We start things off with a video package, narrated by Stephanie McMahon that shows us women wrestlers throughout history. We go from Mae Young and Moolah to Wendi Richter and Sensational Sherri. From Bull Nakano and Alundra Blayze to Trish, Lita, and Chyna before seeing the current batch of women wrestlers. It’s a pretty solid opening package and makes me wish that WWE did more documentaries and stuff on the network.
We get an opening video deal showing the women competing and then head to Full Sail where Jim Ross and Lita welcome us to the show.
We get videos about Princesa Sugehit and Kay Lee Ray. Princesa talks about the meaning behind her name and her experience and how proud she is to be representing Mexico in this tournament.
Kay Lee Ray is apparently a hardcore lady wrestler from Scotland. We get footage of her from ICW and Shimmer. Stuff like this really help make these wrestlers seem like big deals.
Match 1: Princesa Sugehit vs. Kay Lee Ray
They turn the houselights down and Sugehit and Ray shake hands and the match gets underway. The crowd seems to be behind Ray from the onset. She attacks with chops but Sugehit outquicks her and goes for a series of early pins.
Ray stops a sunset flip from Sugehit and turns it into a Gory Special but Sugehit counters it with a flip powerbomb.
Sugehit goes back to strikes but gets caught with a knee to the midsection. Kay Lee Ray follows up with a running Flatliner that she transitions into the Koji Clutch. Princesa Sugehit escapes the hold and lays in chops and kicks and then hits a head scissor takedown.
Sugehit then hits an ATOMIC DROP that leads to another near fall. Sugehit hits some more kicks but Ray nails her with a Gory Bomb for a near fall. Ray heads up top and goes for the senton, but misses and Sugehit gets her in an arm bar. Ray struggles for a bit but ultimately has to tap.
Winner: Princesa Sugehit
A fun match to kick things off. Both women worked at a good clip which kept the crowd into it. Both women looked pretty good here and I’d be alright with either of them sticking around after this tournament. [**½]
We get videos for Vanessa Borne and Serena Deeb. Vanessa Borne is from Arizona and was a former dancer for the Phoenix Suns and a Arizona Cardinals cheerleader. She has a developmental deal with WWE right now and fought in a Mae Young Classic qualifier on NXT a few weeks ago. She gives a pretty decent arrogant heel interview saying that no one in the tournament is as good as her.
Sarena Deeb was in WWE a few years ago as part of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society. She talks about how she blew her opportunity because of a problem with alcohol, but is back in her to redeem herself.
Match 2: Serena Deeb vs. Vanessa Borne
They lock up and go to the mat. Deeb takes control with arm drags, but eventually gets sent to the corner by Borne. Borne nails her with a headbutt that wrecks Deeb’s shit because Borne is Samoan and even in 2017 WWE is apparently cool with the “Islanders’ heads are so dense they are impervious to headbutt related pain,” stereotype.
The headbutt allows Borne to take control and she continues by putting the boots to Deeb. She follows up with forearms and a zany sliding headbutt which earns her a two count.
Borne then grounds Deeb with a chinlock but Deeb fights back to her feet and hits a belly to back suplex. She then lays in some strikes and hits a slam that she follows up with a neckbreaker that’s good for two. Deeb is fired up now and hits Borne with a gutbuster and then goes for a spear, but Borne moves so Deeb posts herself.
Borne hits a pretty decent looking neckbreaker and covers Deeb, but she kicks out at two. Borne follows up with mounted punches and then hits Deeb with a Samoan Drop that gets her a near fall.
Borne starts showing signs of frustration and Deeb capitalizes. She battles back and levels Borne with a spear to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Winner: Serena Deeb
Putting Borne up against a seasoned veteran was a smart move since Deeb was able to work around Borne’s inexperience to put on a pretty good little match. I don’t want to sound like I’m down on Borne because I’m not. She’s got a good look, the stuff she did in the match was more or less believable and her pre-match interview showed confidence. With a bit more ring time I could see her turning into a pretty decent worker.
Deeb wrestled in the WWE during a period when I wasn’t really watching wrestling so I hadn’t seen much of her prior to this match, but I thought she did really well here as kind of an 80s style babyface. She kept the match simple pretty which probably helped Borne, and in one of the few good things the commentary team did Lita put over this simplified style as being the result of Deeb taking two years off from wrestling and needing to go back to the basics. [**]
Meanwhile in the Mae Young Command Center…
Charly Caruso gives us a rundown of the brackets and the two women who have advanced and then tosses it over to a video package about the competitors in the next match.
Zeda I guess got bullied and wanted to be a superhero or something so she trained in martial arts and did MMA. Shayna Baszler was a pretty big deal in women’s MMA. She’s here to show everyone what a legit badass looks like.
Match 3: Shayna Baszler vs. Zeda
We see Ronda Rousey, Roderick Strong’s wife, and some other MMA lady I don’t recognize in the audience there to cheer on their friend, Shayna Baszler.
Zeda offers a handshake, but Baszler walks off. This will be a fight without honor. Surprisingly it’s Zeda who goes on offense first, looking for a knee bar, but Baszler easily counters and the two proceed to grapple with one another.
