By April Lavalle
There are Mae Young Classic spoilers ahead. Duh.
If you haven’t watched the Mae Young Classic yet, do that now. I don’t care if you are at work, with the family, or operating heavy machinery– you need to stop everything and sit down to watch some the all-women’s tournament as soon as possible. The Mae Young Classic features awesome new talent, seriously good wrestling, and…dare I say it…a lot of heart. If this is any indication of what’s to come, we are in for some great times ahead on NXT and the women’s division of the main roster.
Although I enjoyed most of the matches, here are my five favorite from the tournament. Feel free to disagree, just don’t be a jerk about it.
5. Piper Niven (Scotland) vs. Toni Storm (Australia)
These two wrestlers really stood out in all their matches throughout the competition, so it only made sense that when they went head-to-head, some sort of wrestling magic happened. Piper never shies away from big moves, and brings power and quickness to her matches. Toni Storm has the rockstar attitude with the in-ring ability to back it up. This match started slow, but picked up after the two faced a stalemate while in a double bridge, breaking it to shake hands— a really fun moment.
These two worked together beautifully, but in the end, Storm picked up the win after executing a leg drop from the top rope.
4. Kairi Sane (Japan) vs. Tessa Blanchard (USA)
The crowd was already electric, most likely to see fan-favorite Kairi Sane’s debut in the competition, and neither wrestler let them down in this impressive matchup. This match had a real push-and-pull dynamic, with both Blanchard and Sane dominating for stretches of time. Unlike matches that have a clear rise and climax, these two had people guessing the whole way. Blanchard really showed her strength here, proving herself a hard striker who is not afraid to pull a cheap-shot in order to get ahead. Great display by both women, but Sane put Blanchard away in the first round.
Something tells me that we will be seeing a lot of Tessa Blanchard in the future, despite her premature elimination from the Mae Young Classic.
3. Shayna Baszler (USA) vs. Mia Yim (South Korea)
This may not have been the flashiest match in the Mae Young Classic, but seeing these two powerhouses go head-to-head was extremely exciting. Both women used their martial arts experience to punish their opponent, delivering strikes that hurt to watch, but in the end, Baszler came out on top after countering a 450 from the top rope. There is nothing better than a really good counter, and this match had a few of ‘em.
All in all, the two women seemed really evenly-matched throughout, and both were able to show why they are some of the toughest competitors in Mae Young Classic.
2. Jazzy Gabert (Germany) vs. Abbey Laith (USA)
Jazzy Gabert and Abbey Laith closed out the first episode of the Mae Young Classic with a real “David and Goliath” story. Gabert proved why she is called the “Alpha Female” early on, tossing the 5’4” Laith around the ring like a rag doll. But Laith came back from every hit with double the effort, wearing down Gabert over the course of the match rather than trying to dominate the un-dominatable woman. Gabert gets some really great “monster” moments in the match, stomping around the ring and loosing her temper as Laith buzzes around her like an annoying fly she is unable to squash. In the end, Laith pulled off her long-con and was about to roll Gabert up in the alligator clutch, an homage to the tournament’s namesake.
Roll up finishes aren’t usually my thing, but after the performance Laith put on here, it felt totally earned.
PS. It is now my dream to be crushed by Jazzy Gabert.
1. Kairi Sane (Japan) vs. Bianca Belair (USA):
It is no secret that Kairi Sane is a fan favorite, and many speculated that she would go all the way the minute it was announced she would be competing. However, Bianca Belair made it very clear that she is not to be forgotten. The match started with Belair dominating Sane, using her strength (my god, her ARMS. HER ABS!!) to keep down her competitor, before lashing Sane with her signature braid. I was seriously impressed with Belair’s move set, and she utilized every spot in this match to show that she is someone to keep your eye on.
After taking a serious beating, Sane eventually rose like the lovable pirate Phoenix she is to put Belair away with her fatal elbow drop, but every last second of this match was really fun. Even though I predicted Sane would win before the bell even rang, Belair really had me questioning what the outcome would be throughout.
Mercedes Martinez (USA) vs. Shayna Baszler (USA)
Kairi Sane (Japan) vs. Toni Storm (Australia)
Candice LeRae (USA) vs. Shayna Baszler (USA)
Dakota Kai (New Zealand) vs. Kavita Devi (India)
Six Wrestlers WWE should sign
In the end, Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler will be competing for that giant trophy that looks like a fancy ice sculpture, but really, the exposure many of these women received during the Mae Young Classic is invaluable. In that sense, as cheesy as that sounds, everyone’s a winner (deflated balloon sound). But seriously, if WWE doesn’t screw this up, we could be in for a long-overdue renaissance in women’s wrestling. Signing and utilizing these competitors can expand the division enough to potentially allow multiple belts, maybe a women’s tag team title, and more competition for those already on the main roster and in NXT who have been stuck in the same tired matches over and over.
The finals are on Tuesday after Smackdown Live, and I am eager to see how these two incredible wrestlers with two completely different styles decide to annihilate each other, but I have a feeling that no matter who walks away victorious, the real winners here will be the fans.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...