WWE MAE YOUNG CLASSIC – EPISODE ONE
TAPED JULY 13-14 IN WINTER PARK, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED ON WWE NETWORK
REPORT BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
WWE’s promotional video material is regularly terrific and the opening produced for the Mae Young Classic falls right in line with that greatness. Stephanie McMahon narrates some beautiful words that give meaning to the journey that women have taken in the world of pro wrestling and the WWE. With that intro and opening the tournament instantly has that “big deal” feel to it. It was a really nice way to start everything off. JR and Lita are our commentators who go over the basics of the tournament, show the bracket, and then introduce match number one.
(1) KAY LEE RAY vs. PRINCESA SUGEHIT
Kay Lee Ray is out first and has a real confidence about her as she makes her way to the ring. She has a natural charisma that manifests itself in intensity which the crowd is eating up right away. Princesa Sugehit is out next to a decent sized pop as well. Sugehit’s attire is very flashy and babyface like which the audience is into as well. The two face off in the ring, shake hands, and the referee rings the bell. Right as the match begins, chants for Kay Lee Ray echo throughout the crowd. Kay Lee starts things off with some stiff kicks and forearms to Sugehit’s face. The two then do a really entertaining spot in the middle of the ring that showcases just how much of a size advantage Ray has on Sugehit. From there, it’s all Kay Lee Ray with more stiff strikes and intricate submission holds. Sugehit sells all of this well. The story of the match from this point on is Ray working to keep Princesa Sugehit grounded and unable to utilize her patented lucha style maneuvers. Ray’s offensive onslaught ends after some quick ring action that culminates with a near fall after a backwards facebuster. That near fall frustrates Kay Lee who heads to the top rope and attempts a Swanton Bomb. Sugehit instinctively rolls out of the way, Ray crashes to the canvas, and Sugehit locks in her tweaked version of the Fujiwara armbar. After just a few seconds in the hold, Kay Lee Ray taps out.
WINNER: Princesa Sugehit via submission at 5:57.
(Heydorn’s Analysis: I really enjoyed the psychology of this match. Ray’s intense striking and ruthless submissions really did keep Sugehit grounded. Sugehit won the match, but sold that story throughout it which was refreshing to see. Sugehit did show hints of cool offensive moves that she’s clearly saving for later in the tournament. Kay Lee Ray was the star of this match and it’s a bit unfortunate that she is out of the tournament in the first round. The audience seemed to connect with her instantly and more so than they did with Sugehit.)
(2) VANESSA BORNE vs. SERENA BEEB
Naomi is at ringside. Serena Deeb enters the ring first and because of the video package that was shown prior to the match the audience pops as they recognize a familiar face. Deeb was one of C.M. Punk’s disciples in the Straight Edge Society. Vanessa Borne enters next and her facial expressions, dark ring attire, and overall attitude scream that she will be playing the heel in this match. After the face off, Deeb and Borne tie up and attack each other with some simple mat wrestling. Deeb breaks away and gets the upper hand to a chorus of “Serena” chants from the crowd. Deeb energizes up along with the chants and is immediately taken down by the stronger Vanessa Borne who mounts Deeb and pummels her to a chorus of boos. Borne then is on the offensive and Deeb is in full on sell mode. Borne’s fantastic facial expressions allow her to really shine Deeb up nice and the crowd buys it hook, line, and sinker. Serena works through a series of nice hope spots, one of which is a series of left hook punches to Borne’s face ala Road Dogg in 1999. Then she tries her patented spear maneuver, only for it be countered into a very impressive reverse swinging neckbreaker. Borne goes for the pin and Serena kicks out at two. That is the first near fall of the match and it immediately frustrates Borne who believed she had it won. The crowd is on their feet for Deeb who looks to be finished as Borne attempts a splash. Deeb counters the move and nails Borne with a crushing spear. Deeb covers for the 1, 2, 3.
WINNER: Serena Deeb at 6:06.
(Heydorn’s Analysis: This match was a classic good vs. evil pro wrestling match. There aren’t enough of those anymore so I enjoyed it. Serena Deeb was the clear babyface and Vanessa Borne was the clear heel. Interestingly, Borne’s heel activity was not classic in nature. In the match she never cheated or tried to get the upper hand in illegal ways. What made her the clear heel was her expressions and attitude. Borne also capitalized on the fact that Deeb was such a great babyface. The crowd was on Serena’s side from the minute she entered the ring, she sold like a million bucks, and Borne was smart enough to use that to her advantage instead of fighting it. Because their roles were so clearly defined, the match was simple, but worked really well.)
