We have finally reached the last of the episodes leading up to the live final on September 12th. Just two matches on this show, but intriguing and exciting ones. It’s been a long and winding journey, but we’re so close to the end now.
Shayna Baszler def Mercedes Martinez
Kairi Sane def Toni Storm
Mercedes Martinez vs Shayna Baszler
An interesting dynamic for this match, as Baszler credits Martinez as one of her mentors, and a major influence on her wrestling style. Baszler maintains she’s toughter than her mentor. Martinez says she’s just better than Baszler. At the start of the match there was a handshake, looks like Baszler isn’t as dismissive of her former mentor as she has been of previous opponents.
Martinez started strongly. She gave the impression that she wanted to put Baszler back in her place, and Shayna Baszler seemed a little thrown by not being the immediate aggressor. It didn’t take her long to recover though. If Martinez was trying to put her back in her box, Baszler was determined to prove she’d outgrown that box.
I think hard hitting is the most apt descriptor for this one. There were a lot of submission attempts, but there were a lot of stiff looking strikes as well. At one point, both women were just knelt in the centre of the ring trading blows. In the obligatory shots of Ronda Rousey, she looked worried for the first time.
She needn’t have been. Shayna Baszler made Mercedes Martinez tap out with her Kirifuda driver submission.
At the end of the match Baszler and Martinez hugged. If I remember correctly, that’s the first time Baszler has shown that kind of respect to a competitor. I know there is the student and teacher dynamic, but it was still good to see Baszler’s human side showing.
A new thing for this episode. Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Sara Amato joined the women in the ring at the end of the match, and presented flowers to the winner.
Toni Storm vs Kairi Sane
This was a completely a completely different style match to the first semi-final. Much faster paced, and with more of a wrestling match feel compared to the fight feel if the other semi-final. There were also more high-risk moves, including one that looked like it could have stopped the match.
Kairi Sane took a really nasty knock when she dived from the top turnbuckle to the outside, onto Storm. She landed badly, absorbing much of the impact with the side of her face. For the rest of the match the pattern of the ramp became increasingly visible as the bruising came out. And it didn’t even slow her down.
Neither of them were prepared to let this opportunity go lightly. I’ve seen Toni Storm in a lot of matches, and this was one of my favourites. By the time they were nearing the end, it genuinely looked like neither had anything left. Every time someone landed something it took them both longer and longer to recover.
Toni Storm seemed to miss an opportunity to put Sane away, by hesitating too long with her on her shoulders. Another opportunity was lost when Sane somehow countered an armbar submission that had been locked in for a while.
The duelling chants started up again as the match reached its conclusion. Storm refused to tap out to Sane’s submission attempt, but she wasn’t able to get back up. Kairi Sane climbed to the top rope and dropped the elbow to secure her place in the final.
The show of respect between the two was wonderful. Both were crying as Toni Storm spoke to Kairi Sane in Japanese and they hugged.
After the flowers from Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Sara Amato, the finalists met on the stage. Baszler tried to stare out the smaller Sane, but Kairi Sane just stared right back. They held their fists at each other and continued the stare-down even as the cameras stopped rolling.
So that’s it. The final of the Mae Young Classic will be Shayna Baszler versus Kairi Sane.
Toni Storm was incredible. I know I’ve admitted to being biased, but she’s 21 and has an amazing future ahead of her. I hope she chooses to stay on the indie circuit for a while yet, but who knows what will happen.
Mercedes Martinez should feel vindicated. She came into the tournament to prove she should have been there long ago, and she did that. It will be extremely interesting over the coming weeks and months to see who WWE chooses to offer contracts to, and who accepts them.
The final of the Mae Young Classic will be live on WWE network on September 12th, after SmackDown finishes. Check out Rear View Review for my review of the match shortly after.