24 competitors have gone home, and only 8 remain, as the Mae Young Classic reaches its quarter finals…
(Winner by pinfall: Mercedes Martinez)
(Winner by submission: Shayna Baszler)
(Winner by pinfall: Toni Storm)
(Winner via pinfall: Kairi Sane)
One could argue that, with the top women on the WWE roster excluded from proceedings, the quarter finals of the Mae Young Classic had quite possibly the strongest lineup that you could ask for from women’s wrestling in 2017. There are maybe one or two you would swap out, but otherwise this was a remarkably strong final set of competitors. Truthfully, there wasn’t a single match that I wasn’t excited to see play out.
The decision to have Abbey Laith finally fall at the hands of Mercedes Martinez was a frustrating one, because Martinez herself has absolutely frustrated me in this tournament. She has talked a big game, and the commentators have backed her up on that, but she has consistently delivered bang average matches. I get that this was all filmed over two days, and she was doing the old school tactic of conserving energy and putting more into the matches the deeper into the competition she goes, but when all the younger and hungrier women around her are trying to put on show stealing performances with each match they have, well it just leaves Martinez looking very underwhelming.
Martinez’s success was even more baffling for me after Baszler’s short and sweet victory over Candice LeRae, who sold the rear naked choke like a champ, tapping out quickly once it was locked in mid-air. One would have assumed Abbey Laith’s babyface character, overcoming the odds every fight, would’ve been the better opponent for Baszler’s tough ass submission grappling, but I guess they wanted to go with the mentor/apprentice dynamic between Martinez and Baszler. For what it’s worth, whilst Baszler and LeRae’s match didn’t seem to get much time on the clock, it would structured very well, and has replay value for sure. Baszler’s heel turn at the end, when she refused to release the choke, was perfect too, and another simple but effective booking decision on one of Triple H’s shows.
Toni Storm has been an interesting part of this competition. I am very familiar with her work, so I know she can go, but until this match with Piper Niven we hadn’t really seen her display a lot of her ring abilities. To be fair to the Australian wrestler, she hasn’t faced particularly strong opponents until this point though, in my opinion. Her and Niven are very familiar with each other, so trying to put on a match that didn’t really allude to any previous history must have been difficult, but they created some good spots that played into how Niven had been built up in the competition so far (i.e. supposedly too big for anyone to out-grapple), and showed Storm to be an intelligent worker who could take advantage of any hesitation from her opponent. That she one with a leg drop off the top rope was wonderful, and just something you don’t see in WWE very often, which in fact meant that Storm had won all three of her matches with a different finish. Clearly intentional, but a nice touch nonetheless, and stops the end of her matches becoming signposted by the use of her finishing move. She’s not the only one to do that in this competition, in fact.
Someone who has become known for her finisher, a devestating elbow drop from the top turnbuckle, is Kairi Sane. She has won every match with the move, and her main event with Dakota Kai was no different. Kai seemed to be carrying a leg injury throughout, which was an odd decision if the injury was a work, given these matches were being made out on television to have been filmed on different days, not all on the same evening, so I’m assuming Kai may have had a legitimate injury, not that it seemed to hold her back if it was. These two had a good little battle, but oh boy, I wish they could’ve had 5-10 more minutes, and time to really turn it into a strike and kicking contest.
The final four are set, and whilst I’m saddened to see Toni Storm and Kairi Sane face off in a semi-final rather than final, the final two bouts before the grand finale certainly do look good on paper.
And Baszler is starting to look like a real credible bad guy, too. That’s a good thing.
Match of the Night
Kairi Sane vs. Dakota Kai