Thoughts on… the Mae Young Classic, Episodes 7-8

For the prior recap, click right here.

When last we left the tournament, we made it down to the final eight competitors, which means we’re getting down to the last six matches in this tournament, in the quarterfinals and the semi-finals. The finals proper are on Tuesday, which I’ll be happily commenting on as the night progresses over on Twitter if this sort of thing interests you, but for now, let’s look at the last two episodes of the Classic and how we get to what is a… fairly obvious main event for that show.

Episode Seven, Quarterfinals:

1.) Abbey Laith v. Mercedes Martinez

(The WWE is kind enough to make these graphics, might as well use them.)

Abbey Laith is coming in off of back-to-back awesome matches with Jazzy Gabert and Rachel Evers, and she’s almost certainly going to be tearing it up with Martinez here, though I’m suspecting, going in, that Laith’s going to be the one moving on.

Mercedes Martinez is coming in with solid, but unexciting, wins over a rookie and a veteran, and if she’s moving on here she really needs this to be a killer match, because so far she’s been fine, but hasn’t had as much to work with as we’d want.

The Match was pretty good, and showed what Martinez can really do with a motivated, top shelf opponent like Laith. The commentary started to lay into Martinez having been on the shelf for a bit due to a shoulder injury, which helped explain her sub-optimal showings so far, though as a narrative mechanic it didn’t really factor into this match. All told, though, this was a solid showing for both women, especially the finishing sequence, where Laith got desperate and kept trying to just lay in the Alligator Clutch, only for Martinez to make her pay for it.

My Final Thoughts are that I think having Martinez move on here would’ve made a lot more sense if not for the events of the next match, for reasons we will discuss when that time comes.

2.) Candice LaRae v. Shayna Baszler

Candice LaRae is not winning this match.

Shayna Baszler is winning this match.

The Match was all angle advancement, to be blunt about it. Scott Keith called a “short but fun” match, and that’s not entirely inaccurate; it’s definitely short, clocking in at about half the time of the rest of the matches on the show, and it’s fun because LeRae is doing the majority of the work. Put another way: the majority of this match is LeRae wrestling around Baszler, and the three minutes of the match was “Baszler takes LeRae down and pushes LeRae around, LeRae comes back and hits a bunch of neat shit, Baszler counters the Wild Ride into a tapout, then refuses to let go like a jerk.” Baszler, aside from the foot pushing, hit three moves, pretty much, and that’s probably the best way to disguise her weaknesses, but it was mostly smoke and mirrors.

My Final Thoughts are that they do a lot of good work to establish Baszler as a mega douche heel here, and, uh, remember that in a bit.

3.) Toni Storm v. Piper Niven

Toni Storm is coming into this match looking astonishingly good as a worker, relatively speaking, and is probably one of the biggest surprises to come from this tournament as it relates to time pro versus skill level.

Piper Niven is coming into this match looking awesome as hell and she almost certainly is going to be a huge star in WWE so long as they sign her and don’t turn her into a joke five minutes later.

The Match was a great escalating match, as the two started off with a friendly rivalry in the beginning before slowly increasing their output, not unlike a NJPW match in its pacing. The finishing sequence was exactly what the match needed as well, from Piper’s reluctance to that delay giving Storm a chance to recover and capitalize, and honestly, it’s a shame either had to lose here.

My Final Thoughts are that both of these ladies deserve a contract if they don’t have one already, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them teaming or feuding by 2018.

4.) Kairi Sane v. Dakota Kai

Kairi Sane is winning this match, but I’m a lot happier about knowing this in advance than I was above.

Dakota Kai is fresh off of carrying two rookies to solid matches, meaning this match should be the opportunity she gets to tear shit up with a top-shelf worker before being knocked out of the tournament.

The Match was… well, maybe it was the hype of what I expect from these two, but this didn’t click like I’d hoped it would. Was it good? Absolutely. But as much as I enjoyed it, there was a lot of wasted motion here, like a sequence where Sane went up, Kai followed her up and knocked her down, and then just… jumped down and went back to offense. To be fair, Kai was wearing what looked to be a compression brace on her knee and was selling the knee a bit, so it’s possible she was working hurt.

My Final Thoughts are that I suspect these two have a better match in them, and since both have contracts with WWE, I’d expect we’ll get to see that match sooner rather than later.

Episode Eight, Semifinals:

1.) Shayna Baszler v. Mercedes Martinez

We went through their status, so I’m just skipping it here.

