WWE has been on a roll with tournaments that feature exclusively outside talent. Last summer, we had the Cruiserweight Classic, which featured great matches like Kota Ibushi v. Cedric Alexander and ended with TJ Perkins as the new Cruiserweight Champion. This January featured a United Kingdom tournament, which had Tyler Bate defeat Pete Dunne to become the first ever United Kingdom Champion.
So now, we’ve come up to the Mae Young Classic, a tournament to celebrate the magnificent women who wrestle all across the world. This week, the first four episodes of the partially pre-taped tournament were released on the WWE Network. These episodes are all one hour each, feature four matches, and cover the entire first round of the tournament. Each weekday, I’ll take you through a relatively brief recap of each episode, so don’t follow along if you don’t want to be spoiled!
Let’s break down the first episode.
Kay Lee Ray v. Princesa Sugehit
This is an exciting kickoff to the tournament. I’ve seen Kay Lee Ray wrestle before in UK companies, but I’m entirely unfamiliar with Princesa Sugehit. I believe she is the first luchadora in a WWE ring, but I could be wrong about that.
Kay Lee Ray is quite a bit taller than her opponent, and big/tall fighting against quick/small is one of the easiest stories to tell in a wrestling ring. She dominates most of the early match with hard hitting strikes. Ray eventually locks her opponent into a submission move that resembles the Koji Clutch, but Sugehit reverses into a pin attempt in order to break it up.
The aggressive Scot lands a scary reverse facebuster but can’t keep her smaller opponent down for the three count. She goes to the top rope for a senton, but Sugehit rolls out of the way. Capitalizing on the miscue, the luchadora locks Kay Lee Ray in an armbar and forces her to tap out.
Princesa Sugehit delivered a solid performance, but I’m just really hoping that Kay Lee Ray is able to stick around with the company in some aspect. I have no knowledge on if she signed a deal or not, but I really hope so.
Serena Deeb v. Vanessa Borne
I’m real thankful for those little pre-match video packages, because I didn’t recognize Serena at all. Those of you who have been watching WWE for a while now might recognize her as a member of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society, you just have to imagine her with a shaved head.
It’s also worth noting that Jessika Carr, the first female referee in WWE, is the officiant in this match.
This will begin to sound like a familiar story, but the more intimidating Vanessa Borne dominates most of the match, and spends the beginning of entirely controlling her opponent. Serena gets a moment of air and tries to get pumped up the crowd, but she ends up running straight into the turnbuckle.
Back on the offense, Borne hits a quick swinging neckbreaker and follows up with a fallaway slam. After another kickout and finding room to breathe, Serena finds the energy to hit her opponent with a spear for the win.
I was really impressed with Serena’s work here, especially considering I don’t remember much of her in-ring work from her previous run.
Shayna Baszler v. Veda
Shayna Baszler is moderately famous as a mixed martial arts fighter and part of Ronda Rousey’s incarnation of the Four Horsewomen, not to be confused with the Charlotte/Sasha/Becky/Bayley version. The crowd is into her from the very second she appears and they never stop.
I don’t know much about Zeda, but I knew that it wouldn’t matter too much before the match even started.
The bell rings and the crowd is already chanting “Shayna’s gonna kill you”, the go-to chant when there’s a monster in the ring. Zeda tries to showboat a little in the corner towards the crowd, but every single person in the arena knows the outcome of this match. Baszler will not lose in the first round.
The match doesn’t get going for very long before Shayna lifts her opponent up and flips her into a rear naked choke for a very quick tap.
The progression of Baszler throughout the tournament will be exciting, for sure.
Abbey Laith v. Jazzy Gabert
I’ve seen some of Abbey Laith’s work under the name Kimber Lee, and it’s all been great. I’m unfamiliar with Gabert, but some very quick research revealed she used to wrestle as Alpha Female, and that makes a lot of sense. She looks like she’d give Ivan Drago a run for his money.
Gabert yanks Laith in real close during the handshake as an intimidation tactic. The smaller woman takes charge after the bell, but her constant strikes aren’t phasing the German whatsoever. Gabert responds by literally throwing her opponent all around the ring as if she was a toy. She locks Laith in a grounded submission and looks to deadlift her, but quickly transitions into another submission (this could’ve been an accident, but they recovered very quickly).
Laith breaks away but traps Gabert in a rope-assisted submission. After letting go, she gets back in the ring and delivers some Daniel Bryan-style kicks to her grounded opponent. Riding the moment, Laith goes to the top rope for a swanton bomb but still can’t keep Gabert down.
Gabert gets back up and hits a vicious lariat, but chooses not to go for the pin. Instead, she sits on Laith and delivers hard strike after hard strike, hoping she’ll stay down. A quick escape later, Laith is able to execute the Alligator Clutch for the win.
This is especially significant as the Alligator Clutch was one of Mae Young’s signature moves, and it was passed down through a wrestling lineage that led to Abbey Laith. This was the best storytelling of the first episode by far, and I really hope the former Kimber Lee gets some room to run in this tournament.
Stay tuned for episode 2!