Last night felt almost like Christmas for me, as the Mae Young Classic kicked off with its opening four matches.
I thoroughly enjoyed the inaugural tournament, and I expected nothing less from this year. Looking at the 32 women competing here, it could be argued that this field is even better than last year’s. Day one of the second-annual tournament is in the books and we now know the first four women who will advance to the second round. Let’s get right into the recap, shall we?
First Round: Tegan Nox vs Zatara
To kick off the night, heavy favorite Tegan Nox went one-on-one with Zatara.
This match was hard to watch, and it wasn’t because of the action in the ring. Just knowing what happens to Nox, you couldn’t help but feel for her. It was obvious from the moment she came out that this was her time to shine.
Once the bell rang she looked like she hadn’t missed a beat, giving Zatara all she could handle in the early going. But then the masked luchadora targeted Nox’s previously injured knee, and the tide turned quickly.
I thought it was a great piece of storytelling by both Nox and Zatara, and it got the fans fully in Nox’s corner.
“The Girl with the Shiniest Wizard” fought back and capitalized on a costly mistake by Zatara, hitting the Shining Wizard for the victory. I loved seeing the genuine emotion from her after the bell rang, truly wearing her heart on her sleeve.
It was a good start to the tournament, but I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of chemistry between the two of them. I’m excited to see Nox advance in the tournament, but not excited for what happens later on.
Rhea Ripley vs MJ Jenkins
Next up was Rhea Ripley taking on MJ Jenkins.
Ripley has undergone a complete attitude adjustment since losing in the second round of last year’s tournament. She has a darker and edgier style that is more fitting for her than the happy-go-lucky girl of old. The fans in attendance seemed to agree, giving her quite the warm reception even though she’s meant to be a heel.
The Aussie has greatly improved inside the ring, and this match proved that. She is one of the most athletic competitors in the field, and the commentary team of Michael Cole, Beth Phoenix, and Renee Young made sure to point that out. They also talked about how she has been compared to Charlotte Flair, but how she wants to only be known as Rhea Ripley.
While Jenkins put up a fight, Ripley was too much for her and put her away rather easily. I wish Jenkins would have had more time to showcase her skills, only having a little bit in the beginning and a short-lived comeback at the end.
It’s very obvious that Ripley is going to be a big part of this tournament. Whoever has to face her better watch out, because she’s looking to rip everyone apart if it means winning that trophy.
Lacey Lane vs Vanessa Kraven
Then came the David vs. Goliath match of the first round, with hometown girl Lacey Lane going against Vanessa Kraven.
It seemed as if Lane had some nervous jitters in the early going, especially after that botched top rope maneuver. I honestly thought she hurt herself from that fall, but thankfully she wasn’t and was able to recover quickly.
Then Kraven took control with her brute force and freakish strength. Her nickname isn’t “The Mountain” for nothing, and she showed why as she threw Lane around like a rag doll.
But the spitfire wouldn’t go down easily and battled back, grounding Kraven with stiff kicks and strikes. Out of nowhere, she hit the Crucifix Bomb for the upset victory.
I really hope we’d get to see more of Kraven in the tournament. It seems like WWE tends to stay away from the monstrous-type competitors advancing, with the perfect example being Jazzy Gabert’s early exit last year.
Even though she seemed nervous early on, I think Lane will get more comfortable the more she steps in the ring. Having the home crowd on her side will be a plus as well as she moves on to the second round.
Meiko Satomura vs Killer Kelly
For the final match of the night, we got to see the Japanese legend Meiko Satomura face Killer Kelly.
On paper, it looked like Satomura was going to steamroll Kelly and pick up the easy win. However, the Portuguese striker was not intimidated and put up quite a fight.
From the get-go, it was a heavy hitting bout that saw each woman dish out their fair share of punishment. Kelly was out to prove that she was not a push over and is someone that should be taken seriously.
Satomura showed why she was one of the best in the world, with her punishing strikes that even made me flinch. While she can strike hard, I was also impressed with her smooth and at times effortless transitions into tight holds.
The crowd appreciated both women giving it their all, starting “This is awesome” and “Women’s wrestling” chants.
In the end, Satomura proved to be too much for Kelly, finally putting her away with a vicious Death Valley Driver.
I absolutely loved this match from start to finish. Kelly is quickly becoming one of my new favorite wrestlers, and I’m so glad they gave her time to shine and give Satomura a run for her money. This one has set the bar for the rest of the tournament and is a good sign of what to expect in the coming weeks.