The Match was essentially meant to be a “student/teacher” deal, in that Baszler studies under Martinez, so Martinez spends much of the match showing up Baszler, only for Baszler to surpass the master. Baszler’s clearly learning, still, as witnessed by her “stand up, stomp a bit, THEN go to the pinning combo into the kneebar” sequence, but this was the most comfortable she’s looked. A lot of the middle portion was drama more than anything else (IE the overlong slap fight that the fans eventually gave up on) and Mercedes beating the shit out of Baszler, which would be fine for a plucky babyface but not for a shithead heel.

My Final Thoughts are that, hah, remember how Baszler was a complete shit to Alexis LeRae above? Yeah, the fans did, so they mostly shit on everything Baszler did in this match and didn’t much care that she won, despite the presentation of the event and the post-match. I get that it was a big deal between her and Martinez, but you’re not going to convince the fans to feel good about that win when Baszler is clearly a jerk (in character).

Also, for as much as they talked up the arm injury for Martinez, it mostly ended up not even being a factor, which was… really weird in retrospect.

2.) Kairi Sane v. Toni Storm

(They didn’t do a tale of the tape for this match for some reason, or at least I didn’t see it, so have this faceoff pic instead.)

The Match was mostly excellent, showing both that Sane is a crazy person and Storm is definitely ready for NXT as is. A dive to the outside looked like it was going to be a concern, and is probably where Sane got the concussion it’s been rumored she received (to the point where there are clear grate marks on her face afterward), but otherwise this match was surprisingly good, to the point that I honestly don’t think the final match proper is going to do anything to better it.

My Final Thoughts are… okay, let’s just break this off.

So, at this point, the final match is looking to be Kairi Sane v Shayna Baszler, which is… basically being done because Baszler is the money prospect at the moment, and that’s… fine in and of itself. The rumor seems to be that whoever wins this match will also win the NXT Women’s Championship, which would be asinine as hell for a myriad of reasons (not the least of which being, “Let’s give the belt to this brand new person who’s never been a part of the brand instead of literally any of the people who have been here for one or more years,”), and conventional wisdom is that either way, Baszler is mostly here to set up a long-term Four Horsewomen v Four Horsewomen match with the WWE Women (Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley) facing off against the MMA Women (who we identified previously as Baszler, Marina Shafir, Jessamyn Duke and Ronda Rousey), and, if we’re being honest, this is being done pretty much entirely to get Rousey into the WWE to get the one or two paydays the WWE thinks it can get from her before her name value bottoms out altogether.

As such, to say that this tournament has been “good, but” has been an understatement, for two key reasons:

1.) The Cruiserweight Classic at least featured top talents all over the card, and

2.) No one gives a shit about anyone but Rousey.

The major difference between the CWC and the MYC is that even though the former was basically always going to end with a WWE contracted worker winning, it featured a lot of top shelf talent all over, and even if you don’t like TJ Perkins (and let’s be clear, I don’t), he worked his ass off in the tournament and absolutely made that win count, making it feel more vital when he won the title in the process. Compare this to the MYC, where Baszler has been carried through her matches up to this point, not because she’s bad, but because she lacks the tools to BE at the level WWE wants her to be at, and then imagine how fast the bloom is going to fall off of that rose when the system isn’t protecting her anymore, which, real talk, will happen before the Survivor Series match, if there is one. If Sane wins, at least that frees Baszler up to train extensively along with the rest of her crew for the relevant angle and match, but if she becomes NXT women’s champ, not only is she going to be exposed stupid fast, but she’s also going to either have to obliterate all comers or she’s going to have to be used sparingly, and neither is a great solution after almost two years with Asuka as champ; I love Asuka, don’t get me wrong, but fuck Baszler, it’s Ember Moon’s time to shine.

The larger problem, though, is that the end result of a Horsewomen v Horsewomen match is “Rousey wins, somehow,” and real talk: absolutely no one gives a single, solitary shit about anyone on the MMA side but Rousey. WWE doesn’t have a huge crossover market with MMA, but even if they did it’d end up with the hype for this match being… interesting; to be blunt, if you don’t know anything about MMA, you’ve probably only ever heard of Rousey, but if you do, you know that Baszler’s a wash-out from MMA with a 15-11 record who was released from UFC in 2015 and went to wrestling as a result, Duke is a washout from MMA who has a 3-5-1 record (and the 1 was a fight where she lost but the fight was thrown out) who turned to wrestling (presumably) as a result, Shafir has a pro record of 1-2 and is so otherwise unnotable that she doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page (but is mentioned on Rousey and Roderick Strong’s pages), and Rousey has lost her last two fights and is expected to retire by basically everyone, including Dana White himself.

