Match Point: NXT – Io Shirai Vs. Sasha Banks (7/1/20)

Great American Bash
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Match Point is an on-going series at Last Word on Pro Wrestling, where we look at intriguing matchups in indie wrestling and beyond. They may be dream matches, first-time matchups, or hotly anticipated rematches. Today’s edition dives into the upcoming first-time ever singles match between NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai and one half of the Women’s Tag Team Champions Sasha Banks at NXT: The Great American Bash.

Over the weekend, Sasha Banks somewhat came out of nowhere with a video on social media as she and Bayley did not forget the attack that NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai gave them two weeks ago on NXT. Shirai exclaimed that this was her NXT now. That struck a chord with the main roster duo, who made it clear it was because of them that they have jobs right now in NXT. Banks laid down the challenge in the video to Shirai that she wanted to face her night one on the special NXT: The Great American Bash.

The NXT Women’s Champion didn’t take long to respond, accepting the challenge to defend her NXT.

And the NXT general manager followed up by making the dream match official for this Wednesday night.

So with that being said, there is plenty of reason as to why this one is worthy of a match point. Both Banks and Shirai pride themselves on being some of the best wrestlers in the world. Many fans will agree and for the first time, they get to see it live.

Here’s the story for both ladies heading into the match and why this is the must-see event of the night, as The Great American Bash competes with AEW’s Fyter Fest.

The Rise of the “Joshi Judas”: Io Shirai

Io Shirai
Photo: @WWENXT

Io Shirai has been the best woman in the entire WWE since she finally figured out who she was, going from her vintage self from Stardom in Japan and changing her career path into the “Joshi Judas.” Under this persona, her star has risen higher than anyone could have imagined from the start. Yes, Shirai’s talent has always been there. Many have seen her as the best women’s wrestler in the world for the better part of the past five years. When she made the jump to NXT, that was supposed to continue. However, her appearance in the second Mae Young Classic saw her come up short. That derailed her momentum and she was there and in championship matches, but failing. The “Joshi Judas” brought her vicious side to the table and it’s been a success from there.

Shirai won the NXT Women’s Championship in a match including Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley, rising her star to the very top where it should have been. She joined her countrywomen Kairi Sane and Asuka in accomplishing this feat. But something about Shirai is that it is not enough. If you saw her work in Stardom, she presents herself as the best and anything short is not enough for her. As she prepares to face Sasha Banks this Wednesday, she continues that journey of being the absolute best. She’s already come out victorious over one of the Four Horsewomen. The same four that WWE presents as the best and leaders of the women’s evolution. A win for Shirai, despite already being champion, furthers her legacy to a new level of greatness.

This will be her first match since winning the championship. Shirai is the best wrestler in all the WWE. Wednesday night is just another chance for her to prove that while defending NXT as her own against “The Boss.”

Being “The Blueprint”: Sasha Banks

bayley and sasha banks
Credit: WWE

Since becoming “The Blueprint” and running Friday nights with Bayley, Sasha Banks has found the version of herself that set her apart from the rest as one of the absolute best. She has taken true control of who she is and found herself, something that relates to Io Shirai. Something else that relates is how good she knows she is. That’s how one can present themselves as “The Legit Boss.” Since winning the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships last month, Banks have become the best part of anything the WWE has to offer. And by winning those titles, she and Bayley earned the chance to travel from brand to brand and be at the center of television. This is the same as what Charlotte had done, but they are doing it far more successfully (as their segment ratings suggest).

When Sasha Banks returned from her long layoff following WrestleMania last year, she came back better than ever and it continues to show. When she failed to win the Raw Women’s Championship, people started to have doubt all over again. And somehow she has only got better. The case here is that her and Shirai are very alike in the last year. Despite losses, they continued to climb the totem pole and become the best part of their respective brands. Io Shirai Vs. Sasha Banks has an opportunity to be special. “The Boss” and the “Joshi Judas” more than likely will main event Night One of The Great American Bash. They are trusted to bring in a big rating, and if Sasha Banks is “The Conversation” like she says, it will be the right call in the end.

NXT’s Identity As The Women’s Brand

On Wednesday night, it will only be three weeks since Sasha and Bayley main evented NXT against Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart. It will also be a month after Io Shirai won the NXT Women’s Championship in the first women’s main event at a TakeOver since Bayley and Sasha had done so at NXT TakeOver: Respect. In the match point for the tag team match, we stated that it was the start of something more. The movement of the women’s tag team champions was the main reasoning, but even more so it was NXT’s understanding of the women talent they have and why that can be what sets them apart from their competitors and the two other brands in the same company. They will make up the two main matches on Night One of NXT: The Great American Bash. The first night of AEW’s long-awaited Fyter Fest. The numbers do not lie.

NXT’s women are rightfully a draw and the match they give this Wednesday night will be the best possible. That says all you need to hear. Io Shirai and Sasha Banks can and will have a classic bout. And the probability that these three will not be done following it makes it even more exciting. There’s a great chance the numbers game could hurt Shirai on Wednesday night. So perhaps a partner will be needed down the line to stand up to the bullies. And even better, maybe “Io Two Belts” could be in order with the right partner. Kairi Sane and Asuka may fit the bill considering Kairi’s friendship with Io and Asuka’s problems with Banks. Time will tell, but two things are for sure. 1. NXT is in a new age. The age of Shirai. And 2. This will be a can’t miss classic.

NXT: The Great American Bash Night One airs this Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST on the USA Network.

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