Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Competitor Wishlist for the Mae Young Classic

Could the Mae Young Classic be where Kimber Lee breaks out? I hope so!
Photo Credit: Zia Hiltey
Another year, another tournament. WWE presented perhaps the best if not only short-run, non-recurring event ever with the Cruiserweight Classic. The sequel this year is the Mae Young Classic, a 32-woman tournament that will pit the best female competitors from around the globe for an unspecified prize to date. The tournament will tape on July 13 and 14, be released video on-demand style on August 28, and the finals will be broadcast live in September. Many wrestlers have been rumored or linked to the tournament, but none have been announced. So, before the company starts picking its field, I will give my shopping list of wrestlers that I'd like to see end up in it, broken down by status/scene of origin.


WWE has no shortage of female talent under contract, whether or not they've debuted yet or not. The Cruiserweight Classic, however, had no one in it that was already part of the narrative in NXT or the main roster with two exceptions, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. That being said, I have one current wrestler who probably should be in the Classic, even if the reasons are a bit spoilery...

Ruby Riot - She doesn't fit the mold whatsoever if one is going by the template provided by the CWC. She competed at two Takeovers so far, one of which she got a shot at the NXT Women's Championship. However, the way the spoilers turn for NXT weekly television, she's not going to be a factor come Takeover: Brooklyn, which feels odd. Perhaps she'll end up being the #DIY analogue this year, which fits in with her character, actually. Either way, she's such a sparkplug, and I love watching her work against a variety of opponents. Who knows, maybe she can rekindle a Chikara rivalry with the next person on this list at some point.

Kimber Lee - She's made her television debut technically, wrestling under her real name in an enhancement role. But everyone knows enhancement work doesn't count. While I think Riot is the better wrestler of the two overall, Lee is probably the one most ready to jump right into NXT without too much of a struggle, which is why I thought it surprising that it was the other way around. Either way, the sooner she gets into regular competition, the better, and any tournament where Lee goes deep is one worth binge-watching.

Andrea - Andrea has come a long way from the green Rosie Lottalove who was thrust into an impossible situation and ended up unfortunately ending Daffney's career. She's actually evolved into one of the stronger new talents on the indie scene before her signing. She would provide a great HOSS presence, especially for some of the smaller competitors to base off.

American Indies

While the seeming peak of the indie scene for women has come down from earlier in the '10s thanks to WWE and Impact Wrestling talent raids, women are still important and bountiful around the country. Tournament planners have a whole bevy of wrestlers from which to choose, but I'd like to see them select the following.

Candice LeRae - OBVIOUSLY LeRae is going to be a heavily rumored name, like the Zack Sabre, Jr. of the tournament. She's already got her foot in the door, having competed in that number one contender's battle royale in advance of Takeover: Chicago. She's also already based in Orlando thanks to her marriage to Gargano. Even if she doesn't sign a deal at some point, it'd be a no-brainer to have her aboard. She provides a stable veteran presence who can work with wrestlers of all sizes. And the fans already love her.

Shayna Baszler - WWE is already thirsty for her BFF, Ronda Rousey. Of course, that's not the reason I want her in the tournament. Baszler has become one of the hottest properties on the indies for good reason. She brings the hard, MMA-influenced #grapplefuck to a whole new audience. Daria Berenato/Sonya DeVille is already on the roster, but she's nowhere near as polished as Baszler is, and I want to see that style in the tournament represented at its best.

Hania the Howling Huntress - Hania is Schrödinger's Wrestler, in that she's both active and retired at any given moment. However, both Becky Lynch and Billie Kay were retired or on their way out of the business when WWE gave them the call. Hania fills a need for the tournament with high flying ability. She can dazzle with the big aerial pyrotechnics, and she has an uncanny ability to play crowds to her advantage.