Now, I want to be clear: my beef isn’t with WWE doing this match (because it’s clearly happening); my beef is with the fact that, if it does happen, it’s been set up by way of co-opting an entire tournament toward getting one person over as a killer so that the network fans will know who someone other than Rousey is, all so that we can have a PPV match where the four biggest faces in the WWE women’s division (well, more or less) job to the star from outside of the company, or, failing that, lose via shenanigans to set up a Wrestlemania match between Rousey and either Charlotte or Stephanie McMahon, if the rumors are to be believed.

So, y’know. I’m hoping all of that doesn’t happen, but if it does, well, I just hope there’s a good match to be had in there somewhere. Here’s hoping Sane/Baszler is good. We’ll find out Tuesday.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on… the Mae Young Classic, Episodes 7-8

  1. Good write up, I liked that you put good perspective on how they worked the match instead of the typical list of moves done and a star rating.

    Man to me the sloppiest was Evans first round match, there are point of dire miscomminucation where they completely fuck up spots like choking an opponent on the ropes. Her finisher is a bit dangerous for someone either mistiming or badly communicating spots.

    With you on Mercedes/Baszler, weird mix of booking both as heels, having arm/shoulder moves used previously against Martinez (even the announcers were like let’s see if it plays into this…nope I guess not), and theteacher/student thing certainly would’ve made more sense if they had done any kind of build up for that previously.

    Also hated the 4 horsewomen vs horsewomen bullshit for the same reason that it took the focus off of the current tournament. Plus great 3 other women of Bazsler’s level or even more green makes me more concerned for the future health of the awesome female wrestlers. At least Omega when he wrestled a blow up doll didn’t have to worry about it dropping him on his head.

    Toni Storm I didn’t care for the Mad Moxxy look but when she gets out there and goes, whoo. I’m a fan.

    Bel Air match from the last round was the first time I’ve seen someone get real heat, not X-Pac ‘oh fuck this guy’ heat or ‘boo because it’s expected heat’ but actual fan rage. That was awesome.

    Piper is pretty much the wrestler that Nia Jax wishes she was. She’s awesome and I hope she gets a contract.

    Even Karen went ‘Oh fuck is this all just to get Rousey? That’s bullshit to all the women involved’ while watching as it became apparent. At least I hope it becomes more about becoming a contender for the title and not for the title itself as you mentioned for all the reasons you stated as well. I know they’re probably not interested in yet another network exclusive show but if they had a women’s wrestling show with Piper, Toni, Bel Air, Jazzy, Candice, Dakota, Mia Yim, Tessa, Rachel, Santana, Abbey, some of the NXT women like Ember/Ruby/etc, they could have a helluva show and try to cross-promote it as the new GLOW.

    Of course champions would only be determined by who was willing to be on Total Bellas.


    • I didn’t particularly think the Evans/Conti match was GOOD, but I don’t know if I think Evans is unsafe so much as she just doesn’t get basic ring psychology, but I don’t think, from looking at her, that she’s likely to hurt anyone. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t think she’s THAT bad, just needs to work on the basics a bit more.

      I honestly hope Storm and Niven get contracts out of this, as they’re both basically ready for a WWE Ring as-is, with minimal NXT integration needed. Belair would probably be a fun addition to the Billie Kay/Peyton Royce group on NXT, since Belair can work a decent match and has a similar “fuck you” vibe to her, and I feel like she’d probably be a good heel gimmick-wise, though if they hire a couple of the better workers from this tournament she may end up being someone who gets lost in the shuffle, which would be a shame if so.

      Honestly, if they’d done a thing where Baszler turned on Martinez, refused to show her respect, et al, their match would’ve worked better, but the sudden shift from “choking out LeRae and kicking her post-match” to “respectful match between master and student” was jarring, and it didn’t make me care about Baszler even a small bit. The fact that she is probably going to be the BEST worker of the MMA Four Horsewomen tells me that Rousey is probably going to be used to do like three moves and stand there otherwise, Baszler will work the majority of the match, and the other two will basically job fast and get out. Just speculating, but that seems the most logical booking, when Baszler has been training two years and looks like THIS, and the others have maybe trained for months at MOST. I’m absolutely not on board with this being an exercise in building to a Rousey payday, but that’s almost certainly their end goal, regardless of anything we may want.

      I, too, would be interested in an all women’s show, because lord knows it wouldn’t have to deal with the nonsense 205 Live has to go through; they could utilize it as a Women’s NXT sort of deal and film it out of Full Sail, then shuffle workers between Raw/Smackdown and the show to allow people to learn to work properly as well as freshen themselves up after being off the touring roster for a month or whatever. I doubt that’s their PLAN but we’ll see.


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