I’m back with yet another (terrible) opinion column. This week, I take on the Mae Young Classic. The first round is behind us, and I’ve seen enough to formulate an opinion on each of the wrestlers involved. This column will rank the “star potential” of each wrestler. There wasn’t any set criteria that I used to do this – just my gut feeling. Here’s the format:
I sorted each wrestler into one of 12 tiers. Each tier has a brief explanation for what it stands for. Each of the wrestlers in the tier gets a blurb. Here we go:
The Eternal Optimist Presents: Ranking the Star Potential of the Mae Young Classic Competitors.
Tier 12: The Bottom of the Heap.
The first group on the list contains wrestlers that I’d be thrilled if I never have to see again.
#32: Isla Dawn – By far the worst wrestler in the tournament. She sucks in the ring. She had a pro in Nicole Matthews to carry her through the match and still couldn’t get there. I don’t understand her gimmick at all. It seems that she’s supposed to be goth, only she does a terrible job at showing it. I hope we never see her again.
#31: Karen Q – There’s nothing that Karen Q does that Xia Li doesn’t do better, and Xia Li still has a lot of work to do in ALL aspects of the game.
#30: Mia Yim – I don’t understand why the WWE would waste their time on Yim. She’s not a good wrestler, she lacks athleticism and she’s devoid of any personality that would lead me to believe that she can be marketed. It’s time to cut bait.
Tier 11: Who Are You?
This group contains wrestlers that were so unmemorable that I had to go watch their matches again. It’s never a good sign when you don’t leave an impression.
#29: Nicole Matthews – I get that she’s well respected. I also get that she had the WORST match of the first round against Isla Dawn. Even if you don’t have a good opponent to work with – you can’t go out and stink up the joint and still be considered an elite wrestler. Not every wrestler has to be a fitness model, I get that. Larger wrestlers are great, smaller wrestlers are great, size isn’t what matters. However, when you come in so out of shape that you look like you were bagging groceries the week before, that tells me that you’re not taking your career as seriously as you need to.
#28: Killer Kelly – She’s a generic shoot fighter/MMA type. She didn’t have a great match with one of the best technical wrestlers in the tournament. That’s a bad sign for your in-ring ability. To me, she’s a poor woman’s Sonya Deville. Being that Deville isn’t really all that over on the main roster, the minor league version of her has no chance.
#27: Allyson Kay – She’s an ok wrestler. She’s got some size, but not enough to be booked like a monster. At least she embraces the goth gimmick a lot better than Isla Dawn, but with Ruby Riot on the main roster and Nikki Cross in NXT – that’s pretty well covered.
Tier 10: I Don’t Understand the Hype.
This category is reserved for one specific wrestler. Everyone else seems to be all in, and I just don’t get it.
#26: Deonna Purrazzo – People I talk to love her. I see average across the board. She’s an average wrestler. She has average charisma. Her look isn’t terrible but she doesn’t stand out. I just don’t see the upside with Purrazzo. Maybe she’ll prove me wrong as time goes on, but I’m not on board.
Tier 9: If Age Were Really Just a Number.
The wrestlers in this group are absolute studs. Unfortunately, they were born when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. I don’t see the WWE giving them any shot as a result.
#25: Meiko Satomura – I love her. Her match with Mercedes Martinez was insane. However, when you can stake a claim to having wrestled in WCW, you’re old as dirt. The “Final Boss” doesn’t bring much to the table outside of her amazing in-ring skills, so there’s no chance that the WWE is going to invest in her.
#24: Mercedes Martinez – It really pains me to put her here but at 37 years old, I don’t have a choice. She’s what Shayna Bayzler was to Women’s MMA. By the time Women’s MMA became around, Shayna was too old to compete at an elite level. Had in become popular years earlier, there is no doubt that Bayzler would have been the top star. Such is the case with Mercedes. If the focus was on the in-ring product ten years ago, she’d be the number one star in Women’s Wrestling. Alas – there’s no chance that the WWE puts any type of promotion behind her now.
Tier 8: Not Impressed – BUT.
I don’t like the wrestlers in this group, but I think they bring something to the table that could catch the eye of management. thril
#23: Priscilla Kelly – She’s a Paige clone, only not nearly as good at ANYTHING. Paige is retired and it’s unlikely that her neck injury ever heals enough to allow her to return. Because her character caught on so well with the audience, the WWE may think that Kelly’s will as well. I could see them giving her a shot as a result.
#22: Zatara – I don’t see anything special about Zatara. HOWEVER, there is room for a masked lucha type. At some point the WWE will try to find one, and maybe it will be her.
#21: Zeuxis – Rinse and repeat what I said about Zatara. I think she’s slightly better and that’s why she got the nod.
Tier 7: Impressed – BUT.
I really liked the wrestlers in this group, but I see almost no chance that the WWE brings either back.
#20: MJ Jenkins – She has a unique look and a good personality. I really liked the way she interacted with the crowd during her match with Rhea Ripley. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of her in-ring ability as it was booked to be a glorified squash match. Even though she’s in the performance center, I’m thinking that she wouldn’t have been the wrestler chosen to get creamed if the WWE had any real plans for her. Nonetheless, there’s potential here.
