Nice highlight video of the first episode and quick summary of this week’s competitors before the standard opening video.
Round 1 (continued):
5) Xia Li vs. Mercedes Martinez *3/4
Interesting setup here with a debuting wrestler against a 16 year veteran and Mercedes really sinks her teeth into it, doing an excellent job of getting herself over in the short time given in her intro package. In under a minute we know her experience, style, outlook, and attitude. Well done. Xia’s wisely emphasizes her martial arts background and desire to prove herself in this new environment.
Mercedes mocks Xia and wipes her hand after the handshake to a fair amount of heat, which the announcers immediately undercut by saying she’s “having fun with the inexperienced Xia” and ridiculously talking about how it was to intimidate through the language barrier. JR’s also still talking about single elimination tournaments like it’s an alien concept. I’m going to try to ignore the commentary dumpster fire from here on out so I don’t go insane.
This is kept brief, with Xia countering Mercedes’ superior grappling skills with hard strikes to show fighting spirit while being overmatched. The veteran ties Xia up in a leg trap dragon sleeper for the submission victory in short order though. Made its point. Xia is of course super green and a bit awkward, but she kept it basic, connected with everything, and there’s definitely potential for her going forward.
6) Marti Belle vs. Rachel Evers – UGH (zero stars)
Evers is new to me, while I’ve seen a fair bit of Belle in Shimmer and elsewhere. She’s honestly a pretty generic heel who’s ok but doesn’t remotely live up to her near decade of experience. Evers’ video package focuses on her being adaptable in style and growing up the daughter of Paul Ellering yet isolated from his profession until now. Marti’s touts her being a “powerful Dominican woman” with “street smarts.” Neither did much to make the viewer care.
This was the first actively bad match of the tourney. Pace, timing, execution were all off all match long, and most of it looked to be on Marti’s end. At one point the relative rookie actually had to stop, walk over and pull the wrestler with seven+ years more experience back into position for a senton when Marti forgot what they were doing and started to roll away. Neither looked very good, but Rachel did look better between the two and was the right choice to advance (which may have been an audible do to Marti’s poor performance if rumors are to be believed). Really though, either going to round 2 when Kay Lee Ray, Jazzy Gabbert, etc are already out is nonsense.
Wow, the placement of a clip of HHH telling the 32 participants to make the most of the opportunity they have right after that last match is (unintentionally?) biting.
7) Miranda Salinas vs. Rhea Ripley *1/4
I know nothing of either competitor coming into this one. Miranda’s summary primarily explains her “look sets her apart,” she’s short (and doesn’t care), and was trained by Booker T. Rhea’s shows a quirky personality, highlights her nine year soccer career at just 20 years old and the kicking ability it gives her, and JR calls her “one of the most highly regarded performers in this tournament.” Am I supposed to think Miranda’s going to do anything except be demolished after that?
Indeed, the match lasts just long enough to Miranda to cheat a couple of times, the six foot tall Rhea to show off some nice dropkicks, a couple of strike exchanges, and Rhea kicking Miranda’s head off then hitting a full nelson slam for the win. Like Baszler’s and Mercedes’ matches this was about making a point, and it did.
Ok, I have to break my silence on the commentary for a minute. “These women don’t care about how they win. It’s just winning. Nothing wrong with that quite frankly – the losers go home.” YES THERE IS. There are RULES and you’re supposed to be praising those who do care and win while following them! How the hell are heels supposed to get heat when the announcers are advocating winning as everything and cheating as a normal, justifiable part of the match? Blah.
8) Mia Yim vs. Sarah Logan ***1/4
In a nice touch, Mia’s video mentions her devotion to raising awareness about domestic abuse and how she shared her own story to help others. Her martial arts background is spotlighted with clips that give a good idea of what to expect from her in the ring. The wild woman gimmick is an interesting hook for the former Crazy Mary Dobson. The matchup is interesting, although given Logan appeared in a losing effort to Peyton Royce at NXT Takeover tapings just days before this aired I’m not sure why we’re supposed to believe she has a chance here.
Solid back and forth match of a style we haven’t really seen yet in the tournament. Early the story was Logan countering Yim’s mat skills with ferocity and strikes, but of course Yim’s an accomplished striker herself and eventually lays in hard kicks to fight fire with fire. So Sarah adapts and goes to some submissions herself.
They have a great exchange of seated palm strikes and kicks at one point. Logan also hits some fun offense like a cartwheel dodge into a double knee strike and a fisherman suplex out of the corner. Mia keeps wearing her down with German suplexs, etc though and eventually hits “Eat Defeat” for the win. This edges out Laith vs Gabbert as the best so far. Mia’s got Shayna in round 2.
Presentation and background packages were little better this time overall, although the commentary’s still a problem. Format’s still fine, with two matches there to serve a specific purpose (which they did) and the best match in the main (let’s just forget about that other match in the middle).
Eight more matches left across two episodes for round 1, including two of the participants I’m most excited for (Savoy and Sane). Onward to episode 3.