The final four first-round matches are upon us. I quite like the binge-watchable format they have been released in, but it’s a bit of a slog by the time we get to this point. Happily, WWE saved us some great matches for the last episode, and when they’re done, we’ll know exactly who will face who in round two.
Candice LeRae def Renee Michelle
Lacey Evans def Taynara Conti
Nicole Savoy def Reina Gonzales
Kairi Sane def Tessa Blanchard
Renee Michelle vs Candice LeRae
Bias warning, I love Candice LeRae. She’s best known for inter-gender wrestling, as one half of the Worlds Cutest Tag Team with Joey Ryan. She’s competed against the Young Bucks and Kevin Owens, amongst many, many others, and she’s scared of nothing. She may be diminutive in size, but she looks like she was born to do this and loves every minute. She also happens to be married to Johnny Gargano, who was shown looking proudly on from the crowd.
Renee Michelle is four years into her wrestling career, and considered to be one of the US scene’s rising stars. Easy to see why from this match. It was a good fun opener, fast paced and entertaining. In the spirit of this tournament, both women got to look good. Renee Michelle has poise, and skill, but Candice had the experience advantage. It really is about time WWE signed her properly.
Candice LeRae hit her second rope neckbreaker, Miss LeRae’s Wild Ride, and got the pin.
Taynara Conti vs Lacey Evans
Lacey Evans is a performance centre original. She has a military background and her work ethic is her standout trait. She’s tall and strong, and improving every time I see her. Her gimmick is very ‘all American girl’. Taynara Conti is another relative newbie. Her background is in Judo, in which she has fifteen years’ experience. By all accounts, that’s translating well to a wrestling ring, but it’s very early days.
Considering this is possibly the match with the least combined wrestling experience, they acquitted themselves very well. Conti’s martial arts background was very much in evidence, whereas Evan relies much more on her strength and conditioning. WWE have already shown they like Lacey Evans and see a future for her. I would fully expect to see Taynara Conti join the ranks as well.
Lacey Evans got the pin with an MK Ultra. Conti slapped away the show of respect handshake.
Reina Gonzales vs Nicole Savoy
Savoy has been dubbed the queen of suplexes. She has around seven years’ experience, and has been Heart of Shimmer champion. Reina Gonzales is a second-generation wrestler and, at 6’0”, one of the taller athletes in the competition. She is also a performance centre original, and one of the less experienced competitors.
Gonzales controlled the majority of the match, and kept the pace slow. Savoy kept trying to counter with bursts of speed, but was quickly knocked back, or down, by the taller woman. I’m afraid this wasn’t one of my favourite matches. It felt laboured in places, and the slow deliberate pace was just too slow and deliberate for me. It wasn’t a bad match, just not for me.
Savoy got the win by submission with a cross arm-breaker, after a slightly awkward looking transition from Gonzales having her in a fireman’s carry. Maybe we’ll get to see her famous array of suplexes in the second round.
Tessa Blanchard vs Kairi Sane
This is called saving the best for last, or certainly one of the best. Another match where both competitors could easily have gone all the way, so it’s a shame they met in the first round. Tessa Blanchard is the daughter of Tully Blanchard and she’s hugely popular. Kairi Sane is apparently everyone’s new favourite. It is hard not to like someone who is so completely happy in what they are doing.
There were some lovely sequences in this, very well put together, match. And a lot of technicality from these two talented performers. The crowd were extremely vocal throughout, surprising considering how much wrestling they’d sat through by this point. There were a lot of chants for Sane, and a nice amount of duelling chants as well.
After an excellent, and hugely entertaining match, Kairi Sane hit her famed elbow drop, and it was all over.
That is round one over and done with. The second round of matches will be released on Monday September 4th, and are as follows:
Abbey Laith vs Rachel Evers
Princesa Sugehit vs Mercedes Martinez
Nicole Savoy vs Candice LeRae
Mia Yim vs Shayna Baszler
Kairi Sane vs Bianca Belair
Dakota Kai vs Rhea Ripley
Serena Deeb vs Piper Niven
Lacey Evans vs Toni Storm
Some great looking matches in that list. I’m really looking forward to watching, and reviewing them. Look out for those second-round reviews next week, here on Rear View Reviews.