Few things more recently sell in an industry like professional wrestling as much as tournaments do.
World Wrestling Entertainment, the biggest promotion in the industry, have not missed the trend. Seeing their own success in the genre with 2016’s Cruiserweight Classic, the WWE focused on women competitors this year with the Mae Young Classic.
Much like the CWC, the WWE filled the MYC bracket with a healthy mix on American independent favorites (Candice LeRae, Tessa Blanchard, Santana Garrett), international stars (Kairi Sane, Piper Niven, Toni Storm, Jazzy Gabert), veterans (Princesa Sugehit, Mercedes Martinez, Kay Lee Ray, Mia Yim, Marti Belle, Serena Deeb), and talent from their developmental brand NXT (Abbey Laith, Dakota Kai, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, Lacey Evans, Taynara Conti, Reina Gonzales, Zeda, Xia Li, and Kavita Devi among others.) The tournament was also held at Full Sail University, the home of NXT and where the CWC was taped.
To say that it was a success might be an understatement.
From the ‘Parade of Champions’ announcing the competitors to taking a cue from other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and releasing the tournament rounds to enable binge watching, the WWE has seen interest in the MYC reach levels likely not expected. The entire first round was released tin the WWE Network on August 28 with the rest of the tournament up to the semifinals being released the following week on September 4. In those two weeks the tournament, which was broken down into eight episodes, became eight of the ten most watched programs on the WWE network in that time followed by an episode of the cruiserweight show 205 Live and the 2017 SummerSlam pay-per-view. This shows that releasing the event for binge watching works as well the weekly format the CWC was released in. Having the final between Sane and Shayna Baszler be a live event at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas following the September 12 episode of SmackDown Live rather than keeping it at Full Sail shows how much WWE values the tournament and the impact it will have on women wrestlers, an impact that can’t be understated.
While many publications have correctly pointed out that WWE is just fixing a problem they themselves created in the Attitude Era when it comes to how female talent were shown, it can’t be said that the effort hasn’t been honest. The company is coming a long way from presenting women as oversexualized ‘Divas’ who competed in bikini contests and Bra & Panty matches. The Women’s Revolution that was started in 2015 by Stephanie McMahon brought talent like Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and in 2016 Bayley and has helped change the level of competition. The MYC, a brainchild of Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque, is a further step in the right direction and not just for WWE.
The independent wrestling scene has long toiled with the WWE treating it as it didn’t exist. That is starting to change and it showed in the MYC commentary that featured WWE Hall of Famers Jim Ross and Lita. Promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerrila, Chikara, Japan’s Stardom, England’s Progress, and Shimmer were mentioned throughout the tournament. Shimmer, whose roster is exclusive female, will likely be the biggest beneficiary as not only did the promotion allow WWE to use its video footage, but a good amount of MYC participants along with newer NXT talent such as Laith and Ruby Riot are Shimmer alumni.
The reception that the MYC has received both within and outside the wrestling world has been positive enough that it already may be changing WWE’s plans when it comes to what tournament the company wants to do in 2018. It has been speculated that a tag team event was in the cards but the MYC has done well enough that a second edition is not out of the question.
The WWE has learned enough from the MYC to know that there is a hunger for women’s wrestling at a high level and hopefully it will provide much more of that in the future.