After what feels like an eternity the Mae Young Classic is finally here. I have been a fan of the other Network-exclusive tournaments that the WWE has put on and I am thoroughly looking forward to this one as there are some wrestlers that I really like competing. Much like the Cruiserweight Classic I expect some of the first round matches to be a little underwhelming due to the experience difference but as the tournament progresses the standard will increase.
What immediately stands out is that Kairi Sane, Toni Storm and Shayna Baszler are all in different quadrants of the draw. The most competitive on paper is the upper left quadrant with Gabert, Martinez and Laith all in with a shot, though one of those goes home tonight.
Round 1 - Kay Lee Ray vs Princesa Sugehit
Pretty good way to start off the tournament. I have seen Kay Lee Ray wrestle on numerous occasions and she has improved a lot over the years and is now a very good wrestler. I don't know a great deal about Princesa Sugehit as lucha is the weakest part of my wrestling knowledge, so I'm going in with fresh eyes. They worked a good back and forth match that maintained a good pace throughout. Ray looked the better of the two here, with her work coming off as a touch more crisp than that of the 21 year veteran. Sugehit picked up the win, which I should have seen coming considering she is the only Mexican competitor in the field. ***
Round 1 - Serena Deeb vs Vanessa Borne
This was experience vs youth. That isn't actually true as there is only 3 years between them but Deeb is far more experienced. Borne has good personality but it was clear as day that she needs a lot more time to work on the wrestling side of things. They worked a simple match with Borne being in control before Deeb came back to establish her redemption storyline. It was wise to put Borne with an experienced hand who could lead her through the match. **
Round 1 - Shayna Baszler vs Zeda
Baszler is one of the Four Horsewomen of MMA. The other three members of that group (Ronda Rousey, Marina Shafir & Jessamyn Duke) were in the crowd. They were always likely to go all in on her and that's what happened here. Zeda got the upper hand temporarily but this annoyed Baszler who choked her out with ease. This was too short for a sensible rating.
Round 1 - Abbey Laith vs Jazzy Gabert
Heading in to the tournament this was one of the hardest to pick of the first round matches. Laith previously wrestled under the name Kimber Lee, Gabert was formerly known as Alpha Female. This was the best match of the episode. Gabert used all of her strength advantage to take control of the match but Laith played the scrappy underdog and kept coming back. The crowd was into this more than the previous matches and that helped it feel more important. It was a nice touch that Laith ended this first episode by winning with the Alligator Clutch, a move that was made popular by Mae Young. ***1/2
As this has more of a TV show feel rather than an individual show vibe I will just be giving my thoughts, rather than a grade. This was a good start to the tournament, with the main event standing out as the best match, but all of them doing the job that was needed of them. Hopefully the commentary improves though as it seems a touch robotic at this point.