NXT: Io Shirai versus Rhea Ripley has ‘big fight’ feel

WWE NXT, Rhea Ripley Credit: WWE.com
WWE NXT, Rhea Ripley Credit: WWE.com /

Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley are competing next week for the NXT women’s title. This fight has all of the feelings of a big contest that combat sports fans would find on PPV.

The WWE has the strongest women’s roster across the professional wrestling industry. While they are not leveraged correctly on the main roster shows, the women on NXT continually put on great shows and segments each week. They are booked like main event stars and it shows. The upcoming match between Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai feels like one of the biggest angles on the brand and fans should expect them to deliver on the “big fight” feeling.

This past Wednesday, NXT debuted a feature on the upcoming Shirai versus Ripley match called “Prime Target.” The two women were given behind the scenes features that hypes their reasons why the match next week is important to them both. Shirai wants to defeat one of the most dominant women NXT has seen. Ripley wants to return to the stature she enjoyed last year before falling to Charlotte Flair.

The storytelling between the two is simple and it works. This angle does not need multiple rematches, fireballs, laughing clowns or authority figures. It is just two women looking to beat each other up to show who is the pinnacle of the division. The same was said about other matches that have excelled in WWE this year: less is more. Look back to Finn Balor versus Kyle O’Reilly or Ilja Dragunov versus Walter; both of those matches were excellent wrestling showcases without all the shenanigans that have become common in the WWE. Ripley and Shirai should follow that same model.

The NXT women’s title is on the line. But do not be surprised if this match is also a send off for the loser of the contest. Either Shirai or Ripley would immediately fit into the Monday Night Raw women’s division as a top contender to Asuka. The “Empress of Tomorrow” has been quite since the end of her back and forth feud with Sasha Banks and Bayley. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler are linked in a questionable tag team. The rest of the women’s division on the red brand is carelessly booked and none of them could be taken serious as a challenger to Asuka. This is where either Shirai or Ripley fit into the equation.

Both Ripley and Shirai are main event talents. With Shirai, WWE could book the friends turned foils angle for Asuka that they missed out on with Kairi Sane. In Ripley, the WWE could easily present her as the star that she was booked as back in 2019. The WrestleMania match really cooled her off, but they have done an excellent job heating her back up – especially with the recent matches with Mercedes Martinez and Raquel Gonzalez. Ripley could serve a bigger purpose if she were to lose to Shirai next week and that purpose stands on Monday Night Raw.

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Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley are booked for a major bout that could headline an NXT TakeOver. Everything about this match feels like a big fight as they are competing for the title and stakes that could shake up the division. WWE is doing everything right in planning this bout and fans should look forward to the contest as these are two the best women in the industry and delivering in the ring is what they do well.