champion (that and Jinny and Laura Di Mataeo are surely not ready for primetime. especially Laura!). Toni’s matches consist of a lot of high amounts of high energy. She also does a high amount of butt attacks a la Rikishi, but it doesn’t detract from her matches. My favorite thing about Toni Storm is she is one of the users of my favorite finishing move of all time “The Kinniku Buster” (a.k.a Muscle Buster). It’s a move that Samoa Joe took from the same cartoons I watched and it’s actually a devastating finisher! Here’s hoping she lasts so we can get a few Kinniku Busters! By the way, why isn’t Samoa Joe using the Kinniku buster anymore?
Marti Belle: One-third of TNA’s Doll House trio alongside Mia Yim and former WWE-ECW GM Tiffany/Taryn Terrell. Doll House existed in TNA as a Billy Corgan project complete with Courtney Love theme music. Out of the trio, Marti Belle currently has the most to prove. She’s not extremely green like Rebel (Rebel’s my baseline for bad female wrestling). She has had a ton of matches that I’ve reviewed and she really never impressed. One of her weakness is that she seems afraid to hurt her opponent to the point where it shows in her matches. This leads to a lot of her moves missing by a mile to the point where she made Mia Yim (a/k/a Jade in TNA) look bad at times when wrestling against her. The most memorable thing I remember from her is bad run ins and carrying around a random baton. Hopefully in the six months or so that I haven’t seen a Marti match, she has improved. I’m rooting for her.
Lacey Evans: A former Marine with combat background. Lacey first received exposure on WWE’s Breaking Ground. I came out of that show with her as one of my favorite new wrestlers (along with Otis “Cream Cheese” Dozovic who also debuted on the same second episode). William Regal said that in order to be a good promo, you have to let yourself become vulnerable. Lacey caught the eyes of WWE scouts with how she made herself vulnerable by talking about her tough background and life at home along with the struggles she has gone through to get to this point. On Breaking Ground, she looked like a military badass. Now she looks like a ’50s-pinup model (quote Zack Zimmerman for the comparison); and she actually looks completely different and plays the character well. My criticism was she plays the ’50s character a bit too much in her NXT matches. I was impressed by how she added the Military salute in her Mae Young Classic walk to the ring, so here’s hoping she finds a way to mesh both her legit Marine background into her 50s fashionista character.
Santana Garrett: Why hasn’t any major pro wrestling company signed Santana Garrett? She has been front and center in the women’s independent scene for years. If you watch any wrestling promotion’s live events, dark matches, or enhancement matches you’ve probably seen Santana Garrett and she impresses every time. She was with TNA for a little bit as Brittany when the company tired to recreate the Mickie James-Trish Stratus lesbian talker angle between Garrett and Madison Rayne. Garrett didn’t come off as a complete rip-off and performed the character to the best of her ability. I’m not sure if she has a future in WWE yet, only because we always see her in situations like this where she’s a strong and able body for good in-ring action. Hopefully she gets signed soon by someone because there a lot of untapped talent here.
Nicole Savoy: I am unfamiliar with Savoy.
Shayna Baszler: Shayna has a legit MMA background having competed in UFC and is one of the “Four Horsewomen” of MMA, a stable led by Ronda Rousey. The foursome also includes Marina Shafir who appears on WWE television as the legit wife of Roderick Strong. I have seen Shayna wrestle and she has worked for the Northern California APW wrestling promotion where she has worked a lot to improve. Daria Barrinato should look at the way Baszler did her shadow boxing stance in the Parade of Champions and try to replicate that. Daria’s shadow boxing looks very cheesy and is a simple and major detractor from her entrance.
Sarah Logan: To be honest, even though I know of Logan’s reputation as “Crazy” Mary Dobson on the independent scene. She’s been off of my radar. That said, she is signed with WWE and has competed in matches on NXT where she has performed well. So far she’s still in the enhancement phase, as NXT is focusing on other women, but her time will come very soon, especially if Asuka is moving up in the near future and NXT wants to keep up their high standard of women’s wrestling.
