This is the second half of the second round, where the last four quarter-finalists will be determined. It’s another strong looking card, all four matches should be excellent. So far, this tournament has exceeded all expectations in terms of match quality. I can’t see this being the episode where it slows down.
Toni Storm def Lacey Evans
Shayna Baszler def Mia Yim
Dakota Kai def Rhea Ripley
Candice LeRae def Nicole Savoy
After a quick recap of who is already through to the quarter-final, we’re straight into the first match
Toni Storm vs Lacey Evans
I’ve already declared my bias in favour of Toni Storm, she’s one of my favourite wrestlers (as is Candice LeRae, but we’ll get to her later). Lacey Evans is great too, but I don’t fully appreciate the ‘All American Girl’ persona, being a brit. Storm got to the second round with a victory over Ayesha Raymond. Evans beat Taynara Conti to get her place in this match.
Toni Storm is the most experienced of the two. She’s wrestled all over the world, and it shows in her confidence and ability. It’s hard to keep in mind she’s only 21. Lacey Evans might have less experience, but she’s a performance centre original with a strong work ethic, who has been strongly backed by WWE since her arrival for good reason.
I thought this match was excellent. I’d love to see a rematch in a couple of year, when Evans has that much more experience. The crowd were into it too, with strong duelling chants. Toni Storm loves what she does, and her enthusiasm is catching. Despite the disparity in experience, Evans didn’t let Storm have everything her own way. She knows her strengths, and played to them well.
Toni Storm’s experience won out in the end. She caught Lacey Evans with her Strong Zero finisher, and that was that.
Mia Yim vs Shayna Baszler
Shayna Baszler has been made one of the stars of this tournament. There is a huge buzz about her. It’s partially because of her association with Ronda Rousey, who WWE seem desperate to have around, but Baszler is proving she’s worth they hype at every opportunity. Mia Yim is a veteran wrestler. There are few with greater skill in this tournament. Shayna Baszler defeated Zeda to book her second round place, and Mia Yim beat Sarah Logan. They can both expect a harder time this time round.
Another great match, and completely different to the first match. Shayna Baszler is almost all MMA, and Mia Yim proved she was happy to go as hard as Baszler wanted to. Yim utilised her superior wrestling ability, and combined it with her own martial arts background.
Baszler worked Yim’s ankle for the majority of the match, but in the end she didn’t need it for the finish. She caught Mia Yim diving off the top rope and got her in a sleeper/rear naked choke. Yim tapped out to avoid passing out.
After the match there was a moment of confrontation between MMA’s four horsewomen, and three of WWE’s four horsewomen. There is a YouTube video with a further confrontation between them on WWE’s YouTube channel, if you are inclined to view it. Becky Lynch seems particularly up for the fight.
Rhea Ripley vs Dakota Kai
Dakota Kai beat Kavita Devi to get through to this round. Rhea Ripley got her place at the expense of Miranda Salinas. Both these women are young, agile, and known for their kicks, so, on paper, this should be superb.
It was another very strong match, in every sense of the word. They didn’t hold back at all. Rhea Ripley planted Dakota Kai face first into the ring apron from the outside. They traded all kinds of kicks, and they kept up a fast pace throughout. Despite her relative lack of experience, Ripley used her height advantage, and her power to try to keep Kai down. She got frustrated though, and that always allows the more experienced performer room to take control.
There wasn’t a point in the match where I felt a clear and definitive winner could be called. They traded the momentum throughout. But only one could go through to the quarter final, however evenly matched they are. Dakota Kai got the win following a double foot stomp with Ripley hung up in the ‘tree of woe’.
I’d like to see them both get snapped up by WWE, they’d be mad not to capitalise on the talent on display here.
Nicole Savoy vs Candice LeRae
JR annoyed me before this match even started, by referring to Candice LeRae as Mrs Johnny Gargano. Yes, it’s factual, but it’s irrelevant for anything other than explaining why he’s at ringside for her matches. LeRae is a highly skilled and talented performer in her own right, not an extension of her husband’s success. It might be an interesting side point to make about her, but it shouldn’t be part of her introduction. Rant over.
Candice LeRae beat Renee Michelle in the first round, and Nicole Savoy beat Reina Gonzales. Savoy clearly has the power advantage over LeRae, but LeRae has the speed and experience. The crowd were completely behind Candice LeRae in this one. She’s another wrestler whose enthusiasm and love for what she does is infectious.
It was clear that Savoy was playing to her strengths, trying to slow things down, and looking for submission opportunities. LeRae didn’t make it easy for her though, and countered everything thrown at her. It might be influenced by my personal bias towards Candice LeRae, but there were very few moments when I felt she was in danger of losing the match.That’s not to say Savoy didn’t have periods of dominance, she did, but Candice always looked to have an answer.
Miss LeRae’s Wild Ride finished the Savoy, like it finished LeRae’s first opponent.
I think the second batch of second round matches were more entertaining that the first batch, but that could be influenced by the fact two of my favourites were in this episode.
The quarter-final matches are now set.
Kairi Sane vs Dakota Kai
Abbey Laith vs Mercedes Martinez
Shayna Baszler vs Candice LeRae
Toni Storm vs Piper Niven
Look out for the review of those quarter-final matches, here on Rear View Reviews.