MYC Week 8: Then There Were Two…

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Welcome back to the Mae Young Classic! We are down to our final four: Io Shirai, Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm and Meiko Satomura. Who will make it to the finals? We’re going to find out NOW! Again, no slideshows, just straight into the matches!

We start off with Toni Storm, who defeated Jinny and Hiroyo and Mia Yim to earn her spot, going up against Meiko who beat Killer Kelly, Mercedes Martinez, and Lacey Lane to make her way here.

Out first comes our resident rock star in one Ms. Toni Storm and she is basking in the raucous welcome the NXT Universe has given her for the fourth time in this tournament. And her opponent, who is put over as Toni’s biggest challenge in her career, Meiko is out next to a more lukewarm response.

Handshake. Bell. This match begins with a long bit of chain wrestling. Looking at Toni, you can see bruises all along her chest. Both women put each other in holds and headlocks, counter holds for approximately the opening two or so minutes in this match. The first strike from Meiko in this match, a kick to Toni’s chest, and Toni looks angry. A light kick and back to basics again. Double shoulder blocks end as stalemates.

Meiko begins to open up with strikes and is met with Toni bounding off the ropes behind her and leveling her with a boot to the chest. Two count. Toni is kicking and stomping Meiko about the head and her lower back and widens her advantage with a pair of headbutts. Two. Toni with a vertical and floats over for two. Toni sends Meiko off the ropes, but Meiko counters and begins to go to work on Toni’s legs with loud, hard, stiff kicks.

Meiko locks Toni Storm in an inverted Figure Four, but Toni gets to the ropes. More shots to the legs, followed by a hard stroke to the face. Irish whip into the corner and Meiko hits a flying forearm, she goes for a saito suplex but Toni fights out of it with elbows. She forearms Meiko and sends her off the ropes to eat a spinning wheel kick. However, Meiko is slower to press her advantage. She hits a series of uppercuts that is countered into a back slide. Storm then hits a modified Muta Lock, and has it locked in on Meiko for close to a minute. Meiko fights hard and makes it to the ropes, but Toni gave her that work. Storm is back on the attack using her ample backside to Meiko’s face in the corner followed by a perfectplex for two. Toni now gives Meiko some kicks that send her to the outside, and Toni dives onto Meiko, but appears to hurt her elbow.

The area chants “Mae Young Classic”. Back in the ring. Toni measures Meiko and hits a shining wizard for two. Both women look like they are worse for wear, but Toni isn’t done yet, aiming kicks directly at Meiko’s face and chin. This makes Meiko angry, Storm boots her back down and Meiko pops up, they exchange kicks until Meiko gets the better of the situation and whips Toni off the ropes, but holds on to her arm and drives her knee into her abdomen. Hard DDT Followed by a round off into a knee to the back of Storm’s head. Meiko is angry, hoists Storm up and plants her with a Death Valley Driver for…2!

Meiko is beside herself. Meiko lies in wait, goes for a kick to the face, but Toni wiggles between her legs and drops Meiko on the back of her head with a HARD snap German Suplex. She sets her up for Storm Zero, it connects, but only a two. These women are spent, and the crowd and the commentators are showing their admiration. Storm gathers Meiko for another Storm Zero, Meiko counters with a Pele kick, kicks Toni square in the face for two. Scorpion kick from Meiko, should do it, no it doesn’t! Meiko is incensed, she goes for the DVD again, but Toni counters with her Tiger Driver for the win!

Toni, battered and literally bruised collapses onto the mat and when she makes her way back up, is overcome with emotion. Toni is in tears as her hand is raised, Meiko is in tears, I’m in tears, as the crowd shows their appreciation by chanting “Thank you, Meiko!”. Both women share a moment, and they hug and bow to each other while both women continue to cry, and it’s such a moment, a beautiful moment, oh the tears! Behind Toni stands Kairi Sane who hugs Toni and presents her with roses. Meanwhile, Meiko is with Triple H, they bow to each other and he raises Meiko’s on the top of the ramp. She takes a couple more bows while Toni is in the ring and is interviewed. She is flushed with pride, and she says she is living her dream because of the women in the back and the fans. Between tears, she thanks the fans. What a moment.

