Monday, September 26, 2022

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The Genius Of The Sky: Io Shirai

Io Shirai is one of the best wrestlers in the world. She’s won numerous titles, wrestled in some of the world’s greatest promotions, and set a few records. Shirai made her debut in 2007 when she was only sixteen years old. So Io and Mio Shirai worked for numerous companies throughout Japan before All Japan World Wrestling discovered them. Io and Mio made their AJPW debut in 2008, while also making their debuts in Pro Wrestling Zero1. They would win their first tag team championships in 2007 when they defeated Moeka Haruhi and Tomoka Nakagawa to become the first-ever TLW World Young Women’s Tag Team Champions.

Io and Mio Shirai decided to expand as a tag team and form a stable with Kana (Asuka) in 2010 called the Triple Tails. The Triple Tails would go on to have several matches over the course of a year in many different promotions. The stable disbanded in the middle of 2011 when Io decided she wanted to pursue a singles career in wrestling. She also wrestled for AAA in Mexico around this time, teaming up with her sister as Oyuki and Kaguya. Io would also compete in multiple intergender matches while in Mexico.

Shirai eventually found herself working for World Wonder Ring Stardom where she would become one of the most decorated wrestlers in the history of the promotion. She started her time in Stardom working in various tag teams and coming close to winning tag team gold. In 2013, Io found herself the number one contender for the World of Stardom Championship when she defeated Kaori Yoneyama and Dark Angel to win a tournament determining the number one contender. On April 29th, 2013, Shirai defeated the incumbent champion, Alpha Female, and became the new World of Stardom Champion.

Shirai would have multiple successful title defenses throughout the year, culminating in her winning Stardom’s 2013 MVP. She even became a double champion on May 6th, 2014, when she defeated Natsuki Taiyo for the High-Speed Championship. Shirai’s championship reign would come to an end when she was defeated by Yoshiko. Her 468-day and 10 successful defenses of the World of Stardom Championship would go down in history. She won the Wonder of Stardom Championship in 2015 when she beat Nikki Storm (Nikki A.S.H) for the vacant title.

Throughout her time with Stardom, Io Shirai was a six-time Artist of Stardom Champion, one-time Goddess of Stardom Champion, one-time High-Speed Champion, two-time Wonder of Stardom Champion, and the first-ever two time World of Stardom Champion. She also was the first wrestler to have held all five titles at Stardom. Io was also the first female wrestler to win three consecutive Tokyo Sports Female Wrestler of the Year honors. She left Stardom in 2018 after being offered a contract from WWE.

Io had her WWE debut at a house show in June of 2018. She was then announced for the second Mae Young Classic, taking place in August 2018. Io did extremely well, defeating Xia Brookside, Zeuxis, Deonna Purazzo, and Rhea Ripley, before falling to Toni Storm in the finals. She made her first official NXT appearance in November at NXT Takeover: War Games, where she, along with Dakota Kai, saved Kairi Sane from an attack by Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir. They were one of the most entertaining tag teams in WWE, with Kairi’s elbow drop and Io’s moonsault. When Sane was called up to the main roster, Io went back to the singles competition where she had various rivalries and matches, including being involved in the first-ever women’s War Games match.

It was a triple threat match between champion Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley that gave Io the title in 2020. Her reign would last 304 days until NXT Takeover: Stand and Deliver when she lost her championship to Raquel Gonzalez. As a result, Shirai and Starks won the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships from Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell. The duo would lose the titles 111 days later to Toxic Attraction. Io also teamed up with Kay Lee Ray to win the Women’s Dusty Rhodes Classic.

With all these accolades to her name, it’s hard to believe that Io Shirai is only 31. She has a lot more wrestling ahead of her and hopefully, she takes her rightful place at the top of the women’s division not only on NXT but also on Raw and Smackdown someday.

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