The first four episodes of the Mae Young Classic have dropped on the WWE Network, featuring all 16 matches of the first round. Wrestlezone’s Mike Killam will be dropping a full recap and review of each episode every day this week Monday through Thursday, starting with episode one below.
WWE Hall of Famers Jim Ross and Lita welcome us to the debut episode of the first ever Mae Young Classic.
KAY LEE RAY vs. PRINCESA SUGEHIT
A video package informs us that Princesa Sugehit got the “Princesa” in her name because she was the only woman at the gym she trained at. The 21-year veteran is proud to be representing Mexico in this tournament. Kay Lee was described as a high-flying daredevil with a solid base of strikes and submissions as well, with footage shown of her SHIMMER matches.
A handshake started off our first match as the crowd broke into a “Kay Lee Ray” chant. Sugehit fired off with rapid strikes and went for a series of early pins. Kay Lee stopped a sunset flip and turned it into a Gory Special, but the lucha princess countered into an impressive flip powerbomb. Sugehit went back to the strikes but Kay Lee caught her with a knee to the midsection, followed up with a running Flatliner and immediately transitioned into a Koji Clutch! Princesa slowly fought out of the hold and continued her assault with stiff kicks, throwing in an impressive headscissors takedown for good measure. Kay Lee got her in the Gory Special for a second time, but this time slammed her down hard with a Gory Bomb for a very close nearfall. She climbed the ropes looking for a Swanton Bomb but came up empty, and Sugehit immediately applied an armbar forcing her opponent to tap out.
Princesa Sugehit def. Kay Lee Ray via submisson at 6:10.
KILLAM: A fun opening match that showcased a great deal from both competitors. They got a lot accomplished in a short six-minute window, which is going to be a major test for everyone in the first round. It was clear the crowd expected Kay Lee to win here (I’m a little surprised myself) but they still offered Sugehit a respectful round of applause after the bout. Kay Lee has a tremendous upside as there aren’t many women in WWE as well-rounded, with the more advanced submissions, striking combinations, high-flying stuff and that Gory Special/Bomb that nobody else is doing right now.
SERENA DEEB vs. VANESSA BORNE
A video package tells us that Borne is a former dancer and NFL cheerleader. She’s playing a traditional Diva-style heel and actually stated that nobody in the Mae Young Classic is as good as her. Good luck with what. They mentioned Deeb as a part of the Straight Edge Society with CM Punk and referenced the alcohol use that led to her firing, as well as her seven tours in Japan.
They jockeyed for position to start things off, with Serena taking her down from behind and firing off with two quick arm drags. She went out to the apron but Borne caught her with a headbutt, as JR referenced her Samoan heritage. Borne brought her opponent back into the ring and went to work in the corner before slowing things down with a side headlock. After a beat Deeb struggled out of the hold with a big back suplex, staying on top of her with a facebuster and gutbuster, but couldn’t pick up the pin. She went down to a three-point stance and waited for her opening, but crashed and burned looking for a spear going shoulder first into the ring post. Borne dragged her back to the center and hit a swinging neckbreaker that looked to be the finish, but Serena got her shoulder up just before the three. She fired off with a series of mounted punches and connected with a Samoan Drop, but again Serena kicked out. Borne let the frustration get to her and lost track of what she was doing, and Deeb took advantage shooting off the ropes with a spear to pick up the win.
Serena Deeb def. Vanessa Borne by pinfall at 6:05
KILLAM: This was okay. Vanessa seems to have a grasp of the fundamentals and didn’t look bad out there. They kept it simple and worked at a slow pace, focussing on Borne’s strength and Samoan offense, which is a smart and easy role to play when you only have about 18 months of experience. She has a ways to go still but you can tell there’s talent and a lot of potential there. Serena played underdog, which was fine as they’re playing up her journey of redemption.
SHAYNA BASZLER vs. ZEDA
The video package gives us a look at Zeda, who says she was bullied all her life and began training in martial arts to become the super hero she always needed growing up. They hyped up Shayna’s lengthy career in MMA, showing Ronda Rousey and Marina Shafir of the Four Horsewomen sitting at ringside.
