Preview: WWE Mae Young Classic (8/28/2017)

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It’s been one of the most anticipated tournaments in the WWE in ages, surpassing even last year’s Cruiserweight Classic now that the full list of participants has been revealed. The inaugural Mae Young Classic kicks off next Tuesday August 28th, when the first four episodes of the tournament drop at once on the WWE Network. This past Monday night after Monday Night Raw, WWE released the Mae Young Bracketology special, which released the brackets to start the tournament.

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Here’s a quick preview of the opening round match-ups that will kick off the tournament next Tuesday.

FIRST BRACKET

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A real Wonder Woman vs. Giganta scenario, as the dominating physical power of Germany (and wXw)’s “Alpha Female” Jazzy Gabert goes head to head against the former ruler of Suplex Kingdom, Abbey Laith. As Princess KimberLee in CHIKARA, Laith won the company’s top promotion (the CHIKARA Grand Championship) from the monster Hallowicked, so she’s slain bigger foes before. This will be her first true test under her new NXT name, but she’s only been used sparingly up until this point. It will be interesting to see if they decide to wait out her push in NXT and spotlight a new female powerhouse, or they decide it’s Abbey’s time to shine. Will be a fun match-up regardless the outcome.

Tale of the Tape

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ABBEY LAITH
Years Pro: 6 years
Major Promotions Worked For: CHIKARA, Shimmer, SHINE, WSU, Smash Wrestling, Beyond, wXw, AIW, AAW, MCW
Major Titles: CHIKARA Grand Championship, Shimmer Tag Team Champion, SHINE Tag Team Champion, 2x WSU Tag Team Champion, MCW Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
 Yes

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JAZZY GALBERT
Years Pro: 16
Major Promotions Worked For: wXw, Stardom, Pro Wrestling EVE, WSU, Impact Wrestling
Major Titles: World of Stardom Championship, Goddess of Stardom Champion, Artist of Stardom Champion, Pro Wrestling EVE Championship,  
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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Rachel Evers (known on the indies as Rachael Ellering) is the real life daughter of WWE Hall of Fame manager Paul Ellering, so she’s got an open door to join the WWE when she’s ready (which is why she makes so many frequent stops in NXT). Marti Belle has been a star on the indie circuit with Shimmer, SHINE, WSU and more, not to mention a solid run with Impact Wrestling as part of the Dollhouse. Neither of these two are signed to NXT yet though, so it’s an interesting pairing. Although much like the Cruiserweight Classic, many of the non-signed talent appearing are also probably being scouted under bigger pressure tryouts in this tournament, so it wouldn’t be surprising if either of them end up in NXT by the Fall.

Tale of the Tape

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MARTI BELLE
Years Pro: 9 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Impact Wrestling, SHINE, Shimmer, WSU, AIW, NYWC
Major Titles: WSU Spirit Champion, 2x NYWC Starlet Champion, SHINE Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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RACHEL EVERS
Years Pro: 2 years
Major Promotions Worked For: NXT, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, WrestleCircus, SHINE, Queens of Combat, Resistance Pro Wrestling
Major Titles: WC Lady of the Ring, RPW Women’s Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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Another pairing of two women who have yet to sign with NXT, which should lead to strong outings as they try to impress a future potential employer. Kay Lee Ray is a firecracker on the UK indies, such as ICW, Progress, and SWE, and is a frequent performer for Shimmer, Stardom, and wXw. Princesa Sugehit brings truly traditional lucha libre from Mexico, where she’s a veteran of the women’s wrestling scene.

Tale of the Tape

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KAY LEE RAY
Years Pro: 8 years
Major Promotions Worked For: ICW, PROGRESS, Stardom, WCPW, Pro Wrestling EVE, Shimmer, SHINE, SWE, OTT, CZW
Major Titles: WCPW Women’s Champion, ICW Women’s Champion, 2x SWE Queen of Southside Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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PRINCESA SUGEHIT
Years Pro: 20 years
Major Promotions Worked For: CMLL, AAA
Major Titles: Mexican National Women’s Champion, REINA-CMLL International Champion 
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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While many pairings are fairly equal battles or dream matches from the indies, this one is far from either. Mercedes Martinez is an over 15 year veteran, whose captured titles in Shimmer, SHINE, WSU, NCW Femme Fatales…she’s a battle hardened pro. Her opponent is one of the recent NXT signings from their trip to China, whose still very new to the game.

Tale of the Tape

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MERCEDES MARTINEZ
Years Pro: 16 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Shimmer, SHINE, WSU, NECW, AAW, NCW Femme Fatales, NECW World Women’s Champion, NCW Femme Fatales International Champion, SHINE Tag Team Champion, WSU Tag Team Champion
Major Titles: 2x Shimmer Champion, 3x WSU World Champion, 
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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XIA LI
Years Pro: 1
Major Promotions Worked For: WWE Performance Center
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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Another pairing of a seasoned pro (Shimmer’s Nicole Savoy) and a raw recruit (Performance Center prospect Reina Gonzalez). Like the match before it, Savoy will teach her opponent a lot in the time in the ring together, but it’s unlikely Gonzalez will advance. Although there’s always a chance that one of the seeming unknowns pulls an upset victory over a more established star to get a bit of momentum.

