The second installment of the Mae Young Classic is sure to impress with one of the most stacked rosters of any current show out there. Like last year, the Parade of Champions was filled, head to toe, with incredible performers from 16 different countries. Once again, WWE proved it can attract the best talent in the world, as we outlined before. In fairness, many of these names are anything but mainstream. If you’re a WWE or bust kind of fan, you may not have even heard of some of these future stars, nonetheless seen their best matches. Luckily, SteelChair Mag has you covered with our catch up guide to the Mae Young Classic. This is by no means meant to be a complete list, so keep up with VultureHound’s coverage of the event and watch WWE’s own rundown video for everything we left out here. As far as some of the biggest names in this year’s tournament, consider this your homework for September 5th.
If You Don’t Understand the Hype Around Io Shirai, Watch: The Black Lotus Triad Vs. Pentagon Dark in Lucha Underground
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months, or just decided today that you like wrestling now, you’ve heard of Io Shirai. Like, a lot. The former Stardom Champion is an early favourite in this year’s tournament. You’ve probably heard why, she’s one of the greatest wrestlers in the world today, even Kiari Sane, last year’s winner, played second-fiddle to her in Stardom. If you haven’t gone exploring in the caves of YouTube, you probably haven’t seen her work with your own eyes. Some people find Japanese style wrestling to be a bit of an adjustment. So if you want to take your first steps into the cult of Shirai, try her match in Lucha Underground under the ring name Hitokiri.
Granted, Lucha is weird, and this gauntlet match was no exception, but here’re the basics. Black Lotus is a bad B who has taken issue with Pentagon Dark for reasons including but not limited to the fact he likes breaking people’s arms. She gathers her #girlgang of equally bad B’s to take on Penta in a gauntlet match, and one at a time they give Penta a fight until he well, breaks their arms. Hitokiri comes out third, the last of the triad, and is clearly the muscle of the group. She doesn’t just put up a fight, she brings it to him including an epic Cross Body from the top of a 20+ foot platform onto the concrete of the stadium. It. Was. Awesome. Hitokiri might fall to Penta in the end, but she makes a hell of an impression. You might want to watch it twice.
If You Don’t Know What This NXT UK Thing Is About, Watch: Toni Storm vs. Killer Kelly vs. Isla Dawn at the 2018 UK Tournament
You may be asking yourself, what is this NXT UK thing and why are none of these people FROM the UK? We’ll give you that last one, as WWE seems to be using “UK” to mean “miscellaneous.” Toni Storm is Australian and Killer Kelly is Portuguese, but both are poised to run roughshod over the women’s division of the newly established NXT UK. We expect that also means they’ll both have good showings in the MYC. It seems that WWE is positioning this year’s tournament to shine a spotlight on the UK women as they launch this division.
Still wondering why you should care? Okay, even if you haven’t seen any of the previous UK work, the Tournaments, the NXT appearances, or matches from UK based promotions, just watch this one match. Just one, I promise. Toni Storm defeated Isla Dawn and Killer Kelly to get a shot at Shayna Baszler (which we’ll mention was stellar itself). Isla Dawn joins Kelly and Storm in this year’s MYC, and we were instantly hooked on this band of international performers (including Morgan who is not in this year’s tournament). Every single one has such a well-defined character that’s instantly understood. In particular, Killer Kelly was impressive in her presence which is violent and off-putting. Give us three months, we’ll adore her as much as we adore Pete Dunne. The match is technically impressive as well, showing that there’s a lot to look forward to with NXT UK. Watch this and then keep an eye on the UK girls this year, they’re making waves.
If You’ve Successfully Avoided the Slack Channel’s Water-cooler Talk About American Ninja Warrior, Watch: Kacy Catanzaro history-making run at the 2014 Dallas Qualifiers
It’s okay, we all have that one social Slack channel on mute, but if it’s #ANW for you, Kacy Catanzaro might be brand new. Catanzaro was signed by WWE not too long ago, and while she’s a rookie with no previous pro wrestling or martial arts training, WWE clearly has big plans. Standing at 5’2, she packs a punch into her small frame, as she proved on American Ninja Warrior time and time again. We obviously don’t have any tape of her training, but we do have this indisputable evidence of her athleticism as she took on and defeated the Dallas Qualifier course in 2014. In fact, Catanzaro was the very first women to do so, which means she knows a thing or two about a women’s revolution.
