Episode Three of the Mae Young Classic begins in much the same way as Episode Two, with Mauro recapping the action from the last episode and hyping up the matches to come tonight. The opening video plays and we then go to Full Sail University where JR and Lita welcome us to the show.
We are then shown video packages for the first two competitors of the evening: Ayesha Raymond and Toni Storm. Raymond is like John Locke from Lost and doesn’t want anyone to tell her what she can’t do. I guess she’s a weightlifter or something and inspired by big cats, so she’s got feline inspired facepaint on.
Toni Storm is a rock star or something. She has a tiny hat and Almost Famous sunglasses. I don’t remember much else from her interview here but she got wrestling footage from outside of WWE, so she’s probably going to win here.
Match 1: Ayesha Raymond vs. Toni Storm
Raymond refuses to shake hands before the match begins. THIS WILL BE A FIGHT WITHOUT HONOR! She shoves Storm around at the onset and tries to ground her. Storm counters with some World of Sport fuckery to escape and takes Raymond down and then proceeds to attack with her ass, and oh what an ass it is!
Raymond fights back and uses her power to slam Storm about for awhile. She then chokes out Storm on the ropes, but Storm fights back with a headbutt and a backstabber. She follows up with a running knee and a northern lights suplex and then heads up, but Raymond slams her off the top.
She jaws with the fans for a bit and then heads up top herself. Raymond goes for a top rope splash, but she wasted too much time and Storm rolls out of the way. Storm rolls her up with an Oklahoma roll to pick up the win.
Winner: Toni Storm
This was a pretty average wrestling match, similar to the sort of thing mid-card NXT women wrestlers would have on weekly TV. Storm has a lot of charisma and has won a shit ton of championships elsewhere so I’d like to see what she can do going forward.
Raymond wasn’t awful, but didn’t really do much here to impress me. She has a decent look and is apparently legitimately strong, but could use some more work in the ring. [**½]
Meanwhile in the Audience…
Sara Del Rey and Charlotte Flair are in the audience watching the proceedings together.
Kavita Devi is apparently the first female wrestler from India to step in a WWE ring. She was trained by Great Khali so I’m already a little nervous. I guess she also competed in weight lifting competitions internationally.
Dakota Kai gets footage from Shimmer. She’s wrestled everywhere and is apparently “the girl next door,” if the girl next door could also kick your face off. She is goddamn adorable. I love her already.
Match 2: Dakota Kai vs. Kavita Devi
Devi crushes Kai’s hand to dust during the pre-match handshake. The bell rings and the match gets underway with Devi using her strength to toss Kai around. Kai goes for a quick roll up but Devi kicks out at one.
Devi hits an arm drag, and works over Kai’s arm a bit. She then does a rope walk and hits a lucha arm drag off the ropes. She continues to work over the arm and goes for another arm drag off the ropes.
Kai fires back and picks up the pace, hitting a sunset flip off the rope that gets her a two count. She stays on the attack, hitting a dropkick that seeming has no effect on Devi. She goes for a second dropkick and gets swatted away like a gnat. Devi picks her up and gets her up for a military press slam.
She wastes some time as the crowd applauds her feat of strength and the goes back to chucking Kai around. Devi’s kind of limited in the ring, so it’s a bit repetitive until Kai makes her comeback. She hits the Helluva Kick to put Devi down and the goes up top and hits her with the Coup De Grâce to put Devi away and advance in the tournament.
Winner: Dakota Kai
Devi’s not bad per se but needs some more work before she’s back on TV. The stuff she did looked fine, but there wasn’t a lot of variety in her offense so for anything more than very short squashes it’ll get pretty boring.
Dakota Kai pretty much spent the entire match selling. Her selling was good, but I’ll have to wait until Round Two to see what she can really do in the ring. [*½]
Meanwhile in the Audience…
The Rock’s mom and daughter and Nia Jax and maybe a couple more of The Rock’s kinfolk are shown in the audience watching the wrestling going on.
Bianca Belair is super confident. She’s the strongest, the fastest, etc. She’s the EST. Sage Beckett is not a witch, she’s a shaman. She gets her power for the elements themselves.
Match 3: Bianca Belair vs. Sage Beckett
They lock up and shove each other about in the early going. Beckett takes control early, using slamming Belair and hitting a running elbow drop that earns her a two count. She keeps control in the early going, but after she misses a corner charge Belair hits a dropkick and takes control.
She puts the boots to Beckett and follows up with forearms and a lariat that earns her a near fall. She trips up Beckett and after working her over hits a leg drop and a running frog splash.