Tale of the Tape

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NICOLE SAVOY
Years Pro: 5 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Shimmer, Stardom, Queens of Combat, AIW
Major Titles: Heart of Shimmer Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:

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REINA GONZALEZ
Years Pro: 3 years
Major Promotions Worked For: WWE Performance Center
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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Perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of the opening round, but not entirely because of both opponents. MCW and SHINE’s Renee Michelle is an emerging star on the women’s indie circuit, but Candice LeRae is already one of it’s shining megastars (being Mrs. Johnny Wrestling hasn’t helped her buzz either). People have chomping at the bit for months for Candice LeRae’s first one-on-one encounter in a WWE ring since her brief appearance in a battle royal on NXT.

Tale of the Tape

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RENEE MICHELLE
Years Pro: 4 years
Major Promotions Worked For: SHINE, MCW, WSU, NYWC, ECWA
Major Titles: 3x MCW Women’s Champion, 2x ECWA Women’s Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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CANDICE LeRAE
Years Pro: 15 years
Major Promotions Worked For: PWG, Ring of Honor, Shimmer, SHINE, WSU, PROGRESS, Queens of Combat, Smash Wrestling, CZW, CHIKARA
Major Titles: PWG World Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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Sarah Logan finally emerges with her NXT name after working as enhancement under her real name (Sarah Bridges). Hopefully this means she’s in line for a push in the women’s division of NXT, closer to her great run on the indies as Crazy Mary Dobson. Tough first round match-up as she faces former TNA Knockouts Champion Mia Yim (formerly known as Jade on Impact), another superstar that people are buzzing over being in a WWE ring. This could go either way.

Tale of the Tape

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SARAH LOGAN
Years Pro: 6 years
Major Promotions Worked For: NXT, Ring of Honor, Shimmer, SHINE, AIW, Queens of Combat, CHIKARA, Resistance Pro
Major Titles: RPW Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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MIA YIM
Years Pro: 8 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Impact Wrestling, Shimmer, SHINE, WSU, SWE, Queens of Combat, AIW, Smash Wrestling, WrestleCircus, CZW, AAW
Major Titles: TNA Knockouts Champion, SHINE Champion, SWE Queen of Southside, SHINE Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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The third mismatch of the first bracket is actually a battle of two legit MMA fighters (although they’d be equally mismatched in a real life MMA fight). Shayna Baszler left the MMA world a few years back and has emerged as a bonafide crossover star, like Matt Riddle, KUSHIDA and Brock Lesnar before her – she’s already made an impact with Shimmer, Stardom and AIW. Zeda – the recently acquired NXT name for lower level MMA fighter Julie “Killa” Ho – has the skills, but she’s very new to the pro wrestling herself, only joining the Performance Center last year.

Tale of the Tape

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SHAYNA BASZLER
Years Pro: 2 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Shimmer, SHINE, Stardom, AIW, RISE
Major Titles: AIW Women’s Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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ZEDA
Years Pro: 1 year
Major Promotions Worked For: WWE Performance Center
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

SECOND BRACKET

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Tough early round match-up, featuring the two names most people would have expected in the finals. Kairi Sane (aka Kairi Hojo from Japan) is arguably one of the best female performers in the world right now, and Tessa Blanchard comes from wrestling royalty and is one of the fastest emerging stars on the women’s independent scene in North America. Regardless who advances, this could be the show stealer of the opening round.

Tale of the Tape

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KAIRI SANE
Years Pro: 5 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Stardom
Major Titles: World of Stardom Champion, Wonder of Stardom Champion, 3x Goddess of Stardom Champion, 4x Artist of Stardom Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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TESSA BLANCHARD
Years Pro: 3 years
Major Promotions Worked For: NXT, Shimmer, SHINE, Stardom, WSU, Queens of Combat, WrestleCircus, WCPW, PWX, AIW, MCW, Beyond, Pro Wrestling Revolver
Major Titles: WC Lady of the Ring, WC Sideshow Champion, Shimmer Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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Bianca BelAir recently made her NXT debut, but as Bianca Blair, she was becoming a fan favourite at NXT Live Events while still a Performance Center student. She’s in for a tough test opening round, against the powerhouse Sage Beckett, formerly Andrea in SHINE, Rosie Lotta Love in TNA and Betsy Ruth on the indies. Both could use the push on the WWE Network as both are in a position to join NXT following the tournament. A good test for the young newcomer BelAir.

Tale of the Tape

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BIANCA BelAIR
Years Pro: 1 year
Major Promotions Worked For: NXT
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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SAGE BECKETT
Years Pro: 10 years
Major Promotions Worked For: NXT, Impact Wrestling, SHINE, Queens of Combat, ACW, Full Impact Pro
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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For years, Dakota Kai was one of the indie circuit’s sweethearts as Evie, while Kavita Devi was a recruit from the Great Khali‘s Continental Wrestling Entertainment (CWE) in India. Two more NXT recruits from the past year, although Dakota has a ton more experience than Devi. Dakota is probably another favoured entrant to do well this tournament.

Tale of the Tape

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DAKOTA KAI
Years Pro: 10 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Shimmer, SHINE, Stardom, PROGRESS, Melbourne City Wrestling, PWWA, IPW New Zealand
Major Titles: PWWA Women’s Champion, 3x IPW Women’s Champion, Artist of Stardom Champion, Shimmer Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT

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KAVITA DEVI
Years Pro: 1 year
Major Promotions Worked For: CWE, WWE Performance Center
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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Before signing with NXT earlier this year, Rhea Ripley was better known to the indie world as Demi Bennett, and a huge star out of Australia. At 20 years old, she’s got a world of talent already. Miranda Silanis is another emerging star out of Texas – more specifically, from Booker T’s school promotion, Reality of Wrestling (ROW).

Tale of the Tape

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RHEA RIPLEY
Years Pro: 4 years
Major Promotions Worked For: Riot City Wrestling, Melbourne City Wrestling
Major Titles: 2x RCW Women’s Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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MIRANDA SALINAS
Years Pro: 3 years
Major Promotions Worked For: ROW
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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Serena Deeb is returning to the ring for the Mae Young Classic after a two year’s absence – she retired in 2015. Many WWE fans may remember her from her last run with the WWE as part of CM Punk‘s Straight Edge Society, but she was an indie darling for years before and after. She has the potential to be this year’s Brian Kendrick or Tajiri, the nostalgic throwback talent that gets a good rally from the crowd for one more run. She’s facing a recent WWE Performance Center graduate in Vanessa Borne, who’s made a few recent appearances on NXT.

Tale of the Tape

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SERENA DEEB
Years Pro: 12 years
Major Promotions Worked For: WWE, Ring of Honor, Shimmer, WSU, FCW, OVW, Queens of Combat, JWP Japan
Major Titles: 6x OVW Women’s Champion, Queen of FCW
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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VANESSA BORNE
Years Pro: 1 year
Major Promotions Worked For: WWE Performance Center
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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A dream match up for many, featuring Scotland’s Piper Nevin (better known on the indies as Viper) versus one of the world’s top female performers, Santana Garrett. These two are both international stars, having wrestled for most of the top indie promotions. This will be another first round treat, with either one making a worthy victor.

Tale of the Tape

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PIPER NIVEN
Years Pro: 9 years
Major Promotions Worked For: ICW, WCPW, Shimmer, SHINE, Stardom, SWE, Pro Wrestling EVE, Scottish Wrestling Alliance
Major Titles: ICW Women’s Champion, Artist of Stardom Champion, SWE Future Division Champion, Scottish Women’s Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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SANTANA GARRETT
Years Pro: 8 years
Major Promotions Worked For: NXT, Impact Wrestling, Shimmer, SHINE, Stardom, WSU, Queens of Combat, AAA, CWF
Major Titles: Wonder of Stardom Champion, SHINE Champion, SHINE Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:

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A strange match-up, as both are recent graduates of the WWE Performance Center, although Lacey Evans is a few months ahead of Taynara Conti, having made her NXT debut recently (where she’s become a bit of a Full Sail and NXT Live Event favourite).

Tale of the Tape

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TAYNARA CONTI
Years Pro: 1 year
Major Promotions Worked For: WWE Performance Center
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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LACEY EVANS
Years Pro: 1 year
Major Promotions Worked For: NXT, WWE Performance Center
Major Titles: None
Signed to WWE/NXT:
Yes

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A clash of two wrestlers from the UK scene (although Toni Storm is also a huge star in her home country of New Zealand (and neighbour Australia)’s wrestling circuit as well), featuring another favourite to win the tournament, Toni Storm. Ayesha Raymond is no slouch, although she’s arguably not as well known as most of the other indie women in the tournament. This could be her audition for possible inclusion in the WWE UK programming down the road.

Tale of the Tape

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AYESHA RAYMOND
Years Pro: 8 years
Major Promotions Worked For: IPW:UK, Stardom, Pro Wrestling EVE, WAW
Major Titles: IPW:UK Women’s Champion, Artist of Stardom Champion, IPW:UK Tag Team Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

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TONI STORM
Years Pro: 8 years
Major Promotions Worked For: PROGRESS, Stardom, wXw, IPW:UK, SWE, RevPro UK, Pro Wrestling EVE, Riot City Wrestling, Melbourne City Wrestling, British Empire Wrestling
Major Titles: PROGRESS Women’s Champion, SWA Undisputed World Women’s Champion (Stardom), British Empire Women’s Champion
Signed to WWE/NXT:
No

Watch the entire WWE Mae Young Classic Bracketology Special below:

So who are your predictions to advance?

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