Beth Phoenix, Renee Young, and Michael Cole form the announce team for this year’s event. It’s the first time there have been two women on commentary.
Tegan Nox def. Zatara
Rhea Ripley def. MJ Jenkins
Lacey Lane def Vanessa Kraven
Meiko Satomura def. Killer Kelly
Tegan Nox vs Zatara
The video packages before the matches are most useful if you, like me, are unfamiliar with some of the performers. I didn’t need it for Tegan Nox (Nixon Newell as was), but Zatara is a new to me talent. She’s the first Chilean wrestler to be used by WWE and apparently works a more physical style in comparison to Nox technical approach. Zatara has ten years of in-ring experience according to the intro.
Much was made of the fact Nox missed last year’s MYC due to ACL surgery, and he leg was heavily braced. Unsurprisingly, it was a major target for her opponent and it put her at a clear disadvantage. Zatara worked the knee hard for the majority of the match and Nox looked to be in considerable pain during and after the match.
Zatara used her clear power advantage and experience to control long sections of the match. Nox fought through the pain and refused to stay down.
It was almost against the run of play when Tegan Nox hit the Shining Wizard and got the pin to advance to the second round.
Great start to the tournament. Hope to see more from Zatara in the future.
Rhea Ripley vs MJ Jenkins
Rhea Ripley’s video package told us to expect a different Rhea Ripley this year. She felt she made a fool of herself last year so this year we’re getting a darker and better version. We know this is true because she wears black with studs now. MJ Jenkins was trained by the Dudley Boyz and is high energy and confident. She’s very young though and relatively inexperienced.
Rhea Ripley refused the handshake, which set the tone for the match. Commentary talked about Ripley getting annoyed by being compared to Charlotte Flair, which honestly hadn’t occurred to me until they said something. Stylistically, they have very little in common.
Another good match, slower in pace than the previous one. Ripley was looking to punish Jenkins as much as beat her. The emphasis was very much on displaying her power and attitude. The delayed vertical suplex was, admittedly, impressive.
MJ Jenkins had a couple of brief spells in charge, but her inexperience was evident at times.
Rhea Ripley got the win with a powerbomb.
Vanessa Kraven vs Lacey Lane
Lacey Lane is an ex basketball player, also trained by the Dudley’s. She’s a recent performance centre signee as well. Vanessa Kraven’s nickname is The Mountain, she’s 6’2” and towered above Lacey Lane. Kraven has been wrestling since 2004, Lane is a bit of a newcomer.
Unsurprisingly, Kraven favours a power-based offence. In her video package she mentioned enjoying chopping people. Lane is fast, bouncy, and athletic.
Lacey Lane was doing great until a top rope spot went wrong. It discombobulated her enough for Kraven to take advantage, and the first of those chops she talked about came into play, with Lane hung upside down from the top rope.
Anytime Kraven got a proper hold of Lane, Lane was in trouble, but she had trouble coping with Lane’s speed and agility.
Lacey Lane managed to deliver the crucifix bomb to Kraven for the win.
Natalya had an interview backstage to talk up the tournament and plug Evolution. She’s apparently torn between Mia Yim and Io Shirai as her pick to win.
Meiko Satomura vs Killer Kelly
Killer Kelly was seen in a WWE at the Royal Albert Hall for this year’s UK tournament. She’s the first female wrestler from Portugal to wrestle for WWE. Meiko Satomura is a legend, plain and simple. She has over two decades of experience.
It’s easy to see why they chose to end the first show with this match. The ‘this is awesome’ chants it received were deserved. And that’s the beauty of tournaments like this, matches like this being brought to a huge audience. Sadly, it’s one of those first-round matches where I’d rather neither of them went out, but there has to be a winner.
As was to be expected, this one was a give and take of hard strikes and submission attempts. Killer Kelly’s best chance came with a fisherman’s suplex as a follow up to a corner dropkick. Satomura kicked out at two and seven eighths.
Meiko Satomura wasn’t going out in the first round with the amount of hype leading up to her participation. She won with a Death Valley Driver.
There were hugs and a show of respect between the two at the end of the match which is always one of my favourite things to see.
If the first few matches are indicative of the standard of the tournament overall, we’re in for a fantastic few weeks.
There’s a lot of criticism aimed at Michael Cole, some of it entirely justified, but his experience made him the logical choice to balance Beth Phoenix and Renee Young on commentary. As a whole team, I thought they did great, which is a big relief considering commentary was one of the negative talking points from last year’s tournament.