WWE set to lose one of the best in the world in Io Shirai


Losing Io Shirai is an unfortunate consequence of WWE’s changing direction

Professional wrestling is an odd profession where some of the best in the world can be left on the sidelines for the most minor of reasons. Even as she’s widely considered one of the best performers in the world, Io Shirai is in such a position. And with news about her contract status breaking on Friday, it looks like her time with the WWE is coming to an end and the promotion will lose yet another talented star beloved by wrestling fans.

According to Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer, Shirai’s contract is set to end next month, as she has not signed her new offer. Meltzer also stated that he’s learned she intends to return to Japan to be closer to her family. This comes on the heels of news from Fightful Select in June that Shirai was currently sidelined due to injury, but she did not factor into any creative plans at the time. Her last match was at WWE NXT Stand and Deliver on April 2 when she took part in a fatal four-way involving Cora Jade, Kay Lee Ray, and the victorious Mandy Rose.

If Shirai makes the decision to leave the promotion and do what is best for her, then that’s the end of the discussion, she has every right to make that choice. It’s easy to wonder if WWE’s shifting direction and her lack of utilization helped make that decision easier.

Think about the creative ineptitude it takes to be unable to book a performer of Shirai’s level. It’s been almost a year since WWE NXT’s change in creative direction and while that shift is felt across the roster, it’s much more apparent within the women’s division. Instead of highlighting the best wrestlers in the division, the angles focus more on sex appeal, pettiness, and ideas from the Attitude Era. To see Shirai fall to the wayside because of the ideas of elderly white men has been a painful experience that will soon be over if and when she returns to performing in Japan.

The WWE main roster needs a performer of Io Shirai’s level

Shirai should have been a major piece in the women’s division. This is especially critical as the main roster struggles to build any star power. Sasha Banks and Naomi are off the television. Bayley has yet to return from injury. Charlotte Flair is away. Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, and Asuka are carrying the division on Monday Night Raw, while Ronda Rousey flounders as champion on SmackDown. Inserting Shirai into that group would be an immediate positive impact. Money in the Bank is the perfect opportunity to welcome a new star to the main roster, alas, that won’t be the case.

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This week was NBA Free Agency where fan favorites and important players on rosters across the league were moved mostly due to business reasons. The same occurs within professional wrestling when stars leave companies as contracts end or the parties involved part ways. But it hits especially hard when WWE makes concerted decisions to leave highly capable and beloved performers like Io Shirai by the wayside.