Mae Young Classic Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights for Round of 16

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2017

Mae Young Classic Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights for Round of 16

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    Kairi Sane celebrating her victory.
    Kairi Sane celebrating her victory.Credit: WWE.com

    The WWE released the remaining episodes of the Mae Young Classic on Monday. These shows feature the second, third and fourth rounds, with the big finale set to take place during a live broadcast on September 12.

    The first round of matches featured some great action, and a few Superstars managed to stand out from the rest through dominant performances or displays of charisma.

    Celebrities and wrestlers from NXT and the main roster were shown in the crowd supporting everyone who competed. Johnny Gargano was there for his wife, Candice LeRae, while Ronda Rousey showed up to support fellow Four Horsewoman, Shayna Baszler.

    Kairi Sane, Abbey Laith, Rachel Evers and Mia Yim got a lot of attention on social media after their first-round matches, and the WWE Universe welcomed back Serena Deeb with open arms.

    We don't know how many of these Superstars the WWE will sign once the tournament is over, but the company could beef up its women's division in NXT or on the main roster.

    Let's take a look at everything from the second block of four episodes from the Mae Young Classic.

Rachel Evers vs. Abbey Laith

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    The only problem with tournaments like this is half the competitors get eliminated in every round, which means favorites go home early.

    The crowd was split between Evers and Laith, and the fans showed their appreciation with dueling chants before the two ever made contact.

    Evers is a former powerlifter, so she tried to control the match with strength. Laith used her agility and willingness to take a risk to keep herself in the fight.

    This was a smart pick to kick off the second round because both women brought their A-game for this one. This match had drama, excitement and great fan participation.

    After a hard-fought battle, Laith picked up the win with the Alligator Clutch to advance to the next round.  

    Grade: A-

         

    Notes and Highlights

    • The Authors of Pain have been feuding with Sanity in NXT. Paul Ellering should bring in Evers to join the stable to be a rival for Nikki Cross. It would be great to see a father-daughter team in NXT.
    • The double-kick spot was great. The whole crowd got on its feet immediately.
    • Evers earned the respect of the WWE Universe. Hopefully, this leads to great things for her in NXT.

Serena Deeb vs. Piper Niven

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    The second match from round two featured Deeb taking on Scottish grappler Piper Niven. These two competitors are different in every way, which made for an interesting matchup.

    Deeb is trying to prove she is worth a second chance while Niven is one of the youngest competitors in the tournament looking to establish herself in the business.

    Their size difference also means they use different styles, and despite her experience advantage, Deeb came off as the underdog against Niven's overwhelming strength.

    Just like during the first match, the crowd came unhinged as they built to the finish. Deeb almost nailed her trademark Spear, but Niven managed to counter with a Michinoku Driver to score the win.

    Niven looked better than she did during her first-round match, and Deeb did an outstanding job putting her over.

    Grade: B+

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • The WWE should bring back Deeb to team with Gallows and Anderson. It would be a nice callback to their days in the Straight-Edge Society.
    • Deeb bowing to the trophy during her entrance was a nice touch to convey how much this means to her.
    • Niven has been watching Kevin Owens judging from the cannonball she hit in the corner. 

Princesa Sugehit vs. Mercedes Martinez

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    The next match saw Princesa Sugehit take on Mercedes Martinez. Both women may have Latin blood in their veins, but that is where their similarities end.

    Sugehit is the classic luchador, and Martinez is a smashmouth brawler who will knock you out for looking at her the wrong way. Their contrasting styles meshed well together and made Sugehit the underdog right away.

    Sugehit is one of the most established women in Mexican wrestling, so she came into this tournament with a lot of hype and a big following to support her.

    This was another competitive contest between two of the most experienced Superstars in the tournament. When the dust settled, Martinez took out Sugehit with a fisherman's buster.

