Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai
Mae Young Classic final
For both Toni Storm and Io Shirai, there’s an aspect of redemption on the line regarding the Mae Young Classic final tonight.
Off the bat, redemption for these two could seem a bit surprising. After all, Toni Storm is a 22-year old phenom that has already showed how good she is and will only get better. Io Shirai is considered one of the best in the world (men and women) who made it to the final in her first year. What’s to be redeemed?
All those accolades are true, but there are still aspects of last year’s tournament both women are looking to make up for.
Toni Storm barged into the tournament last year and took the crowd by… well… storm. Sure there were fans who knew her, but to most of the WWE fans that tuned in, she was an unknown. The Aussie made her way to the semi-finals, capturing the crowd with her charisma and ability, until she was eliminated by the eventual winner, Kairi Sane.
You could say that was a great showing, and it absolutely was. But any competitor is going to be disappointed they came so close but missed that finish line.
Toni entered this year’s MYC with a chip on her shoulder. Now a fan favorite amongst the crowd, she was determined to capture the trophy that she was so close to last year. That determination was no more evident than in her semi-final match against tournament standout Meiko Satomura.
Time after time, the extremely talented Satomura looked to have Toni defeated and each time, Storm found a way to kick out. Multiple times it looked like we’d be talking about Meiko here, but Toni refused to say die. Eventually she delivered her Storm Zero finisher (she actually needed two) to survive Meiko Satomura.
On the other side, there’s Io Shirai. The Japanese sensation doesn’t have the same comeback story that Toni Storm is aiming for because she wasn’t in even the tournament last year. But she was supposed to be.
Io was set to show off her brand of dominance in the inaugural Mae Young Classic, but her physical found a neck injury and a heart issue, which prevented her from competing. Even worse, WWE pulled the contract they offered due to those medical findings.
Not only did she lose the chance to work for the biggest wrestling company in the world, but she was supposed to do so with her good friend Kairi Sane. Her friend Kairi went to WWE without her and won the first inaugural MYC. Io had to sit home and watch.
Japanese doctors eventually gave her a clean bill of health, and WWE signed her this year. After having the deal pulled initially, Shirai was finally signed and ready to show why she’s one of the best.
Looking to make up for lost time, her first round match was a rather one-sided affair against the young Xia Brookside. She didn’t have any real trouble against Zeuxis in the second round either. She defeated Deonna Purrazzo in the quarter finals, which was her first real challenge, but even then the outcome did not seem in doubt.
Her semifinal match against Rhea Ripley was by far her toughest task. The young, angry Ripley used her size to dominate Io most of the bout, but Shirai was victorious in the end.
After her victory, she shared a hug with Kairi Sane, who presented both finalists with a bouquet of roses. She was finally reunited with her friend on the stage where they belong, and her happiness at that moment was infectious.
Now Storm and Shirai meet up in the final with redemption on both their minds. Toni wants to avenge her late loss last year. Io wants to prove this is her tournament after being forced to miss it last year.
Both women can’t win it, meaning someone’s journey is ending before they reach their desired destination. Expect them fight with every last breath to get there. In the end, only one woman will stand tall, but the future for both is very bright.
The Mae Young Classic final will take place on the Evolution pay-per-view tonight at 7 ET on the WWE Network. Keep it here to CagesideSeats.com for all your Evolution coverage.
Who will win this match?
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