Unlike the once-named Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal, the Mae Young Classic was a hit since it was first announced in 2017. The inaugural event included some of the most talented women wrestlers outside of the WWE and several of which have since not only been signed, but flourished in NXT - Kari Sane, Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, and Lacey Evans. It introduced so many potential WWE women superstars that the company has decided to bring it back for another year and why not? Just one year removed from the 2017 Mae Young Classic and, despite several women getting called up to WWE (Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, etc.), the women's division in NXT is as strong as ever.
If you don't remember, Baszler lost to Sane in the finals of the first Mae Young Classic, which isn't representative of how WWE/NXT feels about the two talents. Baszler is the current NXT Women's Champion and likely to dominate before moving up to WWE in the coming year, while Sane is being slowly built as a potential challenger. Dakota Kai, meanwhile, who reached the quarterfinals, already received a Women's Championship match, while semifinalist Toni Storm was recently signed by WWE and likely to appear in the 2018 Mae Young Classic. This year's event will take place on August 7 and 8 at Full Sail University, but likely won't be aired on the WWE Network until September, as was the case last year. Again, it will feature some of the most talented women in wrestling, likely including some who competed in last year's tournament. With so much talent out there, here are eight names the WWE should absolutely consider bringing in and eight they should take a pass on - at least this time around.
16 Stay Away: Nicole Matthews
Nicole Matthews was an alternate in the first Mae Young Classic and competed a handful of matches in NXT, most notably against Asuka back in 2016, so she's already quite familiar with the company, but she's far from a standout worthy of another opportunity.
The Canadian is a two-time Shimmer Tag Team Champion with Portia Perez and one-time Shimmer Champion and, while she's capable of putting on great matches, there's nothing about her that stands out from the rest. She's only 31 years old, but doesn't appear to have the charisma and personality to succeed in NXT, let alone WWE.
15 Must Book: Toni Storm
This one is rather obvious given she was just signed and will be seeking redemption after losing in the semi-finals of last year's Mae Young Classic to Kari Sane. The 22 year old native of New Zealand has been advertised for the upcoming United Kingdom Championship Tournament events and is apparently signed to a WWE UK contract, but it would be foolish not to see her chase a Mae Young Classic championship once again.
After all, you have to expect several returning women will be booked in the tournament. It's just a matter of if she is best served winning it or coming up short once again.
14 Stay Away: Xia Li
While it's nice to have numerous returning superstars from last year's Mae Young Classic, it would be a mistake to bring back too many. Somewhere in the area of 10-12 would be more than sufficient. And while there are several deserving of another look, one who the WWE shouldn't waste time on is Xia Li, who lost in the first round to Mercedes Martinez last year. Li's first-round match was the second-shortest of all 16 first-round matches at just a shade over three minutes.
She is already signed to a developmental contract and regularly works out with her good friend Kari Sane, but she's still quite green and her spot would be better served by an established veteran who could help put over a more deserving up-and-coming talent.
13 Must Book: Zeuxis
Zeuxis is a fifth-century painter from Greece, but in the world of wrestling, it's the name of a Puerto Rican luchadora who is just 29 years old but has been wrestling for more than a decade. She makes a great heel and would be a perfect complement to a top babyface in the tournament, not to mention the fact she's quite talented. She's a one-time Mexican National Women's Champion with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre and has won multiple championships with Reina X World.
Her inclusion would also give a the tournament a more international flavor and different feel as no masked wrestlers were included in the inaugural event.
12 Stay Away: Dulce Maria García Rivas
This is a little bit obvious, but it's worth noting given her star status and reputation. Dulce Maria García Rivas is a 35 year old Mexican luchadora who wrestles as Sexy Star and, while she is quite talented, his a bit of history shooting on opponents in matches, with one of the most recent incidents happening during a match against Rosemary of Impact Wrestling back in September 2017.
We have to believe WWE wouldn't even consider bringing her in for the Mae Young Classic, even if it would bring some more eyes to the event. More than anything, it wouldn't be received well by the other 31 women.
11 Must Book: Nixon Newell
If you aren't a hardcore follower of WWE or NXT, chances are you aren't aware of the dozens of superstars working in development. In addition to the likes of Dakota Kai, Lacey Evans, and other mid-card workers in NXT, there are several who are signed, but still training at the Performance Center.
One of those wrestlers is Nixon Newell, a 23 year old from Wales who was actually supposed to compete in the inaugural Mae Young Classic, but suffered an unfortunate injury that kept her out of action until a few months ago. Now renamed Tegan Nox, she recently competed at NXT house shows and will almost certainly compete in this year's Mae Young Classic if she's healthy - she recently suffered another injury at a UK-based event.
10 Stay Away: Jessie Elaban
Another wrestler you might not be aware of is Jessie Elaban. Although she has been signed to WWE for nearly one year now, she has primarily wrestled at live events, teaming with the likes of Dakota Kai and Kari Sane. Her character, at least as of recent reports, is excited and eccentric; photos from an August 2017 live event show her in thick-rimmed glasses, suspenders, and a wolf T-shirt.
