We’re now in the Semi-Finals of the Mae Young Classic. We are down the Final Four:
– Kairi Sane
– Toni Storm
– Mercedes Martinez
– Shayna Baszler
Four women, three matches, two more rounds, one champion.
Four finalists, three victories, two finalists, one inaugural winner.
You know the rituals and metaphors by now.
This the last episode before the live finale of the Mae Young Classic, which takes place Tuesday in Las Vegas at 10pm ET. I’ve enjoyed recapping this entire tournament, and I’m already excited for what comes afterwards. This episode saw both semi-final matches take place, and the most appropriate pro wrestling dynamic going into the finals.
Shayna Baszler def. Mercedes Martinez
Looking back, I think the writing was written on the wall that Shayna Baszler would be going to the finals, right from the offset.
Her former mentor and partner Mercedes Martinez, a combatant without a huge amount of fanfare and support from the WWE audience compared to some, actually made this bout both women’s closest-contested (and arguably Martinez’s best) match of the entire tournament. I liked the teacher-student dynamic that was presented in the video package, as well as the post-match celebration for Baszler, who looks like the exact opposite of a woman who would accept roses in victory. Not to mention from smartly dressed WWE personnel Stephanie McMahon, Sara Amato and Triple H.
I did feel that on some level, this was a step backwards for Baszler’s character. In a weird way, watching her be completely unforgiving and relentless against Zeda, Mia Yim and Candice LeRae was fresh and enthralling. Baszler coming across as an accomplished fighter in a professional wrestling ring, utilising her vicious and unrelenting dynamism and force in the ring is a breath of fresh air on one level.
Then on another level, watching her regress somewhat as just another competitor against something of a vicious fighter like Martinez just felt a bit…strange. It gave the impression that Martinez had an advantage, with an edge in experience. Baszler shook her opponent’s hand for the first time in this tournament before the bout. She didn’t pound the daylights out of Martinez after the match, nor did she show any signs that she doesn’t care about the code of ethics in wrestling.
What happened to Baszler saying she’ll blitz her way through the entire tournament without a care in the world? I mean, she’s still done it so far, but she blatantly allowed Martinez to get an equal match out of her.
It was weird in a very cosmic sense.
It was Martinez’s brawling – her best trait – that gave her the upper hand at first, as well as her fierce knife edge chops. Both women ended up trading strikes for what felt like eternity and suplexing the shit out of each other. There were also some vicious looking submissions, including the dreaded rear naked choke that won Baszler the match, after Martinez refused to quit.
That’s one consistent quality for a ‘legitimate’ competitor like Baszler. When you’re locked in that submission, you’re done for. It’s what is probably going to win Baszler the final.
Most importantly, her opponent has no choice in the matter.
Speaking of her opponent…
Kairi Sane def. Toni Storm
The two biggest babyfaces of the entire tournament ended up having a superb babyface-babyface match with each other, and both went away even bigger babyfaces they were when they started.
It was exactly what was needed when we knew the ever-so-unlikeable vicious fighter Shayna Baszler was going to the finals.
The crowd chanted “Both these girls” to begin with, as the two girls executed a sublime looking chain wrestling sequence. Storm focused on Sane’s right arm, locking in a unique arm lock. Sane used her veteran instincts and decided to unleash some of her insanity-fuelled risk-taking by hitting a crossbody off the top turnbuckle, wrecking her face on the steel rampway in the process.
The battle wounds showed on the Japanese Sensation, and the PROGRESS Women’s Champion used that to her advantage.
Kairi Sane being Kairi Sane, she withstood all the punishment that Storm gave her arm, and scratched and clawed her way through everything that Storm threw at her. Storm’s modified Muscle Buster fisherman’s suplex, and bridged armbreaker submission looked to completely disjoin poor Sane’s upper body by 90 degrees. Seriously, it was sickening looking.
But it was high risk that would be the blessing for Sane, and the downfall of Storm as this match progressed. Storm hit her diving legdrop but she felt the effects as much as Sane did, who was able to fight her way through Storm’s onslaught to the point where her seemingly ruined right arm had enough strength in it for one diving elbow drop. As such, it did, and Sane walked away the victor.
I attended PROGRESS Wrestling’s Chase The Sun event at the weekend, and Toni Storm defended her title against Dahlia Black. I purposefully had no idea of the card but upon managing to get a last-minute seat, I knew that Storm would not be in Vegas on Tuesday as predicted. So, in many ways, it was my own fault for not being surprised at the result.
But I’ll be damned now if we don’t have the most perfect final match of the Mae Young Classic. Whatever terminology you feel best to describe Kairi Sane taking on Shayna Baszler, it’s a David versus Goliath showdown of the most perfect pro wrestling implications.
Although this episode felt dry in terms of crowd reaction and rather lazy commentary, the in-ring action was as slick and enjoyable as could be.
Granted, for me, having not known the results beforehand, I probably would have enjoyed it more. So for me, the semi-final episode gets an 8/10.
But just think about the final match for a second:
Kairi Sane is the embodiment of positivity, heart, courage and being able to back it up in the ring. Shayna Baszler, as previously mentioned, is a vicious and uncaring professional fighter who has no time for ethics or feelings. On one hand, Kairi Sane is experienced at professional wrestling, Baszler is experienced in the MMA circle. Baszler towers above Sane in terms of size, strength and power – so obviously she will utilise that to her advantage.
Will Kairi Sane be brutalised to the point of no return, or will Baszler fall victim to Sane’s speed and knowledge of the squared circle?
I’ve hyped myself up more for the final match than I was when I saw that staredown in front of the trophy.