    Grade: B

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • Martinez is the most intimidating competitor in this tournament. She carries herself in a way that's hard to explain, but I wouldn't want to get on her bad side.
    • Sugehit's attire was awesome. It was a nice tribute to Wonder Woman.
    • Martinez sold an arm injury after the match. She even winced in pain when the ref held up her arm in victory.

Kairi Sane vs. Bianca Belair

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    The first episode from the second block ended with one of the heavy favorites taking on a newcomer to the world of wrestling when Sane battled Bianca Belair.

    Sane came into this match with the support of the crowd, but Belair didn't look intimidated. She seemed confident and carried herself like a star.

    Belair had a substantial size and power advantage so Sane was forced to rely on her experience and speed to keep herself one step ahead.

    Sane fought back from the brink of defeat a few times before she was able to finish off Belair with an elbow drop that almost ended up missing its mark.

    Grade: B+

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • Izzy the Bayley superfan could be seen high-fiving Sane on the way to the ring from the crowd. 
    • Sane's entrance music might be the best in this tournament. It's different from everyone else and works well for her character.
    • The moment when Sane pretended to catch the kiss Belair blew and stomped on it got a much bigger pop than you would expect. 
    • Belair whipping Sane with her braid was loud and sounded painful. The crowd's reaction to it was priceless.
    • Belair hitting a 450 from the top rope was a pleasant surprise. 

Toni Storm vs. Lacey Evans

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    The next episode of second-round matches got underway with an interesting pairing. Toni Storm and Lacey Evans are different characters, but they share a certain unconventional streak.

    This is another one of those matchups many likely wish would have happened later in the tournament so we could see more from both competitors.

    They paced themselves in the first half of the match, so certain sequences looked a little slow. Once they started turning up the heat, things got more interesting.

    It's hard to believe Storm has only been wrestling for about a year. She has a great grasp of how to perform and put a match together.

    Evans put up a good fight, but Storm was able to defeat her to advance to the third round.

    Grade: B-

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • I wonder if those Australian chants were coming from real Australians in the crowd or if it was just fans who know what Storm likes to hear during her matches.
    • The WWE better not change Evans' gimmick in NXT. She has one of the few truly unique characters in the division right now.
    • Storm has a bright future in this business if she can keep learning at the rate she has been so far.

Mia Yim vs. Shayna Baszler

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    Yim and Baszler were two names a lot of people expected to see in this tournament until close to the end, so it was shocking to see them square off in the second round.

    Both women like to use martial arts to punish their opponent, so they immediately started going for kicks to see who was the more proficient striker.

    While they shared certain traits, there were just as many differences. Yim is more willing to take a risk and Baszler had the upper hand in the power department.

    They made the most out of every minute they were given, and the crowd showed its appreciation with chants of "Women's wrestling."

    After countering a 450 from the top rope, Baszler secured the victory over Yim by choking her out.

    Grade: A-

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • Having Bayley, Charlotte and Becky Lynch at ringside to represent the WWE's Four Horsewomen while Baszler's group was across the aisle was a nice touch. 
    • The only thing Baszler needs to work on is selling her opponent's offense. She doesn't look convincing when she is supposed to be in pain. Part of that comes from her experience trying to block the pain out during MMA fights.
    • Baszler's first match was short, so she needed a performance like this to prove why she belonged in this tournament. Both competitiors delivered big time.

Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai

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    Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai was another instance when a relative newcomer to the business was paired with an established veteran. To make things even more interesting, this bout represented a rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.

    Ripley was much larger than Kai, but both women displayed great athleticism and agility throughout the match. They played to their strengths, so Ripley focused on overpowering her opponent while Kai used quickness.

    It was going to be hard for anyone to follow Yim and Baszler's performance, but Ripley and Kai did a commendable job.

    In one of the most entertaining finishes of the tournament up to this point, Kai got the win with a double stomp to Ripley while she was hanging in the tree of woe.      

