Last night (Sept. 26, 2018) was the final episode of round one of The Mae Young Classic on the WWE Network. You can find all the match results and a detailed play-by-play on the live blog here.
I was extra excited for this week’s episode because not only did it feature one of my all time favorite women’s wrestlers, Nicole Matthews, but tonight was the much anticipated debut of Joshi superstar, Io Shirai.
While both those wrestler’s won their matches (yay!), the episode didn’t seem to generate as much enthusiasm from the audience as the previous weeks. It very much felt like we were in the homestretch and it was time to move onto the second round.
Racheal Evers versus Hiroyo Matsumoto
Evers made her return to the MYC with focused glint in her eye. Unfortunately, for her Lady Godzilla was there to destroy her dreams.
Lots of media focus has been on Io and Meiko (for good reason), but Matsumoto is an incredible Joshi wrestler in her own right. Io may be quick and Meiko may be an in ring genius, but Matsumoto brings the power!
The thing I loved about this match up was how equal they were in strength. So far we’ve seen a lot of mismatch pairings like Vanessa Kraven versus Lacey Lane, but this match was like watching two wrestlers wrestle themselves. This was evident in the first move set of the match where they tested each others strength in an intense collar and elbow tie up. Generally, that move looks like “the move we do to start a match”, but here it was a legitimate fight. After a series of failed shoulder blocks, Matsumoto finally got Evers off her feet and the match truly began.
The crowd was emphatically in Evers corner constantly chanting her name, but Matsumoto didn’t let it bother her. From the moment she got the drop on Evers she was focused on tearing her apart.
The story that they told here was super effective. It wasn’t as if this was a completely one sided match, but Rachel just couldn’t shake Matsumoto. Every time she got some offense on her, Matsumoto answered back and then some. When Rachel eventually rallied and no sold a German it felt earned - she was fighting back with everything she had!
Ultimately, Matsumoto hit Evers with the Rock Drop and won the match. Rachel looked devastated, but to be fair Matsumoto did warn her about her imminent destruction.
Taynara Conti versus Jessi Elaban
Calling a spade a spade. This was my least favorite match in the whole tournament so far. I don’t like either of these performers and the match felt off.
First off, what exactly is Jessi Elaban going for? Is she supposed to be Bayley 2.0 or what? Because her character reads like she was handed those terrible glasses and told to create an entire gimmick off of them. Smiling and having long, awkward limbs that you can’t quite control is not interesting to watch inside a wrestling ring. It feels too “fake geek girl” and her whole “adorkable” think is played out. I don’t need a gimmick where you explain why you are not a great wrestler yet, just, like, get better!
I don’t mind Taynara as a wrestler. In fact, I think she is really intriguing and has a really cool in ring style. The way she mixes judo and wrestling is very effective (something some other people cough Ronda cough could learn from). My problem is that I don’t know what sort of character she is trying to portray? Sometimes it seems very much like she’s a heel, but then she seems to always fake cry after her matches. I have no problem with crying or hugging opponents when a match is significant, but it just feels like she doesn’t earn the tears with the story she is telling. It also sometimes seems like she’s going for a crazy gimmick? Like she doesn't know what personality she is...I have no idea and I feel like neither does she.
This match wasn’t terrible and I don’t think it was technically the worst one of round one. Jessi was clearly very green, but it was also clear that she had a fair amount of training. While she was slower than the other competitors nothing she did looked noticeably bad or botchy. She sold Taynara’s moves fairly well and made Taynara looked really tough working her arm. Taynara’s finisher was cool (judo throw into a side slam), but again, the waterworks at the end felt a little like crocodile tears and took away from her in ring work.
I’m just glad Jessi is out in round one. I don’t look forward to seeing her on NXT anytime soon.
Nicole Matthews versus Isla Dawn
“How can you have a women’s evolution without Nicole Matthews?” Two words. You can’t!
I know I am a broken record but I really, really love Nicole Matthews. Not only is she so talented in the ring, but she just oozes a level of cool that I am jealous of. This match was no cake walk - Isla really gave her a run for her money- but like Renee said she just looked “so calm, collected and in control.”
The “in control” part was really the focus this match because every time Isla got the upper hand, Nicole seemed to know exactly how to reverse it or stop her momentum. It was a classic “veteran versus newbie” story line and it was very effective.
I’ve only seen Isla wrestle a few times and honestly I haven’t been a huge fan. Which is weird - she hits all my buttons - witchy, scottish (brutal that they subtitled her!), cool hair - but something in her wrestling was off putting to me. I think I need to watch more of her to truly decide one way or another, but I will say that I was impressed with her in this match. Her strikes were clean, her selling was believable and her rally in response to Nicole trash talking her was excellent.
I really thought Isla was going to win due to her being an NXT UK signee, but fortune smiled on the Shimmertaker and Nicole tapped out Isla with a damn near perfect liontamer.
I definitely yelled with joy!
Xia Brookeside versus Io Shirai
One thing I have learned from the MYC is never invite your family to watch! Aerial lost in front of her daughter (causing very real and very sad tears), Rachel lost in front of her beau and Xia lost in front of her dad. Her dad who had never seen her wrestle before...ouch.
Look, we all knew Io was going to win, but Xia held her own and should be proud! She started out hot attacking Io with a flurry of forearms and a headscissor takedown...er...well it was supposed to be a takedown, but Io flipped out of it and landed on her feet.
B O S S
Io couldn’t help, but show her joy at her boss ass moves. Io was smiling and laughing a lot while wrestling Xia, but it never felt like she was being a heel and laughing at her. It felt more like, “Hey, I’m the best. I know it. It’s fun to be the best.”
Making short work of Xia, Io hit her with a brutal corner double knee attack followed by a shocking moonsault Io advances (obviously) to the next round without breaking a sweat.
Obviously, I wanted more from Io, but I think this was just a warm up match. Again, I don’t know spoilers as I avoid them as best as I can, but I still think Io is going all the way!
While this episode wasn’t my favorite, it had a lot of really great moments. Rachel and Hiroyo told an excellent story, Nicole Freaking Matthews won her match and Io finally debuted!
Next week we finally move onto round two! Can’t wait to see what these women do next!