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The Smark Henry Mae Young Classic 2018 Review (Oct. 10 & 17, 2018): Tough Cookie


Before we begin, we'd like to apologize to you, dear reader, for missing last week's review. This might sound like a lame excuse, but life has caught up on all three of us at the same time. Really.

But worry no more because this week's review is a two-for-one special!

From the field of 32, we now have our Final Four after last Thursday's episode (Manila time). There were lots of barn burners, and *sigh* that injury that took out one of the favorites to win everything.

Round 2

Io Shirai def. Zeuxis



KP: It’s interesting that they decided to give Zeuxis a better shake at things with Shirai than Brookside, though it wasn’t illogical. Zeuxis’ momentum was short-lived, but she was thoroughly entertaining in the moments she was given to act like a little shit.

The only thing I can say about Shirai right now is that she acts like she owns the tournament. My enthusiasm for her is still there, only it’s simmering, waiting for her to face someone that can actually make her break a sweat. There’s been no challenge so far, which I guess will change in the next round if her left arm still smarts then.

Ardelle: What a great opener to this episode! It's no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of Zeuxis' first round match against Aerial Monroe, but she's a lot more fluid this time. While Io is obviously the huge favorite to win everything, it's great that Zeuxis brought the fight to the Ace.

Both women obviously brought their A-game. One would think this was already a quarterfinal match because the stakes felt really high, and it should be! Zeuxis was able to escape Io's early offense, and the pacing was just rocket speed from then on. In the end, it was Io's speed (and trademark brute) that is moving on to the quarterfinals.

I enjoyed this a lot, but I agree with KP. Zeuxis may have stepped up her game, but Io will always be Io. She’ll climb a couple more steps higher if you are able to keep up with her. Still waiting for that someone who can bring the real fight to the Genius of the Sky.

Miyann: This is a great match to open episode 6! It may be short, but it has a nice psychology behind it. Zeuxis didn’t have to play heel this time because the match is a pure fight. I like that they had it this way because it shows that they don’t need a base story to make their match interesting. All they need is their abilities and their experience.

I love some of Io’s counters especially the one when did a baseball slide to get out of the ring just to sweep Zeuxis’ leg and delivered a springboard basement dropkick.

Again, it is a good match to follow up Martinez vs Satomura.

Deonna Purazzo def. Xia Li



KP: Li’s aggression against Purrazzo was excellent. It predictably threw into sharp contrast her growth since last year's tournament and made her comeback near the end of the match more impressive. She looks like she'll be fun to regularly see on NXT TV, and it wouldn't be remiss to have her out there with the likes of Bianca Belair.

Purrazzo, meanwhile, continued to impress with her quick, technical style. And since she's going up against Shirai, who seemingly has a weak left arm, her arm snapping trick and Fujiwara armbar will be an interesting, threatening weapon against the powerful high-flyer.

Ardelle: Another really good match from this episode (a recurring theme, as you'll see)! Deonna's so cool and chill, but one must never underestimate that coolness, because she'll definitely bring the pain!

On the other hand, HOW GOOD IS XIA LI?? She's improved leaps and bounds from last year's MYC AND SHE'S ONLY LIKE, WHAT, LESS THAN TWO YEARS IN THE PC??? I want her on my NXT TV, now!

The callbacks in this match (such as Xia being able to counter Deonna' s Russian leg sweep into Fujiwara armbar) mattered a lot and it helped in the storytelling. I was also glad with how the match ended because it made Xia look really strong despite the defeat.

Miyann: I’m more of a storytelling girl so please bear with me.

This match is between a hungry newbie, Xia Li vs. a calm technician, Deonna Purrazzo. At first, I thought that it was like Toni Storm vs. Jinny where Jinny was introduced to the crowd. But it was different because I believe that the story behind this is more on Xia. Just like what the commentators said, she kept on improving not only with her in-ring ability but also with her English. It made me feel like she has been preparing for the match since she got eliminated last year. I hope they’ll continue the story next tournament.

