Tonight, Io Shirai defends her NXT Women’s Championship against Rhea Ripley.
To say this match has a big fight feel to it is an understatement. It will most likely main event the show, as it rightfully should. Both women are at the top of their games and will do whatever they can to ensure their spot atop the NXT women’s division.
This isn’t the first time these two went head-to-head; they faced off in a triple threat with Charlotte Flair at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, where Shirai won the title.
Speaking of Shirai, she continues to show why she’s been champion for over 155 days. Since winning it back in June, she has successfully defended the title against the likes of Tegan Nox, Dakota Kai, and most recently, Candice LeRae.
On the other hand, Ripley is currently on an absolute tear. She rebounded after losing the title to Flair at WrestleMania 36, defeating Aliyah (and Robert Stone), Mercedes Martinez, and Raquel Gonzalez.
It’s almost too close to call who walks out of the Capitol Wrestling Center as champion. There are legitimate claims for both women, so let’s dive right in!
First, let’s look at the champ herself.
Without a doubt, Shirai is one of the best performers on the NXT roster. Time and time again, she always finds a way to have amazing matches with whoever she faces. Perhaps one of her best showings came at Halloween Havoc.
She once again took on LeRae in a grueling tables, ladders, and scares match. Even though she retained the title, it almost didn’t happen. Someone in a Ghostface mask (eventually revealed to be Indi Hartwell) almost cost her the match. Luckily, Shotzi Blackheart removed them from the equation, which led to Shirai’s victory.
But what if she won’t be as lucky this time around? While there won’t be any stipulations or masked mystery figures, this is still Shirai’s toughest test to date. Ripley is also one of the best and most dominant superstars on the roster, so the champ is going to need to bring her A-game.
However, Shirai always rises to the occasion when the lights are brightest. If anyone could beat someone like Ripley, it’s The Genius of The Sky.
Now we turn our attention to the former NXT Women’s Champion.
Ripley scratched and clawed her way back to the top after being dethroned by Flair. After all that hard work, she finds herself back in the title picture once again. We all knew it was just a matter of when, not if.
A lot of people, myself included, argue that she should have never lost the title in the first place. At the time, she was easily one of the hottest stars in the company. The loss cooled her off considerably, but thankfully she rebounded in a big way.
She never had a lengthy title reign; she won the title in December 2019 and lost it in March 2020 when WWE taped ‘Mania. What better time than now to become only the third woman in NXT history to hold the title twice?
As mentioned above, Ripley is the champion’s biggest competition so far. Having her beat Shirai for the title really isn’t much of a stretch; even if Shirai can beat Ripley, she’s also capable of losing to her as well.
While I can easily see either woman winning this match, this time around I’m going with Ripley.
Don’t get me wrong, Shirai is a great champion, I just think it’s time for a change. Ripley deserves a long run with the title and has plenty of competition. Her going up against the likes of Toni Storm and Ember Moon sounds like a couple of fantastic matches.
Regardless of who wins, the loser is certainly headed for Monday nights. The RAW women’s division needs all the help it can get; there are literally no legitimate contenders for Asuka’s RAW Women’s Championship.
Shayna Baszler is really the only one, but she’s currently stuck in a team with Nia Jax. Other than her, there are no women on that roster right now that could believably challenge Asuka.
So, either Shirai or Ripley joining the division immediately gives Asuka a legitimate challenger. Personally, I think Shirai is the better option right now. Imagine a feud between her and Asuka; they could easily run a “friends turned foes” storyline they missed out on with Kairi Sane.
Even Ripley could have several great storylines outside of Asuka. She could have a rematch with Baszler or take on Jax to prove who the most dominant woman on RAW is. If all else fails, she can throw some of the other girls around for fun.
We’ll have to tune into NXT tonight to see what happens. Either way, Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley are sure to put on a great match.