#19: Jinny – She was a wrestler that had absolutely no hype coming into the tournament. She was there to lose to Toni Storm. Nonetheless, she impressed me and just about everyone else who watched her. There’s something to be said about someone that makes an impression in a situation for which no lasting impression was expected to be made. I think she fades back off into obscurity, but she impressed me.
#18: Hiroyo Matsumoto – She’s my favorite wrestler in the entire tournament. She is amazing. She’s loaded with charisma and can flat out go in the ring. She’s endearing to me in the same way that Mick Foley was. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I love everything about her. Unfortunately, she’s not American and not the Japanese wrestler that the WWE is interested in putting their promotional weight behind. It’s a shame.
Tier 6: Established Stars – BUT.
Both wrestlers in this group have already made a name for themselves in the past, but it doesn’t appear that the WWE will allow them the same opportunity.
#17: Ashley Rayne – She was great in TNA and is killing it on the independent scene. She had a great match in the first round of the tournament, but the WWE clearly brought her in to do the job. Now that she appeared at “All In”, I see no chance of the WWE wanting to use her again. Even if they did, I’m thinking she’d choose to stay on the independent scene.
#16: Kaitlyn – She enjoyed tremendous success in the WWE several years back. You can’t discount a nostalgia run for her once the MYC wraps up, but I’m not going to hang my hat on it. Time hasn’t been particularly kind to her. She’s a shell of her former self in the ring. To me, she’s the Tajiri of this tournament. The WWE gave Tajiri a spot in the CWC for name value alone. That’s what Kaitlyn is here for as well. I doubt we’ll see her again once she’s eliminated.
Tier 5: The Fence Riders.
I’m on the fence about the two wrestlers in this group. My gut tells me that they aren’t going anywhere, but I could see each filling a role on the main roster.
#15: Xia Li – She was hilariously terrible a year ago when she wrestled her first ever match in the 2017 MYC. She’s improved a lot in a year to the point where she can have a passable match. I wouldn’t exactly call her good yet, but she’s not an embarrassment anymore. I could see her having some success though. Her martial arts routine with the hand fan is interesting. I think it would appeal to kids as a pre-match spectacle. That’s an important audience to reach. Thus, while I’m not really a fan of her overall skillset, I think she could find a niche.
#14: Taynara Conti – She can’t wrestle worth a lick and her mic skills leave a lot to be desired. That is not usually the recipe for success. However, she’s got a few things going for her. First, she’s Brazilian and the WWE doesn’t currently have that market covered. Second, although her mic skills aren’t great, she’s got some natural charisma to her. She reminds me of early days of Maryse. Much like Maryse, there’s something about her that just makes you want to cheer against her. That isn’t a bad thing at all. Third, she’s a legitimate Judo threat. At some point, the WWE could decide that they want to match Rousey up with a fellow Judoken. Maybe Conti gets the call.
Tier 4: It Race and Ethnicity Didn’t Matter.
This category should be pretty self explanatory. I really like both women in it, but I think obstacles that shouldn’t be obstacles will be problematic for them:
#13: Lacey Lane – I really like Lacey. She has a unique look to her. She’s a pretty good wrestler with some eye-catching moves. She has a solid personality. Unfortunately, the WWE has a terrible track record with black wrestlers. Part of the issue is latent racism with WWE Corporate, but the issue extends to the fan base as well. As soon as her first round match aired, people on Twitter were immediately debating whether she reminded them more of Ember Moon or Naomi. From a look, wrestling style or personality standpoint, she has nothing in common with either wrestler. We all know where those comparisons came from. She has a giant hill to climb, and I’m not willing to bet that she gets there.
#12: Io Shirai – Man, she is CRISP in the ring. Chris Benoit-level of good. I believe the claims by many diehards that she’s the best female wrestler in the world. Unfortunately, while being a great wrestler seems to be enough on the male side of the coin, it hasn’t proven to correlate to success on the women’s side. I do believe that she’s going to be pushed significantly during the tournament, but I have NO confidence in the WWE’s ability to use her correctly on the main roster. Why is that? Find me a Japanese wrestler that has been able to maintain their level of overness on the main roster, regardless of how much hype and fanfare they came in with? Go ahead, I’ll wait. I think she goes the same route of Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura. Tremendously successful run in NXT – complete air ball once she hits the big time.
Tier 3: If Size Mattered.
This group contains women whose size would be appealing if they were male. Unfortunately, the WWE seems to only allot 1-2 spots for female “monsters”, and there’s someone else in the MYC other than the three women in this category likely to fill that role. Nonetheless, I’ve ranked them ahead of many because I’m cautiously optimistic that as the Women’s Division continues to evolve, there will be more of a place for women of size.
#11: Vanessa Kraven – Of the three women in this group, I probably like her the best. I was really impressed with her work in her match against Lacey Lane. Unfortunately for her, wrestlers of her ilk don’t seem to be in particularly high demand in the WWE women’s division. I ranked her third in the group because I think both of the women ahead of her have external factors that would make the WWE more likely to give them a shot than Kraven. She could end up being the Jazzy Chabert of this year’s tournament.