She might have the charisma to be an entertaining figure in the company, but she has only been wrestling for one year, unlike other potential competitors, who have been gaining experience on the independent circuit.
9 Must Book: Rhea Ripley
Rhea Ripley has the look of a future star in the WWE women's division and will almost certainly make waves in NXT before that happens. The 21 year old Aussie was the youngest competitor in last year's Mae Young Classic and advanced to the second round before losing to Dakota Kai.
You have to figure someone who participated in last year's tournament is going to be given a chance at redemption and Ripley would be the perfect candidate. She has been gaining experience over the past few months with matches against the likes of Dakota Kai, Shayna Baszler, and Kari Sane at live events.
8 Stay Away: Cheerleader Melissa
While it's true the WWE is going to need some established veterans in the tournament to make some of the youngster stars look good in the ring, they certainly don't need to overdo it. Cheerleader Melissa is a 35 year old California native who has been wrestling since 2004. She has held dozens of championships and was ranked the top female wrestler in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2013.
However, he inclusion would take away from some of the other wrestlers looking to make a name for themselves. She's also currently working for Lucha Underground, so it seems unlikely she'll be loaned - or released - to work for WWE.
7 Must Book: Jazzy Gabert
Listeners of the E&C Pod of Awesomeness will likely agree with this one. Edge and Christian had German superstar Jazzy Gabert on their podcast a few months ago and she detailed how she got involved in wrestling. Despite being eliminated in the first round of last year's Mae Young Classic, she was offered a contract by WWE, but it was later rescinded as she suffered a neck injury.
She underwent successful neck surgery in January so it's possible she's not ready for this year's tournament, but we can only hope. The Alpha Female has a great look and would be a believable dominant force in either NXT or WWE.
6 Stay Away: Sammii Jayne
While it's likely WWE would give her a name change, I'll be honest in stating one of the main reasons Sammii Jayne shouldn't compete in this year's Mae Young Classic is because it sounds as if she is a Sami Zayn parody.
In fairness to the 25 year old Glasgow, Scotland native, she is an improving talent in the ring who recently captured the 3 Count Wrestling Women's Championship, but she's someone who would likely prefer a full-time contract rather than working for one in the tournament. She's also a young mother, which, fair or unfair, could affect the likelihood of her leaving the UK to compete in the United States.
5 Must Book: Marina Shafir/Jessamyn Duke
It might be a little too early in their development to feature them in singles matches, but even still, the WWE should absolutely include Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke in the upcoming Mae Young Classic. The Four Horsewomen of the WWE versus the Four Horsewomen of the MMA is an angle that would need to play out before WrestleMania if the rumors are true that Rousey might leave to start a family by then, so it would be vital to expedite the progress of Shafir and Duke so they could accompany
Baszler to the main roster to join Rousey. Moreover, including the two former mixed martial artists would give name recognition to the tournament.
4 Stay Away: Xia Brookside
The UK is home to some of the most talented young wrestlers in the world and Xia Brookside is a prime example of that. The 19 year old is a one-time International Pro Wrestling: United Kingdom Women's Champion and has a considerable amount of experience under her belt already, but it's too early to introduce her to a global audience.
Some might make the Paige connection since she also comes from a wrestling family, but she's not quite as advanced just yet. Another year of working full-time on the independent scene would have her primed to challenge for winning the whole tournament in 2019 if there is one.
3 Must Book: Isla Dawn
There's a strong possibility that 24 year old Isla Dawn is included in the upcoming Mae Young Classic given her relationship with WWE. The UK native wrestled on Raw as Stacy Coates in a squash match against Asuka during a November 7th episode of Raw from Manchester, England. She most recently teamed with Shayna Baszler in a tag match at NXT At Download 2018 event in Leicestershire.
She's also apparently the girlfriend of Aleister Black, so you can presume he's probably doing some lobbying to have her included, not that he would need to given her talent and already-established relationship with the company.
2 Stay Away: Tessa Blanchard
Tessa Blanchard is a supremely-talented 22 year old who could almost certainly compete full-time in WWE based on talent alone, but it hasn't quite worked out for her just yet and many have suggested her attitude as the problem.
The daughter of Tully Blanchard lost to Kari Sane in the first round of last year's Mae Young Classic and, in theory, would be a good candidate for redemption at this year's tournament, but has been criticized by the likes of Lisa Marie Varon, among others, for her poor attitude and ego. She also recently signed with Impact Wrestling, so it's likely she sits out this year's tournament anyway.
1 Must Book: Chelsea Green
Although we've cautioned against bringing in too many established stars, you need at least a few to draw attention to the tournament. It works even better if those stars are still in their prime or on the cusp of greatness. Chelsea Green, better known as Laurel Van Ness during her Impact Wrestling career, falls into that category.
The 27 year old Canadian practically played a crazy woman to perfection in Impact and became the Impact Knockouts Champion before asking for her release. She has since kept her options open by wrestling on the independent circuit, suggesting she may sign with WWE in the near future. She's also dating Zack Ryder and is a former Tough Enough contestant, so there's already a WWE relationship there.