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    Monday, September 10, 2018

    The Smark Henry Mae Young Classic 2018 Review (9/5/18): It's Meiko Time!

    It’s here! It’s finally here!

    This year’s Mae Young Classic has finally begun, and we couldn’t have been much more excited! Christmas came early in the very first episode because the main event featured the WWE Network debut of the one and only Meiko Satomura!

    Man, wrestling in 2018 is amazing. And so are these eight women!

    Tegan Nox def. Zatara

    Ardelle: OH MAN, TEGAN NOX. To be honest, I kind of found it hard to watch this match because of her knee injury that happened mid-tournament. Seeing her so happy and excited to finally be in the MYC and knowing eventually at one point that she’ll be pulled out is just SAD! I get that injuries happen and definitely no one wanted it, but I’m heartbroken for her.

    Anyway, let’s not dwell into sadness. Nox versus Zatara was a good opening match for the tournament. The wily Chilean veteran was a nice foil to Tegan, who’s making a comeback from missing last year’s tournament due to a similar injury (WHICH IS DOUBLY HEARTBREAKING). Tegan was in control for most of the match, until Zatara took advantage of her surgically-repaired knee that turned the tides to her favor.

    It was painful to watch Zatara target Tegan’s knee, but it was great babyface fodder for her. She sold her knee perfectly (because it might have hurt so badly IRL!) and the crowd was so solidly behind her that the crowd erupted when she hit her Shining Wizard.

    This is the first time I watched Tegan Nox, and I learned that she is a great babyface. And her crossbody is beautiful.

    Miyann: Just like Ardelle, I also had a hard time watching the match because of Tegan Nox’s injury. But man, can we talk about Zatara first? She was good at working the crowd! The little things that she said to the crowd added drama to the match. The way she looked at the ref every pin was amazing too. Also, that missile dropkick was one of the best missile dropkicks I’ve ever seen.

    Tegan Nox is someone the crowd will support with or without her ACL injury. Her facials are genuine. She reminds me of Dakota Kai from last year’s tournament.

    KP: Tegan Nox looked to make up for the opportunity she lost due to her ACL injury in the 2018 Mae Young Classic. While she only teased what she can really do in the round 1 opener, Nox's technical know-how and playful nature made her status as a tournament favorite make sense.

    (Unspoiled KP is laboring under the delusion that Nox will have a chance to meet Shirai in the finals, or at least Toni Storm in the semis or something. Please bear with KP in their moment of grief.)

    Zatara, the first female Chilean wrestler to compete in the WWE, showed a sliver of the skills she developed in the past 10 years. Her classic heel antics, isolation of Nox's right knee, and clean moves made for a tidy, reasonable seven-minute match.

    Rhea Ripley def. MJ Jenkins

    Ardelle: Rhea Ripley delivered big time last year. Her athletic teen gimmick was fine, but come on, it was vanilla. She's hella athletic, sure, but it can only take her so far. Fast forward to today, and athletic teen Rhea is still athletic AF, but she's got angst now! If she were already dangerous last year, moshpit Rhea is deadly. God, I love her transformation.

    On the other side of the ring is the fabulous MJ Jenkins who made me fall in love with her in just a couple of seconds of a promo and just one match! Her energy is infectious and it made me root for her more as the match went on, despite being dominated by Rhea. Her battle cry and comeback after Rhea's trash talking was rewarding in a way, but Ripley was the more physically dominant woman this time.

    It's sad to see MJ lose this early, but I'm excited for her in NXT. As for Rhea, damn. I cannot wait for her to wreak havoc in this tournament.

    Miyann: What is BDE? Just look at Rhea Ripley and her new attitude, that is BDE. This match reminds me so much of high school: a sassy pretty girl versus the badass one. You know those types of personalities don’t go along well.

    The match started with the slaps of disrespect from Ripley. It showed how much of a sparkplug she is. Jenkins, on the other hand, answered it with a series of sassy arm drags. Her positive aura is indeed infectious. This match, just like what I’ve mentioned above has the typical sassy vs badass vibe. Jenkins’ comeback was just right in time. Ripley’s ring awareness made it easy for her to do a pumphandle powerbomb to win the match.

    My eyes are teary as I type this: when you change your gimmick, you have to change everything to erase your previous one. That’s what Rhea Ripley did in this tournament. Her mannerisms, the way she walked, talked, wiped the sweat off her nose, everything she did built a character that not everyone can have. Can I change my winner now to Rhea Ripley?

    KP: Rhea's back with a vengeance!

    Michael Cole and Renee Young were right when they said that Ripley's definitely more than a Charlotte 2.0. Her quick victory via pumphandle powerbomb beautifully illustrated Ripley's year's-worth growth in a single move. It should put the comparisons to rest, and serve as a warning to her future opponents.

    Jenkins' high energy was naturally a welcome contrast to Ripley's monstrous presence. Her reactions to Ripley's offense may sometimes be over-exaggerated, but when you're up against someone who tried to make an abdominal stretch look fairly uncomfortable, what is exaggerated?

    Lacey Lane def. Vanessa Kraven

    Ardelle: In just one promo, Vanessa Kraven had hypnotized me. I loved how she delivered her intro which was bordering on mysterious and dangerously scary. And she is HUGE. 6'2" is tall, but when she stood in the ring with the petite Lacey Lane, she was literally a mountain.

    Lane (who apparently calls herself "the Filipino Ninja!") on the other hand, was a spitfire in the ring. Showing Lio Rush before Lane made her way to the ring was appropriate because it looks like they're very similar in a way. Props to the commentary for mentioning that they faced each other back in the day, because now I've got to see that match!