    Grade: B

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • The spot where Ripley dropped Kai's face into the apron was one of the most brutal things I have seen in a wrestling match in quite some time. 
    • Ripley is similar to Charlotte in a lot of ways. It would be interesting to see a match between them some day. 
    • You could see bruises forming on Kai's arms from some of the punishment she took in this bout.

Candice LeRae vs. Nicole Savoy

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    LeRae came into this tourney with more name recognition than most of the competitors, so Nicole Savoy was on a mission to show everyone why she shouldn't be overlooked.

    She likes to utilize a variety of different suplexes and submissions to remind everyone she has an MMA background, but she is clearly more comfortable with the pro wrestling side of things than Baszler.

    LeRae is almost always the underdog due to her small stature, but her experience gave her an edge and she was able to win with a swinging neckbreaker from the middle rope.

    Grade: B-

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • Kicking LeRae's hand away when she offered it before the match was a good way to get the crowd to boo Savoy.
    • Johnny Gargano looked so proud of his wife before and after the match. 
    • LeRae was given a long victory celebration in the ring to end the show. It almost seemed like she didn't know what to do with herself after a minute.

Abbey Laith vs. Mercedes Martinez

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    The third episode released this week kicked off the quarterfinal round of matches with fan-favorite Laith taking on the villainous Martinez.

    It's hard to imagine two competitors with less in common than these two, but sometimes those odd-couple pairings produce the best results.

    They started off slow so they could size each other up. It took some time before they found their groove, but they eventually managed to sync up and start building momentum.

    In what many would consider a shocking upset, Martinez defeated Laith with a fisherman's buster to move on in the tournament.

    Grade: C+

                  

    Notes and Highlights

    • You could tell this was the same crowd from the first two episodes, which meant these women were fighting twice in the same evening. 
    • Laith's battle cry gets the crowd on its feet every time because there's something so real about it.
    • The cross body Laith hit from the top rope to the floor looked a little sloppy, but it was still a good spot to get a reaction from the live crowd.

Candice LeRae vs. Shayna Baszler

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    LeRae was the underdog once again as she stepped in the ring with Baszler for their quarterfinal match. As usual, Baszler refused to shake hands as a way of intimidating her opponent.

    The mixed martial artist established herself as the dominant force immediately with a hard right hand to the face, but LeRae quickly turned things around with a suicide dive into a DDT on the floor.

    It looked like LeRae had this one in the bag when she attempted to hit her signature neckbreaker from the middle rope, but Baszler was able to counter into a rear-naked choke to get her third straight submission win in this tournament.

    Baszler has her share of fans, but she has been able to turn the crowd against her a little more with each match by playing the villain to perfection.

    Grade: B-

                 

    Notes and Highlights

    • Why isn't LeRae signed to a contract yet? She has everything the WWE looks for in a Superstar.
    • All three of Baszler's Four Horsewomen teammates were at ringside for her last match, but one of them was missing this time. This was filmed the same night, so it was strange to see one of them absent.
    • Baszler refusing to break the hold after the match was a great bit of storytelling, especially because you could see Gargano begging with the ref to break it up from the crowd.

Toni Storm vs. Piper Niven

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    Storm had an uphill battle in front of her when she stepped into the ring for her quarterfinal match against the dominant Niven.

    They traded holds, takedowns and counters for the first couple of minutes. They even came to a stalemate during a double bridge and shook hands while looking at each other upside down in a show of good sportsmanship. 

    Niven thought she was going to have her hand raised after hitting a Michinoku Driver, but her opponent managed to weather the storm. (Apologies for using such a horrible and obvious pun, but it had to be done.)

    After countering a corner splash with a suplex from the middle rope, Storm climbed to the top rope to deliver a leg drop to get the pin and advance to the semifinals.

    Grade: B+

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • I'm shocked it took Jim Ross until Niven's third match to make a "pay the piper" joke.
    • Storm is another competitor the WWE would be wise to consider signing. She is already way ahead of the game for a 21-year old. 
    • The live crowd for this event might be one of the best we have seen in a long time. It never felt like the fans were trying to take attention away from the performers, but they still managed to show their appreciation with numerous chants.

