“Baszler’s title reign speaks for [itself].” – Beth Phoenix
As usual, an NXT TakeOver stole the damn wrestling weekend… even without a main roster pay-per-view to follow it up on Sunday night. Yes, NXT TakeOver was on its own for NXT TakeOver: XXV (the 25th TakeOver special ever, and that is including the original “NXT Arrival”), and it did not disappoint. (Again: As usual.)
But also, as usual, the NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler didn’t disappoint. In fact, like the winner of the NXT Championship match, Baszler did exactly what she said she was going to do—and, adding insult to injury, they both did it without the expected outside interference.
(Of course, post-match, some injury was added to injury. But we’ll get there.)
Shayna Baszler (c) def. Io Shirai, for the NXT Women’s Championship
Continuing on the “as usual” train: Shayna Baszler clearly isn’t playing around to start this match. But of course, neither is Io Shirai. In fact, Io actually looks more ready than she has ever looked in NXT if that’s even possible. (Apparently, it is.)
Io is smart to get on Shayna quickly, but Shayna just as quickly decides to toy with Io before going to her arm… so Io decides to do the same thing before hitting Shayna with some quick strikes. Then, after a delayed dropkick from Io, Shayna goes to the outside for a breather but only ends up getting hit with a basement dropkick from Io before getting thrown back into the ring.
Things aren’t looking great for the champ, but then “The Genius of the Sky” goes to the top rope, and Shayna is able to take control again by taking her down before she can mount any offense from there. Then Shayna starts to do what she does best, as she goes for the Reality Check, the stomping of the elbow. Then she just gets to work, manipulating Io’s joints and fingers. Io tries to get a flash roll-up, but she only gets a 1-count, and then Shayna hits her with a monstrous lariat. After a nearfall, Shayna steps on Io’s neck as she goes back to the joint manipulation of Io’s left hand and arm.
Now Shayna is having fun.
She even tells Io to get up, before picking her up herself and going for the injured arm once more. But the NXT Universe chants “IO” to get the challenger back in the game, and while she definitely starts to fight back, a brutal kick to the back from Shayna stops her attempted flurry. Shayna follows it up with what Mauro Ranallo notes on commentary looks like a “lackadaisical” cover, but then she goes for another Reality Check to end it all, even waving “bye bye” to Io before going to hit it. But Io moves her arm at the last second, and that’s when the fighting spirit comes in.
Io then hits Shayna with a picture perfect delayed German suplex—though she can’t follow up with a pin because of the pain in her left arm, of course, courtesy of “The Queen of Spades.” She hits some basically one-handed double axe handles, then a 6-1-9, followed up with a beautiful springboard dropkick… but she only gets a two-count out of that. This is when Shayna finally starts to fight back with some brutal (seriously—she really lays ‘em in) forearms, but once again, Io’s fighting spirit kicks in and she’s able to bait Shayna into a crossface. The question is: Can she fully apply enough pressure with that left hand?
Unfortunately for Io Shirai, the answer is no, and Shayna Baszler powers out of the submission, lifting and slamming her opponent down to the mat. Then we’ve got ourselves a split crowd, ass the NXT Universe chants “LET’S GO SHAYNA”/”LET’S GO IO” back and forth. Now Shayna just wants to break Io’s arm, going from the submission where she drapes her opponent over the top rope—but Io fights out of that and ends up hitting a springboard second rope dropkick to Shayna on the outside. It’s followed by the moonsault to the outside, and then both women are out of it. They get back to the ring, where Io hits Shayna with a top rope missile dropkick before then hitting a corner prone Shayna with the double knees. It looks to be the beginning off the end, as Io then goes for the moonsault…
So, of course, that’s when Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke show up. I mean, just this week on NXT TV, Shayna brought up the fact that she’d have her friends around. But we also learned that Io has a friend in Candice LeRae, who shows up second later to kendo stick the ever-living hell out of them. They don’t even get close to interfering in this match. Candice takes them out, and Io cheers even her on—but Io should really be focusing.
Once Io does focus, she ends up getting rolled up by Shayna for a two-count. Shayna then kicks Io’s arm before going for a match-ending Kirifuda Clutch, except Io gets out of it quick and hits Shayna with a palm strike. She follows up with the moonsault and even hits it this time, but Shayna moves out of the way. Of course, Io lands on her feet… and into the Kirifuda Clutch again. However, perhaps remembering her best friend Kairi Sane’s past wars with Shayna Baszler, she turns the submission on her into a pin on Shayna. That gets Io a two-count, but she then hits Shayna with a roundhouse kick and another pinning combination (another two-count)… that lands her back into thee Kirafida Clutch.
The “IO” chants rain down again as Io goes for rope. So Shayna grabs Io’s leg to try and prevent her from reaching it, but Io kicks it out of that, still in the submission. Shayna then ragdolls Io, but she’s still fighting, and the “IO” chants are getting louder.
Io is honestly still fighting even as her eyes roll back… and then she finally taps, barely awake to even do so. Shayna’s NXT Women’s Championship reign continues, and love her or hate her, she retained clean as a whistle (even with dirty intentions).
Seriously, Say what you will, but Shayna Baszler won fair and square, by the skin of her teeth. So while she’s saying “I told you so!” to the NXT Universe, you can’t say she didn’t earn it. And as she does so, a dejected Io Shirai sits on the outside, having come so close to championship gold but still coming up short.
She’s also sitting next to the kendo stick, which she brings back into the ring to destroy Shayna with. Nigel McGuinness (unsurprisingly) calls her out for being a sore loser, but the NXT Universe seems to love it.
Io then finally hits the moonsault on Shayna. She actually hits it one more time after that, the second time with a chair that she makes her buddy Candice give her. Basically, post-match (and post-loss) Io makes clear that she’s got Shayna’s number and she’s not afraid of her, even though she just lost. Shayna didn’t think Io would be able to use the kendo stick at all tonight, but she definitely proved her wrong.
You know, now that I think about it, Shayna Baszler hasn’t ever had to prove herself (and her championship reign) in an extreme setting…
You can go back and revisit this match (and the entirety of NXT TakeOver: XXV) on the WWE Network.