It’s finally here. The 32 woman tournament WWE seem to have been talking about forever. The competitors come from all over the world, and have a huge variety of experience levels. Unlike the CWC last year, there is also a massive variation in height and weight across the competitors. It’s a distinct possibility that this could play a part in some matches, but we’ll have to wait and see how much of a factor it is, and how often.
Princesa Sugehit def Kay Lee Ray
Serena Deeb def Vanessa Bourne
Shayna Baszler def Zeda
Abbey Laith def Jazzy Gabert
Kay Lee Ray vs Princesa Sugehit
What a way to start the tournament. Sugehit is the only luchadora in the tournament, and the most experienced competitor in the competition. Kay Lee Ray is billed as both a high flier and a hard striker. Ray starts the match displaying the disparity in height between the two of them, by reaching higher than Sugehit could reach for the test of strength.
While Sugehit is known for the high-flying lucha libre style, she didn’t seem to have any trouble coping with Kay Lee Ray’s aggression and hard strikes, in fact she seemed to enjoy trading blows with the Scot. Ray isn’t averse to flying around herself, but didn’t really utilise it in this one.
High energy match to start things off. I think it’s a shame these two had to meet in the first round, both would have been definite candidates for progression against lesser opponents. Unfortunately, one of them had to go out. Princesa Sughit locked on an armbar, and Kay Lee Ray tapped out.
Great first match, but I’m personally disappointed Kay Lee Ray is out so soon.
Vanessa Bourne vs Serena Deeb
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the intro videos for the women. Coming into a tournament where at least some of the competitors will be unfamiliar to viewers (let’s face it, some of them have no experience to speak of, there’s no way we can all know all of them), WWE have just a few moments in the package to get people invested. The little video packages do a fantastic job.
Serena Deeb has a long, but patchy career behind her. As the video package explained, she has had some time away to deal with personal demons. Vanessa Bourne is a relative newbie, with only a couple of NXT outings to her name. Apparently, she was trained by Rikishi and Gangrel, that’s quite a combo.
This match is also the first appearance in the tournament for WWE’s first full-time female referee since the 1980s (according to Lita on commentary), Jessika Carr.
More of a grappling and holds based match than the first one. Presumably playing to the strengths of the less experienced Bourne. It was the frustration caused by inexperience that made the difference in this one. Vanessa Bourne looked dominant, but Deeb kicking out on two after a Samoan drop made her lose focus. She hesitated before delivering her next move, and left herself open for the spear from Deeb which put her down for the three count.
After a quick visit to Charly Caruso in the control centre to look at the brackets, we’re into the next match. Nice pacing on the show, little or no fluff.
Shayna Baszler vs Zeda
Baszler is known as ‘The Queen of Spades’, and is one of ‘The Four Horsewomen of MMA’. She’s got over 15 years of MMA experience, and that clearly influences her style. Zeda also has MMA in her background, along with amateur wrestling, but she’s fairly new to sports entertainment. She’s trained under Brian Kendrick before getting to the performance centre, so she’s not a complete rookie.
There was the obligatory shot of Ronda Rousey and friends before the match started, there to support her friend Baszler, and to add fuel to the rumours of her own WWE appearance.
This match was short, really short. And hard hitting. With both women having MMA backgrounds, that was always going to be the style of the match. Baszler was a strong favourite for the entire tournament going in, and she showed why in her first outing.
It wasn’t a squash, Zeda got her fair share of offence, but it looked considerably weaker than Baszler’s, and she looked a little out of her depth in places. Baszler caught her in a sleeper submission, and Zeda tapped quickly, leaving Baszler to celebrate with her friends.
Jazzy Gabert vs Abbey Laith
This is another match where it’s a shame they had to meet in round one. Both Gabert and Laith are popular with fans, and highly skilled wrestlers. Before the brackets were announced, there would have been money on both of them to go through to the second round.
Jazzy Gabert, alos known as Alpha Female, is one of the main powerhouses of the competition. She also has the charisma and skill, and 15 years’ experience, to back it up. Abbey Laith, previously known as Kimber Lee, is also highly experienced and extremely popular with the fans.
Gabert tried to intimidate Laith to start the match, but, despite Gabert being genuinely quite intimidating, Laith just stared her down. Abbey Laith was clearly at a power disadvantage, as well as a size disadvantage. Gabert threw her around a bit in the early part of the match, but she managed to use her superior speed and flexibility to counter some of the offence.
Gabert’s strength advantage was the story of most of the match. She controlled things and kept the pace slow. Laith did have a period of dominance mid-match where she got to show some of her skill, but for the most part, it looked like Gabert had it in the bag.
At the finish, Gabert had Laith up on her shoulder, Abbey Laith struggled out of the hold and rolled Gabert into the Alligator Clutch, to finish the first show with its namesake’s own move. That was a nice touch, as was the show of respect after the match.
A strong match to finish the first show. I’m excited for the rest of the tournament.
So, we have the first four women through to the second round.
Good start to the tournament. If it carries on like this the overall standard is going to rival that of last year’s CWC. On a personal note, I’m sad to see Jazzy Gabert and Kay Lee Ray out so soon, but that’s the nature of the competition.