Kairi Sane def. Shayna Baszler to Win the Mae Young Classic
There were better opponents Sane could have faced in the finals, but Baszler had been built up so well and has looked like such a beast in her dominance of her opponents up to this point that she had the best chance of beating Sane. They told a great story with Sane fighting from underneath throughout, and although Baszler is still fairly green, she had a solid showing here as well. They put together a real good match (that the crowd thankfully wasn't dead for) with the right woman going over. Sane has the potential to be a major star for not only NXT but WWE going forward, while I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Baszler in a WWE ring.
WWE did advertise a six-man woman tag team match as taking place on this event as well, but it instead occurred on the "Road to the Finals" special that aired after Raw on Monday night on the WWE Network. For those curios, Jazzy Gabert, Kay Lee Ray and Tessa Blanchard defeated Marti Belle, Sarah Logan and Santana Garrett. Anyway, this was obviously a one-match show, but it was a quality contest and well-worth checking out. The Mae Young Classic was a success in my book and I'd be in full favor of the company holding something similar for the women down the line.
Shayna Baszler def. Mercedes Martinez in a Semifinal Match
Baszler and Martinez have a history from the independent scene, so unsurprisingly, they had great chemistry from the get-go. It was established in her previous three matches that Baszler can lock in a submission out of nowhere and win instantly, so with that in mind, they told a solid story that saw Martinez avoid those submissions at all costs. The effort was excellent and the action was very physical, so this certainly felt like a semifinal tournament match with high stakes.
Kairi Sane def. Toni Storm in a Semifinal Match
This might have been the longest tournament match yet, and rightfully so because they maximized their minutes and delivered an exceptional match. Sane's "injured" arm was once again targeted by Storm, and after hitting most of her signature moves, it looked like Storm had a chance of emerging victorious. Of course, Sane battled back, so the psychology was topnotch I thought. Storm is another individual I wasn't too familiar with prior to the tourney yet I really want to see more of her in WWE. She has a presence about her that forces you to take notice.
Mercedes Martinez def. Abby Laith in a Quarterfinal Match
With Martinez suffering an arm injury of sorts in her previous tournament match (kayfabe, of course), she sold that well and Laith targeted it throughout the bout. Laith has been an excellent underdog since the first round and with her Alligator Clutch being built up as much as it has, it looked like she was closing in on the victory on a few different occasions. Ultimately, Martinez was able to avoid it and advance, but Laith gained a ton from her participation in the Mae Young Classic. She's already under contract to WWE, so here's hoping she becomes a bigger fixture on NXT in the near future.
Shayna Baszler def. Candice LeRae in a Quarterfinal Match
Similar to Laith, LeRae is a wonderful scrappy babyface that excels at fighting from underneath, and although this was only a three minute match, it might have been the best three minute match I've seen in a long, long time. LeRae did everything imaginable to put Baszler away, but Baszler's dominant offense was too much to overcome. Once again, Baszler won in spectacular fashion as she countered LeRae's top rope finisher with a submission of her own to win it.
Toni Storm def. Lacey Evans in a Second Round Match
Storm was showcased in her first round match, but this match was more about Evans, interestingly enough. Evans has a great look and a great backstory, but she isn't nearly as polished in the ring yet as Storm, so it was an odd approach to take. That isn't to say that style of match doesn't work because it did with Kairi Sane vs. Bianca Belair, but this wasn't as good in my opinion. That said, it was a well-wrestled matchup and a nice way to open the episode.
Shayna Baszler def. Mia Yim in a Second Round Match
These two have history together, so it shouldn't have come as any surprise that they produced an excellent match here. I didn't know how skilled Baszler would be coming into the Mae Young Classic, but she has really impressed me thus far with what she's capable of. As an actual mixed martial arts fighter, her gimmick is that she can lock in a submission out of nowhere, so the story they told was terrific and the finish was fantastic as she caught Yim in a submission off the top rope and tapped her out for the victory.
Abbey Laith def. Rachel Evers in a Second Round Match
Evers had easily the worst match of the first round with Marti Belle, but I thought she redeemed herself quite well here against Laith, who has become a real fun babyface to watch in this tournament. Both women put forth a strong effort and it resulted in an excellent opener to the episode. Evers has potential, but Laith advancing to the next round was definitely the right call.
Piper Niven def. Serena Deeb in a Second Round Match
I knew next to nothing about Niven coming into the Mae Young Classic, but between this bout and the one she had with Santana Garrett in the first round, she has since stood out to me in a major way. Sure, she's significantly bigger than the rest of the field, but she's incredibly athletic and versatile for someone of her size and she's damn good. Meanwhile, Deeb looked great in defeat and I hope this wasn't the last we've seen of her in a WWE ring.
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