Tegan Nox def. Nicole Matthews


KP: Like I've mentioned before, I've avoided most of the spoilers from the MYC tapings. One of the spoilers that got through was Nox's severe injury. This future knowledge honestly made it difficult to watch this match, which is a damn fucking shame because she surpassed a monster in the form of Matthews.

Matthews was always there to stop Nox's momentum and tear her down by fully utilizing her strength. Her physical and verbal bullying of Nox also furthered fan support for the latter, a seemingly impossible feat since she's received some of the largest pops of the tournament. 

Nox's win was quick, and in light of what happened in her match against Ripley, I wish this match had gone on a little longer.

Ardelle: Once again, watching Tegan in the MYC is giving me mixed feelings, because as I have mentioned in our first episode review, this is not going to end well for the Girl with the Shiniest Wizard. But she's also such a joy to watch. On the other hand, I found myself enjoying Nicole Matthews' brutality and again, she's another name in my list of favorites.

Tegan's comeback story continued with another veteran in Matthews. I love how Nicole was built to be this hurdle that can rain on everyone's parades, and Tegan should overcome her to move on to the next round. This is a common theme in a lot of matches in general, but this trope translated really well in this match

Despite her defeat, Nicole also looked really strong and most especially, it made Tegan's Shining Wizard look really deadly! It's sad to see Nicole go, and I'm excited/scared for Tegan on the quarterfinal round.

Miyann: Mean Nicole Matthews is best for business. I like how she evolved from “hey-I’m-a-veteran-i’ll-let-you-play-before-the-kill” to “hey-I’m-a-veteran-I’m-better-than-you”. You can sense that she’s more aggressive this match because she knows what Tegan can do. Tegan, on the other hand really did turn something negative into something positive. You can feel her determination throughout the match.

Mia Yim def. Kaitlyn


KP: A Most Excellent way of bowing out Kaitlyn, who reminded me and people with doubts about their memories of her why we wanted her around during the Divas era. 

It was kind of emotional to see Kaitlyn in top form like this, putting her entire body weight in her spear, and fighting through the assault on her legs. I kinda hoped she'd be at Evolution in a tag capacity, but I haven't heard anything of the sort so far.

But man, MOTHERFUCKING BLASIAN EXCELLENCE. Yim's timing, her strikes, her selling — the roll-up to the winning kneebar? 수고했어요. 

The hug at the end was a feel good moment after Kaitlyn lost by a hair's breadth in this surprisingly competitive and fun final bout for the second round.

Ardelle: Man, what a banger of a match. I really loved how both women played dirty, because the tournament meant so much to them! Kaitlyn was a former Divas Champion making her comeback, while Mia is an MYC veteran who, of course, is in it to win it on her second try.

It’s kind of a bummer that I was spoiled beforehand, because if I weren’t, I wouldn’t know who won! The near falls after Mia's sole food and Kaitlyn's spear brought me at the edge of my seat because no one has kicked out of those! Kaitlyn attacking Mia’s broken hand was already out of the question, so what does Mia do? She makes a bull’s eye on her own by targeting Kaitlyn’s leg because she does a trio of leg drops!

Thanks to this, I want to see them go at it once again. Again, sad to see Kaitlyn go, but I hope to see more of her on my screen.

Miyann: A lot of people might have thought that Mia Yim will eat Kaitlyn alive. We all know that Kaitlyn is from the Divas Era who was instructed to only do the basics and had little to none airtime to showcase her abilities and creativity, but both of the competitors proved naysayers wrong.

It was an excellent match to build Kaitlyn as a former champion and Mia as someone who does not believe in what Kaitlyn can do. Mia disrespected the shit out of Kaitlyn when she slapped her using her injured hand. Just like everyone else, Mia got shocked when Kaitlyn stood still and kept on fighting. But in the end, Mia Yim’s experience stood out. It was amazing.

Quarterfinals

Meiko Satomura def. Lacey Lane


KP: Oh, to be in the shoes of Lacey Lane! Easily one of the shortest matches in the tournament — it barely lasted five minutes! — Lane did not choose the easy way out given by the vet. Satomura honored that choice by giving Lane a fair shake, never going easy on her and allowing her to speak with her sheer athleticism.

