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Having vanquished all the other foes NXT put in her way, Women’s champion Io Shirai called out Rhea Ripley.
The two were involved in the match where Io won the belt back at In Your House, but so was Charlotte Flair. Since then, they’ve teamed and circled one another, but not gone one-on-one. That changed on the Nov. 18 episode of NXT.
Boy, did it ever.
It was the kind of match you’d expect from two of the best wrestlers in the world. The only surprise may have been that NXT put it on free television, and didn’t close the show with it.
The story was the damage these two women could do to each other, and the pain they’d fight through to beat the other and win the belt. Ripley landed the first potential knockout when she slammed the champ face first into the the apron.
It was hard to tell if it was entirely a work since it happened on the picture-in-picture screen during commercial, but official checked on Io while the Nightmare paced, anxious to get her hands on her foe once again.
Shirai recovered, and targeted Rhea’s left arm in an effort to prevent the larger woman from hitting her Riptide finisher. She also managed to bloody the Aussie’s ear at some point, but Ripley just decided to use her own blood to paint her face for war.
Neither the battle scars or a plea for mercy kept Io from continuing her assault on the challenger’s arm.
The Nightmare eventually fought back and did damage to the champion’s leg in the process. But despite several exchanges that left both women flat on the mat, they just kept going. Not even this move would keep Ripley down...
But when the Japanese Superstar followed it with her signature moonsault from the top rope and hooked both legs, Ripley couldn’t muster a kick out.
The clean finish, and the embrace afterwards, will prompt speculation about Rhea’s future... and questions about who can take the belt from Shirai.
For now, we should all just enjoy this one.
For a full rundown of everything that happened on tonight’s NXT, check out our live blog here.