#10: Reina Gonzalez – I don’t like her as much as Kraven, but she has two things going for her that Kraven doesn’t. First, she’s signed to NXT whereas Kraven is not. Second, although she’s an American from Texas, she is of Hispanic descent. The days of Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero are long gone, but the WWE hasn’t stopped trying to appeal to that audience. I wouldn’t be shocked if the WWE eventually turned to Reina.
#09: Kavita Devi – She gets the nod over the other wrestlers in this group because her match in last year’s MYC was one of the most watched YouTube wrestling matches ever. 35 million people checked it out. There’s a reason that the WWE is trying to appeal to the market in India. Look at how hard they pushed Jinder Mahal. There is money to be made there. She will get an opportunity at some point.
Tier 2: The Lottery Tickets.
I think this group all have main event potential, but they aren’t either aren’t there yet or have a flaw that will need to be addressed. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone in this group becomes a major player, I just wouldn’t bet my house on it.
#08: Aerial Monroe – I know. She’s a horrendously bad wrestler. Shockingly terrible. The thing is, charisma is the single most important quality in a wrestle and “Big Swole” has that in spades. You can’t teach the natural “it factor” that she has. I’m not saying that she’s going to be a superstar, but I have more confidence in her learning how to wrestle than I do with many of the other strong wrestlers in the tournament learning how to entertain the masses.
#07: Rachel Evers – It’s amazing what a difference a year can make. She was one of my least favorite wrestlers in the Mae Young Classic last year. I thought she had a bad look and was a subpar wrestler that only was being given an opportunity because of who her father was. Fast forward to 2018. She’s improved her look tremendously and had the best match of the first round. She’s improved tenfold and I’m excited to see more of her. Whereas I resented her last year because I felt that she was given an undue opportunity because of nepotism, I think she’ll get a deserved opportunity to be successful for the same reason. I’m very interested in seeing how she pans out.
#06: Jessie Elaban – This one may be a controversial pick, but I was really impressed with what I saw. I don’t know if it’s her height, or her volleyball background, but she really reminds me of Charlotte during her early days in NXT. Much like Charlotte, she’s not a finished product, but much like Charlotte, I see tremendous potential. She has major athletic gifts and a great look. She also has a quirky personality that I think will resonate with the WWE audience much in the same way that Becky Lynch does. She’s not the 6th best performer at the current time, but there aren’t too many people in the 2018 MYC with more upside than her.
#05: Tegan Nox – I wanted to put her in the same category as the four wrestlers remaining on this list. She’s drop dead gorgeous, a fantastic wrestler and the charisma oozes out of her. There’s not much not to like about her. I truly believe that she was going to be a major factor in this tournament. Without dropping too much of a spoiler, I had to bump her back a tier because of her injury concerns. I hope to be wrong, but I suspect that will play a major role for her going forward.
Tier 1: The Can’t Miss Stars.
This is the elite group from the MYC – the four wrestlers that I think are all likely to become top level attractions for the WWE:
#04: Toni Storm – She’s a fantastic wrestler with a great personality. The NXT fans have clearly already taken to her. I’d say that the majority of my readers would rank her #1 on their personal lists. I can’t really fault them. She’s great. My only concern is that she’s a blond. That may sound crazy to you. Blond hair has always been the preferred look for female wrestlers. The problem is that neither Charlotte nor Alexa Bliss are going ANYWHERE anytime soon. Toni Storm is really good, but she’s not Charlotte or Alexa good. I’d
#03: Rhea Ripley – As I mentioned earlier – it’s inevitable that Nia Jax is replaced as the definitive monster in the WWE’s women’s division. Rhea Ripley is my pick to do it. She was tremendously impressive in last year’s MYC. The only missing piece was the character development. What a difference a year makes. She’s gone from being somewhat bland to becoming an absolutely awesome heel. The fact that the WWE has already crowned her Women’s UK Champion is a good sign that they have big plans for her. Bring it on.
#02: Xia Brookside – When I watch her, I keep coming to the same conclusion. She’s a more athletic version of Bayley. The WWE puts a tremendous amount of focus on creating new female fans. At some point, they are going to come to the same conclusion that I already have. Female wrestling fans or just like male wrestling fans – you need to get them as kids or you won’t get them at all. The WWE dropped the ball on Bayley and the opportunity that they had to create new fans with her. They won’t do the same with Xia Brookside.
#01: Kacy Catanzaro – I struggle to see how she doesn’t become the #1 female on the roster within the next five years. She already has tremendous fame from American Ninja Warrior. She’s freakishly athletic and can do aerial acrobats that no one else can. She’s so small that she’ll be able to play the underdog even against average sized Divas. I fully expect her to be the female version of Rey Mysterio. All of that alone is more than enough – the fact that she had supermodel looks doesn’t hurt either. Super duper duper duper star on the way.
That’s a wrap kids. Agree or disagree? SOUND OFF BELOW!
You can follow me on Twitter @The_Eternal_Optimist
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