And if that isn't heart-warming, I don't know what is. Satomura's still a wrestling fan after over 20 years in the industry, and she's giving back everything she was given tenfold. Her match against Lane may seem like plain domination, but it was a great boost for the young wrestler and should make a mark on Lane's development.

Satomura will face Storm in the semi-finals and while this has happened several times before in Germany, UK, and Japan, it's always a treat to see them clash in the ring. Their next bout in the MYC 2 semi-finals may be Satomura's chance to even the scores a little as she had never won against Storm in a singles match.

Ardelle:  I guess it’s safe to say that Lacey is the dark horse in this tournament. As someone relatively new to the business (and signed to an NXT deal anyway), I personally didn’t see her reaching this far and face The Final Boss!

As expected, Meiko didn’t break a sweat in this match. She could have finished her early on, but Meiko took on the mentor role here, just like how she was with Killer Kelly in the first round. She allowed some offense from Lacey, but when the younger competitor turned down her handshake, it all went downhill from there for Lane.

*jots down notes: never turn down a Meiko Satomura handshake*

This match was okay, and it was definitely Lacey’s best match in the tournament. She looked clunky for me in the first two rounds, but it looked like she has found her stride inside a WWE ring, aside from being paired with Meiko. The joshi legend is moving on to the semifinals (no surprise there), but Lacey has turned the doubter in me into a believer.

Miyann: WHAT A MATCH! I liked how everything went down. Lacey Lane really made a big mistake when she decided not to shake Meiko Satomura’s hand. The way I see it, Meiko offered her hand to tell Lacey that she’s good for someone new. It rubbed her the wrong way and refused the offer that ticked Satomura off. Lane tried to show Meiko that she can also do what she does, but Satomura ended the fantasy when she delivered Death Valley Driver to win the match. This is a great match!

Io Shirai def. Deonna Purrazzo


KP: It's kinda weird how Purrazzo was in the gauntlet to see Shirai off, yet she's in NXT with her now. Err. Anyway.

The way Shirai dominated in the first half of this match made me think she was working heel, which, damn, that's the Io I was introduced to?? It made me love Purrazzo's quick turnaround, capitalization of the bum left arm, and quick pins even more. Frankly, Shirai's cockiness even made me want to root for Purrazzo's win!

(Purrazzo's triple German suplexes? *chef's kiss*)

As suspected, Purrazzo was Shirai's first major hurdle in the tournament, though she was not enough to stop her. The damage dealt to Shirai's arm became more pronounced, and with Ripley in the horizon, Shirai will have her considerable energy tested to the max.

Ardelle: This was a very good match between two prolific women, but I felt like it could have been more. Like it could have had a bit more drama and a clearer picture in terms of the storyline, I guess...?

I liked how they were presented two equally good women in between the ropes. The pinning sequences and the submission counters to pinfall attempts were great, I just hoped it had a bit more story other than excellent wrestling. Don’t get me wrong, though, I love me some technical and high-flying masterpiece, but pro wrestling is also built on storytelling.

Io had Deonna’s number eventually and sealed her quarterfinal win with a moonsault that barely hit her. Michael Cole covered that up pretty good by saying that Deonna was beaten up so badly despite not getting all of Io's moonsault.

This left me wanting more. *sad face*. Good thing they're both on NXT now!

Miyann: This match started with a test of strength. It showed how both competitors know each other’s abilities well. It was a good wrestling match. Io tried to heel it up a little, but it didn’t push through. I really like how calm Deonna was and also how smooth she can get someone in an armbar outta nowhere.

Rhea Ripley def. Tegan Nox


KP: I'll admit it: I cried during this match. I was one of those weirdos who saw Nox in a Defiant show and thought she was fine, but only saw her afterwards in brief clips and GIFs. Seeing her move in the MYC was a reminder of how much I missed, and how much wrestling fans will miss with this horrific injury.

God bless Nox for still trying to complete the match.

Ardelle: Boy, this was heartbreaking and tough to watch.

As soon as they showed the opening vignette, I was already holding my breath in preparation for when Tegan’s injury happens. And I think nobody expected it to be that early in the match! It’s a shame because Rhea and Tegan had so much heat going in, and it was cut short with an unfortunate incident.

