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The Smark Henry Mae Young Classic 2018 Review: Storm's a Brewin'


From 32 amazing women, Toni Storm withstood her opponents to become the second Mae Young Classic winner in last week's history-making WWE Evolution!

But it wasn't all roses and rainbows for the Lightning from Down Under, as she had to go through the Japanese Final Boss Meiko Satomura to get to New York.

On the other hand, her opponent Io Shirai almost breezed through the entire tournament, but up-and-comer Rhea Ripley refused to back down to the three-time best joshi wrestler in Japan.

Before we get to WWE Evolution, let's see how the semifinals went down.

Toni Storm def. Meiko Satomura


KP: Meiko Satomura is a wrestler who loves the industry, believes in its future stars, and will give everything to help create a better wrestling world. You can’t argue with that if you’ve seen how much Satomura gave Storm in this match.

She knew Storm could turn those opportunities into gold—which Storm did here—and knew the youngster can do so much more as the years progress. Satomura’s willingness to go the distance in everything she’s booked in regardless of the outcome, e.g. the MYC, is admirable and an attitude every journeywoman should aspire to have.

In this match, Storm’s youthful arrogance was quickly humbled by Satomura’s resistance to her strikes. She did her best to turn Satomura’s heavy style against the veteran, as seen when she tried to choke out Satomura after the latter almost wrecked Storm’s legs. As remarked by the commentary, Satomura was, for the first time of this tournament, put in a serious disadvantage by the minute-long hold.

It’s something the audience picked up on, and perhaps why it earned the MYC’s first “Mae Young Classic” chant. Satomura and Storm made the fourteen, fifteen-minute-long match feel important, worthy of its semi-final status. I’m in awe of both women, and I can’t wait to see how Storm would redeem herself for losing last year’s tournament.

Ardelle: Man, TONI DID EARN HER VICTORY HERE! I mentioned last week how I wasn’t a fan of her booking in the tournament, but for this week, this is how you make a comeback! Toni looked like she escaped Hiroyo Matsumoto and Mia Yim in previous rounds, but she proved that she’s worthy of her semifinals spot with this match with Meiko Satomura.

I sensed Toni’s tension as soon as she went out and walked to the ring, and rightfully so. She is a step away from being in the MYC finals, and in order to finish the job (which she failed to do last year), she should overcome a tough hurdle in a living legend in Satomura.

I also liked how this was different from Meiko’s other matches where it was one-sided because it legitimized Toni’s win (again, despite questionable booking in the past). What followed soon after was a hard-hitting back-and-forth between the senpai in Satomura, and kohai in Storm.

Nearfalls in matches are normal, but my mind was blown when Toni kicked out of the Death Valley driver, and then Meiko kicked out of the Strong Zero, and Toni kicked out of the Scorpio Rising (!!!).

Boy, what a battle. I found myself crying over Toni’s post-match promo and the exchange of respect between her and Meiko.

Miyann: Before we get into the action let me just say that Satomura and Storm’s journey as rivals didn’t end here. They have mentioned that they have faced each other before and I believe that they will face each other again soon.

Toni Storm was very careful at the start of the match. She knows that Satomura has been giving her opponents time to attack before she ends the match with the Death Valley Driver. Storm came prepared for this and she didn't just rely on her abilities but she also used her head. She tried not to poke the bear too hard at the start, but she knows that Satomura will unleash eventually and so Satomura did.

I love her comeback! She got the upper hand right away and delivered devasting moves until the death valley driver. To everyone’s surprise, Storm kicked out. Just like what I said, Storm knows what’s next and her next plan was to endure and save her power until she finds the opportunity to end the match.

This match made me feel that all of their previous tournament matches are connected to this match. I cannot put it into words. Let’s just end this by saying I cried at the of the match.

Io Shirai def. Rhea Ripley


KP: P H E W, BESHIES DINALA AKO SA SHOOKTS-TO-GO NG MATCH NA ‘TO.

In contrast to the slow pace of the Storm-Satomura match, there was constant action in Ripley-Shirai, even in the relatively slow-going parts. Ripley was the key to the overall momentum as she kept moving even when she had Shirai in a lock. She made Shirai struggle, and it’s honestly great seeing Shirai finally have an expression on her face other than a smile.

The desperation inspired by Ripley’s dominance made Shirai’s inevitable comeback mean something more than an inevitability. Heck, my cold dead heart leapt when Shirai came back to the ring at 8 and rattled against my ribs when Ripley leapt on her afterwards. Rather than take a victory, Shirai earned a victory here as Ripley easily could’ve taken this with her performance.

Ardelle: Yes finally! Someone brought the fight to Io Shirai! Even though I love how Rhea transformed herself in all aspects, I never really expected that she’d be in this position! Nothing against Rhea though. She is good, and it surprised me in a good way that we were treated with this first-time match-up.

The tournament has been one-sided in favor of Io, and in a way, it was satisfying to finally see her claw out of something. It made sense too that it had to be with Rhea. The Aussie has a chip on her shoulder, being in the tournament the second time. She’s also the bigger competitor in terms of size and she’s fiery.

Rhea has always been good, but she definitely held her own against one of the best in the world. In kayfabe, she also knows she’s good, so in contrast to Toni being intimidated of Meiko, Rhea didn’t give F’s about who Io is and she pulled out all the stops (I mean, that superplex, man!)

In the end, Rhea failed to capitalize ASAP on the superplex, and Io was able to wiggle out of her finisher, eventually hitting her moonsault.

Tears started rolling down my cheeks when Io and last year's MYC winner Kairi Sane reunited in the ring, and Io was heard saying “arigato, Kairi.”

