Baszler vs. Shirai will decide the future of NXT’s women’s division

Tonight, at NXT TakeOver XXV, Io Shirai will challenge Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship. This match will determine the direction of the women’s division, which has lost some momentum lately.

NXT boasts a stacked women’s roster, but, honestly, it has been a bit stagnant. There has been such a concentrated effort to keep Baszler’s dominant reign going that it feels like it’s often at the expense of some of the other talent. Granted, the “Queen of Spades” has been phenomenal in the role as a tyrannical heel champion, but her run may have run its course.

Many fans thought the headstrong newcomer, Bianca Belair, would be one to finally dethrone her and put an end to her stranglehold on the women’s locker room. Instead, Baszler surprisingly beat her twice. Others hoped Kairi Sane, who had the shortest reign as NXT Women’s Champion, would eventually get her revenge on Baszler and her fellow Horsewomen. But even the Pirate Princess fell victim to the two-time champion’s brutality.

Enter the former “ace” of Stardom and new challenger, Io Shirai. The “Genius of the Sky” picked up a victory by pinfall over Baszler in a six-woman tag match a few months ago. So, she has been in line for a one-on-one match for the title. Their rivalry became personal when the champion brutally attacked her best friend and tag team partner, Sane, after her final NXT match.

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Shirai certainly has the pedigree to usher in a new era for the women’s division as the new champion. However, with Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke at ringside, the outcome is still in question. Candice LeRae promised she would be in Io’s corner, but that still leaves them outnumbered.

With so many possibilities, it’s hard to predict who will come out on top. The twenty-fifth TakeOver is a momentous occasion for the pay-per-view event, so it’s not hard to believe a past superstar could show up. Maybe a surprise guest, like the Kabuki Warriors, will also be in Shirai’s corner.

LeRae also has her own history with Baszler, who defeated her with the Kirifuda Clutch in the quarterfinals of the inaugural Mae Young Classic. Afterward, the runner up refused to break the hold after her opponent tapped out, causing Candice to pass out.

This could be a way to reignite their feud and set up a match between the two somewhere down the road. LeRae has been underutilized and pigeonholed on the developmental brand, so this could be a way to give her some spotlight as a wrestler again.

No matter what the finish is, NXT needs to refocus on the women’s division. TakeOver historically showcases some of the best women’s matches. From Paige vs. Emma to Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, the event has a strong track record. So, it would be fitting for the twenty-fifth iteration to re-establish the developmental brand as a bastion of women’s wrestling.

If Baszler retains, hopefully, there’s an effort to build up her next challenger. It would be a good chance to set up mid-card feuds too. Mia Yim and Bianca Belair’s current rivalry is proof WWE can create engaging secondary feuds. That is to say, we need more than one women’s match on a TakeOver card.

What do you think? Will Io Shirai become the next NXT Women’s Champion or will she fall victim to the Kirifuda Clutch? Would you like to see someone else eventually defeat Shayna Baszler?

Drop a comment below and check back with Bell to Belles for coverage of NXT TakeOver XXV.

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