Veda Scott - Scott is a tremendous wrestler and if she's working the tournament, she'd knock it out of the park. Secretly, however, I want her to call the tournament. WWE wants a woman to call the action alongside Jim Ross, which is great. What's not so great is that it might be Lita, who, god bless her, has a lot of room to grow as a commentator. Scott's already got it down pat. Even though she probably wouldn't beat out Lita or Renee Young, who actually has experience in a WWE booth, she'd be the best possible option.


The Cruiserweight Classic provided a great avenue for Yoshihiro Tajiri's final stand and Brian Kendrick's rebirth into the company. WWE has no shortage of former female stars to come back and either take a few more laps under the banner or maybe make a career resurgence.

Eve Torres - Remember how fuckin' awesome Torres got right before she left, and then boom, she was out the door like a restaurant patron short on his bill? Yeah, she left me wanting a lot more. I don't know if she even wants to come back full time, but she's tops on the list of wrestlers I want to make a return for this short run event. She can build upon her exit, and she's moved up the ranks in Brazilian jiu-jitsu since leaving, which is a plus.

Victoria - While she's ramped down her career in the last few years, she still takes bookings. While Trish Stratus is the one WWE likes to elevate as the pioneer in women's wrestling from the early part of the 00s, Victoria/Tara/Lisa Marie Varon was better in most every aspect and had more staying power. She'd be a fine addition to the tournament.

Alundra Blayze - I don't know if she can still go, but if so, man, what a great way to make good to the women of WWE's past than to have the Hall of Fame ace of the Women's Division (I know, I know, not a high bar to clear but still) participate. So much of WWE's rhetoric around women's wrestling is centered around Lita/Trish Stratus or the Divas Revolution, which some say was started by Paige Nikki Bella Stephanie McMahon, uh, someone in the last five years, which kinda spits on the work Blayze and even those who came before her did. She deserves some kind of coda to her career in addition to the Hall of Fame induction, one that shows that she actually was a big deal in the ring. I can think of no better opportunity than the Classic.


Even though Io Shirai won't be participating in the Classic, that doesn't mean Japan won't have bountiful options to come over, including a colleague of Shirai's who has already signed.

Kairi Hojo - Hojo, who has already signed her WWE contract, has just finished up her final STARDOM date, so she's free to debut whenever she's able. She automatically becomes the biggest possible name in the tournament, barring a decision to have, say, Sasha Banks or another main roster/NXT star slum it for a bit. Her reputation precedes her, and regardless of rumors saying she won't be able to use it, she has the best elbow drop in the biz since Randy Savage decided to hang 'em up.

Manami Toyota - On the short list of wrestlers who could be considered as the GOAT (regardless of gender, country, or whatever), Toyota is retiring November 3. She has a short window of time to work anywhere, so WWE would be stupid not to at least consider her as a name import for the Classic. She could be the bridge between the current era and the past on the Japanese side, and who knows, maybe if she and Blayze get in the tournament, they could have the match they didn't get to have in the '90s when WWE was importing in All-Japan Women stars to bolster its Women's Championship division.

Cassandra Miyagi - Of course, if DASH Chisako or Meiko Satomura come over, I wouldn't be sad. Miyagi, however, feels like the Sendai Girl who would best fit the mold for a WWE-sponsored tournament. She's got wild body language and facial expressions that can overcome any language barrier, and she works a breakneck, exciting style that is reminiscent of Jeff Hardy crossed with Hideo Itami, or at least that's what I got from her after seeing her at Trios.

United Kingdom/Europe/South Pacific

Western Europe and Down Under have emerged hot over the last few years, and the men aren't the only ones deserving of attention. Obviously, Nixon Newell is probably a lock to compete in this tournament, but I don't know as much about her to be excited based on experience. However, that doesn't mean women across the pond or in the Southern Hemisphere don't excite me.