Wow I love wrestling, man.

Miyann: Wow Rhea Ripley is a strong woman.

This matched built Ripley as a powerhouse. The idea was there on her previous matches but was emphasized on this one. I never believe that body scissors works until Ripley did it. She was very dominant throughout the match and I love it. It made me think that she’s making everyone feel that she deserve the spot. Io’s selling also helped her look strong. I also love how she touched her knees to remind everyone what happened to her previous match.

This is what I call a “laking anime” match. Io, despite being dragged all over the place, came back to her senses and fought back with all her might. She used her fighting spirit and desire to win to beat Ripley (which usually happens in an anime).

I’m still in love with Ripley’s character work. She held her emotions until Triple H showed up.

Finals


Miyann: I don’t like where the match was placed on the Evolution card. The main point of why people believe that the hype didn’t deliver is because their match wasn’t in the later part of the show. It made me feel that it is less important than the other matches.

I love the counters, it showed that both competitors know each other. It was a nice match for their timeslot.

Ardelle: On paper, Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai is something to mark out on. I mean, of course, these two women are two of the best in the world! Expectations were high, and the hype was already there!

Except the hype didn’t deliver, which disappointed me so much.

There could be a lot of factors for this. Doing a quick Google search will say that their match was the shortest in the card at only 10 minutes which, we all know, sometimes isn’t enough. Sure, there are great 10-minute matches in history, but I felt that this one wasn’t utilized properly. I thought that Io was still going to kick out of the second Strong Zero because that was just when I felt that the crescendo was beginning, but apparently, that was it. Maybe kicking out of two Strong Zeros would have been unthinkable, but this is Io Shirai we’re talking about!

Anyway, Toni looked great in this match because she really had Io’s number. I’m kind of sad that the Io Shirai we saw in the tournament was just the tip of the iceberg, but then again, that was only the tip of the iceberg.

I thought that putting the Mae Young Classic finals in WWE Evolution was actually a pretty great idea, but agreeing to Miyann’s point above, it was placed very low in the card. It should at least be in the top three, with the women’s titles going last.

Final thoughts


KP: This year’s Mae Young Classic felt like it passed by in a daze. Almost every episode felt like they finished in less than 20 minutes. The only exceptions to these are matches on the extreme ends of “I wish I didn’t have eyes” and “project this on my gravestone”—I’ll refrain from mentioning specific matches, because those jokes are overwrought.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed more of the matches here than I did last year. It’s been a treat seeing the NXT originals improve and work with different styles or, in the case of Lacey Lane, impress enough to encourage fans to keep track of their progress.

WWE would do well in continuing the tournament next year. If they decide to do a male tournament in 2019, they should still run the MYC and Evolution. And if they do, WWE must do a better job of prioritizing the build up to this event rather than giving more importance to an event funded by a bloody, corrupt government that mirrors the values of prominent U.S. politicians more than they care to admit.

Ardelle: Overall, MYC this year was just as fun as last year's. Seeing the PC kids like Xia Li and Rhea Ripley improve leaps and bounds (and I mean leaps and bounds) compared to last year made me feel like a proud Mom.

It's also always a delight to add new names to my favorites list. I personally have always thought that the business is so small, it seems that we as fans already know a lot of wrestlers! But then a tournament like this happens, and I begin to rethink that stance. There are a lot more names out there waiting to be recognized and tapped, all they need is a platform such as the MYC.

With my sentiment above regarding the placement of the finals in the card, I’m going to echo what I said last year that the MYC finale deserves a separate WWE Network special because it deserves one.

Miyann: This year’s Mae Young Classic was fun and enjoyable to watch. I appreciate how they decided to upload the episodes this year because it is less tiring and people are more invested in the tournament.

I always cry every episode. I’m still happy because women wrestlers have more opportunities to showcase their talents.

Honorable mentions

Tournament MVP

Miyann: Mia Yim for me is the MVP of the tournament. Most of her matches are captivating and she deserves being signed in WWE. I can’t wait to see her in a mix tag match with Shelton Benjamin.

Ardelle: No question, Meiko Satomura. She continued to prove that she is the BITW with all her MYC matches that eventually became wrestling clinics to her opponents and everyone in the locker room.

Best Performance Center Product

Miyann: Kacy Cantanzaro. Just like what I’ve said on her second match, she can bring something unique in the ring. Her flexibility and her background on gymnastics can make her moves look unique and new.

Ardelle: Rhea Ripley, hands down. I MEAN, HAVE YOU SEEN HER LAST YEAR? Sure she was already good and athletic, but her character work has skyrocketed her to oblivion! The sky is the limit for the younger Aussie in this tournament. Man, I can’t wait for her to crush other NXT UK women.

Top 5 Tournament Matches

Miyann: Meiko Satomura vs. Mercedes Martinez, Karen Q vs. Xia Li, Toni Storm vs. Jinny, Mia Yim vs. Kaitlyn, Mia Yim vs. Allysin Kay

Ardelle: Oh boy. Checking back the brackets, I realized that I liked a lot of matches from this tournament; maybe even more than last year’s! Since we should only narrow it down to five, my picks are going to be: 1) Meiko Satomura vs. Mercedes Martinez, 2) Mia Yim vs. Kaitlyn, 3) Meiko Satomura vs. Killer Kelly, 4) Toni Storm vs. Jinny, and 5) Xia Li vs. Karen Q.

How did you find this year's Mae Young Classic? Did you enjoy the match? Were you prepared with the storm that is Toni Storm? What are your top five matches? Sound off in the comments below!

Photo from WWE

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