Dakota Kai vs. Kairi Sane

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    The last match in the quarterfinals was Sane vs. Kai. These are two Superstars who appear different on the surface, but they actually have quite a bit in common.

    They both utilize everything from technical wrestling to high-flying offense, and their similar size put them on an even playing field.

    The fans in attendance had already been there for roughly three hours up to this point, but their enthusiasm was still high throughout this match.

    After countering Kai's signature running kick, Sane struck with her famous elbow drop to score the win and move to the semifinals.

    Grade: A-

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • Sane's spear looked incredible, and Kai sold it perfectly.
    • If Kai didn't hurt her leg on the attempted double stomp, she made it look convincing. 
    • It's always nice to see someone use the Alabama slam.

Shayna Baszler vs. Mercedes Martinez

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    The first semifinal match featured the two biggest heels of the tournament finally coming face to face. Both Baszler and Martinez have refused to shake other opponent's hands, but they showed mutual respect by shaking hands before the bell.

    Both of these women carry themselves with a different kind of confidence which makes them intimidating and convincing as badasses. 

    They kept their distance at first as they traded attempted kicks and takedowns. Martinez finally kicked things into next gear when she unleashed a series of stiff forearms and chops in the corner.

    For the first time in this tournament, Baszler looked like she was at a disadvantage, but she eventually came roaring back with her own flurry of strikes and suplexes.

    Martinez had the upper hand for most of the match, but a suplex into a rear naked choke forced her to tap out. Baszler moved on, but both women came away from this match looking like stars.

    The two warriors embraced before Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Sara Amato presented Baszler with a bouquet of roses to celebrate her victory.

    Grade: A-

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • Martinez tagging Baszler with a series of punches at one point looked more realistic than most punches thrown by wrestlers. 
    • The WWE teased a confrontation with the Four Horsewomen of the WWE and the Four Horsewomen of MMA during a backstage video. It's doubtful we will ever get more than this segment, but it was cool to see the two groups interact.
    • The crowd got behind Martinez after a few minutes to make her the de facto babyface, so she embraced it and played to the fans.

Toni Storm vs. Kairi Sane

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    The final pre-taped episode of the tournament only featured the two semifinal matches, so each bout was given a significant amount of time to tell a proper story.

    Closing out the tournament before the live finale was a big responsibility, and the WWE couldn't have picked two better competitors to do it than Storm and Sane.

    Storm had a slight size advantage, but Sane had the edge in experience, so it evened out. The fans were split down the middle, so we heard more than one dueling chant in this match.

    They never felt sluggish, but they kept a steady pace so they could build momentum as they prepared for the finish. After they both tried to win with submissions, Sane was able to get the win with another top rope elbow drop.

    Most people predicted Sane would end up in the finals of the tournament, but Storm did a great job convincing everyone she might get an upset victory.

    Triple H, McMahon and Amato came out to celebrate with her to end the final episode before the live finale in Las Vegas on September 12. Storm was graceful in defeat as she hugged Sane with a huge smile on her face.

    Grade: A+

          

    Notes and Highlights

    • We need more pirates in pro wrestling. It seems like the perfect combination.
    • It's hard to explain why, but the little black mark Storm puts on her face adds a lot to her overall image.
    • The armbar Storm had locked in at one point looked incredibly painful. 

Final Thoughts

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    The first four episodes of the Mae Young Classic had some great matches, but it also had some mediocre performances.

    The second block of episodes released Monday was a big step up in quality. Every single bout was enjoyable, and some of them were better than most of what we have seen from the WWE roster in 2017.

    Baszler and Sane may be the finalists, but a lot of great Superstars are going to come away from this experience with more fans and the possibility of being signed to a contract.

    The finale will take place following the September 12 episode of SmackDown. If what we have seen up to this point is any indication, Baszler and Sane are going to tear the house down in Sin City.