After months of hype and anticipation, WWE’s Mae Young Classic is finally in the record books. The company’s first female-centric tournament was, by most accounts, a big success.
While only one competitor can claim the trophy, several will come away from this event with more exposure, more fans and a greater chance of being signed to a WWE contract.
Over the course of two days, 32 women competed in 30 matches leading up to Tuesday’s live finale featuring Shayna Baszler taking on Kairi Sane.
Baszler had to go through Zeda, Mia Yim, Candice LeRae and Mercedes Martinez to get to this point, while Sane battled Tessa Blanchard, Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai and Toni Storm.
Both of the finalists won over a lot of people who weren’t familiar with them before the tournament, and there is a good chance we will see one or both of them in NXT in the near future.
Tuesday’s finale from Las Vegas was wedged between SmackDown and 205 Live so it could take place in the same city instead of the studio at Full Sail University where the rest of the tournament was filmed.
Before the match took place, WWE showed several high-profile guests in attendance such as Ronda Rousey, Dana Warrior, Alundra Blayze and Beth Phoenix. They even brought back Lilian Garcia to be the ring announcer.
Even though this was a short one-match show, WWE made it feel like a big deal by having so many people involved in the finale. It would have been cool to see this match happen during SmackDown, but having its own WWE Network show is almost as good.
Ryan Dilbert @ryandilbert
*Throws all the world’s roses at Kairi Sane’s feet*
MS Money in the BANK @CarmellaWWE
Wow. What a match! So excited about #MaeYoungClassic & everything is represents for #WomensWrestling. Congratulations to everyone involved!
Rob Schamberger @robschamberger
There’s no doubt that @QoSBaszler is going to be a major player in this business. #MaeYoungClassic
Going into the bout, Sane was depicted as the obvious underdog. The announcers brought up her small stature and Baszler’s MMA background to make it clear who we were supposed to assume would win.
The fearless warriors showed off their speed and versatility in the first few minutes of the match, and the crowd ate it up. Dueling chants filled the arena as they traded near-falls and submission holds.
Baszler fought like the MMA veteran she is, contrasting Sane’s flashier technical routine. They had a few sloppy moments, but the match also had a lot to enjoy.
At one point, Baszler had Sane locked in the rear-naked choke she has used to defeat every other opponent, but the Japanese sensation was able to break free, much to the delight of the crowd.
Everyone in the arena cheered as Sane launched herself off the top rope to hit her signature elbow drop and win the inaugural Mae Young Classic.
WWE Southeast Asia @WWESEAsia
Congratulations to your inaugural #MaeYoungClassic winner…. @KairiSaneWWE! https://t.co/bXAC9H5IQT
Many had Sane pegged to win the whole thing before the tourney even got started, and it’s easy to see why. The fans love her, and she has the X-factor promoters love.
For the first time in the tournament, Baszler showed her opponent respect by embracing Sane to congratulate her on the victory.
Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Sara Amato came out to present the winner with her trophy and a huge bouquet of roses to cap off an outstanding tournament.