Beckett mounts a comeback and ends up nailing Belair with a full nelson bomb for a near fall. She follows up with strikes and then a corner splash and a running kick that earns her another near fall. She follows up with a knee lift and then gets Belair in the Tree of Woe.
Beckett hits a corner splash and then climbs the ropes and goes for the Vader Bomb. Belair rolls out of the way and Beckett misses. Both women get back to their feet and Belair whips Beckett with her braid to stun her and then nails her with a spear.
A three count later Bianca Belair advances to Round Two of the Mae Young Classic.
Winner: Bianca Belair
This was a perfectly acceptable television wrestling match. It was short, but both women looked pretty good. There weren’t any glaring mistakes and it flowed well. Bianca Belair impressed me a lot. For someone as new to wrestling as she is I thought she really did a good job in this match. She’s very charismatic and looked pretty smooth in the ring, plus has a really cool gimmick with the braid whip thing. Sage Beckett also looked pretty good in the ring. I thought the legit witch gimmick was pretty good. I would not be adverse to seeing either of these women in NXT. [**½]
We get videos introducing us to Piper Niven and Santana Garrett. Both have more or less wrestled everywhere. Garrett showed up a couple times in NXT but never signed with WWE for some reason.
Match 4: Santana Garrett vs. Piper Niven
Outside of WWE Piper is known as Viper. JR mentions that she was the first woman to wrestle in Britain’s World of Sport and that he himself called the match. This match was part of the attempt to revive World of Sport that led to the WWE UK Tournament. The revival never came about so WWE UK has more or less stalled and the title is now kind of a midcard title on NXT. Fun for everyone!
This is looking like it’s going to be another power vs. speed match. It would have been good if we could have gotten at least one Lady Hoss match, but I guess it’s not to be. The match gets underway with Niven powering Garrett into the corner. The ref calls for a clean break and Piper backs off and then playfully hooks Garrett in the jaw. She then proceeds to take Garrett down and score an early near fall.
Garrett tries to use her speed to gain the advantage and goes for a variation of the octopus hold but Niven slams her down and escapes. Niven goes for a sit-down splash but misses and Garrett capitalizes hitting some kicks and a head scissors.
Again Garrett tries to pick up the pace, but she gets taken out by Niven who nails her with a running cross body. Niven then applies a cravat which JR claims is as British as bangers and mash. He yammers on and on about fish and chips and other British foodstuffs for awhile as Niven slows the pace of the match down.
She hits a short-armed clothesline that’s good for two. She goes for a corner splash but gets cut off by Garrett who then heads to the apron and hits a slingshot DDT for another near fall. She avoids a clothesline from Niven and hits Eat Defeat. She follows up with a springboard back elbow, but gets cut off when she goes for a bulldog.
Niven levels Garrett with a running splash that earns her another near fall. She then pulls Garrett to the corner and heads up but Garrett cuts her off and hits her with a head scissors off the top ropes that leads to another near fall. Garrett follows up with a superkick and then goes for a lionsault but misses.
Niven capitalizes and hits a running senton that she follows up with a Michinoku Driver in order to advance in the tournament.
Winner: Piper Niven
This was another really solid main event style match. Both women were really good and the crowd was very into the match. I liked Piper a bit more personally, but thought Garrett was also pretty great and would have liked for her to go a bit further in the tournament, but I’m not booking this thing so it’s not up to me. [***½]
Post-Match Wrap Up
Again we are given a quick recap of who is advancing from this episode and who’s heading home. In case you’ve forgotten what I wrote above the women moving on to round two are Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, Bianca Belair and Piper Niven.
We get some hype videos for episode four (KAIRI SANE IS COMING~!) and that does it for episode 3 of the Mae Young Classic.
This episode was a lot better than the previous one in terms of match quality. On the commentary side of things, things are looking a bit better as well, though that could very well be Stockholm syndrome on my part. Lita and JR talking about Toni Storm’s tiny, black hat and jokingly wondering whether or not JR (a noted fan of black hats) could pull the look off felt organic and unforced in a way a lot of the earlier commentary did and sort of set the tone for the rest of the work they did in this episode. It still wasn’t great, but it was a lot less bad than it had been.
My one minor nitpick about this episode was it was heavy with power vs. speed matches. Now I personally like that kind of match, but I think the overall flow of the show would have been better if one or two of the “smaller, faster woman takes on a bigger, stronger woman” matches had been on one of the other episodes to give this episode a better flow.
That being said this was a pretty fine episode. Piper Niven, Santana Garrett, and Toni Storm all looked fantastic in the ring, Bianca Belair is incredibly good for someone with as little experience as she has, and Dakota Kai is goddamn adorable. All in all a solid offering.