Io Shirai Seeks to Emulate Rey Mysterio in Physical Mismatch at ‘NXT TakeOver’

The Week in Wrestling: Io Shirai on her title match against Raquel González, Laredo Kid on GCW’s Acid Cup and more.
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Io Shirai on a WrestleMania 37 match against Bayley: “I have not been told that yet—but never say never”

Io Shirai defends the NXT women’s championship on Wednesday night, seeking to extend her title reign in a match against Raquel González at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver.

And if she wins, Shirai knows exactly what she wants next: a match at WrestleMania 37 against Bayley.

“I would love to compete against Bayley,” Shirai says through a translator. “I have a great amount of respect for her. If we ever got the chance, I would like it to be on a huge stage like WrestleMania. As far as that happening at WrestleMania 37, I have not been told that yet—but never say never.”

Shirai is also eager to work with González in a match that will be a contrast of styles. González is being positioned as an unstoppable force, and she will benefit from working with Shirai, who is among the most well-rounded, complete wrestlers in the world. Known as “The Goddess of The Sky,” Shirai is incredibly versatile and polished in the ring. She can work with any opponent—an approach, she noted, that was inspired by wrestling legend Rey Mysterio.

“I watched Rey Mysterio compete against bigger superstars when I was young and always came away impressed with how he overcame his smaller stature with his quickness,” Shirai says. “If I am able to do the same with Raquel, I will be able to inspire a lot of people just like I was inspired by Rey. I get a lot of satisfaction when I defeat any great competitors, and Raquel would be no different.”

Shirai is the 30-year-old Masami Odate. Following a transcendent stretch as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Japan, she has dazzled viewers—and peers—in NXT since her arrival in WWE in 2017. Throughout her career, which began at the age of 16, she has produced a plethora of career highlights, including mixed-gender matches. One that particularly resonated was her Lucha Underground match from 2016 against Penta, who now stars in AEW. Given the opportunity, she is open to mixed-gender matches in NXT.

“My style and highlights always alter depending on who my opponent is,” Shirai says. “I am sure I could find something new to showcase competing against a male and would enjoy the opportunity if it ever presented itself.”

Shirai’s underwater promos are another unique and fascinating element of her style.

“When I changed to my current style from my days in Japan, the one and only ‘Io Shirai’ character was born,” Shirai says. “That promo was a perfect way to show I was different from any other Japanese talent, and that I was not only one of a kind in WWE, but different from anybody else in the world.

“The producers told me that no one had ever done a promo in the water, so I knew I had to try it. I appreciate my colleagues who dove into the water with me and worked so hard to make everything look so good.”

The chance to work a high-profile match with Gonzalez immediately stirred memories from eight years ago. That was when Shirai took a massive step in her career by defeating Alpha Female for the World of Stardom Championship, beginning her first reign with the belt.

“In terms of comparing this to my career in Japan, I think this is most similar to the Stardom match I had at Ryogoku Sumo Arena in April 2013,” Shirai says. “Now I am looking forward to the responsibility of being in the main event on night one of TakeOver.”

March 4 marked Shirai’s pro wrestling anniversary, celebrating 14 years in the industry. As she approaches another seminal night at TakeOver, she reflected on the greatest lessons she has learned during her career.

“Always get up when you are knocked down and never give up,” Shirai says. “That’s what I have learned in wrestling, and I take that same approach in my everyday life. Everybody fails in life, but as long as you get up, you will always see the light, no matter how long it takes.”

Shirai relishes the opportunity to innovate and create, which she plans to do in a manner unlike anyone else in the world Wednesday night at TakeOver.

“Three hundred days have passed since I became NXT women’s champion, and my fans are longing for me to reach the one-year mark,” Shirai says. “That in itself makes this a must-win match for me because I don’t want to let them down.

