Mae Young Classic 2018: Predicting the path of every participant
The 2018 Mae Young Classic is set to begin taping tomorrow. With the tournament comes an influx of new talent and the chance for WWE to strap a rocket to the people they want to push in their women's division. A year on since the first tournament, we can say that the formula has proven a great success. Shayna Baszler and Kairi Sane are set to do battle at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV next Saturday in a rematch of last year's final, only now with the NXT Women's Championship on the line.
Candice LeRae, Lacey Evans, Dakota Kai, and Bianca Belair are more names who benefited from participating in last year's tournament, even if they didn't make it as far.
This year's field is even more stacked than last year's and the tournament promises to be one of WWE's better shows of 2018. Who will build themselves a big platform in the company? Who will go all the way to Evolution? While it's not yet possible to predict who will face who in all the rounds, we should have a good idea of how far each competitor will go. We'll predict all of their chances now!
#1 Mercedes Martinez
One of last year's semifinalists, Mercedes Martinez was a surprising dark horse before being defeated by eventual runner-up and current NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler. She's back in the game this year, but don't expect her to repeat last year's run. There are other veterans in the tournament now with similar longevity, as well as new competitors that are signed to full-time contracts.
Martinez will ultimately be used to make one of them look as good as possible in the first round. She has expressed a desire to work with Io Shirai and Jinny in particular, and it's very possible she'll put one of them over to start the tournament off strong.
#2 Nicole Matthews
Another veteran of the independent circuit with longstanding experience in the industry, Nicole Matthews will likely be used in a similar capacity to Mercedes Martinez. She'll have a chance to shine but ultimately make one of the newer, full-time competitors - perhaps Kacy Katanzaro, look as good as possible to start their WWE TV career off properly.
#3 Reina Gonzalez
Though she got to the second round in last year's tournament, Reina Gonzalez hasn't been seen on NXT programming since then. This might suggest that she either needs improvements or the company doesn't have a ton of plans for her at this time.
With a killer lineup this year, there are many more exciting choices to advance to the second round, including other monsters in the tournament who have similar height and size. I expect Reina Gonzalez to be defeated in the first round this time, possibly by Jessie Elaban, who has had some matches with her on the house show circuit.
#4 Mia Yim
Mia Yim claims to be coming to this year's tournament with a new attitude. Perhaps it means she'll be working as a heel. However, with her unlikely to be signed, the change might not help her do any better than she did last year.
Indeed, with the lineup the tournament boasts this year, she has a high chance of falling to a Toni Storm or Tegan Nox in the first round, simply because the company might want to give the platform to other women they have bigger plans for.