Previously on the Mae Young Classic: Kaitlyn was eliminated right when we knew we wanted her to never leave us again, Tegan Nox battled a tablecloth, and Deonna taught us to fear one specific type of armbar.
You can keep up with the Mae Young Classic on the WWE Network! And you can keep up With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a podcast! Also, you can follow me on Twitter @emilyofpratt, where I mostly just talk about wrestling some more.
As you probably noticed from the headline and/or my previous MYC reviews, I’m departing from our usual Best/Worst format for this column for something I’m calling a Ranked Review. Each MYC episode consists of four straight-up wrestling matches and almost nothing else for about an hour, and I’m going to talk about each match in worst-to-best order. As always, I welcome your thoughts on the format and rankings, as well as the rest of the review and the episode it talks about, in the comments section.
And now, my review of season 2, episode 7 of the Mae Young Classic, the tournament’s quarterfinals, from October 17, 2018.
4) Rhea Ripley def. Tegan Nox
I managed to avoid a lot of spoilers for this year’s Mae Young Classic, but I couldn’t help but learn the news of Tegan Nox’s very unfortunate injury. I went into this match just wondering when and how it would happen. It turned out, very early in the match, before almost anything happened, when Nox lands badly on the steel grate on the entranceway while doing a suicide dive.
Nox pounds the ring steps, looking very angry, as the referee checks on her. There’s a second where it looks like realistic selling, but it’s soon clear that this is that shoot injury. She tries to continue the match, but after the ref and trainers check again if she can continue, Ripley defeats her via referee stoppage.
Nox updated fans on her condition via Twitter after this episode aired and sounded characteristically positive about it. But Cole on commentary has had Nox as his pick to win the whole tournament since the beginning, so maybe she was supposed to advance to the semi-finals here. Whether she was or not, this really sucks for her career and body, and hopefully she is able to come back. It’s a serious injury, but also she’s a very young wrestler!
I also have to give props to Rhea Ripley for staying in character for this entire match-gone-wrong. She keeps up the aggression and doesn’t look like she’s going easy with those kicks and chops while everyone else is figuring out whether the bout will continue. The little smirk after her hand was raised was a nice touch too.
3) Meiko Satomura def. Lacey Lane
In contrast, I did not know what to expect from Satomura vs. Lane at all. Lane’s hometown hero Cinderella story has been two pretty unimpressive victories while Satomura is way more experienced and has had two of the tournament’s best matches so far. It seemed like this should be a squash. Interestingly, what we actually got was basically a Young Lion match.
Those who watch New Japan Pro Wrestling probably get what I’m talking about here, and for those who don’t, I will explain! NJPW does this thing where they open a lot of their shows with the young wrestlers training at their dojo facing off in singles or tag matches against their fellow students or the New Japan Dads, veteran wrestlers who had a lot of success earlier in their careers, but are unlikely to have many more high profile matches in the company. When it’s a trainee against a vet, there’s usually a dynamic of the no-nonsense older wrestler disciplining an upstart it would be a huge blow to their pride to be beaten by. The Young Lion gets in some offense, mostly due to their youth, but it’s more about proving their spirit as a fighter against a way more experienced person (who usually beats them up pretty badly) and showing they’ll keep going even if they lose.
The exact dynamic of every Shota Umino vs. Yuji Nagata, etc., match starts when Satomura kicks the soul out of Lane’s body after she doesn’t shake her hand, because the MYC does the Code of Honor for some reason. It continues as Lane struggles through a submission and gets in some speedy offense. Satomura, looking pissed off, ends things quickly with a kick and a Death Valley Driver. It doesn’t have the vibe of a squash because Lane definitely came out looking like more of a contender than Xia Brookside did against Io Shirai, but Satomura’s experience and toughness earned her a relatively easy win. We don’t have Meiko in WWE for that long, probably, so I wish all of her matches we like hers with Martinez and Kelly, but this one made sense, at least.
2) Io Shirai def. Deonna Purrazzo
The show’s second match, Shirai vs. Purrazzo, is a lot more substantial. The match features a good mix of high flying, striking, and submission work, with some flashy gymnastics for good measure. Shirai is able to counter Purrazzo’s first Fujiwara armbar attempt, but struggles way more with the second set up by three very nice German suplexes. Maybe Purrazzo could have the next Three Faces of Foley situation where sometimes she’s the classy Virtuosa submission specialist and then sometimes she shows up in a muscle shirt and screams, “Suplex city, bitch!” at her opponents.
The crowd gets very into this second armbar, and Shirai ultimately counters it pretty much the same way she did the first one. She transitions into her crossface, but without the comfortable smile she had when she locked it on Brookside. After delivering death by knee in a few different ways, Shirai steps over Purrazzo to go up top for the moonsault… which ends up barely grazing her opponent. She hits her with part of her arms, then jumps right back on her to pin for the win. I guess that meteora before it really did the trick? Ultimately, I thought this was a decent match with an underwhelming ending.
1) Toni Storm def. Mia Yim
Our main event was between two cool, tough women and man, eleven-year-old Emily would have been so extremely into this! It’s not like women’s wrestling is the best it could possibly be right now, but it is a million times more accessible to young girls than it used to be, with wrestlers meant to appeal to them the same way a lot of male wrestlers are meant to appeal to young boys. For some reason, this specific match announcement made me have a moment of appreciation for that!
Anyway, Yim vs. Storm is a competitive, entertaining match that also doesn’t really have a heel/face dynamic, and that works for these characters. Yim, I think, has been working really well in this tournament as kind of a morally neutral badass, and I hope they maintain that role for her in NXT and beyond. Yim, held back by her injured hand in her match against Kaitlyn, wrestles a lot smarter in this match, forgoing chops for a lot of kicks, and focusing on wearing her opponent down with submissions, choosing offensive maneuvers less risky to her own body.
While Yim’s bad hand is not as dramatic of a factor as in last episode’s main event, the beaten up Storm does start her big offensive streak by kicking it, and then dropping them both with a headbutt. After a strike exchange, Storm and Yim look pretty evenly matched and each land some entertaining nearfalls. But after Yim tries for Sole Food, Storm grabs that taped-up hand and hits a suplex, then the Storm Zero Tiger Driver for the win.
And although Yim is now out of the MYC, she is in NXT, and it’s really cool to see one of my favorite, and I think one of the best, female wrestlers out there get what’s almost definitely the biggest opportunity for a woman in the business right now.
This episode was really hit or miss for me (possibly in part because I watched it with the soundtrack of construction noises), but it set us up for what looks like a really fun semifinal show next week. Toni Storm vs. Meiko Satomura. Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley. It’s Japan vs. Australia times two! Who ya got?