Previously on the Mae Young Classic: So a witch, a black belt, and a Lady Godzilla walked into Full Sail University…
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 5 of the Mae Young Classic, from October 3, 2018.
4. Lacey Lane def. Taynara Conti
With this episode kicking off the tournament’s second round, it made sense to expect the matches to be more evenly matched and of higher quality, and that was mostly true. Still, Lacey Lane vs. Taynara Conti stood out glaringly to me as the weakest one this episode.
The intro video describes Lane as a possible “Cinderella story” and shows Conti’s “mean streak” and kind of off-putting emotional intensity, and she reminds us about her Taya Goshi finisher. Lane’s opponent this match is much closer to her size than in her first, but still quickly dominates because she’s a psychopath and gets extremely mad about almost being beaten by rollup early in the match and starts fighting dirty.
They exchange and dodge some moves and it all feels a bit awkward, and then Conti gets Lane in a backbreaker submission that unfortunately also happens to be THE EXACT SETUP FOR THE CRUCIFIX BOMB. It’s the beginning of Conti’s finisher too, but she holds it for so long that it feels like the end-all of whatever she’s trying to do there. Lane basically got very lucky because Conti either did not do her homework for this match or did and then erroneously believed her finisher setup would beat Lane’s finisher setup. This all technically made sense, but looked dumb and made Lane’s advancement to the next round (for a match with Meiko Satomura!) feel like a fluke. That’s totally valid story and might be what they’re going for, but the combination of that and how this match was executed didn’t result in it being a satisfying section of this episode.
3. Toni Storm def. Hiroyo Matsumoto
It’s still pretty wild to me how it’s okay now in WWE for Toni Storm be like, “Oh yeah, me and Hiroyo have wrestled so many times in Japan” and for Renee talk about Hiroyo Matsumoto wrestling Paige and her mom for tag titles in Shimmer and actually reference Shimmer by name, and all these things are presented as reasons to get more hyped for the match and the wrestlers rather than an excuse to insult other companies! (Negative: Toni Storm, former “face of Stardom???”) The unprecedented inter-promotional storytelling continues because, with her use of finger guns, Matsumoto has to be confirmed for Taiji Ishimori’s Super Junior Tag League partner, right? You can’t spell “Lady Godzilla” without “OG” backward! (I am hyped for Super Junior Tag League.)
Like Matsumoto vs. Evers, this match starts with the much more well-known wrestler way more over, and then the Lady Destroyer growing on the crowd as the match goes on. They start with some solid wrestling fundamentals, and then yet another handshake spot in this tournament like WWE adopted the Code of Honor and forgot to tell the audience about it. Matsumoto, briefly established as more of a heel, chops Storm, and hits her with a neckbreaker against the ropes. She soon lands some cooler offense with a missile dropkick and a suplex after both women have blocked suplexes from each other.
Matsumoto continues to dominate to dueling chants, but Storm makes her comeback with a killer German suplex. Solving my major issue with the first round in the first match of the second, Storm continues her comeback and gets the crowd more excited for her to win with more offense. We get a very fun strong style strike exchange, and both wrestlers score increasingly dramatic nearfalls. Storm ultimately gets a resourceful win after a backcracker into a bridge.
The match is enjoyable, but way Storm behaves after the match and backstage feels a little off to me. They put over her experience and rock n’ roll attitude, but she’s incredibly emotional and seems shocked to have won. Her interview promo is also not at all badass and very oddly acted too. That being said, this all happens in a way that tells you WWE is very invested in putting her over as a big time babyface, so good for her!
2. Rhea Ripley def. Kacey Catanzaro
100-lb super-ninja-rookie (now Will Ospreay-endorsed and NXT house show tag partner for Ricochet, so she’s officially in the Fraternity Of The Flips) (not you, Flip) Kacy Catanzaro falls in the MYC to Rhea Ripley. These two work really well together on the way there!
It’s very much power and a bad attitude against unique athletic ability and heart. Ripley powers out of a waistlock early on and hits a shoulder tackle and Catanzaro has to get resourceful, trying to weaken her opponent with kicks to the legs. After some brief gymnastic fireworks, she goes for a rollup like the one that won her the first match, but Ripley kicks out. Ripley is not a fan of this at all and starts to really throw her around, getting her own nearfalls and calling her opponent a “little spidermonkey” in extremely Australian fashion.
Catanazaro really starts to shine after she escapes a version of the Texas Cloverleaf with a very cool around-the-world DDT and a corkscrew over the top rope to the outside. Ripley sells the heck out of all of this! Kacy’s lack of reps shows in that slip on the ropes that looked very much like a botch (Ripley wasn’t near her, so why would you put that spot in a match?) but was very realistically something that could happen for any high-flying wrestler. But Ripley helped make it work by quickly capitalizing and clubbing her opponent in the back. That headscissors Ripley catches, though, does look very weak and like a move choreographed to be stopped.
Ripley wins after her Riptide pumphandle powerbomb, and both women exit the match looking like possible stars of the future, and the more experienced Ripley a shoot good team player.
1. Meiko Satomura def. Mercedes Martinez
Head and shoulders above anything else this episode was the main event, the Meiko Satomura vs. Mercedes Martinez battle of the veteran ring generals. They get a longer hype video than the other matches depicting Satomura as a relatively cool and collected “Final Boss” and Martinez declaring she’s been “too good for too long not to win this entire tournament.”
In the ring, they get straight to the wrestling and live up to those reputations they really don’t need to prove. It starts with really good technical wrestling, a lot of it on the mat. Satomura escapes of a headlock takedown and transitions to a headscissor choke that Martinez has to get creative and strike her opponent in the face to escape, and this fires the American up. She delivers more strikes to the face and starts utilizing her power advantage. She gets a nearfall after a chokeslam and works a submission and strikes on the ground, but is frustrated by still being unable to gain the W against Meiko.
Satomura starts to gain ground when she catches a kick, lands one of her own, YELLS AWESOMELY and goes up to the top rope, but her also-veteran opponent knocks her off the top and hits a neckbreaker made more impactful by elevation. Satomura, selling her neck, impressively escapes the fisherman buster into an armbar and remains on top after Martinez makes it to the ropes. Each woman manages to counter some of the other’s signature moves, but not all, and even when Martinez lands the fisherman buster she can’t put Satomura away. She starts to set up for what looks like will be Romero Special, but Satomura escapes and picks up the win after a Scorpion Kick.
In the hilariously alive/sincere-sounding words of a marking out Michael Cole, “Hell yeah!” That was a really freaking good wrestling match.
Backstage, the eliminated competitor says we haven’t seen the last of her! And WWE uses this phrase several times, and that part of her interview sounds very WWE-scripted, so I bet it’s true! I know they still do dumb sexist things, even outside of the Saudi Arabia garbage, but Martinez is younger than AJ Styles when they signed him and younger than Shayna Baszler is right now! Even if they don’t want to give her that type of push, she could easily work as a Kassius Ohno type for the women’s division on NXT.
With positive vibes sent towards Mercedes Martinez’s future, I’ll leave you here until next week’s episode and the second half of the second round.