The second round of the Mae Young Classic begins, featuring the experienced Kairi Sane battling newcomer Bianca Belair in the main event. Read on for our full review and match ratings…
(Winner by pinfall: Abbey Laith)
(Winner by pinfall: Piper Niven)
(Winner by pinfall: Mercedes Martinez)
(Winner by pinfall: Kairi Sane)
It was always likely that, after cutting down its number of competitors from 32 to 16, the Mae Young Classic would really kick into gear in its second round. That proved to be the case, as the first four matches of the second round were significantly better than many in the first round, and felt far less rushed.
Rachel Evers and Abbey Laith had a well-contested match to open the show, and Laith continues to get over with the Full Sail University crowd. They’re really into her, and it’s making her a good babyface for this tournament. Evers was very impressive here too, and with some work could be a very good powerhouse wrestler in NXT‘s women’s division. Laith seems destined for the semi-final, where I would expect her to be defeated by Shayna Baszler, but after two matches she’s made herself a babyface favourite and made her two opponents look strong as hell too.
Piper Niven (or Viper, as I originally knew her) had a surprisingly competitive match with Serena Deeb. After some of the matches that we saw in the first round, I wasn’t expecting much from this (or many minutes), but I was genuinely happy to see them put on a very good wrestling match with the time they did have. Deeb, who after this defeat will presumably be done with WWE again, probably raised some eyebrows with how long she stayed in this match, and at times she did look a legitimate threat to Niven, even if the likelihood of her pulling off the upset was slim.
One match that was decent, but never excelled beyond that, was Mercedes Martinez against Princesa Sugehit. It was enjoyable, but would I go out of my way to rewatch it? No. If anything, it felt like a bit of a filler match, like with some of the first round matches. For all the hype about her level of experience, I really don’t think Martinez has brought “it” to the table yet, and has been outperformed by the younger women on this tournaments roster. As for Sugehit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see WWE offer her a deal. Opportunity to have a masked female wrestler will be too hard for them to turn down.
When it comes to Bianca Belair, I’m undecided. I’m told by Jim Ross and Lita (who were good here, even if Lita has started talking more again – she must have been given some extensive feedback following the first round tapings!) that Belair is a future star, and that she’s got everything it takes to succeed. But I simply can’t get past her look, namely the disgustingly long ponytail that will inevitably cause a mistake in the ring for her or her opponent, and cause an injury. She’s jacked with muscle, but her frame seems small, so I’m not such a believe of her “powerhouse” style, but she’d look like a lethal weapon if she switched to more of a submission-based moveset. But its early days for her and, although she looked nervous in the first round, she looked like she’d been doing this for years whilst in the ring with Kairi Sane in this shows main event.
Whilst it would be wrong to say that Sane was the one who made Belair look like a star here, given Belair worked her rear end off, Sane’s performance did make Belair look a legitimate threat, and she sold for her much more than I expected. Perhaps they felt it wouldn’t work as well if Belair had to sell for a long period, given you’d genuinely expect Sane to win in such circumstances? Irregardless, that near fall after Belair’s 450 splash was the first time in this tournament that I as a viewer was on the edge of my seat. Honestly? The way they sold it, I thought Sane was done for, and Belair’s reaction afterwards was absolutely perfect.
At this point, that main event moves into the top three matches of the tournament so far, and maybe even grabs the top spot. Still 11 matches left until a winner is crowned, though!
Match of the Night
Bianca Belair vs. Kairi Sane