“And I prepare new gear for each big event, so I of course have something special planned for TakeOver. I will beat Raquel and stamp my name, Io Shirai, in the history books.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Edge, Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns have put together a build deserving of the WrestleMania 37 main event. 
  • I can’t wait to see Sasha Banks defend against Bianca Belair. And although I think we’ll see a new champion, I am especially interested to see how we arrive at that point. 
  • On the subject of new champions, the controversial Will Ospreay defeated Kota Ibushi last weekend to win the IWGP world heavyweight championship. 
  • Shingo Takagi is next for Ospreay on May 4, then a match on May 29 in the Tokyo Dome against Kazuchika Okada. In order to develop Ospreay as champ, he is going to need a lengthy run to establish himself.
  • Jon Moxley’s next title defense of the IWGP United States Championship doesn’t have a date, but he has an opponent: NJPW cornerstone Yuji Nagata. 
  • A new title has also been introduced in NJPW: the Strong Openweight Championship. The winner of the New Japan Cup USA will be crowned the new champ, which also indicates that Moxley is going to be defending his U.S. title abroad and not on NJPW Strong, like he did against Kenta. 
  • No matter what he has been handed in terms of a story, Sami Zayn has been so effective in making every segment he is in worth seeing. He has the chance to make magic at WrestleMania 37 in his match against Kevin Owens. 
  • Chris Jericho is returning to the WWE Network for an interview with Steve Austin on the Broken Skull Sessions, which will air this Sunday following WrestleMania. TMZ got a reaction from CM Punk, who said, “Honestly, my major reaction and opinion on it is I think that it shows Vince McMahon isn’t afraid of AEW at all because, if he was, he wouldn’t allow that to happen.” 
  • Shelton Benjamin struck lightning in a bottle with The Hurt Business. What a shortsighted decision it was for WWE to break up the group. 
  • No, there is not a physical WWE Hall of Fame. But clearly there is a tremendous amount of meaning to the honor for those enshrined, as well as their loved ones. 

Laredo Kid appearing for GCW in the Acid Cup

Laredo Kid returned to AEW the past two weeks on Dynamite, working a style that served as a reminder why he is one of the most talented wrestlers in the world.

Last week, Laredo Kid shared the ring with Penta and Fénix against Kenny Omega and The Good Brothers. Just like he did in their phenomenal bout at AAA’s Triplemanía in December, Omega won the match by pinning Laredo Kid—and the two again showed incredible chemistry together. Two weeks ago, teaming with Penta and Fénix in a match against The Young Bucks and Brandon Cutler, the finish came when Laredo Kid hit a picturesque Spanish Fly on Cutler for the win.

“That is one of my favorite moves, and I try to do it in my own style,” Kid says through a translator. “I am very happy to be on Dynamite. AEW provided an opportunity to me, and I did my best to make the most of it.”

Next up for Laredo Kid is an appearance tomorrow for GCW in the Acid Cup against Brayden Lee. The show, which airs on FITE TV, is full of emerging stars, including Calvin Tankman, Tony Deppen, Lee Moriarty and Arez. The exposure of working shows during WrestleMania weekend represents an opportunity for Laredo Kid to make his mark in the American wrestling scene, especially in an indie as strong and far-reaching as GCW.

“I want to give great matches to the fans watching,” Kid says. “More than anything, I want to win. I want that cup in my hands as champion.”

On the subject of championships, there has been some real confusion over the AAA cruiserweight championship. Kid noted that, although he dropped the belt to Lio Rush on an MLW taping that aired in February, he is still recognized as the rightful title holder.

“I am still champion,” Kid says. “I am cruiserweight champion.”

Whether it was intended or not, AAA and MLW are building considerable interest in the inevitable Kid-Rush rematch for the belt. And the match will inevitably deliver, as Kid is poised to have a breakout year in 2021. And he looks to continue to seize his momentum with GCW.

“I am very grateful to all my fans for the support that they give me every day,” Kid says. “I feel blessed with the opportunities I am given, and now I have the chance to stand out globally. I am going to make the most of every opportunity I am given.”

Tweet of the Week

The brilliance of Sami Zayn continues.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.