The next step in the women’s revolution has been playing out over the last two weeks on the WWE Network, as the Mae Young Classic officially has its two finalists who will be facing off live on the Network next Tuesday live from Las Vegas where Smackdown Live is being held that night. Now, if you haven’t caught up with the 2nd round through semifinal episodes that dropped today (September 4th whenever you read this) then stop reading now and come back when you have. For the rest of you, I’m going to dive into everything we’ve seen so far. The good, the bad, and the still to come. Let’s start with the question a lot of people were asking before it started.
Was it as good as the Cruiserweight Classic?
No, and I don’t see how anyone could’ve expected it to be. However, it was very well done and accomplished what it set out to do in terms of expansion of women’s wrestling. I did appreciate the binge watching ability of this, knocking out four episodes a week in just about 3 hours when you fast forward through filler and video packages. (Once you’re past the first round, you don’t need to see the same packages to “get to know” them.) The crowd was respectful and highly energized for a lot of these matches, which added to the presentation. I thought JR & Lita at commentary were just as good as Mauro Renallo and Daniel Bryan was on the CWC. Comparing both tournaments is apples and oranges, but both are absolutley worth going out of your way to watch.
Best Match: Tessa Blanchard vs. Kairi Sane – First Round Matchup
It was borderline criminal that one of these women had to be eliminated in the first round. Sane came across like a star from the moment she came out and the crowd took to her immediately. Blanchard, the daughter of Tully Blanchard, oozed confidence and just another in the long line of wrestlers that have the business in her blood and are destined to be successful because of it. No one looked better in defeat after the first round that Tessa did. She is a big star waiting to happen. Sane’s elbow drop is a sight to behold. It defies gravity. Kairi’s second round match against Bianca Belair also was worthy of consideration, as was Toni Storm vs. Piper Niven in the quarterfinal round.
Breakout star: Bianca Belair
This catagory is solely for the women who were already signed to NXT before the tournament started. Yes, I’m a little biased because she’s a former Tennessee Volunteer, but her match with Kairi Sane that I mentioned in the last paragraph really showed me she can be an asset to the NXT women’s division moving forward. With the absence of Asuka and no true established stars yet, the top of the mountain is wide open right now. Belair would fit in quite nicely with the like of The Iconic Duo, Ember Moon, Ruby Riot, & Nikki Cross. She’s athletic, she looks comfortable in the ring, and she was able to accomplish something that was quite hard to do in this tournament… establish genuine heat. The hair whip gimmick she’s come up with is really good stuff and is an easy way to get fans against her. I also can see it being quite popular once she’s gets established and decided to turn face. I think Belair has a ton of potential.
Outside star WWE/NXT should sign: Piper Niven
Obviously with my feelings on Tessa Blanchard’s performance in the first round, it would be quite easy to put her name here. Too easy in my opinion and I think it’s a matter of time before she is signed. One of the things that this Women’s Revolution has shown is that you don’t need to be cookie cutter model type any more. You can be big and strong like Nia Jax, you can be short but fierce like Alexa Bliss, and everything in between. This tournament as whole did a great job showcasing that as well. 32 women and no one looked like the other. It was really cool to see that aspect of the tournament. Piper had 3 really impressive showings in the tournament and showed a lot of athleticism and has a really good grasp on what type of move set she should be using for a woman her size. With a lack of promo time, it’s hard to know how truly charasmatic she is, but she looked really comfortable in front of the camera and was able to adjust to each of her opponents, all who had different styles. She just turned 26 so she has a lot of time ahead of her as well.
Biggest Complaint: Too Predictable
Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler is the finale that we’ll be seeing next Tuesday in Sin City, and for me it was just too predictable. When you look at the CWC, it would be the equivolent of Kota Ibushi taking on Zack Sabre Jr. in the finals. I don’t think anyone predicted what we got when it ended up being TJP vs. Gran Metalik. While being predictable isn’t always an issue, it is when no one else in the tournament was presented as a legit star and possibility to win it all. Abbey Laith was the only one I felt had an outisde chance since she was using Mae Young’s old finisher and the commentators were really putting that over. Even making it all the way to the semifinals, I never felt Toni Storm or Mercedes Martinez had a chance of winning. The quality of matches were strong for the most part, but it does take away from the overall appeal when it seems quite clear right away who they’re going to put in the finals.
Prediction for the Finale
I will say for all the predictability leading up to this point, this match is anything but predictable. There are rumors that the winner of this match will become the new NXT women’s champion now that Asuka has relinquished it. It makes a lot of sense and both of these women have the appeal to help fill the void that Asuka is leaving. They obviously can’t do it on their own, but they can provide a big boost. Kairi has the charm and charisma that Asuka has, both with a unique style that they brought from Japan that has transferred well to the NXT style crowd. Shayna has the Four Horsewomen in her corner and the mass appeal those women, particularly Ronda Rousey, brings. They wasted no time having both versions of The Four Horsewomen interacting with each other and Ronda even laid down the “anytime, anywhere” challenge to their WWE counterparts. Does that mean Shayna is destined for bigger things? I’m not sure. Kairi had already signed with the company before the tournmant and Shayna has not. When I combine that aspect with the fact it looks like Shayna may be part of a bigger picture and they used her in this tournament to give a second face to the group along with Ronda, my prediction is Kairi Sane winning it all and we’ll see where both women go from there.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check me out every week for the NXT Spotlight here at TJR. Feel free to send all your feedback on this tournament and anything else to me on Twitter, @KTankTJR.