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Mae Young Classic recap & reactions (Sept. 12, 2018): This time I’m going to win!

Keeping Wednesday wrestling exciting, round one of The Mae Young Classic continued last night (Sept. 12, 2018) on the WWE Network. You can find all the match results and a detailed play-by-play on the live blog here.

Night two of round one featured the highly anticipated television debut of Kacy Catanzaro of American Ninja Warrior fame, the redemption of Deonna Purrazzo and a knockout match from Ashley Rayne and Mercedes Martinez.

While night two didn’t quite reach the bar set by last week’s episode there were some great character moments resulting in some exciting match-ups for future episodes.

Match One: Deonna Purrazzo vs. Priscilla Kelly

This was a solid opening match. Nothing spectacular, but good. Deonna showed off her mat based technical wrestling abilities while adding a few exciting flairs like a back handspring dropkick and Priscilla showed off her aggressive style with some hard hitting clotheslines and one nasty looking dragon sleeper hold.

This match suffered from predetermined syndrome, however, because it was clear from the get go that Deonna was going to win. Not only is she signed to NXT, but she has the compelling backstory of having been sidelined for last year’s MYC. This was Deonna’s moment for redemption!

I love seeing Deonna in a WWE ring. I’ve see her wrestle live quite a few times at Shimmer and Rise, and while I have always acknowledged that she is a fantastic wrestler there has always been something that has felt, frankly, boring about her. No character, no charisma. Now that she’s officially in NXT and in the MYC some flip has switched in her and it really feels like she’s blossoming. I don’t know if it’s the promo classes in the performance center or if it’s just a sense of “I made it”, but her personality is translating. I’m now fully #TeamVirtuosa.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen Priscilla Kelly before and to be honest I’m not quite sure what to make of her. Getting the obvious fact that she really looks like old school NXT Paige out of the way, there was something a little off about her ring entrance and character to me. Maybe she was just trying real hard to make an impression on her one night in the MYC, but her intentional weird vibe felt a little too weird to me. I did enjoy her in the ring work and her I suppose credit where credit is due, if you’re only going to be there for one night than make that night count!

The match ended with a beautiful side Russian leg sweep rolled into a vicious Fujiwara armbar from Deonna. Deonna advances into round two.

Match Two: Aerial Monroe vs. Zeuxis

I wanted to love this match because I’m always all about Big Swole, but this match felt disconnected. Nothing was outright awful, but it didn’t mesh.

Zeuxis entered the ring with a scowl and a busted up leather jacket. Off thing number one as nothing in her video package screamed heel to me. I was a little taken aback by this sudden attitude shift. Monroe swaggered to the ring, with her super adorable daughter swaying along at ringside, and the Full Sail crown fully behind her.

The match started with a collar and elbow tie up during which Zeuxis messed with Big Swole’s hair. Big Swole told her off saying “if you touch my hair again I’m going to pop you in the mouth!” Of course heels are like naughty children, if you tell them not to do something, that’s exactly what they are going to try and do!

It was a really good character moment for Monroe, and got a big reaction from the crowd, but the followup wasn’t really effective.

Monroe got in some good offense, but Zeuxis never seemed to quite be on the same page as her. From the moment the bell rang Zeuxis felt hesitant and like she was a second behind Monroe. There were a couple of strikes that looked like complete misses that were barely saved my generous camera angles. As the match progressed things picked up a bit, but not by much.

It honestly felt like Monroe was doing the majority of the work in this match so I was shocked when Zeuxis picked up the win. The Spanish fly that she hit was really nice, but prior to that it was the Monroe show!

I was just as sad as her daughter (who was crying in the crowd) to see her get knocked out so early. Zeuxis is not swole!

Match Three: Kacy Catanzaro vs. Reina Gonzalez

Writing tropes are tropes because they work! Last week featured Vanessa Kraven vs. Lacey Lane in a match up that felt very David vs. Goliath and this week was no different. The six foot tall Reina Gonzalez was paired up with a 4’ 11” Kacy Catanzaro. The stage picture of them squaring up was really effective in setting up Catanzaro as the underdog of this match.

Catanzaro faces her * slightly * taller opponent.

Gonzalez was featured in last year’s MYC, but was completely forgettable. This year she has a new attitude, a newish look (still a cowboy?) and, most importantly, improved in ring abilities. It’s not fully working for me yet, but I like where it is going and I do look forward to seeing more from her in NXT.

But let’s be real, we’re not here to talk about Gonzalez’s cowboy boots (she wrestled in them!). We all tuned in to see if “that girl from American Ninja Warrior was any good.”

Turns out she’s great!

She brings something truly unique to the ring. Not only did she monkey crawl up the ring post to enter the ring, but she combines her gymnastic abilities with wrestling moves in a way I’ve never experienced. Sometimes when someone has a non-wrestling skill that they are trying to mix in with wrestling it doesn’t always work. It can feel clunky. But Catanzaro has a fluidity to her that lends itself to this Frankenstein-ing of skills. It’s innovative and so fun to watch!

She really seems to get the psychology of wrestling too. She played the role of underdog with a never give up attitude so well and with every near fall she had the audience eating out of her hands! Normally, a woman that size rolling up an opponent over a foot taller than her would be unbelievable, but Catanzaro sold the struggle of holding Gonzalez down in the roll up so well that I believed it!

Gonzalez looked strong in the match, but I think her character work at the end is what really made her stand out. I definitely thought she was going to pull a Pete Dunne and beat Catanzaro up after the match, but instead they had a nice moment where she put Kacy on her shoulders to congratulate her. Defiantly solidified her as a wrestler, not just the girl from American Ninja Warrior.

It was a great television debut and I can’t wait to see more from Catanzaro! What else can she do?!

Match Four: Ashley Rayne vs. Mercedes Martinez

It was beyond surreal to see Ashley Rayne (aka Madison Rayne) in a WWE ring. She’s never been a favorite of mine, but as an avid Impact Wrestling viewer it was exciting. Even more exciting was that fact that she was facing indie badass and MYC standout, Mercedes Martinez.

I loved the juxtaposition of the two veterans. Both have been in the business for over a decade, but have had very different paths. Ashley was there to accomplish a dream of wrestling in WWE, while Mercedes was there to win. She already made it to WWE once, this time she wanted a trophy!

Mercedes began the match hot by taking Rayne down, but Rayne popped back up and was ready to go back and forth with Martinez. Rayne got in a few licks of offence until Martinez hit a shocking storm cradle driver! It looked like the match was over, but Rayne didn’t make it to the MYC to give up easily.

Rayne threw everything she had at Martinez. Neckbreakers, forearms, chops, enzuigiris, a flying crossbody! But it wasn’t enough and Mercedes eventually won the match with her signature fisherman buster.

It was an excellent outing for Ashley Rayne and it was truly something to see her in a WWE ring. I hope it’s not the last time.

But on to bigger and better things because you know what Mercedes winning this match means? Meiko vs Martinez in round two.

Overall, I’d say this episode had some really great moments, but wasn’t as exciting as last week. What will next week have in store for us as round one continues?

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