After a critically acclaimed tournament last year featuring some of the best cruiserweight wrestlers in the world, WWE decided to go all-in on its ongoing effort to brand itself as championing a women’s evolution in wrestling.
The inaugural Mae Young Classic, which concluded with a live finale Tuesday after SmackDown, should be termed by all accounts as a success, introducing several female wrestlers to a larger audience and showing that what we’ve been seeing out of several of the current and former NXT standouts is not limited to WWE. There are talented female competitors all over the globe who can more than hold their own in the ring.
That’s not to say that the tournament was without some hiccups. But let’s give WWE credit for putting together an all-female tournament that delivered several memorable matches and brought some new faces into the casual fans’ conscience. That alone is worth something.
Whether WWE decides to hold another such tournament, it’s fair to say this was a worthwhile venture for the company, as well as a learning opportunity to not repeat a couple mistakes. Regardless, the entire tournament is available on the WWE Network and definitely worth a watch. We’ll undoubtedly see several of these women on WWE TV again soon, so best to familiarize yourself with them.
While we could go back and review individual matches and offer critiques, let’s take a look at some overall observations from the Mae Young Classic. Let’s get to it…
6. Stretched Out Too Far
When you look at the field of 32 wrestlers, there was a noticeable drop-off of talent, with several women clearly not belonging in such an event. Marti Belle’s dismal performance, which reportedly resulted in the booking being changed on the fly, is a standout example.
The result was a handful of first-round matches that were pedestrian at best, boring at worst. While not every match can be a home run, it’s not great when trying out a new idea – an all-female tournament – to throw a handful of dud matches out there right out of the gate.
The good news is that there were enough skilled competitors and solid matches to more than make up for the bad ones, and the tournament really picked up in the second round. And that begs the question: Would it have been better to do a smaller tournament?
Of course, 16 women most likely would have meant four fewer episodes and several talented women being left out. But going with 32 resulted in some inexperienced wrestlers getting slots. Maybe they could have had a round robin tournament with eight pools of three wrestlers (24 total), and then the winners of each have a single-elimination tourney (last three rounds of Mae Young). Just an idea.