Alpha Female - Every tournament needs a fearsome presence, at least in theory. The Cruiserweight Classic didn't really have a villain and was fine, but the UK Championship Tournament was made all the better by Pete Dunne's chicanery and petulance. While his villainy was more puerile and sneaky, Alpha Female would immediately be the monster that would make any opponent across the ring from her quake with fear. Just the presence she projects is enough to build atmosphere, whether in a midsize arena like Full Sail University or a bigger venue. Of course, she won't have a gypsum wall in a business park in New Jersey to throw her opponent through, but if she did, I imagine Triple H would be more okay with it than DJ Hyde was then.

Madison Eagles - Eagles may end up as one of the saddest stories in wrestling given her rotten injury luck, but if she's healthy enough to go, WWE would be foolish not to give her a spot in the tournament. Along with the retired Kellie Skater and the already-rostered Billie Kay/Jessie McKay, Eagles is one of the OGs of Australian women's wrestling. She's versatile, can work pseudo-shoot styles, sprints, or big classic main event set piece matches.

Evie - I'm pretty sure New Zealand's finest export is a lock to be in the tournament as the ink on her contract is dry and she's in Orlando as the clock ticks, but it bears repeating that Evie would be a damn fine addition to the tournament. Her spry, spunky, kick-heavy offense would work well in early-round sprints with similarly paced opponents, and with the right base, she could work more contrasting matches later on as well. Plus, a match with her former Team Slap Happy partner Riot might end up stealing the entire tournament.


Women in Mexico are a huge blindspot, but that doesn't mean lucha libre doesn't have female competitors it could send up. I'm mostly familiar with Sexy Dulce (formerly Sexy Star), but no way in hell she makes it up. Her rivals, the Apache Sisters, probably won't make the trek either, mainly because WWE doesn't seem to be on good terms with AAA, their parent company. However, due diligence has been made for other competitors, and I went to the only person I could for info on them. The Cubs Fan, who writes the Luchablog, gave me some info on the following wrestlers.

Zeuxis - Of all the names from South of the Border thrown around, I've heard Zeuxis' the most. But who is she? The Cubs Fan says she's a veteran of nearly a decade, half-Mexican, half-Puerto Rican descent. Though she caught on with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre early on in her career, TCF says "She really didn't make much of an impression for years, she had injuries, she had six month trips to Japan for promotions that didn't seem to make tape." However, sometime in the last few years, as TCF puts it, "Something just clicked for her around 2014." Since then, she's been tearing shit up, putting her squarely on WWE's radar. However, TCF gave this warning:
Everyone who follows CMLL regularlly loves Zeuxis because she's so much better than everyone else, but that's the problem evaluating her, it's hard to tell if she's really that good or if the low level surrounding her is just raising her up.
That quote seems to jibe with the impression I get, that women's wrestling in Mexico is a relatively new exercise compared to the rich, near 40 year tradition of joshi in Japan. Still, sometimes, the best are the best regardless of whether they have any real competition. I'm excited to see what Zeuxis can do against people close to or even above her level.

Chik Tormenta - Tormenta made some news recently as she received a tryout from WWE. TCF seemed surprised that this happened, mainly because, as he puts it "Even she was surpised she was getting a call." Still, TCF says she's a decent hand and might end up working an early round match, much in the same vein that Raul Mendoza did against Kendrick in the CWC.

Kiera - Hers was a name TCF gave me that I wasn't expecting, although it's for good reason. "She hasn't been outside of Mexico yet so might not be on [WWE's] radar," he says. However, TCF has high praise for her, calling her the "best indie luchadora in Mexico by a wide margin." That praise alone seems like she'd be someone WWE should be interested in. However, she hasn't worked anywhere else, let alone Japan, and according to TCF, most wrestlers from Mexico that catch WWE's eye also end up working Japan.

So, I imagine only a fraction of the above names will be in the tournament. Of the ones I mentioned in my Cruiserweight Classic Wishlist last year, only three actually made it in. Still, whomever WWE selects has the benefit of the doubt with me. The CWC was great, and the non-WWE Universe has a glut of talent to make this Mae Young Classic a worthwhile endeavor.