The semi-finals of this year’s Mae Young Classic were set on an episode that proved to be a really upsetting watch.
You know the score by now: Mauro Ranallo voices the show opening package that ran through the quarter-final matches, before we’re thrown to Michael Cole, Renee Young and Beth Phoenix at ringside.
Quarter-Final: Lacey Lane vs. Meiko Satomura
The home-town favourite Lane has been a bit of a revelation so far in the tournament… but you’d expect her run to come to a shuddering halt tonight.
We start with a lock-up that ends in the ropes before Lacey tries to cartwheel her way past Meiko. Some kicks ended up getting caught as Satomura opted not to cheapshot her… but Satomura quickly clocks her with a kick to the head that put Lane down hard. A sunset flip’s blocked, but Lane manages to sneak in a pair of kicks for a pair of near-falls, with Lane looking for the upset.
She perhaps looked too hard as Lane ran into a head kick, before Meiko rolled her through into a cross armbreaker, but we end in the ropes as Lacey lived on. Another kick perhaps had Lane wishing she tapped, but she’s able to avoid some strikes and take Meiko into the corner with some elbows, rushing in with a step-up knee before landing a step-up crossbody that almost got the win… only for Meiko to snuff it out with a death valley driver for the win. I liked how Meiko had the one-shot kill in her all along, but this was a really short match that saw Lacey try to overcome a ridiculous experience disadvantage, but to no avail. **½
Quarter-Final: Io Shirai vs. Deonna Purrazzo
Deonna starts by grabbing the arm as the pair went back-and-forth in the early going, with Shirai cartwheeling out of some headscissors before taking Purrazzo outside with a dropkick.
Io tees herself up for a dive, which turned out to a tope turned into a crossbody on the ram. Back inside, a handstand into a double knee drop gets Shirai a near-fall, but another double knee in the corner is countered as both women went into pinning predicaments, getting a string of two-counts. Shirai wheelbarrows Purrazzo and nails a double stomp as the Japanese star looked to be settling in… but Deonna’s right back with a chop, eventually following up with a hiptoss and a low dropkick. A Fujiwara armbar followed as Shirai looked to be in trouble, but she rolls out into a pinning predicament before catching Purrazzo in a crossface as the pair remained remarkably even.
An uppercut takes Purrazzo into the ropes ahead of a 619 and a springboard missile dropkick, which is good for a two-count. Shirai goes for a moonsault, but she’s cut off as Deonna goes back with a trip of German suplexes, then into a Fujiwara armbar, pulling it into a double armbar for good measure. Somehow she rolls into a pinning attempt, then into a crossface… and it was pretty much smooth sailing from there.
A running Meteora catches Purrazzo into the corner, before Shirai heads up top for a moonsault… and while she’s 0-3 for hitting that, she’s through into the finals. A solid, back-and-forth match, but someone’s going to need a new finisher once they become a TV regular I feel. ***
Ahead of the next match, we had a video package that chartered her missing last year’s Mae Young Classic with a knee injury. She recovered and is back in action… and if you’re reading this, you probably know how foreboding this was.
Quarter-Final: Tegan Nox vs. Rhea Ripley
I was surprised they aired any of this, but I guess it’s tricky to shoot around it. So, Tegan started out hot, dropkicking Ripley to the outside, before a tope saw Tegan land hard on the steel ramp… and that’s where things go south.
She looked to have blown out her (other) knee on landing, but somehow Nox continued, pulling herself into the ring, hobbling as Ripley pancaked her. That can’t have been good. It’s enough for a near-fall as doctors and trainers rushed to the ring… but Nox wants to continue, but it’s literally a one-legged man in an arse kicking contest here as Ripley took Nox into the ropes for some choking. Chops keep Nox in the corner, as she’s having to hold herself up by the ropes… but Tegan fires back with chops of her own, before she ran into a dropkick… and that impact was enough for the referee to wave off the match as Nox was left in tears. This was extremely upsetting to watch, but if there was any positive to come out of it, it was how Ripley held it together and kept character throughout it all.
Nox got a standing ovation as she was carried to the back.
Quarter-Final: Mia Yim vs. Toni Storm
Our final quarter-final is a rematch of an outing that’s only taken place once before… for Southside?!
Yim still had a taped-up right hand to sell the injury from earlier in the tournament, but she started out the aggressor, putting the boots to Toni… only to get caught with a glancing blow from a running boot. Storm takes over with uppercuts, rocking Yim, who replied with a kick to the elbow as the match remained even.
Some mudhole stomping followed in the corner as Yim looked to score a quick pin, before she pulled Toni into a bow-and-arrow hold, contorting the Aussie as Yim kept up the aggression. A front facelock keeps Storm grounded, as it’s turned into a guillotine choke, which Toni finally escaped by using a spinebuster. A drop toe hold puts Yim back in it, as a mounted sleeperhold and some kicks to the chest rocked Toni again, before an axe kick caught Toni for another near-fall. A Pele kick’s good for a near-fall as Yim remained in control – but the crowd remained somewhat silent, perhaps stunned by the injury they’d seen moments earlier.
Storm hits back with a headbutt as both women crashed to the mat, but Storm finds something in her to palm strike her way back in before a leg-trapped German took Mia into the corner. Hip attacks are next, but Yim counters with a back suplex for a near-fall, before a powerbomb out of nothing earned Mia yet another two-count. Toni manages to shrug it off though, and comes straight back with a German suplex, then a Storm Zero Tiger Driver… and that’s Toni in the semi-finals, where she’ll face Meiko Satomura. Interesting… As for this match, it was fine, but the crowd were really sour because of what’d happened earlier with Tegan Nox. ***
As a show, the quarter-final episode of the Mae Young Classic was okay, but it would have benefitted more if they had another week and could have given the quarter finals time to breathe. Next week sees us get the two semi-finals ahead of the Evolution PPV the following weekend – where the tournament winner will be crowned.