It’s worth noting that like the squared circle, the American Ninja Warrior course isn’t designed for smaller competitors and it makes everything a little bit harder. Her limbs aren’t very long and she often needs to find momentum from somewhere other than her bodyweight. Actually, scratch that, it makes things a lot a bit harder. Like so many before her, Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, and AJ Lee to name a few, Catanzaro will have to get clever in the ring. She won’t be able to overpower an opponent, unless maybe that opponent is Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, or AJ Lee. Instead, she’ll have to rely on her swiftness, her agility, and her crazy athleticism. We wouldn’t expect an A+ showing out of the gate, but do expect to see her do at least one move that makes our jaws drop.
If You’ve Never Seen an Episode of Impact Wrestling, Watch: Jade vs. Gail Kim vs. Sienna Slammiversary 2016
First of all, what’s wrong with you? No, no, we understand, there’s a lot of wrestling out there and Impact has gotten a bad rap over the years. However, some of the best women’s wrestling has happened in that octagon. Yeah, you heard us, octagon, don’t worry about it. This year’s MYC involves a few notable Knockouts, including Mia Yim (Jade), Ashley Rayne (Madison Rayne), and Allysin Kay (Sienna). Don’t sleep on the talent that Impact has nurtured over the years, these ladies have gone to war.
Slammiversary is one of Impact’s biggest events of the year, almost like a SummerSlam. In 2016, the match was Gail Kim vs. Sienna vs. Jade, who was defending the Knockouts Championship. You don’t need to really know the backstory to enjoy the bits of storytelling in the ring, Gail and Jade ganging up on Sienna who clearly, we don’t like. It’s a good showcase of both Yim and Kay, who will surely make splashes this year with their powerhouse styles. It would’ve been amazing if WWE somehow managed to get the icon Gail Kim back for this tournament, but we’ll have to settle for 2 out of these 3. This match will at least get you ready for the MYC, but honestly, watch the Impact Highlights at the end of the week. If you love women’s wrestling, you need it in your life.
If You Remember Kaitlyn Was a Big Deal a Few Years Ago but Don’t Remember Why, Watch: Kaitlyn Vs. AJ Lee Raw 7/29/13
It was 2014, only four years ago, when Kaitlyn left wrestling to peruse her brand of athletic wear. In wrestling years, that’s like 28, a lot has happened. It’s not even the same belt anymore, AND there’s two of them. Still, Kaitlyn’s return to the ring caused a huge amount of buzz. For a good reason, in 2014 Kaitlyn was the bomb. She falls solidly into the category of women who were ready for the revolution before the revolution was ready for them. While she certainly has a great look, she never quite fit the Diva mould well enough to not feel a bit out of place. Times have changed (hello, new belts, two of them!) and her hard-hitting style has a more comfortable position in WWE.
If you’re having trouble remembering what Bayley did last week, nonetheless what Kaitlyn did 28 wrestling years ago, take a trip down memory lane with us. Kaitlyn and AJ were locked in a longstanding rivalry, best friends and bitter enemies all at once. AJ Lee was using her friend and heater, Big E Langston to get in Kaitlyn’s head, there was a bit of Diva-era trash involved. But, the matches it produced were excellent, including this AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn match in 2013. It’s hard-hitting, to say the least, and reminds us what that kind of chemistry can produce. Kaitlyn has a chance to show off her powerful offence but also that she isn’t afraid to sell for the smaller Lee. Given that Kaitlyn is taller more muscular than a lot of the field, this will be an asset in putting on great MYC matches.
Which competitor are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Mae Young Classic? Let us know below and follow the action on Twitter @VultureHoundMag.