Bianca BelAir: No clue about her background; but I have to say, I love her long braided hair. Can she use that as a weapon? Would it be legal? She could maybe even make a lasso out of that thing or even pummel her opponents with that.
Abbey Laith: Better known to the general wrestling public as Kimber Lee. My experience watching her is when she tag teamed with her long time tag partner Cherry Bomb, who currently goes by Allie in GFW-Impact Wrestling. What I remember of their shtick as the Kimber-Bombs is that they played the roles of cutesy Barbie dolls to lull their opponents into a false sense of security before they just straight up kicked ass. Allie has gone on to GFW and become one of the Impact Zone’s most beloved wrestlers. Kimber Lee has the potential to do the same in WWE. The difference with Kimber Lee is that I see her with higher badass potential then her more timid tag partner.
Candice LeRae: It seems like you can attend any independent wrestling show in California and it will include both Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae. Joey, has annoyed me in recent years due to him being a great in-ring talent, yet dumbing his act down to getting beat up and dick suplexes. On the other hand, Candice does some of the Joey Ryan comedy, but she is more like the old Joey, who used to freshen his act up each time I saw him. Let’s take Joey out of the equation, Candice is an indie wrestling legend and can put up great matches against any man or woman. She even goes too far sometimes in taking beating but that’s just how powerful she is.
Mia Yim: Another person I’m happy to see in this tournament. For one she’s representing Blasians (Half-Black/Half-Asian) out there (I prefer to be called AfricAsian American, but that’s just me). Mia Yim is better known to people who watch television as Jade, the former partner Marti Bell and Taryn Terrell. Of Taryn’s two underlings, Yim is the better worker of the to and her style consists of brawling and strong strikes. TNA miscast her for the longest time in my opinion as a Gail Kim clone. They even went so far earlier this year as to have Gail Kim tease retirement and pass the torch to Yim as the “New” Gail Kim. Yim went on from that promo segment and redefined herself with more of a western look as opposed to the pigtails she used to wear. I thought it made her look kickass. She went on to have a series of great hardcore matches against Rosemary of the Decay faction. Just like a lot of people, including Drew Galloway and Matt Hardy, Anthem Sports dropped the ball by letting her go and I think she has top-tier WWE potential as long as they don’t pigeonhole her as an Asian stereotype, because she’s freakin’ American too! In her Parade of Champions march, she held up her purple painted fingernails. That is actually a symbol of her campaign against domestic abuse and how victims should be heard and not be forced to silence themselves.
Jazzy Gabert: I have little familiarity with her, but I dig the mohawk and she looks powerful. She has a good strongwoman look to her and I’d be afraid to piss her off! She has also worked as Alpha Female and had some matches that aired on TNA television.
Kairi Sane: A lot of hype with the girls from the Nippon Stardom promotion lies with Io Shirai. And, yes, I get it, Shirai is probably a better worker due to all of the great technique Shirai has. Shirai can give people suplexes and Canadian Destroyers for days and she’s amazing. In my opinion, Kairi Sane (a.k.a. Kairi Hojo) is the more marketable wrestler and more of the complete package, and she is one of my favorite female wrestlers today. For starters, she can turn the switch from cute to killer in an instant, just as easily as her smile turns into a scowl. She straight up goes into killer mode when those stiff forearms are laid in. Hojo can also throw one hell of a Spear and elbow drop. The thing that separates her from a lot of other wrestlers is her selling ability. She sells like a champ and make you hate her opponent for beating her up. For a match that aired on American television, I would refer you to a match where Hojo played heel on Lucha Underground television where she wrestled Pentagon Jr. Hojo also showed that she can play both heel and babyface via that one off in Lucha. I think she has more upside in WWE if they keep her an eternal babyface, but I doesn’t hurt to have range.