As recently as a decade ago, women’s wrestling in the WWE was consigned to pillow fights and bikini matches. They weren’t even allowed to be called women’s wrestlers—they were labeled “divas” and reduced to eye candy.
For all the criticisms you can level against the WWE, one area that’s undeniably improved today is its women’s wrestling division. And with its signing of Io Shirai, arguably the best women’s wrestler in the world today, we may be entering the golden age of women’s professional wrestling in America.
The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer confirmed WWE’s signing of Shirai Monday, and now NXT has on its roster three of the top women’s wrestlers in the world—in Shirai, fellow Stardom signee Kairi Hojo, and current NXT women’s champion Asuka. (Shirai now also reunites with Asuka, who along with sister Mio Shirai, formed the women’s stable Triple Tails in the short-lived SMASH promotion.)
Shirai wrestled one of the best TV matches of 2016 for Lucha Underground. She appeared as part of The Black Lotus Triad, and under the name Hitokiri, fought a man twice her size—Pentagón Dark—in a crazy, breathtaking match that included a splash by Shirai off a 15-foot balcony.
Shirai vs. Asuka should absolutely be the women’s championship match at NXT TakeOver at next year’s Wrestlemania, and there’s a good chance it’ll be the best match of that weekend.