With the Mae Young Classic drawing to a close later today, one thing I wanted to talk about before the final show isn’t the great field of competitors in the tournament, but the competitors not in the tournament. The thing is, while the WWE has been relatively interested in women’s wrestling as a thing to be given significant time on their shows for the past couple of years now, women’s wrestling as a thing to take seriously has been around for a lot longer than that, between the indies and other countries, and it’s worth noting that there are all sorts of stars who have come out of that environment, even if they might not be on WWE’s radar for… one reason or another. So, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a few talents who probably could have and, in an ideal world, should have been in the Mae Young Classic, but weren’t for… more than likely a few reasons.
Io Shirai was actually going to be in the tournament, but if you haven’t heard the story by now, the gist is that Shirai, during a routine medical checkup by the WWE, was informed that she had a non-specific neck injury and was advised to rehab it before starting. Once her rehab had completed, however, the WWE ultimately reneged on their contract offer to her, so she ended up going back to Stardom in Japan, where she’s already a top draw anyway, so. This one is a case of bad luck more than anything else, and while it’s frustrating that a woman who is quite possibly one of the top five women’s wrestlers in the world didn’t get a contract out of this, let’s be honest: if Kairi Sane and Asuka get over the way we want them to, WWE will be begging Shirai to come in by 2018, and if they don’t, it’s probably in Shirai’s best interests to stay in Japan.
Meiko Satomura is basically one of the best women’s wrestlers ever, and as an added bonus, also runs Sendai Girls, a Japanese wrestling federation that’s… probably a bit closer to a training school given its small roster, but I’m not the one running it, so. Either way, she’s been in Chikara a few times and actually spent a bit in WCW during the brief period where they pretended to give a damn about women’s wrestling, plus she’s still at an age and talent level where WWE likely wouldn’t turn up their noses at her. However, being as how she runs her own talent group in Japan, WWE probably wasn’t interested in reaching out to her since, frankly speaking, she wouldn’t sign with them and they probably aren’t interested in trying to make a talent exchange deal in this day and age, so it’s understandable why they wouldn’t have thought about this being an option.
Cheerleader Melissa is someone who probably should get a run in WWE, but during the time period when she would have been available, they were hiring fitness models and training them to wrestle, and now that they’re looking for people who have aptitude in the craft first, she’s locked up into a Lucha Underground contract for… probably the next year at least. If Lucha Underground is going well for her, good, but this definitely feels like a lost opportunity, and one that’s probably well deserved.
MsChif is another person who was a huge part of the underground swell of women’s wrestling over the past several years, but unlike Melissa, who she tore it up with for years, by all indications MsChif is apparently perfectly happy not being a WWE type superstar, as she’s a full-time biochemist (or something in a related field) and probably doesn’t need to throw herself at the ground as a full time job. Having her show up for a brief run in the tournament would’ve been fun, but I can see this not being a thing that was likely to happen, even if it’s kind of disappointing in context.
Ayako Hamada is someone I’ve had a soft spot for ever since her first TNA run, mostly because her gear aesthetic is cool and she’s a good worker in general, so she will probably always be on a short list of female workers I want to see a company pick up until the day she retires. She worked a bunch for AAA this year, though, so it’s probable she’s under contract with them, especially since they put their AAA Queen of Queens Championship on her for a little bit, but if she’s not, what the hell WWE? Assuming she is under contract, however, just add her name to the list that I hope makes it there eventually, if not now.
Basically any retired WWE worker, just for a one-shot deal where they put over someone the WWE is high on. Could you imagine Molly Holly coming out of retirement and putting over someone in the tournament? As the kids say, it would make the crowd go banana. That said, the possible field of women’s wrestlers who are 1.) notable enough that the fans would pop, 2.) actually good workers in the first place, 3.) in the shape to go for ten minutes in the ring and 4.) actually willing to do this thing is probably fairly low, but it’s not like Victoria didn’t work some Chikara matches last year, so.
Okay, let’s get down to the list proper.
5.) Awesome Kong
Awesome Kong, AKA Kia Stevens, is, in theory, someone you’d think would’ve made an appearance in WWE at some point in the past few years, since of the people on this list, she’s one of the few who has worked for them already. While Kong has been a force in women’s wrestling, both in the US and in Japan, for years, her one and only WWE run was, sadly, kind of a disappointment, for reasons that are unfortunately out of anyone’s control. However, Stevens has made noise several times since her departure about wanting to come back to WWE, and between her relatively high profile in women’s wrestling (thanks to multiple TNA runs) and her recent appearance in the Netflix Glow series, it seems surprising that Stevens wasn’t given a call to at least run a couple of matches in the tournament, even if a full-time contract wouldn’t have been on the table.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d imagine that Kong’s lack of presence in the tournament probably comes down to the way in which she left the WWE (as she’s speculated about this herself) as well as her two relatively high profile terminations from TNA. Her WWE departure was honestly outside of her control, and without getting into the specifics of the events (since it’s pretty personal and not a thing that needs rehashing), it’s possible that the WWE looked at how things went and simply decided that the relationship was one they didn’t wish to pursue, right or wrong. It’s also worth noting that, while smacking Bubba the Love Sponge in the mouth for being a racist asshole (the first time she was fired from TNA) was entirely warranted, picking a fight with Matt Hardy’s wife (the second time she was fired from TNA) was… probably less so, and since Matt is back with WWE at this point, that probably doesn’t help things. She’s also cited poor health in recent years as being a factor in her wrestling less, though she does still continue to work matches, so who knows at this point?
