NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler def. Io Shirai (Steel Cage Match)

Io Shirai vs. Shayna Baszler - NXT Women's Title Steel Cage Match: WWE NXT, June 26, 2019

Io Shirai challenges Shayna Baszler in NXT’s first-ever Women’s Steel Cage Match, then unloads her fury on former ally Candice LeRae in a vicious post-match attack. Video courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

Unforgiving is usually the way to describe what goes down inside the steel confines of a traditional Cage Match, but Io Shirai gave it new meaning in the aftermath of her NXT Women’s Title brawl against Shayna Baszler.

The deep-seated animosity between these rivals came to a punishing head as they took full advantage of their steel surroundings. The NXT Women’s Champion was not only out to defend her prized possession, but also to inflict some serious retribution for all the merciless assaults Shirai imposed against her (and The Horsewomen’s Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir) over the past month – from the Kendo stick attack at TakeOver: XXV to the arena-wide brawl that popped off on the June 12 edition of NXT TV. As a result, The Queen of Spades started the match by sticking to the basics, which included a flurry of hard-hitting MMA strikes and limb-twisting submission holds. Minutes into the match, the champion trapped Shirai in Kirifuda Clutch territory before maneuvering into a punishing single-leg Boston crab. After landing a series of strongarm attacks, Baszler looked to be on the verge of climbing out of the cage, but she instead returned to cause more damage to the Japanese Superstar – or so she thought.

Despite being rammed into the cage wall, Shirai miraculously found her stride and never looked back. After torpedoing Baszler into the steel with a series of dropkicks, The Genius of the Sky took to the high-rent district and clasped a spine-tingling German suplex on the champion from the top rope. As Shirai found a clear path to the door, she was met by Baszler’s henchwomen, whose distraction allowed Baszler to clutch The Genius of the Sky into the third Kirifuda Clutch attempt of the night. But Shirai’s stride continued, as she rolled out of Baszler’s signature submission hold to administer a double stomp right onto Baszler’s sternum.

With Shafir guarding the door, Shirai opted to ascend the cage walls in an attempt to climb over and out. As Shafir scaled the steel structure to prevent Shirai’s escape, Candice LeRae arrived and met her halfway up the wall to even the odds. When Duke stepped inside the ring to walk Baszler out of the cage, Tenacious C crashed into her with a jaw-dropping splash off the top of the cage. With Baszler by her lonesome, The Genius of the Sky took a leap of faith off the cage and landed a gravity-defying moonsault on the champion.

In the final moments, both Superstars engaged in a tug of war at the doorway. When The Queen of Spades clutched her rival into a last-minute Kirifuda Clutch, a desperate Shirai clocked Baszler with the cage door, inadvertently sending the champion collapsing right out of the ring to the floor and thereby retaining her NXT Women’s Championship.

Of course, the aftermath left a thick air of bewilderment inside Full Sail Live. Unfortunately, no one felt the brunt of that puzzlement more than LeRae, who wound up on the receiving end of a savage attack by Shirai. The defeat triggered a sadistic side in Io, as she laid waste to LeRae, assaulting her with a steel chair before suplexing her atop the equalizer.

It was a surreal conclusion that begs more questions than answers. Has Shirai exposed her true colors with this assault? If so, why did LeRae bear the brunt of her rage?

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