To be completely honest, this hasn’t been the most exciting summer for WWE. There were definitely some excellent highlights of Braun Strowman. Between manhandling Brock Lesnar and giving Big Show the best matches he’s had in a decade, it’s been the summer of Braun. Outside of that, however, there really hasn’t been a whole lot going on. Ratings generally dip in the summer, so maybe they’re saving some better writing for when more viewers will be indoors.
Ronda Rousey and The Battle of Horsewomen
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Which is why it’s no surprise that some of the better content has been on the WWE Network. The Mae Young Classic has been a success. And despite the fact that some of the women in the tournament were very inexperienced, it’s been an entertaining showcase of fresh talent. It did surprise me a bit that Shayna Baszler made it to the finals with Kairi Sane. Baszler seemed like one of the more inexperienced athletes in the tournament. Even though she comes from an MMA background, she didn’t look like she had a great grasp on how to work in the ring as a sports entertainer. She did, however, show improvement with her working strikes with each match, and certainly has a ton of potential. But the real reason she has been pushed so hard in this tournament is clear. Her friendship with Ronda Rousey and membership as one of the four horsewomen of MMA gained her believability as a badass and some marquee value. While she may not be one of the best pro wrestlers in the tournament, her reputation add a necessary legitimacy to the event.
Having Ronda Rousey at ringside with the rest of her four horsewomen was definitely a bonus for the MYC. Surely, they will also be at ringside at Tuesday’s finals. Maybe the biggest buzz that came out of their appearance at Full Sail was the spark of a rivalry between MMA’s Four Horsewomen and the former NXT Four Horsewomen. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Bayley were also in attendance. The two teams taunted each other from across the aisle and later, WWE’s Horsewoman would confront Ronda’s crew outside. The challenge was made in “anytime, anywhere” fashion, so the probability of seeing Rousey in the squared circle sometime soon is highly likely. With Sasha Banks joining the mix, we could see a 4 on 4 Horsewoman vs. Horsewoman match. For the MMA fighters, an elimination tag match would be ideal and allow for the most flexibility as far as their involvement, or lack thereof. And what a coincidence, it’s just in time for Survivor Series. Hopefully, we will see a Classic Survivor Series matchup between these two teams of groundbreaking women.
Kairi Sane’s Undeniable Charisma
The Mae Young Classic has also shown the rise of Kairi Sane, who took the Full Sail audience by storm and won our hearts. Her adorable, quirky persona balances perfectly with how brutal she is in the ring. It’s hard to find such a total package (sorry, Lex) in a pro wrestler just coming in to WWE. Kairi is the favorite to win on Tuesday, and likely go on to be a big star in the company. With the best elbow drop I’ve seen since Randy Savage, I don’t think there’s anything negative you can say about her as a performer. With an ability to work stiff and sell everything her opponent does, she will be giving the women of WWE a run for their money in no time. As Jim Ross put it so eloquently, “she’s a dandy pirate,” and we’ll be looking forward to seeing a lot more of her.
Asuka Finally Moves to the Main Roster
Kairi Sane is only the second Japanese women's wrestler to receive such love from the Full Sail crowd. Last week on NXT, Asuka announced that she is in talks with both Raw and Smackdown General Managers about moving up to the main roster. While this news broke a couple of weeks ago following Summerslam, the spectacle of her relinquishing the NXT Championship was still an emotional experience. With all of the NXT Superstars applauding her and Ember Moon entering the ring for a respectful embrace, it was the moment that Asuka deserves. Triple H also delivered flowers to the Empress of Tomorrow, driving the point home that this is no ordinary Superstar. Although it was reported that her departure from NXT was due to injury, we could still see Asuka on Raw or Smackdown as soon as this week. While an in-ring debut would be ideal, it would still be great to see her character enter into a storyline while she’s still in recovery.
If the summer was full of big monster heels battling for the Championship, the autumn will be a time for the women to shine. Since Ronda Rousey will likely bring some eyes to women’s wrestling, this will in turn be beneficial for the unmatched talents of Asuka and Kairi Sane as they move forward. As the leaves change, so does the landscape of WWE’s women’s division. And much like the foliage in New England, this transition will be a beautiful sight to behold.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke