Shayna Baszler vs Io Shirai – NXT (06/26/2019)

Shayna Baszler (c) vs Io Shirai

Steel Cage Match for the NXT Women’s Championship

taped 06/12/2019, aired 06/26/2019

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida, United States

(reviewed 09/22/2019) I haven’t loved a lot of what they’ve been doing with my girl Shayna this year in NXT but I’m a big fan of this. A lot of that comes down to the fact that I’m way more receptive to WWE cage matches than most fans seem to be. I think a lot of fans, maybe rightfully so, expect cage matches to always be these gritty, violent affairs and hate it when escape-the-cage rules reduce them to a game of tag wherein heated rivals repeatedly interrupt each other from leaving the match. Me, I like to see people actually conforming to and trying to best exploit the rules of a particular match, as long as I’m still getting the sort of action I think is warranted. Thankfully that’s what we get here, as these two heated rivals really wallop each other with strikes and chuck each other into the cage walls before they ever think about leaving. That opening action is good but the eventual teased finishes (I guess that’s what you’d call them even if they’re not exactly nearfalls) are what make this match great. For so long Baszler’s matches have relied heavily on outside interference, becoming increasingly tiresome over time, but here it results in some delightful brutality. Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir take a shot from the cage door right in the face, Duke also takes a great crossbody off the top from Candice LeRae, and the eventual finish is as mean as it is tragic. Even when everything’s going her way Io can’t win. Don’t love how hard WWE tries to hit home on the “life sucks and then you die” ethos but lately there haven’t been many more exciting and engaging examples of it than this.

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