For those expecting Ronda Rousey to get physically involved in pro wrestling on Tuesday night, while the former UFC bantamweight champion was at ringside and focused on heavily during the show, it never happened.
Instead, World Wrestling Entertainment attempted to do a dignified event, as much as that can be in their world of pro wrestling, as it was Kairi Sane who was chosen to defeat former MMA fighter Shayna Baszler in the finals of the first Mae Young Classic, a 32-woman pro wrestling tournament, at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The tournament was taped in July, but hadn't aired until the past few weeks on the WWE Network. It had received most of its media attention based on Rousey being at ringside for every match cheering on Baszler. The tournament teased the idea of the MMA Four Horsewomen — Rousey, Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir — facing off against the WWE version: Charlotte, the daughter of Ric Flair, along with Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.
There were planned arguments at the tapings, and a video challenge was released by WWE recently.
Both groups were there sans one member. Shafir wasn't there representing the Rousey crew, and Banks, who flew to Australia on Monday night to perform on a series of WWE shows there, wasn't there on the wrestling side.
Rousey was there, dressed up since WWE had asked her to do a red carpet walk-in that played at the beginning of the show.
She was as animated as anyone in the audience, cheering when Baszler had the advantage, depressed when Sane had the advantage, and almost in tears when Baszler finally lost at the 11:54 mark in a show taped at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The match had been heavily promoted all week on WWE television and aired live on the WWE Network, the company's streaming service, after the conclusion of the live Smackdown show that aired on the USA Network.
Sane, born Kairi Housako, was a former competition yachtsperson who competed with the Japanese national team, and was nicknamed "the Pirate Princess." In 2011, she was an actress in Japan, and in performing in a play about pro wrestling. A member of the management of one of the women's wrestling promotions was at the play, was impressed by her, brought her to a wrestling show, and from there, she decided to become a pro wrestler. She signed with WWE several months ago.
Baszler was portrayed as the toughest woman in the tournament, using an MMA-based style and winning every match via choke with Rousey watching from ringside. Her MMA credentials, fighting in Elite XC, Strikeforce and UFC, were promoted in commentary. The match storyline was that Baszler, bigger and stronger, injured her ribs, and Sane took advantage of it, attacked the ribs to get out of a choke, and won with an elbow drop off the top rope that would make Randy Savage jealous.
The crowd appreciated the match, even chanting "this is awesome" near the finish. Baszler sold her disappointment well. She was heavily pushed in commentary and one would expect with her showing that she would end up with a WWE contract out of all this.
As for the next step in building for a Rousey match in WWE, that will evidently come later.
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