Io Shirai Beats Candice LeRae via Koji Clutch at NXT TakeOver: Toronto 2019

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2019

Credit: WWE.com

The new-look Io Shirai defeated Candice LeRae in a grudge match at NXT TakeOver: Toronto on Saturday night.

Shirai was unable to put away LeRae with a moonsault. Illustrating how she has adopted a more aggressive personality, Shirai attacked LeRae with a series of strikes before locking in the Koji Clutch.

Stuck in the middle of the ring and unable to reach the ropes, LeRae passed out momentarily and forced the referee to call for the bell.


Vicious. Unapologetic. Definitive. @shirai_io #NXTTakeOver https://t.co/RX1rZcT68L

Shirai and LeRae were once close friends who fought side by side against Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, but Shirai betrayed LeRae after failing to beat Baszler for the NXT Women's Championship in a steel cage match.

The first signs that Shirai was experiencing a change in attitude came at NXT TakeOver: XXV in June. After interference from Duke and Shafir caused her to lose to Baszler, Shirai attacked The Queen of Spades with a kendo stick and steel chair.

Before that, Shirai had been a beloved babyface who dazzled the crowd with her array of aerial maneuvers, but her style completely changed after going off on Baszler.

That directly led to her attacking LeRae with a steel chair and suplexing her onto it following the steel cage loss to Baszler. Shirai then changed her look to match her attitude, as she got a new entrance and theme music and began dressing in all black.

Shirai also denounced the NXT Universe and claimed she no longer needed the fans on her side in order to reach the top.

LeRae has never been one to sit idly by, so she took the fight to Shirai in order to get some revenge. During a match between Shirai and Kacy Catanzaro on NXT TV, LeRae ran down and jumped Shirai. She also grabbed a chair and attempted to hit Shirai with it, but The Genius of the Sky got away.

Following that altercation, LeRae made it clear to NXT general manager William Regal that she wanted a match against Shirai, so he officially booked it for TakeOver: Toronto.

Having more than one women's match on a TakeOver card is a rarity, but given how personal the rivalry had become between Shirai and LeRae, there was no question they were deserving of a spot.

In addition to settling a score, Saturday's match had major implications in terms of positioning for a future shot at the NXT Women's Championship.

With Shirai coming out on top, it stands to reason that she could find herself back in the title scene soon provided LeRae doesn't continue to be a thorn in her side.


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