Shayna refused to shake her opponent’s hand before the match and shot in looking for the takedown as soon as the bell rang. Zeda came back with her own submission attempts and the two went back and forth looking to catch the other. Zeda went for a front-mounted choke but Baszler powered her straight up into the air, dropped her down almost into a Bubba Bomb and applied a rear naked choke for the quick submission!
Shayna Baszler def. Zeda via submission at 2:20.
KILLAM: This was really fun for all of two minutes that it lasted. They tried to bring in elements of MMA with Baszler looking for takedowns and Zeda even staying on the mat trying to trap her. Definitely different than anything else you’re going to see in the first round. As much as I really wanted to see more of Zeda the quick finish was totally unexpected, came off great and made Shayna look like a dominant force to be reckoned with.
ABBEY LAITH vs. JAZZY GABERT
Jazzy is not here to have fun, she’s here to bring the destruction and destroy little girls. Good lord. Abbey (the former Kimber Lee) noted that her Alligator Clutch was passed down from Mae Young to her trainers, and then on to her, so she feels like she’s carrying on her spirit in this tournament named after the WWE Hall of Famer.
The crowd reacted immediately to the very sight of Jazzy, who started literally throwing around her opponent like a rag doll as soon as the bell rang. Full Sail loves this woman already. Abbey used her quickness to avoid a few kicks and tried to play some mind games, but it didn’t work out well for her. Jazzy took things to the mat and applied an Anaconda Vice, nearly ripping her opponent’s head off in the process. Laith broke the hold with a headscissors, but the German powerhouse just turned it back into another submission hold. She continued with big shoulders in the corner and fired off with some brutal rights and lefts that looked more effective than Conor McGregor on Saturday night. Abbey fought back and the crowd got behind her; Jazzy did not like that one bit and destroyed her with a stiff right hook that you could hear echo around the building. Laith dodged a splash in the corner and got a choke over the top rope to finally give herself some space. She started throwing kicks trying to chop the big redwood down, but couldn’t pick up the pinfall. Jazzy caught her on the top rope but Laith wriggled free and connected with a variety of kicks all over the body including a scissors kick to the face. She went up top a second time and this time found the Swanton Bomb, but it wasn’t enough. Gabert exploded out of the corner with a massive lariat turning her opponent inside out. She looked to put things away with a crucifix powerbomb, but Laith rolled through and got the Alligator Roll to steal the win!
Abbey Laith def. Jazzy Gabert via pinfall at 7:10.
KILLAM: What an awesome main event. The crowd was on fire and loved both these women, reacting perfectly to Jazzy’s brutal Ivan Drago persona and brutal offense, cheering on the NXT underdog to a great victory. Everything Jazzy did looked like it took a year off her opponent’s lifespan, and she got the best reaction out of anyone on this first episode. She’s going to be a massive star, and it’s a shame we won’t get to see more of her throughout the rest of this tournament.
This was an excellent way to kick off the Mae Young Classic and sell people on coming back for more, even if there’s already three more episodes to watch given their choice of distribution model.
Jim Ross and Lita were solid on commentary, adding insight and backstory to each match without taking away from the in-ring performances. The graphics were sharp, and the video packages before every single match gave you much-needed information so that every bout felt important.
All eight of the competitors so far shined in their own way working a lot of action and personality into some relatively short matches. When you have to narrow down 32 people to a field of 16 in a very short amount of time, the first thing sacrificed is obviously the length of the matches, which can make it tough to establish new talent and tell any kind of story. So far nobody has let that hold them back. Even Zeda, who was only given about two minutes to work and lost, managed to showcase some impressive skill and a personality that makes me want to see more of her. Nobody came off as a throw-away first round filler, which was something I had complained about during the opening weeks of the Cruiserweight Classic.
I don’t know that WWE expected Jazzy to be such a break-out star, or she may have been booked differently. Expect her to show up in NXT as quickly as humanly possible. If I had one very minor complaint it’s just that we won’t get to see all of these women advance (in particular Kay Lee Ray and Jazzy), but that’s a very good place to be in.
We’re off to a great start!
KILLAM’S GRADE: B