NXT's Io Shirai Defeats Rhea Ripley in a Brutal and Bloody Classic Match

The main event of tonight's NXT was the long-awaited rematch between NXT Women's Champion Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley, and boy did it deliver in more ways than one. These two have put on a series of stellar matches in the past, so expectations were high, and early on the two just kept unloading big punches and countering each other. Shirai turned the tide when she knocked Ripley out of the ring through the ropes, sending her to the floor, but Ripley was able to catch Shirai after a kick attempt and slam her face-first onto the ring apron. Ripley then got Shirai into the corner and kept her grounded, hitting her with punches to the midsection, but the referee intervened a bit at this point.

Ripley kept up the attack on Shirai for a while after this, grounding her and keeping the champ under her boot. That all changed though after a series of evasions and devastating attacks from Shirai, including a dropkick right to Ripley's head that seemed to open up Ripley's ear a bit, as blood could be seen coming from it.

Shirai kept the hits coming, wrenching Ripley's shoulder and then slamming her outside the ring followed by more punishment with her boots coming down hard on Ripley's midsection. Shirai then slammed Ripley into the steel steps, and things looked bad for Ripley, but she was able to come back and ground Shirai after a slam from the turnbuckle and a few hard punches to Shirai''s body and head.

They then traded punches in the center of the ring, followed by a series of knee strikes and a snapmare takedown from Ripley, though Shirai managed to kick out. Ripley was essentially down to one arm at this point, but she didn't let that stop her, as she went to pick up Shirai with her other arm and submit her with a cloverleaf.

Shirai was completely off the ground, and then Ripley spun her around with the same arm, followed by another submission on Shirai's legs. Shirai would manage to get out of this and lock in her own submission, going to work on the injured shoulder, and after several attempts at a 619 one finally landed. Shirai then dished out a missle dropkick to Ripley from the turnbuckle and went for the pin, but Ripley kicked out.

Shirai then hit Ripley with double knees, followed by an attempt from the turnbuckle but Ripley evaded and clotheslined Shirai, but it was still not enough, as Shirai kicked out. They traded more attacks, but then Ripley's positioning on the ropes led to Shirai power bombing Ripley through the announce table. The referee almost counted them out but Ripley broke the count, and after another moonsault sealed the deal and gave Shirai the win

Here's the official description for tonight's NXT.

One of the most highly anticipated NXT Women's Title matches in history takes place tonight as Io Shirai defends against former champion Rhea Ripley! Plus, NXT Champion Finn Bálor returns for the first time since NXT TakeOver 31, Johnny Gargano tries to regain the NXT North American Championship from Leon Ruff after last week's shocking upset, and more. Catch it all tonight at 8/7 C on USA Network!

Here's the full card:

Io Shirai vs Rhea Ripley (NXT Women's Championship Match)

Finn Balor Returns

Johnny Gargano vs Leon Ruff (North American Championship Match)

Ember Moon vs Toni Storm vs Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez

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What did you think of the match? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!