The Mae Young Classic returns for its second year with a line-up that looks likely to lap last year’s attempt. They’ve brought back the likes of Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez, then added genuine superstars like Meiko Satomura and Io Shirai to the conversation. Plus, JR isn’t on commentary! Praise the Gods. If WWE gives this tournament time to shine, it could be special. (Quick note, I’m not going to be dishing out star ratings in the first round, they don’t get much time while a lot of these wrestlers are still young in their career. I’m going to stick to thumbs up or thumbs down).
Tegan Nox defeated Zatara
Argh, I don’t want to spoil anything, but watching Tegan Nox speak about coming back from her injury with the knowledge that she has since picked up another one is devastating. Get better soon, Tegan. WWE is clearly high on the former Nixon Newell and she is deserving of that expectation. I know fuck all about Zatara apart from the fact she’s from Chile, sorry.
Nox came into this one as the fan favourite, getting chants right from the get-go. That worked nicely with the story they were telling as Zatara embraced her heel role and began working over Tegan’s previously injured leg. She was the more physical competitor, ramming her knees into Nox’s face and controlling most of the action. In a layout that we saw a lot in last year’s tournament, it only took one mistake for this to turn. Zatara missed a knee to the back of the head and Nox came across the ring with a lovely Shining Wizard for the three.
While there wasn’t anything special about this, the layout of the match allowed both women to show what they can do. Zatara looked good on the attack and got heat from the crowd while Nox was the battling babyface, fighting from underneath and getting the win. Nicely done.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Rhea Ripley defeated MJ Jenkins
Rhea Ripley has gone goth since last year, embracing her inner darkness. I like it. Although she’s apparently a Ronnie Radke fan, so that’s a point in the negative column. MJ Jenkins, meanwhile, has a catchy theme song which instantly endeared her to the Full Sail crowd. We know how far a good tune can get you in that building.
Jenkins is also green as hell as she was clearly here more for the experience than to be a pivotal part of the tournament. She showed some cool athleticism, but you can tell that she’s thinking about what she’s doing. That came to the fore in her selling, as her over the top facials made her look a bit silly. There’s definitely potential there, and she showed a lot of fire. The in-ring work will come eventually.
On the other hand, Ripley has come on leaps and bounds from last year. She towered over Jenkins and used that well, throwing her around the ring and holding her above her head for a delayed suplex. While the heel persona still needs a bit of work (at the moment it mainly involved moaning at the ref), the attitude change seems to have done wonders for her.
It certainly looks likely to take her deep into this tournament as she survived Jenkins firing up and put her away with a Pumphandle Powerbomb. While it will be a while before we see Jenkins making her mark, Ripley seems destined for big things sooner rather than later.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Lacey Lane defeated Vanessa Kraven
Lacey Lane had an eye-catching entrance and was the hometown girl. Vanessa Kraven is a bit witchy, I have no idea if that’s part of her gimmick, it’s just the vibes I’m getting.
Kraven was also twice the size of Lane and the opening minutes saw Lane sneak around her, lashing out with strikes and trying to avoid the power game. She even threw in a bit of Rey Fenix like jumping on the ropes although sadly botched the arm drag that was meant to follow it.
Of course, we all know how this story goes (particularly in WWE). Eventually, Kraven got her hands on Lane, slowed the pace down and started throwing her around. Lacey never crumbled, though. She kept coming back for more and eventually connected with a Crucifix Bomb for the win.
This was a star-making performance from Lacey Lane. She came in as someone I knew nothing about and hit a home run from her entrance to the way she moved around the ring. Even the small botch of the Lucha style Arm Drag didn’t hurt her. Poor Kraven did her job well, but no one is going to be talking about her coming out of this.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Meiko Satomura defeated Killer Kelly
Meiko Satomura is a Japanese veteran, fucking badass and the current Fight Club Pro World Champion although some bastards stole the belt from her. Killer Kelly is not a veteran but is no less of a badass. She’ll boot you in the face and then drop you on your head which has made her a personal favourite. These two facing off should be enough to have you tuning into this show.
Even more so because they went out and had the exact match you’d want them to have. The focus was on strikes with a bit of ground game thrown in as well. Every blow looked like it hurt as they built a contest that felt like a real fight. The simplest mistake was enough to flip the momentum as they crammed a lot into the tiny amount of time they got.
The story, meanwhile, told itself. Satomura came in with years of experience behind her and early on she used that to take Kelly apart. Thankfully, it only seemed to fuel Killer. She battled back matching Meiko strike for strike and almost got the three. Ultimately, Satomura proved too much for her, but Killer Kelly showed what she had.
This wasn’t good for a first round match-up, it was just damn good. Kelly didn’t have the greatest WWE debut on the UK shows, yet she made up for that here, proving what anyone who has seen her before knows. The only downside is that we won’t get to see her go deep into this tournament.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
A fantastic first show from the Mae Young Classic and it already feels like this is setting up to eclipse last year’s action. While the main event was by far the highlight, there wasn’t a dud on this card. Nox, Ripley and Lane all impressed with their opponents doing precisely what they needed to do to get them over. This has set the benchmark high for what is to come next.