Tegan was a tough cookie though for trying to finish the match, but it was all just going downhill for her that the referee had to stop it.

Aside from Tegan, Rhea Ripley also deserves props for keeping it kayfabe all along. She just maintained her vicious side while everything was going wrong, and she didn’t break character! Heck, she’s actually still at it!

After the airing of their match, Tegan gave an update about her injury and simply put, her left knee exploded. Of course, these kinds of injuries happen and they're never less terrible. But if anything, Tegan’s untimely halt in the MYC just paved the way to a potential super feud between her and Rhea. Here’s your main event for an NXT UK TakeOver, guys and girls.

Miyann: Cries in Filipino. It was really painful to see someone get hurt especially during a competition. I admire Tegan for trying to continue the match, but I wish she did the right thing right away. I know it was something that she’s been longing for to do since last year, but still, it’s better to be smart for her future. I hope she can be part of the future MYC tourneys to continue her journey.

Props to Rhea Ripley for staying in character.

Toni Storm def. Mia Yim


KP: Gimme five minutes I watched the thing again and Ripley's horrified face before she had to act all smug and Nox's crying I'm. Pls. Five minutes.

...

OOF. This could've gone either way! While Storm played the beleaguered for most of the match, her highs were all the way up! I love these matches where power is matched with wrestling ability and awareness of their opponent's weakness — because that's exactly how Yim was overcome. 


Ardelle: Okay, I’m saying it right now: not the biggest fan of Toni’s booking in this match.

Might be an unpopular opinion, but it's just weird seeing her take so much offense in the beginning of the match, and then rise for a fiery comeback that won't even last longer than five minutes! She's Toni freaking Storm, for crying out loud. It's common knowledge she's good. She isn't--she shouldn't--be some determined underdog taking in a lot of offense in the majority of the match!

Anyway, enough with the rambling...

Maybe my sentiments could be countered with a "but Mia's hand is injured," okay, sure. But a few moments of Toni having a mean streak to counter Mia's would have been "believable" in my eyes. Yes, I know. This is pro wrestling, but someone who is as good as Toni Storm should not have received a lot of beatdown, methinks.

Fine, okay, setting my complaints aside, it was an okay match. Again, it could have been better if only they stopped with Toni-taking-a-beat down-and-then-coming-back-strong pattern in this tournament (it was okay with Hiroyo Matsumoto in the second round, but twice in a row?), but still happy with the outcome because we'll be getting *gasp* Meiko vs. Toni for the semifinals.

And thank god Mia's finally in NXT.

Final thoughts:


KP: Oh hell YES. If the quarterfinals were any indication of how fucking good we'll have it in the semi's, I will fucking NUT next week. Most of the matches (e.g. Lane vs. Satomura) made the most of their limited time and got the audience to invest in competitors they may have never had the pleasure of watching before. They also scaled up the quality of the tournament, and made more reasons for others to want to be a part of it. Imagine wrestling for less than a year and going up against veterans who will do their damn best to make you look like a rising star — that's damn good value for your time.

As per usual, MYC motivated me to arrange my time more and make an effort to seek out old matches by vets in this tournament (except for a notable few... like Evers...).

More importantly though, the performances by NXT originals showed me that the system works for WWE's style of wrestling —flashy, character-focused, builds on inherent athleticism. At the same time, it makes me conscious of the fact that there are people in developmental that have been there for years yet never seem like they're fit to graduate from it. This makes me want to cheer for these girls harder; if they're not going main roster, I want to see them survive in the indies, because they actually seem to want it.

(Yes, even Catanzaro, though it pains me to admit it.)

Ardelle: Tegan's injury really gutted me, and it's unfortunate that it let me affect how I saw the quarterfinal episode. Last week's episode was good and it's now the best episode for me. Surely, the ground will shake at Meiko vs. Toni, and I cannot wait for Rhea to get the beating of her life courtesy of the best joshi wrestler in the world.

Is your MYC favorite still in? What are your favorite tournament matches so far? Sound off in the comments section below!

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