See 28 Feb’21 Japan bracket finals update at end below
See 22 Feb’21 Semi-finals update below
The first night of the AEW women’s world championship eliminator tournament premiered on Youtube tonight.
A few thoughts that stuck with me from the four matches:
- Veny did a great job; I was hoping she would go farther.
- The American audience (general cable TV audience) is probably not ready for Maki Itoh. Her signature promos would even get bleeped on American TV. She sure knows how to do the cute gimmick well.
- Rin Kadokura (along with Veny) would fit in well at QT Marshall’s training group, as both those Japanese women are tall enough to match in size well with the likes of Ana Jay and Tesha Price.
- Part of me believes this entire tournament is just a way to position Yuka as a legit challenger to Shida, given Yuka has been absent for so long. If that is the case, I really hope Shida turns heel on Yuka, as the latter is a better baby-face and Shida does a great mean-face pose, and her antics (with the kendo stick) ought to be more a heel gimmick anyway.
Also note that the first round will be on Youtube with Japanese commentary later on this morning.
Semi-finals update, 22 Feb 2021:
Yuka plays the pure babyface well and I am not surprised she won. I do hope it’s her and Shida on the 7th because I think Shida turning heel would be the best thing for her and the AEW women’s division (assuming Yuka wins), and I hope Shida coming to Yuka’s rescue in the quarter finals foreshadows this. It was a good match against Emi Sakura, but the ref counted too quickly for how Emi and Yuka were reacting in the near pinfalls.
Ryo Mizunami going over Aja Kong was not a big surprise as Aja is a draw for her fame, for sure, but can’t deliver in the ring like she used to do. Ryo winning by count-out likewise made sense. I expect Ryo to be a good opponent for Yuka, allowing Yuka to really fly.
On the American side, Britt and Nyla going over were no surprises.
I do think Madi Wrenkowski did a good job filling in for Ana Jay. Yet, as I was watching this match I couldn’t help but think Britt will end up in WWE sooner than later, especially if she stays with Adam Cole (who Levesque apparently loves) as he looks to be a lifer there. Britt Baker strikes me as someone who could have a long future in WWE given her promo ability and that she can play a doctor (trained as such) well; a decade of stupid WWE skits can await her.
Nyla v. Tay didn’t do much for me as it felt like we’ve seen this too much before (ok, only twice before) and it didn’t seem much of an improvement other than Tay’s kicks are getting a bit sharper.
The card for the Sunday semi-finals on Bleacher Report should be good, though I am perplexed why Mei Suruga is on Shida’s team and not her mentor’s (Emi) team.
Japan bracket finals update, 28 Feb 2021:
Third and final show from Japan was streamed on Bleacher Report Live:
Trio’s match: Veny was impressive, as she was in her first match. Shida too looked better here than in some of her US matches. These young women have worked quite a bit with each other, several of them part of Emi’s circle of students or colleagues. Sometimes in her AEW matches I think Shida pulls back a little, perhaps afraid of being too physical. Mei Suruga is a lot of fun in this match - who can’t like her? She’s so young, and perhaps is the next logical progression of the super-cute-highly-skilled joshi star, sort of filling in where the now-semi-retired Kari Sane used to rule.
Japanese Bracket Final: Intense back half to the Ryo Mizunami v. Yuka Sakazaki match. Ryo going over was a bit of a surprise to me (I was so hoping we’d get a Yuka v. Shida at the PPV). Yuka is so good at the undersized baby face role, and here did not disappoint. Ryo was not holding back in her hits. I thought perhaps Yuka was supposed to reach-out at the last pin attempt.
US Bracket Semi-Final match: Thunder Rosa playing the heel (to a limited extent), no doubt because once again Riho is the undersized baby-face. Thunder Rosa was doing most of the work (perhaps this was because it was taped not long after Riho faced Deeb in a very good and intense match?) Taz spoiled the ending in the middle of the Japanese final when he mentioned looking forward to seeing Rosa v. Rose match.
A fun hour of wrestling. Again, I had hoped Yuka would make it to the PPV, but now I’m not sure who will face Shida. The logical choice is Thunder Rosa, I guess. Shida losing is my expectation, and that will set up three desired matches for a champion Thunder Rosa (versus Shida in a rematch, then Britt Baker, and finally Serena Deeb) to play out on AEW over the coming few months.
The US Final is on a special AEW Youtube Monday night show.