The main event of this week’s episode NXT was the highly-anticipated NXT Women’s Championship rematch between Shayna Baszler (the champion) and Io Shirai (the challenger). The two NXT Superstars competed for the gold once again, in the first-ever women’s Steel Cage match in NXT history, hoping to settle the score after months of turmoil and frustration. As Beth Phoenix noted on commentary, this is the kind of match that changes you once it’s all said and done. But she had no idea how much Io Shirai would prove her right.
Shayna Baszler (c) def. Io Shirai, in a Steel Cage match for the NXT Women’s Championship
Earlier in the show, we see Shayna Baszler and Io Shirai backstage. Shayna is, of course, with Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke—with Marina shining up the title and Jessamyn helping Shayna tape up her hands—while Io is alone (no sign of Candice LeRae), warming up.
Io is out first, as the challenger. But while she had one-half of the Four Horsewomen with her in the back, Shayna actually does come to the ring—and to the cage—alone for this match. Perhaps a sign of good faith? (Let’s pretend we don’t know it’s only a matter of time before the cavalry comes through.) Going into this match, while it seems at first that the Full Sail crowd is fully behind Io (not that Shayna cares), once the bell rings, it’s actually apparent there’s a 50/50 split in terms of chants for both the challenger and the champion.
The match begins with Io rushing Shayna immediately, only for that hot start not to work out for her. Instead, Shayna gets the early advantage, notably coming into this match prepared to perhaps do a different kind of damage: For once, Shayna’s wearing MMA gloves to compete. And yes, she’s prepared to use them. She starts off with some kicks and strikes to Io’s body, telling her she can do this “all night long” (all night). But then when she attempts to throw Io into the cage wall, Io deflects, then tries to take out Shayna’s arm. Now they’re both fighting back, jockeying for position. It looks like Shayna might be able to lock in the Kirifuda Clutch early, but Io gets out out the submission maneuver with strikes… only for Baszler to switch to a leg submission (like a modified single leg Boston crab), before stomping right on the back of Io’s neck.
At this point, Shayna is ready to walk right out that cage door, but she’s stopped when Io sweeps her leg and then kicks her right in the back. Io now has the advantage with her athleticism, but the problem wit. h that? She’s definitely feeling the effects of that earlier stomp to the back of the neck, and that brings her to her knees after a particularly impressive flurry of offense. That one moment gives Shayna an opening to go for a kick, but Io deflects and takes her down with a massive palm strike. After that, Io tries to escape the cage by climbing, but Shayna’s up to bring her back to the mat and finally throw her face first into the cage wall. Sure, Shayna’s still feeling the damage from Io’s offense, but she’s also fueled by bad intentions and throws Io into the cage wall again, this time back first. She grinds Io into the cage wall, before deciding to go back to her neck.
The NXT Universe gets behind Io and she’s able to fight back at first, but Shayna just throws her into the cage wall again to slow her back down. Then she kicks Io in the back—revenge is a dish best served with a kick to the back—before going for the cover. Only a two-count. Shayna goes back to the neck, but Io sneak-small packages her. Since she’s not Daniel “Mr. Small Package” Bryan, only a two-count. And that pin attempt just makes Shayna angry, so after hitting Io with a massive clothesline, she throws her right back into the cage wall. She steps on her neck again, using the top rope as leverage, then grinds her into the cage wall once more—this time adding body shots and a punch to throat to the brutalization.
Shayna eyes the cage door again, but this time, she decides to hit Io with another clubbing blow before going for a pin. A two-count. So she moves back to working the neck. The crowd again gets behind Io enoug for her to fight back, and flips Shayna over… but Shayna then lands another body shot before throwing Io right back into the cage… Oh. Io stops at the ropes this time, and as Shayna rushes to smash her, it’s the champ who ends up crashing and burning into the cage wall this time, as Io uses her momentum against her.
Io hits Shayna with one dropkick into the cage wall, then another, and then Shayna’s down. She hits double knees to the back of a rope-prone Shayna, then a bridging German suplex, but that’s only another two-count. So she hits another German suplex—but can’t get the bridge this time—followed by the double knees in the corner, and now it’s time for the moonsault. The moonsault from the top of the cage.
Howver, Shayna gets up and pulls Io down with a Kirifuda Clutch on the top rope, before just pushing her right back down to the mat. Shayna needs this moment to breathe, but Io gets up and German suplexes her from the second rope. (Though Shayna herself was on top, so it’s quite a high-angle German suplex.). Moments later, Io finally goes for the pin, but the delayed cover only gets her another a two-count. So she starts crawling toward the door.
Cue Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, immediately closing the door and jaw-jacking with the outside referee about it. During this kerfuffle, Shayna’s able to recover and lock in the Kirifuda Clutch, but Io kicks the cage door to get out of the submission, knocking out Jessamyn and the referee in the process. (Marina is spared and checks on Jessamyn.) Shayna gets Io to the center of the ring with the Clutch, but Io rolls out it and double stomps her.
But then Marina decides to lock Io in (“Not today, baby girl!”), before attempting to rally Shayna to wake up. The cage door locked and no outside official to open it, Io decides to climb the cage to escape… so Marina decides to climb the cage to stop her. With that, out comes Candice LeRae, who takes out a recovered Jessamyn first before she climbs the cage too, kicks Marina off, and gets all the way to top to try and wake Io up. But Jessamyn walks into the cage and wakes Shayna up, pushing her toward the door.
Candice hits a picture perfect crossbody on Jessamyn, but then Shayna rocks Candice with a knee right to the face, knocking her out. At this point though, Io has recovered, is standing on the top of the cage, and hits the moonsault on Shayna.
Now everyone is down and a “YOWIE WOWIE” chant breaks out.
Io starts crawling to door again, but so does Shayna, who grabs her by leg and strikes her with a big right hand. So now Shayna’s ahead in the crawl to the door, but Io pulls her back. Now Io’s ahead. Shayna tries to pull her back, but Io kicks away and makes a fast crawl for the door. She’s almost out of the cage, until Shayna locks in a Kirifuda Clutch through the ropes. Io fights out but Shayna gets her again with Clutch, and now, she’s fading… until she slams the cage door into Shayna’s head repeatedly. But in doing that, an unconscious Shayna falls right out the cage. Which means she retains the NXT Women’s Championship. Io tries to argue with the referee, but them’s the breaks, kid.
Finally, Shayna comes to and she’s genuinely surprised (you can make out her asking the referee, “What happened?”)—but also ecstatic—that she won.
The Four Horsewomen help each other to the back, while Candice checks on Io… and Io takes her frustrations out on Candice almost immediately. Io actually looks remorseful about her actions before she leaves the cage, but then she searches under the ring for a chair and brings it right back into the cage to finish the job on Candice.
To finish the job on Candice again and again and again. Finally, Io sets the chair up in order to vertical suplex Candice right through it. And the crazy part? She’s actually smiling over the damage she’s done. As the Full Sail crowd boos her, Io shouts at them, “I don’t need a friend!” In factm as she walks out of the cage and to the back, she continues to smile over what she just did to her “friend,” making perfectly clear that she doesn’t need a friend.
Well, she doesn’t have to worry about that anymore: It looks like Io Shirai is now completely friendless in NXT. At least Kairi Sane got out before she could suffer the same fate as Candice LeRae.
You can watch this week’s NXT on the WWE Network.