We are now in the Sweet Sixteen of the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament. We started with 32 competitors from all over the world and now the field halves, as we progress ever closer to crowning the first ever winner. This episode was chocked full of action from the opening bell and didn’t slow down for one second, and out of the four winners crowned tonight it was the Japanese Senstation, Kairi Sane who stood tall by show’s end, once again having cemented herself as someone who will flourish in WWE.
Kairi Sane def. Bianca Belair No disrespect to AJ Styles, and I said it last time, but Kairi Sane is phenomenal.
This is coming from someone who has only seen two full matches of hers. Both of which haven’t been five star bouts by any stretch. But it is her character, drive, heart and determination that won me over, as well as approximately 100% of the Full Sail audience tonight.
She was and still is one of the talking points of the whole Mae Young Classic, and going into her second-round match with arguably the best pure athlete of the field, Bianca Belair, the result seemed obvious once again. But everyone knew they were in for a treat because Kairi Sane is being treated as a big deal.
That is because she is.
I liked Belair’s viciousness that came out prominently as she utilised her tremendously long hair, whipping Sane like the proverbial government mule (which JR did not mention)! It sounded like a whip it was that fierce. Belair’s hair is one of her most discernible qualities, given that she doesn’t have much wrestling experience to go by (1 year max), and in her first round match with Sage Beckett, it was what essentially gave her exactly what she needed to power through.
Sane did not quit, though. She has such admirable determination and a will to win that I have not seen since the likes of Mick Foley. You can see the passion and tenacity in her face when she progresses through her matches that makes you root for her out of instinct alone. You feel sorry for the punishment she is taking, which by Belair’s standards was excruciating. Belair’s athleticism and raw power, including a vertical suplex (squats included) and a menacing (and surprising) 450 Splash wasn’t enough to put the Japanese warrior down for the count.
Belair had the imposing demeanour of a vociferous bully as the match progressed, and Sane’s veteran instincts came out for a split second as she regained a moment of control. One axe kick, running forearm and spectacular diving elbow later and Sane gets the 3 count to proceed into the Quarter Finals.
This felt like a final match to me, and I wouldn’t be upset if it was. Sublime stuff all around.
Kudos to Belair who had a rather uneventful first round, and much the same in the other matches of the second round so far, I felt more invested in her.
But Sane could very well win this entire thing. Better things are still to come.
Abbey Laith def. Rachel Evers From the get-go, we knew the second round was going to be better in terms of quality. It would obviously go without saying that a lot of the viewers are seeing these competitors for the first time, and having seen one match, there is still that familiarity when they face off with someone they already somewhat know. It gives matches just that little bit more meaning.
Yet Abbey Laith and Rachel Evers put on a clinic and it seemed as if they had been wrestling each other for ages.
An interesting babyface-babyface match to start the tournament, and an invested crowd from the opening bell gives the second round more of a competitive feel. Abbey Laith is someone who exhibits natural charisma and elegance in the ring, and whilst we know of Evers’ lack of fluidity and timing issues, her power is exceptional and it delivers in big moments. That was no different here.
The crowd reacted to Evers surprisingly enthusiastically, who had something of a dead match with Marti Belle in the first round, while Laith had a decent upset victory against Jazzy Gabert. Evers’ selling always feels off, but Laith brought a much-needed touch of speed and high-flying ability early on. The first-round bouts were more about ‘feeling out’ the competitors, studying them effectively and just ended up rather ‘okay’ and ‘standard’. This felt like a WRESTLING match, much like the main event.
Full Sail chanted “Women’s Wrestling” for the first time in the Mae Young Classic during this match, as Evers and Laith continued to dish out move after move. The two women just fed off each other and the crowd and it made for great chemistry.
Laith is another star who has potential to go very far in this tournament. Her Alligator Clutch finisher alone sets her apart from the rest and the aptly named tournament could well be hers for the taking.
This is why I like tournaments where we get thorough sonances of character and unpredictability.
Piper Niven def. Serena Deeb Piper Niven has all the tools.
She has power, agility, dynamism and uniqueness.
Serena had one thing and that was an edge in experience (arguably). WWE fans know of her as this accomplished proven athlete wanting a second chance in the company and she knew of the challenge that Niven is. Hence why the match had a nice dynamic.
Serena went to weaken the larger Niven by any means necessary. She went for Niven’s head where just even a slight semblance of a level vertical base would spell the end for her. Niven fought off every strike, every headlock, every move Serena could dish out, which included a SLICK looking stunner-neckbreaker.
It was interesting as Niven played something of a woman in peril, where normally she is a venomous unforgiving monster who dominates opponents out of sheer joy. This wasn’t the case here. Although I wasn’t expecting that presentation here, it was a nice change of pace.
In hindsight it even makes more sense as Serena, showing just how much she wanted to prove to everyone she is better than she was, would do literally anything to take down Niven, who everyone knows is no slouch. Her Michinoku Driver is just so much more dangerous looking that any opponent should take notice.
It wasn’t an amazing bout, but we came out knowing that Niven could prove to be the difference maker in the Quarter Finals.
She is already poised for great things in WWE and won over the Full Sail audience completely tonight, who had been chanting her name consistently. If her match with Santana wasn’t enough, this will seal the deal.
Beware of Piper Niven.
Mercedes Martinez def. Princesa Sugehit One of the talking points of tonight’s recap is just how experienced the field is now. Mercedes Martinez and Princesa Sugehit are both tremendously accomplished wrestlers who fed off each other very well, even if the match didn’t live up to the quality of the other three.
In fairness, it was up against three very highly enjoyable matches in their own right. Nothing should be discredited from either woman.
It felt very lucha libre at times, but pacing and timing hurt the presentation and execution. Martinez is naturally gifted at any methodical game she plays in the ring, but she excels purely as a brawler who thrives off vicious attacks.
Even by going for the Three Amigos, Martinez showed more of a cutting edge. She hit two of them, then poised Sugehit on the ropes, and hit a gnarly DDT.
That’s just nasty.
I love it.
What was also interesting is the focus on Martinez’s shoulder, who sold it brilliantly at the end as she had difficulty raising her hand. Martinez’s Fisherman Buster spelled the end for the CMLL Cup 2016 winner, whose Wonder Woman costume did not pay dividends as many may or would have hoped.
Now we have Laith versus Martinez in the Quarter Finals, and I’m stoked about it. Martinez’s heelish tendencies could play very well to Laith’s babyface strengths, and vice versa.
Well I certainly could not have hoped for a better second round of the Mae Young Classic. I wasn’t sure what to expect in a nutshell. I knew for starters I’d be more invested in the characters and bouts of the participants. But sixteen unique personalities are a lot to remember, so by the time the bell rang, I just tried to immerse myself in the action as much as possible.
And I enjoyed it more because of it, I think.
This episode gets an 8.75/10. Truthfully, I’m being generous on my grading. I’d say the first round episodes should be a point lower, because just how this episode flowed, I know the next round is going to be even better.
How could it not?
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