The first round of the inaugural Mae Young Classic continues, as veteran women’s wrestler Mercedes Martinez takes on Chinese rookie, Xia Li, with Sarah Logan and Mia Yim doing battle in the main event. Read on for match ratings and a full review.
(Winner via submission: Mercedes Martinez)
(Winner via pinfall: Rachel Evers)
(Winner via pinfall: Rhea Ripley)
(Winner via pinfall: Mia Yim)
Given that the previous episode (Mae Young Classic – 1st Round, Part 1) was edited together at the same time as all the other 1st Round episodes, I’d completed that hour of television viewing assuming that I knew exactly how the show was going to look, sound, and be structured. Those assumptions were incorrect, as almost everything that I didn’t enjoy about the first episode (awkward cutaways to the “command centre” or whatever it was called, Lita talking too much but saying very little, etc.) was not present in this second batch of matches.
Jim Ross at times felt like he was running commentary solo, which was a damn lot better than having Lita interject with her poor commentary every ten seconds. Sure, Lita was still present, but she felt more tolerable here and her weaknesses in her new role weren’t so clearly on display. “Eat the foot,” or whatever it was she said, was absolutely horrible though – we can’t even pretend it wasn’t, although as I write this, I think it came in a later episode of the 1st Round.
The effect of the stronger commentary, and no green screen room, was a positive wrestling show that didn’t feel like so many segments hacked together from different filming sessions. I certainly would’ve enjoyed some backstage interviews, pre and post fight, but as a whole this episode felt a lot neater to watch than the first.
I won’t sit here and falsely write of how incredible the wrestling was, which appears to be the thing to do on social media right now despite being untrue. There were three decent matches and one very good one, but whilst there certainly was not a clunker of a match like Shayna Baszler’s 1st Round effort, we are still very much in traditional 1st Round territory here as far as match quality goes. To state otherwise would be disingenuous, but don’t take that as an assumption that the talent are not busting their asses, because they are, and I’m enjoying what they are doing.
I’ve seen some criticism of the Mercedes Martinez and Xia Li effort, which feels unwarranted to this writer. I certainly don’t think it was appropriate for WWE to announce on air that this was Li’s first ever match, given this tournament is meant to contain the 32 best female wrestlers on the planet (excluding current Raw, Smackdown and NXT top-tier talent), but I actually enjoyed Li’s offence and with some more time, she could become a very interesting NXT prospect. Martinez sold well for her, but when the time came to go home, she locked in a submission hold that looked brutal on Li’s shorter frame. Given I rate matches based more on my enjoyment of them at the time of viewing, as opposed to some super-serious Dave Meltzer-style consistent rating system, I almost gave this one a 3.0. I just really enjoyed the clash of styles.
Marti Belle and Rachel Evers had a tidy contest, that was perhaps a few near falls away from being anything memorable, but it was a competitive affair that got the crowd going and made both women to look like legit talent. And on that note, I should say that I am absolutely ecstatic that WWE resisted the urge to throw in at least one of their traditional “diva” wrestler-types, as regardless of experience, this tournament had 32 wrestlers who’s gender meant absolutely nothing as to the matches they were having, which is exactly how it should be.
This was my first time seeing Rhea Ripley, and oh my, she is impressive. Similar in build and shape to Charlotte Flair, but with a completely different fighting style. Imagine a fully formed Ripley against Flair… good God, I’d pay to see that.
The match was quite good actually, although Ripley’s size advantage over Miranda Salinas made the result something of a no brainer, as well as creating a peculiar set up of heel and babyface, given Salinas was clearly the heel here but had such a size disadvantage that it almost felt cruel seeing her up against Ripley. They did well in the time they had though, and those final kicks from Ripley looked like they hurt a lot!
The main event, fought between Sarah Logan and Mia Yim was brilliant. What a surprise this was, as both women put on a hard-hitting display of strikes and brutality that stole the show. It genuinely was unclear who was going to take the win here, and whilst I was leaning toward Logan, I can’t say I’m not just a little excited at seeing Yim’s style go up against Baszler’s own fighting style. That should be a very good 2nd Round match, and Yim and Logan should be very proud of what they did in this main event slot of episode two.
All in all, there may have been less stars on display as the first episode of the tournament (remains to be seen who ends up becoming the household names, of course!), but this just felt like a more complete show with more confidence on display and less nervousness, both from the talent and from the producers.
Match of the Night
Sarah Logan vs. Mia Yim