Thoughts: I will admit, in the beginning, I thought this match was gonna suck. I’m not overly fond of prolonged chain wrestling, but the match delivered. This is the Toni I’ve been waiting for. Ever since I watched her battle with Piper Niven last year at the Mae Young Classic, I fell in love with her. She was aggressive, she showed heart, desire, determination, grit and paid dividends for her. I wish she would use her air raid crash neck breaker instead of the tiger driver, though. This is the best she has looked in the tournament and I can’t be any happier for her.

Now. Meiko, Meiko, Meiko. It has been a privilege in these 8 long weeks to watch you wrestle. As most people know, I’ve been watching wrestling since 1998, but I’ve mostly stuck to WWE. You put on two of the strongest matches in the tournament with this match, the other with Mercedes Martinez, and you had a standout match with Killer Kelly. I was so happy to see what you could offer and you lived up to your reputation. We could feel the passion for wrestling in you, and it was a great run here in the tournament. She may not have won, but she made a new fan out of me, and she now has an audience throughout the world she mightn’t have had had she not entered into the tournament. Both women did a fabulous job, and I’m sure the future is bright for both of them!

Next, we have Io, who beat Xia, Zeuxis, and Deonna against Rhea who defeated MJ, Kacy and Tegan to earn her spot.

Out first is Rhea Ripley, I just keep seeing Ethan Craft from Lizzie McGuire, out next to our favorite street fighter transitional theme realness complete with AMAZING mask and jacket, Io Shirai.

Bell rings and there is a kind of handshake between the two. Tie up and Rhea tosses Io to a corner. Io runs full steam, hits a round off into a back handspring into a front dropkick. Off the ropes she comes and she is popped up by Rhea. Io comes crashing to the mat face and knee first. Two count. Rhea begins the work on Io’s torso. Beautiful abdominal stretch with Rhea’s hands digging into her ribs. Io tries to fight, but Rhea isn’t having it. Stomps and clubbing blows has become Rhea’s offense, and she uses the abdominal stretch multiple times to great effect.

Io finds her inner fighter but an angry Rhea just blasts her hard with a forearm, mounts her, and then pummels her. Body scissors by Rhea. Her submission work is very Emma-esque. Io does try to pin Rhea, but Rhea never relinquished her hold and pummels the back of Shirai. A second stack up breaks the hold, then a hard dropkick flattens Io. Rhea is dominating in a way I didn’t think possible. Delayed vertical from Ripley. Two. Another two. Another body scissors. Io turns her body into Rhea’s and then lets. Her. HAVE. IT! She forearmed the snot out of Ripley to break this stretch. Both women are down.  Ripley continues the onslaught on Io’s back, she sends Io off the ropes for another pop-up, which is countered into a hurricanrana for two.

Io is feeling it now, she hits the ropes and delivers a dropkick to the temple of Rhea, who rolls out of the ring, and here comes Io with a tope. I wish the women would stop using this move so often. Io tried to get in to answer the 10 count but Rhea yanks her out. Io gets in with one second to spare. Rhea is back to attacking Io’s back. Trash talk, exchange of hands, Rhea gets the upper hand goes for another suplex that Io gets out of and then slaps the piss out of Rhea with palm slaps and upward palm strikes. Rhea is perched at the middle rope and here comes Io with a Tiger Feint Kick or 619 to the chest. Missile dropkick, a very high and tight one, two.

Io signals for the moonsault, and Rhea rips her off the top rope and hits a superplex for two! Rhea goes for a gut wrench into what looked like a reverse razor’s edge but gets sent into the steel post shoulder first. Rhea finds herself seated in the corner and hits Meteora like she’s got a grudge against life, and she hits her moonsault for three!

