The finals of this year’s Mae Young Classic are set – and there’s a real banger of a match waiting for everyone at this weekend’s Evolution PPV.

After Mauro’s recap video, we have the titles for one last time. In an ideal world, the dark matches featuring eliminated wrestlers would have aired, especially since it we had plenty of “one and really done” outings. The video package for our first semi-final featured Meiko Satomura talking about her prior match with Toni that ended in a draw. She’s got good reason not to talk about the second match she had with her… because it happened after this was taped!

Semi-Final: Toni Storm vs. Meiko Satomura
We’ve 30 minute time limits here, but I’d be stunned if we got close to that. Needless to say, we’re into the business end of the tournament, with every one of the semi-finalists being seen as deserving.

Err, Michael Cole? Did you not just watch the promo piece? This wasn’t Meiko’s first rodeo with Toni…

After a tentative start, Toni started to work over Meiko’s arm, but the favour’s quickly returned as they went back-and-forth. A hammerlock is countered as Meiko rolls through, taking down Toni for a side headlock, which the pair traded off on as we went from headlocks to headscissors and vice-versa.

Keeping it grounded, Satomura eventually backs off… just to throw a kick into Toni, who tried to shrug it off. Shoulder tackles follow, but neither woman budges, so Toni just shifts it up into a big boot that almost brought the match to an end. Headbutts follow as Toni looked to wear down Meiko, scoring another two-count from a snap suplex as Satomura finally began a comeback with kicks to the leg.

A deathlock follows to Toni’s legs, as Satomura’s all over her Aussie foe, pinning her into the corner with those measured kicks. Storm tries to elbow out of a suplex, and does so as she whips Meiko into the ropes… only to get met with a spinning heel kick as Satomura rebounded with some force. After sneaking in a backslide, Storm wraps Satomura in a STF, with Toni cranking on the hold until Satomura was able to drag herself to the ropes. Satomura drags herself into a corner, where she’s vulnerable for a hip attack, then a Fisherman’s suplex as Storm surged ahead. A kick sends Satomura sailing to the outside, and Toni follows her there with a lowpe into the ramp that looked to give both Toni and Meiko a bad landing. That infernal ramp…

Back inside, a Shining Wizard from Storm nearly ends it, before she began to punt away at Satomura with kicks to the face. You don’t get away with those, as Meiko issues receipts ahead of a DDT and the cartwheel knees to the back of the head! Satomura looks to finish off with the death valley driver, but Toni kicks out, and quickly comes back with a German suplex to fold Satomura in half, ahead of the Storm Zero Tiger Driver for another near-fall!

Looking to finish the job, Storm picks up Satomura, and goes for the Tiger Driver again, only to be clocked with an overhead kick and a kick to the chest… but Toni manages to get a shoulder up at two! A Scorpion kick to the back of Toni’s head gets another near-fall as Satomura looked to be out of ideas… and frustrated for it! Another death valley driver looked to be the trick, but it’s countered into the Tiger Driver… and Toni’s in the final! Phenomenal! I need to go back and rewatch their EVE match from September, but these two never seem to fail to have really good matches. The best match of the tournament, and if it’s topped… well, it’s going to be a special outing! ****¼

Satomura’s in tears after the match, as was Storm, who help up a finger to signify that they’re 1-1. Technically, it’s 1-0-1 here, since their first match was a draw (or 2-0-1 if you count the EVE outing!)…

Semi-Final: Rhea Ripley vs. Io Shirai
Ripley made her way to the semis courtesy of that stoppage win over Tegan Nox – but it’s not like she’d been a “soft” entrant, having shown great strides since her 2017 outing in the tournament.

Ripley’s got a little attitude ahead of the match, getting a little confrontational with the referee before we started with her shoving Shirai into the corner from the opening tie-up. Ripley avoids a cartwheel kick, but she manages to land a back body drop that turned into a flapjack, almost going all Sabu with the landing, as the Aussie began to rough it up a little.

Shirai tries to kick her way out of an armbar, but Ripley throws back just as hard before booting Io in the back. Rhea stands on Io’s back and poses to piss off the crowd, before rolling Io over for a near-fall. A claw to the midsection wears down Shirai as the camera zoomed in on the hold… but Io punches her way free, only to get clubbed back as Ripley remained on top. Some body scissors followed, but Io rolled back to try and pin Ripley in the hold… which just earned her some more strikes. Shirai’s back up… and dropkicked down for a near-fall, before a stalling suplex kept Io massively in trouble. Another near-fall comes from that, as Ripley perhaps became a little desperate, as she goes right back to the body scissors, complete with some hair pulling.

Shirai manages to roll through the hold and turn into the guard as she forearms her way free. Ripley’s still on her though, whipping Shirai into the rope before a pop-up’s turned into a ‘rana as Io mounts a comeback. A low dropkick sends Ripley outside, where she’s crashed into with a tope as the crowd chanted “no”. Shirai beats the count, but quickly gets pulled back to the floor as Ripley tried to nick a win, but she’s back in at nine, much to Ripley’s disbelief. Ripley throws some more fists and pulls up Shirai, then throws another elbow before another stalling suplex is escaped, with Shirai unleashing with Shotei palm strikes! A 619 traps Ripley in the ropes, as she proceeds to follow with a missile dropkick for a near-fall as both women looked spent.

Io looked to go back up for a moonsault, but Ripley cuts her off and looks for a superplex… and gets it! Ripley looked for an inverted Splash Mountain, but instead gets thrown into the ring post as Shirai came back at her with the running Meteora… and now it’s moonsault time! This time it connects flush… and Shirai’s going to the finals! A come-from-behind win for Shirai, who played well as the underdog as Ripley showed that she deserved this spot – even if it came rather fortuitously. ***¾

Post-match, Shirai gets some ceremonial flowers from Kairi Sane, as the pair hugged, before Shirai promised that she will win. The show ended with Storm and Shirai facing-off on the stage… by way of a hug, as they seemed to gee each other up for their final.

So it’s going to be Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai on Sunday at the Evolution PPV… and that’ll be a match we’ll eventually cover, if not the entire PPV. Storm and Shirai have had four prior singles matches, all related to STARDOM – and another tight record too, with both women winning one match while drawing the other two. This Sunday, someone’s getting into the lead!

While I’ve been a little disappointed at how formulaic this year’s shows have been (four matches a show, until the semis), it’s been a breath of fresh air somewhat as some faces who’ve yet to make it to NXT TV (or at least, not been regulars on) showed what they could do. Away from the regulars or the high profile signings, I think Kacy Catanzaro and Rhea Ripley will be the ones to keep an eye on going forward – with Ripley likely to be producing something sooner rather than later, if only going on their relative experience levels. That being said, if we’re back at the 2019 MYC and both of these (and the rest) haven’t progressed… then our views will change!