And then there were two.
The semifinals of the Mae Young Classic concluded last night, setting up the finals that will take place at the first ever all-women’s pay-per-view, WWE Evolution. Let’s get right into it and take a look at these two incredible matches!
Semi Final: Toni Storm vs. Meiko Satomura
Opening the night was one of the most anticipated match-ups of the tournament: Toni Storm vs. Meiko Satomura.
According to the opening video package, they faced off only once before in Japan in match that ended in a draw. Thankfully, there would be no such ending in this one.
Both women were heavy favorites, and many expected them to meet with a trip to the finals on the line. To advance, Storm had to defeat Jinny, Hiroyo Matsumoto, and Mia Yim, while Satomura took down Killer Kelly, Mercedes Martinez, and Lacy Lane.
Each woman could not be more different than the other. With Storm you get that Rockstar energy and edge, but with Satomura you get that intense focus and eerily calm demeanor.
While Storm took control early on, Satomura eventually found an opening and went on the attack. After that, it was an incredible back and forth affair that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Each woman traded blow for blow and near fall after near fall. Once the dust finally settled, it was Storm who punched her ticket to the finals after needing a second Storm Zero to put the Japanese legend away.
This was one of the best examples of story-telling in the entire tournament. Both women showed that they would do anything and everything they could to make it to WWE Evolution. Storm pushed Satomura to her absolute limit and vice versa. Honestly, either one of them could have advanced and no one would have been upset.
It was good to see both women kick out of the other’s finishers; it added the feeling of needing to go that extra mile to come away victorious. With each near fall, the crowd got more and more into it until they were all on their feet and ready to blow the roof off Full Sail.
Sadly, Satomura’s time in the tournament has come to an end. But let’s not forget how impressive she was every time she stepped into that ring.
She’s introduced herself to a completely new audience and turned many heads with her performance. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see her in a WWE ring, but if it is, let’s not take for granted what we were able to witness. She is a living legend in every sense of the word.
Storm definitely earned that win and her spot in the finals is well-deserved. The energy she brings to every match she’s in is something you don’t see every day; she goes in there and always enjoys herself. It was great to see such raw emotion from her afterwards and shows that she really is living her dream.
Long Island better watch out, because next Sunday a Storm’s a comin’.
Semi Final: Rhea Ripley vs. Io Shirai
The last semifinal match saw the powerhouse, Rhea Ripley, face off against the Genius of the Sky, Io Shirai.
To get here, Ripley had to eliminate MJ Jenkins, Kacy Catanzaro, and Tegan Nox, while Shirai dispatched Xia Brookside, Zeuxis, and Deonna Purrazzo.
Styles definitely clashed in this one, with Ripley using her raw power to try and ground the high-flying Shirai. The Aussie succeeded for most of the match, controlling momentum and having an answer for any comeback her opponent attempted. But like any good underdog, Shirai found a way to battle back time and time again. She only needed one Asai moonsault to advance to face Storm in the finals.
Going into this match, Ripley had a ton of heat after what happened when she faced Tegan Nox. But like any good heel, she played off it all week on social media and even during her entrance. She continued generating heat from the crowd by belittling Shirai as she beat her down, acting like her winning was almost a guarantee.
I’m always fine with an underdog story, but what I didn’t understand was why it only took one moonsault to put Ripley away. If she was supposed to be a legit threat, why didn’t Shirai have to go that extra mile like Storm had to do against Satomura? Either way it was a really good match, but not as good as the opening contest.
Ripley has made great strides since her debut in last year’s tournament. She has absolutely thrived as a heel and is one of the most athletically-gifted women in the company. Luckily, she’ll be on the WWE Evolution card when she defends her NXT UK Women’s Championship.
Coming into NXT, Shirai was touted as the best women’s wrestler in Japan. So far, she has lived up to that reputation, but will now have the toughest challenge ahead of her in Storm. Both are headed on a collision course with each other in just three days.
Who will win the second Mae Young Classic? Tune in to WWE Evolution this Sunday and find out!