Previously on the Mae Young Classic: Tegan Nox showed off her Firefly-worthy finisher, Rhea ripped her way through the competition, and Meiko killed Kelly.
You can keep up the Mae Young Classic on the WWE Network. And you can keep up With Spandex (this might be the next “do it with Flair” or we might never say it again) on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a podcast! Also, you can follow me on Twitter @emilyofpratt, where I mostly talk about wrestling some more.
As you probably noticed from the headline and/or last week’s review, I’m departing from our usual Best/Worst format for this column for something I’m calling a Ranked Review. Each MYC episode consists of four, straight-up wrestling matches and almost nothing else for about an hour, and I’m going to talk about each match in worst-to-best order. As always, I welcome your thoughts on the format and rankings, as well as the rest of the review and the episode it talks about, in the comments section.
And now, my review of season 2, episode 2 of the Mae Young Classic, from September 12, 2018.
4. Kacy Catanzaro def. Reina Gonzalez
I thought the second episode of the second MYC was much weaker than the premiere. The first three matches were all too short to be really satisfying, and mostly just gave us glimpses at talent who will hopefully go on to have better matches in the next round of the tournament.
I thought Cantanzaro vs. Gonzalez was a pretty dull match, but it did make me want to see more of the victor. I don’t think we’ve seen enough of her to know if she’s a Good Wrestler (and she’s been training less than a year, so she’d probably be some kind of prodigy if she is), but it turns out the same physical skills that can lead a person to complete the American Ninja Warrior course also make that person very good at doing pro wrestling moves.
All five feet, one hundred pounds (ONE FULL FOOT AND ONE HUNDRED POUNDS SMALLER THAN HER OPPONENT) (who sadly fell short of the Vanessa Kraven benchmark for large women wrestling tiny women in the 2018 MYC) of Kacy Catanzaro seem to ooze potential cool wrestling matches and maybe even that coveted crossover appeal. Commentary puts her over super hard too, so she probably has a bright WWE future.
3. Zeuxis def. Aerial Monroe
Aerial Monroe feels so close to being a superstar, both in the WWE Superstar sense and the overall-in-wrestling sense. She’s “The Big Swole,” very charming, an Air Force vet, a mom, and looks like a character from The Wicked + The Divine or Saga. There are so many things for a wide range of people to like about her without even taking into account that her presence in this tournament gives us a glimpse of the rare Cedric Alexander Dad Variant.
But although the athleticism and the charisma are there, Monroe’s in-ring skills are not, judging from this match. The crowd is very into her DON’T TOUCH THE HAIR bit, but when the match actually gets started, both her offense and selling feel awkward.
In contrast, Zeuxis has it all put together. She’s a 10-year vet, mostly in CMLL, and has unmasked three wrestlers, including last year’s MYC competitor Princesa Sugehit at the CMLL 84th Anniversary Show in Sept. 2017. Her charisma takes a little longer to come out in this match, but when you see it, you see it.
She does a good job of heeling — fighting dirty and giving the crowd time to process it. She looks very strong in that camel clutch spot, and the Spanish Fly that gets her the win is probably the single coolest spot of the 2018 Mae Young Classic so far. And she makes a small child cry, meaning her Spanish Fly > Samoa Joe’s combined Coquina Clutching and mic skills at SummerSlam.
Overall, this match left me psyched to see the Aerial Monroe of like two years from now and more immediately psyched to see Zeuxis in the second round.
2. Deonna Purrazzo def. Priscilla Kelly
The show opened with a match clearly built to show off recent WWE signee Deonna Purrazzo, who I’m pretty sure will be a babyface NXT Women’s Champion in a year or two. Her opponent is rising indie star Priscilla Kelly, who it turns out plays very much like a goth chick from a cartoon when she drops the kinky side of her Hell’s Favorite Harlot persona.
Michael Cole mentions that Kelly was on My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, but does not mention that she was the subject of the season 1 episode “14 and Looking for Mr. Right,” in which she is looking for a husband as a shoot fourteen-year-old, and that that episode of television is a WILD ride. If we decide pro wrestling and reality TV exist in the same kayfabe realm (other sources: the Total Divas extended universe, Snooki, the United States government) it makes a lot of sense that Kelly just slaps Purrazzo’s hand rather than shakes.
Purrazzo looks a lot more athletic and technically skilled than Kelly in this match, and definitely makes me want to see more of her. She has the combined charisma and skill at the little things in wrestling that gets the crowd cheering for a dang small package. The handspring into the dropkick looks great, as does her signature Fujiwara armbar. She definitely sells her Virtuosa moniker here.
Even though this was a short match that only gave us a hint of her skills, Purrazzo is super emotional about the win. Her story of working hard to get into WWE feels like the real deal. Hopefully the company does right by her, starting with a way more interesting second round match, please!
1. Mercedes Martinez def. Ashley Rayne
Like the season premiere, this episode closes with the night’s strongest match, which I feel like might be a trend for this whole tournament. Merecedes Martinez vs. Ashley Rayne is the best match of the episode basically from the lockup. In a first round full of green and greenish wrestlers (by design), this match pits two very different veteran wrestlers against each other — Martinez an indie mainstay with a take-no-prisoners attitude mostly known for Shimmer; Rayne a perky, five-time Knockouts champ who’s experiencing something of a career resurgence right now with her All In participation and return to Impact.
Something I liked about this match that I think speaks to both women’s experience was the amount of pin attempts and how intentional they all felt. I actually felt this with Purrazzo, too. MYC matches have 15-minute time limits, so it makes sense for wrestlers to go for the win quickly and often. Okay, it almost always makes sense to do that in kayfabe, but especially when you’re basically trying to beat the clock from the bell in a high-stakes tournament.
Other than that, it was cool to see both Rayne and Martinez show their toughness in different ways while displaying veteran instincts that contrasted with the rookie attitudes of most of the other MYC competitors. Rayne got in a cool, smart rollup to a step up enziguri, but Martinez was clearly the star of the match. She showcased a lot more impressive moves, and scored a strong W with her signature Bull Run fisherman buster finisher.
But more importantly than this solid match, we get MERCEDES VS. MEIKO IN THE NEXT ROUND. Besides Martinez getting signed to something where people get to see her on TV a bunch and she becomes champ immediately and she doesn’t have to work two other jobs, that’s the type of thing I want to see in this tournament.
I’ll see you back here next week for the third quarter of the first round, and shall leave you for now with this blessed image of Miami Joe in the Full Sail audience.