(3) SHAYNA BASZLER vs. ZEDA
Ronda Rousey and the four horsewomen of the UFC are at ringside. Shayna Baszler enters the ring first and looks like a total bad ass. She’s got tattoo’s everywhere and looks the part of not only a WWE Superstar, but of a UFC Champion. Chants of “Shayna” start popping up in the audience and the commentary team works hard to tie Baszler to the women of the UFC who are sitting in the front row. Zeda is out next and the response for her is miniscule at best. The audience is incredibly one-sided in who they want to win the match and chant “Shayna’s gonna kill you” to show it. Baszler and Zeda face off in the ring and for the first time the competitors do not shake hands due to Baszler walking away. The crowd reaction is mixed on that move. The match begins with a takedown and continues down a path reminiscent of a Brazilian jujitsu match. From there, it continues at a very slow pace with Baszler destroying Zeda with stiff punches and kicks. Baszler then lifts Zeda up into the air, crushes her with a vertical suplex, and turns that into a rear naked choke. Zeda immediately taps out after the hold gets locked in.
WINNER: Shayna Baszler via submission at 2:17.
(Heydorn’s Analysis: The match was too quick to be anything of substance. It existed strictly to showcase Shayna Baszler. Zeda didn’t get in a lick of significant offense and just ended up being a punching bag for Baszler for just over two minutes. The crowd ate it up and was fully in the camp of Shayna Baszler from start to finish. Baszler is an important woman to watch as this tournament goes on. She is of UFC descent, has ties to Ronda and the other UFC women sitting ringside, and the commentary team constantly worked to tie them all together. I could be nitpicking here, but even though Baszler had the crowd in this match, I really believe she will have to have more of a pro wrestling style match to truly get over long term. That said, this match was a great start in that process.)
(4) ABBEY LAITH vs. JAZZY GABERT
Abbey Laith hits the ring first showcasing some uniquely slow entrance music. It fits as she is working a ballerina type gimmick that the crowd enjoys. Jazzy Gabert is out next and has a mesmerizing presence to her. The two meet in the middle of the ring for the handshake and while they do shake, Jazzy aggressively pulls Laith towards her to show her dominance. The match begins with a great spot in which Laith hammers away at Jazzy with forearms to the face only to get swatted away by the larger Gabert. This continues two to three times and Laith continues to get up. On the third time both competitors scream at the top of their lungs to a huge ovation from the audience. From there the match is very back and forth. Gabert hits some nice power moves and Laith counters with some unique offense of her own including a split chin breaker. The crowd loves it all and is chanting for both Jazzy and Laith. To this point, the match is booked to showcase just how good both of these women are. Gabert is the first to take the lead on offense and continues with her massive power assault on Abbey. Laith is brilliant at taking this beating and is setting the tone for her comeback later on. Gabert’s then hits Laith with her shining offensive move of the match which is a series of strikes to Laith’s head and body while she is propped up against the turnbuckle. The crowd goes nuts over this and Gabert arrogantly soaks the cheers in. Because of that mishap, Laith quickly locks in a submission move using the ring ropes to her advantage. Now its Abbey’s turn to go on the attack. Laith showcases a very innovative offensive style here. She’s quick and uses that speed to knock Gabert off her feet. The pinnacle of this attack comes when Laith heads to the top rope and hits Jazzy with a flawless senton bomb. Two count only. The crowd is very much into this match and giving both stars their respect. The finish is a sequence of fast paced strikes and moves that culminate with Laith in a suplex position within the arms of Jazzy Gabert. Laith counters the suplex into the Alligator Clutch and gets the pin fall victory. The Alligator Clutch is a move that was made famous by the one and only, Mae Young.
WINNER: Laith at 7:11.
(Heydorn’s Analysis: This was the best match from episode one and it’s a no doubter. Both Abbey Laith and Jazzy Gabert had some nice chemistry together. They made themselves look like a million bucks. Jazzy had an amazing look and truly looked scary at times. On the flip side, Laith played the role of monster slaying babyface in pristine fashion and sold her butt off to make it work. There was some innovative offense on both sides but I personally loved the stiffness of Jazzy Gabert’s style. She looks the part and I could easily see her fitting in well as a monster heel on the NXT roster. Abbey Laith will certainly have her time there as well and the sky is the limit for her in this tournament.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, I thought the first episode of the Mae Young Classic was very well done. The matches were crisp and the booking of them made sense. Also, from a television show standpoint, we didn’t see the same match repeated. Each match featured something unique that made it stand out from the others on the show. My only point of critique in this episode goes to the commentary team. JR and Lita are big names to be sure, but I didn’t feel like they brought enough to the show in this episode. For the most part, nobody watching this tournament on the WWE Network knows who these women are. Within the confines of the matches, it’s important for JR and Lita to teach the audience about the competitors. That education could come in the form of letting the audience in on past successes of the athletes or with just a simple acknowledgement of what a typical move set is for them. It’s a small thing, but it would add a really nice layer of legitimacy to each woman who wrestles. Looking out at episode two, I’m hoping for more of the same in terms of the great match quality, but would also like to see the characters of these women shine through during the matches as well.