After months of speculation, staggered announcements, and more than a little hope that WWE would finally drag itself into 2017, the finals of the Mae Young Classic are upon us. Tuesday night in Las Vegas, joshi phenom Kairi Sane goes one on one with the former IFC fighter and Four Horsewoman, MMA Edition stablemate Shayna Baszler.
We all had high hopes going into the tournament. Did it meet those expectations? Ehhh, kind of. Putting all of these women into a narrative of “the best female athletes in the world” is a high bar to set when some are competing in a ring for the very first time, and also Meiko Satomura exists. Some of the more experienced performers quite frankly looked like rank amateurs, leaving more throwaway matches than you would think should exist in such a highly-touted field.
One of the most distracting features of the tournament was the commentary. Lita and Jim Ross exist in a ring-adjacent charisma vacuum, which is impressive given that what you’re listening to (or tuning out, in this case) is a second take.
For example, the first match between Kay Lee Ray and Princesa Sugehit is presented with a video package about how Ray is basically lady Jeff Hardy with her high-flying skills and wanton disregard for her own safety. Instead of playing up how Sugehit’s lucha experience will fair with Ray’s similar style given that both of them prefer going high instead of keeping it on the mat, the commentary is based on Ray trying to keep Sugehit grounded and rely on her knowledge of submissions. That’s logical, yes, for facing someone fond of going to the top rope, but it completely ignores everything Ray is supposed to be about. And it just gets worse and more stilted from there.
That said, I will require a sound clip of JR exclaiming “She’s very aquatic!” during Kairi Sane’s entrance.
Speaking of, this whole tournament is basically the Kairi Sane show. If anything in the MYC lives up to the hype, it’s this petite pirate who loves sailing and elbow-dropping people to death. If we’re talking about can’t-miss matches, every one of hers is in the top ranking. If you only have time to watch one, we suggest her quarterfinal bout with Dakota Kai, aka my actual dream final that could never happen because the brackets just wouldn’t let it. More on that later.
Sane will square off against ex-UFC fighter Shayna Baszler in the actual finals. While it was expected that Sane would sail into the finals (she is, as we’ve learned, very aquatic), Baszler came into the show as a bit of a dark horse. Or, should we say, dark Horsewoman. No? We shouldn’t? Okay, fine.
Baszler’s burgeoning wrestling career has no doubt been bolstered by her friendship with Ronda Rousey, but don’t let that cloud your judgement. That friendship and WWE’s total boner for having Rousey at events would be enough to propel Baszler to the finals, but the Queen of Spades more than holds her own against tourney favourites like Shimmer alums Mercedes Martinez and Mia Yim. Pro tip: here’s where all of that “keeping your opponent grounded with submissions” commentary belongs.
While both women had very different but equally standout paths to the finals, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention these competitors who took the time they had to separate themselves from the pack.