If you missed my recap of episode 1, be sure to check that out here.
Now that I don’t need to catch you up, we can jump right into the action.
Mercedes Martinez v. Xia Li
I’m pretty sure that I heard Jim Ross say that this was Xia Li’s first professional wrestling match before, which is insane.
Xia Li is a very skilled martial artist, so Mercedes Martinez taunts her by doing the crane kick pose during the handshake. That’s some easy and effective heel heat. While I haven’t seen Martinez wrestle before, I am well aware that she’s held titles in several different promotions, so I trust her to carry this.
This match subverts expectations a little bit, because while Martinez is much taller and with a ridiculous wingspan, Xia Li is in control for much of the beginning. She keeps her opponent stuck on the ground, halting every attempt to rise with stiff kicks. It doesn’t take too long for Martinez to get the upper hand, changing the momentum with a real slick spinebuster that looks better than most of Triple H’s. She locks in a modified dragon sleeper to force Li to tap out.
Five matches in and we already know when of the second round matchups. Mercedes Martinez will be taking on Princesa Sugehit in the next round, which ought to be very exciting. I’ve got predictions, but I’ll save those to the end.
Marti Belle v. Rachel Evers
Rachel Evers is actually the daughter of Paul Ellering, a legendary wrestling manager and currently working with the Authors Of Pain in NXT. I don’t know much about Marti Belle though.
As soon as the bell rings, Marti Belle runs to the corner, forcing the ref to pull Rachel away. She does this again in the opposite corner, which is an unexpected way to get a little heat. Evers finally gets her opponent in the middle of the ring and hits her with a hard scissor kick. She sets Belle up near the corner and performs what I can only think to call a top rope corkscrew leg drop. That might not be what it actually was, but it was innovative and impressive.
Belle goes to the apron and uses the ropes to her advantage. Back in the ring, Belle does a move that looks like Charlotte’s Natural Selection but the opponent is reversed. This forces Evers to switch to a power game. She starts throwing rough forearms and hits a running senton in the middle of the ring.
In the end, Rachel Evers gets the win off of a quick cradle pin, which is a little anticlimactic, but a win is a win especially in a tournament. She’ll be facing off against Abbey Laith in the next round, which should be terrific.
In between matches, it was announced that American Ninja Warrior star Kacy Catanzaro has officially signed with NXT. She’s certainly athletic and has a crowd-winning smile, so here’s hoping she can work in the ring.
Rhea Ripley v. Miranda Salinas
The crowd is IMMEDIATELY into Rhea Ripley and so am I. There’s just something about her presence.
Ripley hits a handful of absolutely beautiful dropkicks throughout this match. They aren’t quite Okada dropkicks, but they’re pretty damn good. In return, the much shorter Salinas works to keep her Amazon of an opponent grounded with plenty of kicks to the chest and a couple of running knees.
Ripley gets back on the attack, delivering moves that look like the Helluva Kick and a Shotgun Dropkick to turn the tides rather quickly. One more standing kick to the side of Salinas’ head and a full nelson slam before the Aussie gets the three-count.
I’m really excited about what I saw from Rhea Ripley, and I hope she gets a decent run in the tournament as well.
Sarah Logan v. Mia Yim
The last match of the episode puts in a bit more backstory than most of the earlier matches. Mia Yim talks about how she revealed her history as a domestic violence victim, and it’s really touching. However, things get a bit tone-deaf when Sarah Logan is introduced and her story amounts to “fun Kentucky girl”. Oops on that one.
The early match is very back and forth between the women as they’re fairly even in size and strength. Logan hits a shoulder tackle and Yim responds with an arm drag. Yim delivers some very stiff kicks, but Logan responds with a headbutt a knee in the ropes. After some more offense, Logan tries to Hulk up between attacks, but Yim’s kicks are too savage and she’s taken down.
Yim brings her opponent over to the ropes in order to use Tajiri’s famous Tarantula submission move. After breaking free, Logan catches Yim in a hip toss followed by a hard running knee. Just as the crowd as getting hot, Yim deadlifts Logan and German suplexes her. To up the ante, Logan hits double running knees and drags Yim up for a top rope fisherman suplex, but neither woman is quite ready to stay down.
The move that ends up finally getting the job done is an inverted stomp facebreaker, giving Yim the win in one of the hardest fought matches we’ve seen so far. Also, that move is really cool to see and hardly ever done.
The worst about this match is that Mia Yim’s victory puts her up against Shayna Baszler in the second round. Yikes.
Stay tuned for episode 3!