Welcome to the SteelChair Mag Mae Young Classic Rundown! We’ll be taking this year’s tournament round by round to give you everything you need to know and let you know who to keep your eyes on. Since the MYC was filmed in one shot, we will be keeping these reviews insular to each round. That means there are only spoilers (with one exception, the highly publicized news about Tegan Nox) for the first round below. Nothing else has been taken into consideration, so you can be sure you won’t get spoiled beyond what has already aired.
Like last year’s Mae Young Classic, the first round showcased a depth of talent from the rookie Kacy Catanzaro to WCW legend Meiko Satomura. The cuts ran just as deep. There was the emotional moment shared between Satomura and Killer Kelly and the deflating defeat of fan-favourite Aerial Monroe (with Cedric Alexander and their daughter in the front row, no less). Once again, we saw a couple tough draws that led to potential contenders being eliminated first round.
Like Tessa Blanchard being paired with Kairi Sane last time, Jinny received the short end of the stick against Toni Storm. The “Fashionista” (who was not, I’m afraid, personally outfitted by a man who is dead) put up a good fight but ultimately had to fall to make way for Storm’s whirlwind push. It speaks volumes to how much they’re ready to get behind her, as they could’ve easily given her one of the significantly simpler match-up.
Mia Yim and Allysin Kay had one of the most emotionally charged matches of the round and as a result of such an even first round match, we had to say goodbye to Kay too early. It may have been nice to see it later in the tournament, but the WWE has done an excellent job putting stakes into the early rounds of these things. Admittedly I was hoping to see at least one big upset, ideally in the form of Isla Dawn over Nicole Matthews.
Match of the Round:
Meiko Satomura vs. Killer Kelly
Satomura debuted in WCW at the age of 16, making her almost certainly the last Alumni of the promotion to debut on WWE TV. Satomura has had a storied career, and it was apparent as she worked magic with Killer Kelly. It is one thing to make yourself look like a star, it’s another thing to make yourself look like a star AND your opponent look like a star in the same breath. Killer Kelly got knocked down, but she sure put up a hell of a fight. Her presentation is so unsettling vicious, and it played off Satomura’s distinguished and experienced one incredibly well. This match brought chemistry and told a dynamic story. The ladies have a lot still up their sleeves, we’ll have to see what they do to top this in the next round.
Tegan Nox: If it weren’t for the injury she suffered, we could very well be talking about her as a potential winner. She was on fire in the first round and clearly positioned as one of the biggest contenders. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until she’s healed to see what’s next for Nox.
Kacy Catanzaro: Personally, I think Catanzaro did exactly as well as I expected her to, though some were blown away by her performance. I expected she would show some grit and some hyper-athleticism, but rough edges as well. Her potential is through the roof, it just may take a little time to polish it up. Still, she could be NXT Champ in a year.
Toni Storm: SUP. ER. STAR. Toni is my pick to win it all.
Rhea Ripley: What a performance by returner Ripley! If you weren’t sold on her the moment she came out in her new gear and her new ‘tude, you were sold by her drop kick. Few things in wrestling make me gasp out loud. This was one of them.
Io Shirai: I mean, obviously. She is the clear favorite to win and very possibly the best wrestler in the world, male or female. This is a big get for WWE, and they know it.
Xia Brookside: The only loser (that feels mean, the only non-winner?) on our list is Xia Brookside. Of course, we won’t see her in round 2 but the 19-year old showed an exceptional aptitude for the business. Throw in her dad, Robbie Brookside, tearful in the front row, I was hooked.
Best Moment Honorable Mention:
Taynara Conti has come a long way since last year’s Mae Young Classic, although it’s unclear if they have a direction for her. She impressed with a win over Jessie Elaban but the most striking part of her performance was not her technical skills. It was her face. There are certain wrestlers, Alexa Bliss and Seth Rollins come to mind, who are so good at telling a story through their facial expressions in the ring. Conti joined that list and stole my heart with this moment.
The Mae Young Classic has become a beacon of light in the arena of women supporting women. The sportsmanship shown on that stage, even by supposed heels, is a beautiful reminder that one woman’s light does not diminish the light of another. The first round was full of emotional moments between competitors, but none more so than the hug between Meiko Satomura and Killer Kelly. The level of comradery between athletes was amazing to see. It was clear how much having this match meant to Killer Kelly as she cried tears of joy. Performing on this stage was a dream come true to both women, and that’s what this tournament is all about.
Prepare for the NXT UK Women’s division to be incredible. Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm, Isla Dawn, Jinny, Xia Brookside, and Killer Kelly all are set to take part.