Thirty matches have been contested, thirty competitors have been eliminated and now only two women remain in the Mae Young Classic. The tournament was announced at a press conference during WrestleMania 33 weekend. The announcement was met with a mix of anticipation and cautious optimism. On September 12, Shayna Baszler and Kairi Sane will meet in the finals live on the WWE Network. The wrestling panelists at AiPT! have been following the tournament and here are their thoughts on the finals and the Mae Young Classic.
Has the Mae Young Classic been a success?
Brian: I think that the tournament brought together a great field of women (with notably few exceptions) and put on some solid matches, including several must-see bouts. It set the stage for at least 5-10 of the women to make in big in NXT or WWE proper. The live crowd was into it and the reception has been positive. Since we don’t have access to WWE Network ratings, it’s tough to tell how many people have watched the show. I think the live special on Tuesday will tell us a lot about the future. Success for the MYC is preventing it from becoming a one-off. We’ll see how committed WWE is to that in the coming months.
Mark: The WWE probably had a few goals for the MYC: Get people talking about WWE women’s wrestling instead of GLOW, build up and highlight some of their developmental talent, introduce the audience to newly signed talent for NXT. I think they achieved all of those goals, so that’s a success. I don’t know if the MYC will be more than a footnote in the long term but right now it feels like a success to me.
Nathaniel: Depends on who you ask. Fans who like women’s wrestling and were not already subscribed to the WWE Network probably weren’t going to do so just for the MYC. Fans who were interested in trying an entire show devoted to women’s wrestling were probably impressed. The WWE probably sees success for the MYC as mainstream media coverage. The more outlets talking about how forward-thinking the WWE (Stephanie McMahon) are, the more successful they will say the MYC was. Subscriber-wise, it probably didn’t move any needles, but from a fan’s standpoint it was a success. We will find out if it was a PR success after the finals. I have enjoyed the MYC and would call it a success.
Who has been the breakout star of the MYC?
Brian: It is tempting to give this to either of the finalists, but they were going to be stars no matter what. Let’s go back a bit. I think the breakout star is Abbey Laith. She went toe to toe with several excellent competitors and started by pinning Jazzy Gabert. While I thought the connection to Mae Young was forced, she stood tall among a lot of talented women.
Mark: Like Brian, I don’t think the finalists need my pick. While I think that Bianca Belair showed a ton of potential, enough that I think she could be a centerpiece in the main roster women’s division in 3-4 years, she’s not my pick. My breakout star is Piper Niven. Piper’s attitude and approach made her feel more real than previous big women wrestlers who got typecast as “monsters”. She stood out with her size and agility but her match with Toni Storm highlighted how well rounded she is. She really adds something to any women’s roster.
Nathaniel: I had seen some of Toni Storm before the MYC and was always impressed. Storm has great ring presence and natural charisma. She has a look that is perfect for the WWE. She took advantage of her time on the big stage and should be brought back.
Can the MYC be used as a launching pad for a women’s division show or is it just a one off?
Brian: I just don’t know at this point. At least there’s a reason to segregate the Cruiserweights into their own show. With women and titles on all 3 major shows (Raw, Smackdown Live, and NXT), what would they fight for? I think if you instituted some kind of relegation system for the main shows and women from the MYC could earn their way onto the main rosters it would work, but without a tangible thing to fight for, it’s a no-go.
Mark: I think that the position that 205 Live is in means that we won’t see a MYC show. I don’t think that is a bad thing, as WWE already has too much content. I see the MYC’s role as getting people talking about WWE women’s wrestling, highlighting new NXT talent, persuading talent to sign up and pushing Baszler and the Four Horsewomen vs Four Horsewomen feud. So I think this is as far as MYC goes unless it returns in another 2-3 years.
Nathaniel: The cynical side of me thinks that the sole reason behind the MYC was to bring in Ronda Rousey. If so, we probably won’t see the MYC again. And if we do, it will be as a Battle Royal on the Mania Pre-Show. The more rational side of me thinks the MYC was a vehicle to showcase talent and push Kairi Sane into a feud with Asuka. I doubt there will be a women’s division show but we will be seeing a some new faces on NXT.
Who is winning the finals: Baszler or Sane?
Brian: There are no real losers in this match. If Baszler wins, a legit MMA fighter and her ready-made stable of legit badasses invade WWE. I don’t care if it’s Survivor Series, WrestleMania, or an episode of NXT, they will face off against the actual Four Horsewomen and it will be epic. If Sane wins, one of the best Japanese wrestlers in the world, regardless of gender, gets an international spotlight. The loser gets beat by the best in the world* and has a ready-made feud for NXT, the main roster, or the imaginary womens wrestling show.
* The best in the world who is not already signed to WWE’s main roster
Mark: I want Sane to win but my head says Baszler. I think WWE see a lot of money in the Four Horsewomen vs Four Horsewomen and I can see Baszler winning the MYC to set it up. I hope she doesn’t though, as I feel that it will undermine the tournament and make it feel like a vehicle to get Ronda Rousey wrestling in WWE.
Nathaniel: This is a tough one. Both finalists have eliminated personal favorites, with Baszler taking out Candice LeRae and Sane beating Toni Storm. That being said, Sane is great and Baszler has been very impressive. Sane will be going into the finals with an injured arm. Baszler meanwhile is on a roll. I want Sane to win but I can also see Baszler making her tap out. In the end, I’m sticking to my guns — I thought Sane was going to win when the MYC first started, and I am picking her to win the finals.