    This was, as the cliché goes, a David-versus-Goliath match, where the bigger Kraven basically swatted Lane every time she came at her. What Lane lacked in height though, she made it up with her speed and heart, as she gave the more veteran Kraven an upset.

    Miyann: Vanessa Kraven’s promo got me really excited. She reminded me of a big woman in a circus. Someone that you want to see but will make you back out once you get near the gates. In her video, she said “At first glance, you’ll think I’m a monster. But I have a sweet, playful side, so I’ll lure you into a false sense of security…” I was waiting for this to come in play during the match, but she went in straight as a monster. It disappointed me.

    This is a typical David-versus-Goliath match. It was not disappointing, but it’s very usual. It made me feel like I’ve seen it before, maybe I did. Hmm.. remember Jazzy Gabert versus Abbey Laith? That was better than this one.

    KP: While not the most notable of matches, Lane's win over Kraven at least seemed plausible even with the David vs. Goliath framing of their match. Kraven, while blessed with strength and the ability to herd the green Lane around, was slower and less dexterous than the younger wrestler. Since the crucifix pin turned the stunned Kraven's weight and momentum against her, Lane was able to clinch the surprise victory.

    It's these small, logical turns that can make matches with glaring missteps passable. Coupled with its shortness, Lane vs. Kraven was a capable breather match before the main event, though it admittedly failed to show the abilities of either women.

    Meiko Satomura def. Killer Kelly

    Ardelle: Killer Kelly said in her intro video that the fans will know who she is after the MYC. Heck yeah, they know her now after her match with THE Meiko Satomura!

    There definitely is no shame in losing against a living legend like Satomura. But when you got to hang with her inside the ring and bring punishment to her, that is an achievement on its own. Killer Kelly basically did that, and will now have her phone ring endlessly from promotions with her showing.

    This episode's main event was gosh darn physical. Kelly and Satomura exchanged grappling and strikes and showed the Japanese veteran that no fiber in her being was intimidated. Kelly's determination paid off for a while when she almost got the win with a fisherman buster suplex and caught her in a top rope dragon sleeper! But only few can out-wrestle the final boss, and Kelly wasn’t one of them.

    My favorite moments actually happened after the match, when Kelly finally had the chance to break kayfabe and just be overwhelmed. You can see it in her face that a career highlight happened at that moment. It's moments like these that give meaning to these kinds of tournaments, which is why we should do this more often!

    Miyann: Oh boy, this match is pure magic. It has been a long time since I cried in public because of wrestling. Satomura’s promo and backstory fit well in this tournament. She has a mission, she has something to prove, similar to Tita Mercedes last year (OMG IMAGINE THE TWO OF THEM IN A MATCH. I’M DEAD). While on the other hand, we have Killer Kelly, who is the first Portuguese wrestler to step foot in a WWE ring. She has a lot of weight on her shoulders too.

    Satomura’s combinations made me feel like she’s letting us know how much she grew as a wrestler from the girl on WCW years ago. Killer Kelly didn’t even blink an eye. She went there to fight, and that’s what she did. I love her smiles that asked more of Satomura.

    No one is an underdog in this match and that 2.9 count sealed it. Their styles fit perfectly and it was a great match to end the first episode. Last note, it’ll be great to see Rhea Ripley and Killer Kelly as a tag team.

    KP: 「里村さま、許してくださいが、俺をスコーピオライジングください。」

    Moving past that embarrassment of a sentence, Kelly and Satomura put on a competitive main event for the opener that exceeded my expectations. Kelly pulled on her not inconsiderable experience to match Satomura's ground game and, failing that, brought the striking power of a horse to try and get one over the legend.

    Her dragon sleeper in particular was a highlight for the young woman, and the 2.9 count justified the 'this is awesome' chant by the crowd. Alas, Satomura's supreme experience and endurance allowed her to pull from her reserves and deliver the expected win.

    But what's outstanding is the show of respect the two had for each other for the pin; this truly was a great opportunity for Kelly, and Satomura valued her strong effort.

    Now... The long wait for a Tita Fight between Tita Meiko and Tita Mercy begins...

    (shoutout to Unfettered By An Old Man Michael Cole's enthusiastic "It's Meiko Time" hfjdfklg)

    Final thoughts

    Ardelle: This episode set the bar high for the next four matches in round one! All matches delivered, and while Lacey Lane vs. Vanessa Kraven was the least notable match--frankly speaking--it wasn’t all that bad either. Michael Cole on MYC duty seemed like hearing fanboy Michael Cole, and it was refreshing to hear. The only pet peeve and nitpick I have is he, Renee Young, and Beth Phoenix seemed to have the tendency to talk over each other, but it really didn’t take anything away from the matches. I’m already looking forward to episode two!

    Miyann: First of all, thank you WWE for the weekly MYC content! This episode is a good way to start the tourney. I can’t wait to see what the other competitors have in store!

    KP: The first round didn't exactly shock or surprise, nor did it personally make me feel excited for anyone who qualified for the next stage. This is perfectly natural since, well, it is the qualifiers. I just hope that at least one of these matches, perhaps especially Kelly vs. Satomura, encourages a RAW or SmackDown-only fan to venture beyond their comfort zones and look for more of these content.... though the chances of that are probably slim to none.

    What’s your favorite match in this episode? Who impressed you the most among the eight women? Sound off in the comments section!
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Mae Young Classic 2018 Review (9/5/18): It's Meiko Time! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ardelle Costuna
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