It’s onto the round of 16 now as the Mae Young Classic continues towards its eventual path at Evolution.

Mauro Ranallo voices over the opening package to introduce today’s quartet of matches, and we’ve got some of the early favourites in this batch of matches. The updated brackets go up as Michael Cole, Renee Young and Beth Phoenix prepare us for our opening match.

Second Round: Toni Storm vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto
We’ve got 20-minute time limits here on in, and replays from the first round during each entrance. There’s been one prior singles meeting between these two, with the pair sharing a 15-minute draw in STARDOM last year.

After the opening tie-up came to nought, Storm and Matsumoto trade wristlocks as Toni looked for the early advantage. Toni keeps up with a headlock, but Hiroyo escapes with headscissors on the mat, which Toni scoots out of before we got a handshake… and a cheapshot from Matsumoto! Matsumoto tried to catch Storm in the ropes, and did so at the second attempt, hanging her across the middle rope, before a missile shotgun dropkick put down Storm for a near-fall. A suplex gets another two-count for Matsumoto, before a backbreaker took Toni into the corner – and still in harms way.

Storm finally hits back with a German suplex, then a hip attack and a Fisherman’s suplex, but it was only enough for a two-count. A battle of forearm strikes ends with Toni getting bulled down with a clothesline, before she rolled through Toni into a modified Lion Tamer. Toni gets a hand to the ropes, but stays down as the Vader bomb knee drop gets another near-fall, before she replies with a headbutt and a bridging German suplex for a near-fall.

The pair fight over a German suplex, but Matsumoto instead gets a backdrop suplex for a near-fall as Toni got a foot onto the rope just in time. Storm nearly nicks it with a roll-up, only to get caught with a sliding lariat as the pair went tit-for-tat, with Matsumoto whacking Toni with some clotheslines… only for one to be ducked as Storm replied with a rolling Prawn Hold for the win! A hell of an outing, and a result that keeps both women strong should WWE look to do anything with Matsumoto down the line. ***½

Second Round: Kacy Catanzaro vs. Rhea Ripley
It’s a battle of PC graduates, and it’s another David vs. Goliath outing for Catanzaro. To be fair, almost all of her matches will be in the same vein!

There’s no handshake, and we start with Ripley using her power and size advantage, shoving down Kacy early before catching a leapfrog. Kacy tries to fly around, but barely gets some headscissors off before catching Rhea in the ropes for the gymnastic ‘rana from the apron… but she’s quickly hung up into the ropes as the Aussie picked up just a one-count.

A small package from Catanzaro almost gives us an upset, but there’s a quick retaliatory dropkick as Ripley begins to assert herself on the match. Rhea goes for a stalling suplex, walking Kacy around the ring before dropping her for a two-count. An inverted Texas Cloverleaf catches Kacy in the middle of the ring, but she rolls out… and can’t get back to her feet as Rhea puts some more boots to her.

Kacy manages to go around the world with a nice satellite DDT, but Rhea rolls to the outside to buy herself some time. A corkscrew plancha catches Ripley on the outside, before Catanzaro continues with some clotheslines in the ring, including a Miz-like lariat in the corner. There’s another whiff as a springboard into the ring saw her clip the ropes… but she tries it again, vaulting over the top rope, then hitting a springboard dropkick off the middle rope before a corkscrew splash lands for a near-fall. Just as Kacy looked to be building up some steam though, she’s caught with a kick to the gut as Ripley finished her off with the Riptide pumphandle powerbomb. A really good showing here, with Catanzaro looking good – in spite of that slip. Like we said before, if she’s not on NXT or elsewhere before the 2019 tournament, will she be able to progress as much as she ought to? ***

Second Round: Taynara Conti vs. Lacey Lane
There’s another bow from Conti, who starts again with Judo-like throws, before Lane’s attempt at a fight back ended with her being thrown into the ropes.

Conti’s all about the kicks as Lacey tried to cling onto those ropes, before she’s taken down with a Monkey flip for a two-count. Lane comes back though, landing some clotheslines before some clubbing forearms led to a version of the Sister Abigail for a near-fall. Taynara tries to go for that swinging side slam, but Lane counters into a crucifix bomb… and there’s the quick win! That felt like a banana peel loss if anything, as Conti was the heavy aggressor, but in the end she got caught out in what was almost a squash with the wrong result (for her).

Second Round: Mercedes Martinez vs. Meiko Satomura
It’s a first-time outing here as one of the tournament favourites has to go today.

Martinez starts by grabbing a front headlock before she looked to work over the arm… but Meiko counters with a wristlock of her own, before throwing in some kicks, a leg sweep and a knee drop to the throat for an early two-count. Another headlock from Meiko leads to another trip for Martinez, before Martinez powered up and lands a Northern Lights suplex for a two-count.

We stay on the mat, with headlocks and headscissors becoming the order of the day as Mercedes struggled to escape… before she finally did so and slugged Meiko with a forearm to the jaw. There’s more palm strikes where that came from, but Meiko snaps and issues some receipts, before she’s caught with a chokeslam for a near-fall as Martinez looked to end things. Elbows follow on the mat, as Martinez pulled Satomura into a modified guillotine, before there’s some clubbing blows as Mercedes looked to force the issue. An uppercut puts Satomura down once more, only for her to reply with another strong kick… but Satomura uncharacteristically goes to the top rope and gets caught, with Martinez landing a swinging neckbreaker to bring her down for a near-fall.

Out of nowhere, Satomura pulls her down with an armbar, but Martinez rolls out… but is quickly back in danger before they ended up rolling into the ropes to end the sequence. A mule kick to the head keeps Satomura on top, as does a series of PKs, before a frog splash flattened Mercedes for another near-fall! From the kick-out, Martinez is up with a Saito suplex, but a pair of DDTs out of nowhere has Satomura back in it, as she sets up for the cartwheel knee drop that earned another near-fall.

From there, Meiko hits a Pele kick, before she’s met with a knee to the head and a release Fisherman’s buster… but Martinez can’t get the win from that, so she pulls her into a Romero special x Dragon sleeper that Meiko elbows out of, before returning fire with a spinning heel kick. A step-up Scorpion Kick follows, and Meiko’s into the quarter finals. EASILY the match of the tournament so far, and I’ll be honest… I’m not surprised! ****

We’re still having four matches per show, which is meaning we’re getting little time for matches to breathe, but at least we shot out of the gates with a pair of good-to-great matches here. Meiko’s got Lacey Lane in the quarter-finals, and that ought to be a breeze on this form.