She will meet Toni Storm in the finals! Io is beside herself, and her best friend, Kairi Sane is on hand to give her her roses. Triple H congratulates and raises her hand to the crowd. Io and Kairi hug it out in a genuinely sweet moment. Kairi is giving  K-Pop queen Hyuna circa 2012 vibes with her look. Io is interviewed in the ring, and she’s so loud and excited and tells us she will win and be number one and thanks, while Kairi smiles, bounces and claps in approval. The announce team is 2-1 in favour of Toni Storm. Triple H, Sara Amato, and Kairi Sane are on stage with Io and Toni for the final.

Thoughts: Io, lose the moonsault. I must give Io credit, her selling and her hang time is out of this world. This match was well-wrestled and the psychology was on point, both matches tonight were solid A grade. I was surprised by just how comfortable Rhea looked in there and how good Io still looked while fighting from underneath. Rhea has that swagger and character down, and she conveys in all aspects of her performance so kudos to her. Io, I had been underwhelmed by this whole tournament, and though her move set stayed very limited, she worked. The difference between a wrestler and a worker is a wrestler can have all the ability and the deep move set in the world, but conveying emotion through their moves and actions are lost. A worker is someone who may or may not be a good wrestler who uses their moves, bodies and faces to tell a story and get the crowd involved in what’s going on, and that’s what was done in both matches so expertly. The only thing I can say I didn’t like about this match was that moonsault. It never hits flush. But these women had one hell of a match, so kudos to you, ladies! You earned it!

Overall MYC thoughts and Making the Case for Evolution: Beth and Michael on commentary was definitely a step of from more so JR than and Lita. They were passionate and therefore I was emotionally invested more into the matches. This tournament for sure I can say had a better crop of women this time around, big names were pulled from around the globe. That did leave problems, of course, because the women had reputations that preceded them, and in this tournament, a lot of women could not deliver within the confines of the WWE structuring and style.

I think we saw a lot of potential in people like Killer Kelly, Lacey Lane, and Kacy Katanzaro. We saw the likes of Mia Yim and Mercedes Martinez show us what heart and passion look like. We had Kaitlyn come back and break down her own barriers to come home to entertain(ment-shoutout to Aksana) us. Meiko gave us great matches, Rhea had been dealt a bad hand and stepped it up, and Toni wrestles every match like she is happy to be there. It’s these women that also make the case for Evolution.

I’m going to be totally honest, this pay-per-view was a hatchet job, and was only put forth to deflect the heat they were getting for agreeing to have Greatest Royal Rumble and Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia without allowing women to perform. I’m disgusted with Stephanie McMahon in particular, who comes and announces these firsts as if she cares and there is always this air of insincerity when she speaks. If what Dave Meltzer says is true, this is not a big show in the eyes of WWE, and it shows. No build and little promotion.

That being said, as this is the last review of the week, though I’m not enamored by WWE and their treatment of their women, which truthfully, without the longer matches is no different than the maligned “Divas” era, but it doesn’t take away from the hard work these women put in day in and out for us, their fans, this doesn’t take away their love and passion for this sport. That people like Nikki Bella, Io and AJ Lee messed up their neck for this business. Lita, Beth, Melina, Victoria, Layla, Tegan Nox and Jazz tore their ACLs for this business. Alexa had her nose broken, Trish had herniated disks in her back, Sasha had concussions. Torrie Wilson permanently damaged her back, Chyna had her life destroyed because of this company. Sherri Martel and Luna Vachon put their bodies through hell, Maryse had her kneecap dislocated, Candice Michelle broke her clavicle and the long list goes on.

I will be tuning in, but not because of WWE, but because all of these women gave us their lives and bodies just like the men do, and THAT is worth the butts in the seats and the viewers to show WWE once and for all that the women matter, and no matter what crap you put in front of them, we are behind them, even if that means we make #GiveWomenAChance another 3 day worldwide trend. Best of luck to Toni and Io this Sunday!

Are you excited to see them do battle?