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Mae Young Classic Finals: Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler Preview

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32 women entered. Two women survived. Now, only one will leave with the right to call herself the inaugural Mae Young Classic champion.

After two nights of tapings at Full Sail University that were released over the span of two weeks in four episode blocks on the WWE Network, we are finally ready for the grand finale. Following a special ‘Sin City’ edition of Smackdown Live, Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler will lock horns inside of the Thomas and Mack Center in one of the most important wrestling matches of the year. Let’s take a closer look at the final match of this historic tournament.

How Did We Get Here? This certainly isn’t the first rodeo for either of these competitors. Sane came in as one of the favorites to win this tournament based on her success in Japan’s World Wonder Ring Stardom promotion. At just 28-years-old, she left the promotion as a 8-time champion (4x Artist of Stardom, 3x Goddess of Stardom, 1x Wonder of Stardom and World of Stardom).

Kairi (who wrestled as Kairi Hojo in Stardom) signed a 3-year deal with WWE before debuting in the Classic, so it was no secret that the promotion was high on her even before she wrestled Tessa Blanchard in the 1st Round. That said, WWE has been high on new signees before. You still have to go out there and prove your worth and Kairi has done beyond that thus far. The ‘Pirates Kaiser’ took out Blanchard, Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai and Toni Storm to secure her spot in the finals against Baszler. While that resume may just be the most impressive of any competitor in the tournament, she’ll be in for a different kind of battle against the submission specialist out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Baszler’s Mae Young victims list reads as follows: Zeda, Mia Yim, Candice LeRae and Mercedes Martinez. Not bad for a girl who hasn’t even been doing this for two full years at a professional level. The thing is, as one of the true trailblazer’s of women’s mixed martial arts, ‘The Queen of Spades’ brings a certain authenticity to this tournament. She was punching faces and cranking arms for tiny audiences long before Ronda Rousey took the sport to another level. She has the ability to end the fight in an instant and she has the swagger to back it up. This is a match up more than worthy of closing out such a historic tournament. 

What’s at Stake? A piece of pro wrestling history. And potentially even more. This one is big folks. I mean, come on, they’re even doing a red carpet ceremony. 

Strengths & Weaknesses: For Kairi, the list of strengths reads like Veruca Salt’s Christmas list. She’s one of the best technical wrestlers in the world, male or female. Her only weakness may be her size but we’ve seen her use that in her favor. Then there’s that flying elbow drop from the top rope. It’s one of the most beautiful finishers in the game today. The height, the delivery and the theatrics; somewhere, Randy Savage is grinning from ear to ear. That sliding forearm is pretty attractive as well.

For Shayna, it’s all about the submissions. Coming from an MMA background, she’s shown that she can lock in that Kirifuda Driver out of nowhere. And when she does, you’re not likely to escape. She’s also a student of the catch-as-catch-can wrestling style under the tutelage of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett, which could make it a long and tiresome night for the opposition. 

Excitement Level: High. Not just for the match between Kairi and Shayna, but for the aftermath of the tournament as well. Which of these girls will WWE keep, where will they compete and how will they fare? Will there be a separate show dedicated to this girls? Will the winner be awarded the now vacant NXT Women’s Championship in a late night swerve of sorts? This feels like it will have a much bigger long-term effect post tourney than the Cruiserweight Classic. 

Prediction: It certainly appears that the Four Horsewomen of MMA versus Four Horsewomen of WWE storyline is of the long-term variety so that gives Shayna something to do alongside Ronda Rousey and friends at least up until Survivor Series. There’s two ways you can do this. You could either have Shayna defeat Kairi and have her faction join her in the ring to congratulate her before Charlotte Flair and company enter the ring to confront them. The show goes off the air and you begin the build.

Or, Kairi wins a hard-fought match and you let the Horsewoman storyline build elsewhere. I like the idea of the over as hell babyface winning and battling for the NXT Women’s Championship while Shayna goes to Smackdown Live where should could make an immediate impact as a fantastic promo and solid hand. Plus, it’d be absolutely sinful to rob Vegas of that lovely elbow drop on a Tuesday night. 

Dave has been covering Pro Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts for various websites since 2010. He currently runs both FightBooth and FightBoothPW with the help of some lovely and talented people.

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