Thursday, June 22, 2017

Alpha Female, Kimber Lee, Tessa Blanchard Among Five New Names Added to Mae Young Classic

Alpha Female is gonna wreck some shit down in Full Sail
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
WWE announced five more names for the Mae Young Classic today, and two of them emanate from that wishlist I posted a few weeks back. They are:
  • Abbey Laith
  • Jazzy Gabert
  • Tessa Blanchard
  • Taynara Conti
  • Kavita Devi
One might be confused looking at the first two names on the list, but they are very familiar competitors, I promise you. Laith is what the NXT Name Generator decided Kimber Lee was to be called from here until the end of her WWE career. She was signed at the beginning of the year along with Heidi Lovelace/Ruby Riot, but unlike Riot, she was held out from joining the NXT narrative for a bit longer. Her sparse television appearances have all been in service of enhancement. Still, it's hard not to be excited for her grand debut as an actual wrestler to be respected and known. She was a standout performer and a pillar of companies, both gender-segregated like SHIMMER, SHINE, and Women's Superstars Uncensored, and integrated like Chikara and Beyond Wrestling. In fact, WWE even mentions that she's the only woman to have held the Grand Championship, which is wild because if one believes shady rumormongers, WWE doesn't like to imagine women wrestling men. Yuck. Anyway, from the looks of her hashtag/catchphrase, Laith will get to continue as a royal competitor, which is not surprising in the light of Drew Gulak rekindling his For a Better Combat Zone campaign fitted for 205 Live.

Gabert is another familiar competitor wrestling under a new name. Yes, Alpha Female is in the tournament to provide some much needed muscle and HOSS essence. Gabert is a veteran of several promotions in Europe, Japan, and even America, where she wrestled for WSU and threw Jenny Rose through drywall. She's wrestling under her real name for this tournament. My guess is WWE didn't think the "Alpha Female" appellation would resonate with fans? Who knows. Either way, I'm goddamn stoked to see her in the tournament.

Blanchard is a name that has made the rounds in the last few years, and yes, she is Tully's daughter. I've only seen her sporadically, but she's had more than a few enhancement appearances on NXT television. However, she comes with a good reputation from people in the know. Conti was the name given to Brazilian signee Tay Melo. The Dot Com article played up her real life martial arts cred, so hopefully her working style reflects it and gets to stand out. Finally, Devi is a relative unknown. She's noted as the first female Indian superstar to get a shot with WWE, and not surprisingly, Great Khali trained her. While she will probably have a quick exit in the actual tournament, I expect that unless she really fucks up that she'll end up at the Performance Center when it's all over.

A tenth name for the tournament may have also been accidentally confirmed in an interview with Becky Lynch. She told the Hindustan Times that she's excited to see how former UFC fighter and current indie superstar Shayna Baszler will do in the Classic. It makes sense because of how much WWE thirsts for her best friend Ronda Rousey and because Baszler already has connections in the company. She's trained with the Bella Twins on numerous occasions. Finally, WWE has been in contact with Serena Deeb to make a comeback in the tournament. Her first stint with the company ended with her being fired for "not living her Straight Edge Society gimmick" and being caught in a bar, which to happen in 2010 was just blatant sexism. I can put it in no other terms. She retired because of nagging injuries, but if she comes back, then maybe those injuries aren't as serious as she once thought they were. I'd be happy to see her back, even if just in a limited run.

The tournament tapings are two weeks away, so expect the announcements to ramp up. So far, of the names that are known, it's a very good field, and I only expect it to get better.