In recent years, WWE and NXT in particular have given some of the top women’s professional wrestlers in the world a larger scale to perform on. The latest star was announced earlier today at a live event in Ryogoku Kokugikan. After a false alarm last year, it was made official that Io Shirai will be joining the NXT roster.
Shirai is an important signing that could not have come at a better time for NXT. Just a few short years ago, the division was so strong that a NXT Women’s Title match headlined TakeOver: Respect when Bayley defended against Sasha Banks in an Ironman Match. Asuka’s record-shattering reign followed the memorable Bayley/Banks feud and was a centerpiece of the show.
In recent months, the division has fallen on hard times. Ember Moon’s title reign never really caught on and Shayna Baszler has not had the same connection to fans that Becky Lynch or Charlotte had. The division is far from weak and is still much better than the main roster; it just lacks the excitement of previous years.
Shirai can change all that. She is a proven talent who is popular with the hardcore fans that NXT attracts and has the in-ring ability to remain over. She has the same bad ass aura of her former partner Asuka but with an added dimension of strong technical wrestling and high risk maneuvers. (Her bridging German suplex is one of the most beautiful suplexes this side of Kurt Angle.)
Shirai also has proven championship pedigree, holding numerous titles, including being a former two-time World of Stardom Champion. She has headlined the biggest show in Stardom’s history and holds the record for most successful title defenses. Shirai has the respect of journalists and for the past three years has won the Joshi Puroresu Grand Prize, an award that is annually given to the best female wrestler in Japan by Tokyo Sports magazine. She is also the only competitor to win the award three times.
Best of all is the potential she brings. She has wrestled with and against Kairi Sane and also has a long history with Asuka. The prospect of the three together is exciting but with Asuka on the main roster it still leaves the door open for Shirai and Sane doing their best Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn impression. And Io Shirai vs. Charlotte Flair can be legitimately argued as the best matchup the WWE can put together.
The signing of Io Shirai is not just another example of WWE signing a top talent to its roster. Shirai is an important addition that can rejuvenate the NXT women’s division. Many fans fondly remember the Banks/Bayley feud and lament what is happening to them on Monday nights. Shirai’s signing is a great omen for the division returning back to its glory days.
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