The semifinals of the Mae Young Classic were aired in episode 8 and these four women brought a great variety to the tournament. The Fiery Latin Veteran, The MMA star, the Australia Punk and the Japanese Pirate, this round truly showed us the best four women in the tournament.
Shayna Bazsler vs Mercedes Martinez
This was a really good student vs mentor match that brought out a different side of Shayna Bazsler. This was the first match where Shayna shook the hand of her opponent, telling a great cumulative story of Shayna’s progress through the tournament. Mercedes got the upper hand early on in the contest, hitting Shayna with some impressive strikes. She also took a page out Kevin Owens playbook by teasing a high spot with a potential penalty kick before applying a chinlock of Shayna. The two head a great seated forearm exchange that sold the intensity of the best. The spot of the match was when Shayna Bazsler had Mercedes in an Oklahoma roll position before transitioning into a heel hook, possibly as an ode to her trainer Josh Barnett.
The finish came when Shayna hit a modified Kirifuda driver, applying more of a deep chinlock than a rear naked choke on Mercedes. The post-match saw Stephanie McMahon and Triple H come out and award Shayna a bundle of flowers, something they would also do at the end of the next match, whilst Shayna and Mercedes share a quick hug as a sign of respect. These two women epitomise the purpose of this tournament, to pick two women who may not be what WWE traditionally seek in a women’s athlete and to showcase their abilities. Both women are tough fighters who add realism to their matches. Mercedes Martinez is in an interesting position, whilst she is the type of wrestler that WWE will be looking to push out of this tournament, her age may prevent a further run in the WWE. A similar conundrum faces Shayna; however her link to MMA may give her a short term run in the WWE. If both of these women were to get signed to a more permanent deal, they would be valuable assets to the WWE.
Kairi Sane vs Toni Storm
This match was probably Kairi Sane’s weakest match of the tournament, but that is like receiving 4 Carat Gold instead of 8. Toni targeted the elbow early on, telling a story of neutralising the elbow in the hope that Kairi would not be able to hit her signature elbow. Kairi hit a nasty cross body relatively early in the match to Toni, reportedly giving her a concussion as her face bounced off of the steel grate. Kairi went for the Elbow early but Toni countered it into a bridging muscle buster. Kairi did a great job of selling Toni’s offense, combining her screams straight out of a scene from Japanese horror film Onibaba with a taking Toni’s offense in a Ray Stevens Esque manner, really selling the brutality well. This was evident during the spot where Toni had Kairi in a bridging fujiwara armbar similar to Tommaso Ciampa’s. You really brought that Kairi was in pain and you bought it as the finish for a split second.
The ending came when Kairi hit her signature cross-legged Boston crab before hitting Toni with an elbow drop. As stated before, Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, and Sara Amato came down to congratulate Kairi, with Toni also sharing her adulation for Kairi. This was then followed by a stare down by Kairi and Shayna, setting the stage for the final. Toni looked impressive during this tournament and is someone WWE will want in the future. However, being a hot commodity in the UK and Japan, Toni may choose to wait a couple of years before joining up with the WWE. Kairi was presented as a star in the tournament and matched the hype. While Kairi’s concussion may have prevented the match quality from being excellent, both women got over huge with the crowd.
Shayna Bazsler def. Mercedes Martinez
Kairi Sane def. Toni Storm
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