Baszler slaps Zeda around and tries for an arm bar, but Zeda counter out of it and gets Baszler in a hanging arm bar. Baszler counters this by just shoving Zeda to the mat. Baszler then goes on the attack, hitting Zeda with some strikes. She goes for a knee strike but misses, allowing Zeda to make her comeback.
Zeda tosses Baszler with a monkey flip and then gets her in a hanging guillotine, but Baszler counters with falcon arrow that she transitions into a rear naked choke. Zeda taps out with a quickness.
Winner: Shayna Baszler
Both women have MMA experience so they more or less had a worked MMA match, which I think helped them since both are relatively inexperienced with regards to pro-wrestling. Baszler looks like an absolute beast after this match and Zeda came off looking like a plucky babyface without fear. [**]
Jazzy Gabert talks about how she’s there to fight and to throw little girls around. Abbey Laith (formerly Kimber Lee) talks about her finisher, the Alligator Clutch, was invented by Mae Young and that she learned it from people that Mae Young herself taught the move too. She wants to win her match with that move.
Match 4: Abbey Laith vs. Jazzy Gabert
Holy fuck, Jim Ross just uttered, “Chikara Grand Champion,” on a WWE show. What the fuck is going on WWE 2017?!
Laith attacks at the bell, screaming as she attempts in vain to take the fight to Gabert. She lays in elbows but Gabert, true to her word in the pre-match interview, cuts her off and throws a little girl around. Laith picks herself up and goes back to the elbow strikes but each time just gets shoved down.
Eventually Laith tries to pick up the pace and take Gabert down with arm drags, but Gabert is just too goddamn tough. Gabert easily powers out of everything Laith throws at her and grounds her to take control of the match again. She gets her in some submission holds and everytime Laith manages to wiggle free, Gabert just locks her in another hold.
Gabert lays into her with rapid-fire punches and the goes back to a chinlock. She lays in some massive forearms before Laith makes a bit of a comeback and goes up top, but she is promptly caught by Gabert and slammed. Gabert does a cocky, “Check out these guns!” single foot on the chest cover and Laith kicks out at one.
Gabert goes for a corner charge, but Laith manages to avoid it and get Gabert in an octopus hold in the ropes. After breaking the hold, Laith fires up with kicks, and a step-up enziguri finally gets the big German to her knees. Laith stays on her and finally takes her down and covers for two. She then heads up top, but gets cut off by Gabert.
Laith fires back with more kicks, finally dropping Gabert with a dropkick. Again she heads up top and this time she nails Gabert with a senton, but Gabert kicks out at two.
Gabert then proceeds to absolutely kills Laith with a lariat which causes JR to forget he’s not calling a NJPW match and scream “LARIATOOO!” which honestly sounds more like, “LARRY ITO!” Gabert doesn’t go for a cover though, instead choosing to ground and pound Laith. Gabert looks to put away Laith for good, but Laith counters and gets Gabert in an Alligator Clutch FROM OUTTA NOWHERE to pick up the win.
After the ref raises Abbey’s hand, Gabert moves towards her and Abbey cowers before Gabert hugs her and raises her hand in a show of good sportsmanship. Abbey Laith starts to cry. I didn’t cry. Shut up, there was something in my eye!
Winner: Abbey Laith
This was easily the best match of the night. Both women looked great here and by the end of the match both were over with the crowd. My one criticism about this is now Gabert’s out of the tournament which is kind of a shame because she was absolutely awesome here. I hope they offer her a contract if they haven’t already, because I’d be all about her chucking women around in NXT or on SmackDown. [***½]
Post-Match Wrap Up
We get a brief rundown of the women advancing to round two in the tournament (Princesa Sugehit, Serena Deeb, Shayna Baszler, and Abbey Laith in case you forgot) and some hype videos for the matches that will be coming up in Episode 2.
This is basically what I want from a wrestling show: an hour of pretty solid grappling that told logical, straight forward stories. I thought by and large the women who wrestled here did well, even the developmental project women looked pretty good in there. Vanessa Borne and Zeda both need a little more seasoning, but didn’t look utterly lost when out in the ring.
The match between Laith and Gabert was easily the best of the night, but other than that the rest of the matches fell into the “acceptable TV match” range. I’m sure once we get out of round one the overall match quality will pick up.
There were a couple things about this show that I didn’t like. First was how much they dimmed the lights. I really don’t give a shit about seeing the crowd (particularly the Full Sail Crowd) so I don’t care that they turned those lights down, but they also turned the lights around the ringside area down. For the most part the women stayed in the ring so it wasn’t an issue but during the Princesa Sugehit vs. Kay Lee Ray they worked outside the ring for a bit and it was kind of hard to see what they were doing, but it’s a minor nitpick.
The second thing is a bit more of a serious gripe. The commentary is unfortunately not particularly good. Ross sounded like the commentary that you’d get from a WWE video game; it’s all just scripted sounding soundbites. If someone who’d never actually heard JR call a match watched this show they’d wonder why people thought he was the greatest announcer of all time. Lita, meanwhile, always took a couple seconds before responding to anything JR said, like she had to think about it first. Overall the commentary just felt bored and uninspired which is kind of a shame.