4.) Malia Hosaka
The short answer I would provide if someone pointed at this entry and ask “Wait, what?” is “My mother was friendly with her and I respect that,” but it’s worth noting that Hosaka is no slouch in the ring, and since she’s still going in matches here and there, it would’ve been nice to see her come in, even if only to put over someone in the first round. Hosaka is a legit talented wrestler who’s been working in the business for decades at this point, and she’s not only worked for WCW, WWE, ECW (back when it was Eastern Championship Wrestling, mind you) and TNA, but she’s also been a solid staple of the indies for years. Hell, I’ll even take it a step further and note that I watched her walk a green as goose shit AJ Lee through what was presumably one of her very first matches at the time without missing a single step, and when you’ve worked with so much talent over such a long period and are still going, that’s not nothing.
If I had to venture a guess, Hosaka probably wouldn’t have been included for, well, the same reason someone like Terry Funk isn’t stepping into the ring; accumulated injuries over time probably mean she likely wouldn’t pass a WWE physical at this point. She’s also at a point where she’s unlikely to see a contract offer, since her last run with the company was in the late 90’s, and while having a few more veterans in the ring would’ve probably helped out in getting over the newer talent, it’s possible that WWE is looking for veterans who have either a longer corporate upside or larger name recognition.
Also her Wikipedia page has been vandalized like eight times, and when I checked it for info today still had vandalism on it, so I’m… guessing she has some heat. Just a possibility.
Look, if you don’t know who Super Hardcore Anime LuFisto is, I’m not sure me trying to explain it is going to help, but I’ll give it a shot. LuFisto has been an active women’s wrestler for two decades at this point, and like many of the others in the tournament, has wrestled all across the world, including the CZW, Shimmer, Shine, AAA, NCW in Canada and more, and she’s generally regarded as being a great talent. She’s worked all over the world, she’s talented, and apparently she’s super nice from what I’m told; honestly, what’s not to love about any of that?
That said, while talent goes far in getting a look from the WWE, age almost certainly plays a factor in their decision making, and the fact that LuFisto is *cough* my age probably didn’t help her chances; whether I agree with that or not (and let’s be clear, I don’t), it’s almost certainly a real factor, even if it’s lame. Also, while I get the gimmick in concept (because she’s done weapon-based wrestling matches), “Hardcore Anime” generally means something completely different on the internet from what was intended there, and I can’t help but think “Yeah, maybe you should’ve thought a second before saying your name is basically ‘Tentacle Hentai’ LuFisto.”
2.) Veda Scott
If you’re at all familiar with indie wrestling, you’re probably familiar with Veda Scott, as she’s been both a wrestler and a manager for a bit now, and she’s quite talented at both. She’s also another person on the list who’s wrestled all over the world, including Canada and Japan, in addition to having matches in TNA and having worked for ROH for several years as an interviewer, wrestler and manager. She’s a good worker, a good talker, a good presence, and she even has a law degree, so she’s basically a sweater vest away from being a female David Otunga who can work (sorry David).
Unlike the others in this list, I honestly have no earthly idea why Veda wasn’t given a call to be in this tournament, and I’m kind of surprised. If it were a year earlier one could argue she was still under contract with ROH, but near as I can figure she’s completely independent at this point, so… if it’s a case where she couldn’t for some reason or another, oh well, but if WWE didn’t reach out to her I have no earthly idea why.
1.) Leva Bates
Ah, old Blue Pants. If you’re casually familiar with NXT you know who Leva is from that alone, as she had a spot on the roster under a per appearance contract for about a year, but even outside of that she’s, say it with me now, another person who’s wrestled all over the world. She’s worked basically everywhere, including Shimmer, Shine and TNA, and with a year’s experience in NXT on top of all of that you’d think she’d be a perfect fit to give a call to, since she’d be instantly able to slip right into the product and get a pop before putting someone over if nothing else.
However, it has to be noted that she was released from WWE because, basically, she got drunk and behaved in a manner described as “inappropriate” by those reporting on it at the time after Summerslam in 2015, and if we’ve learned nothing from the WWE, we have to have learned that they don’t forgive infractions easily (see also Enzo Amore’s never-ending parade of shit lately), so they’re probably sour enough on her that they didn’t want her to come in for the tournament. Hopefully, however, they’ll soften their stance on that sooner or later, but apparently 2017 was not the year for it. Here’s hoping.