Although she’s been working the NXT Live Event circuit for a month now, highly touted Japanese joshi megastar Io Shirai – long regarded one of the top women’s wrestlers in the world while working for the likes of Stardom and Sendai Girls – makes her eagerly anticipated televised debut for the WWE as first round action for the 2018 Mae Young Classic continues tonight on the WWE Network at 9pm EST. In her first match, Shirai is slated to face second generation wrestler Xia Brookside, former IPW Women’s Champion and daughter of WWE Performance Center coach and UK indie legend Robbie Brookside.
Trained by former DDT Pro star Tomohiko Hashimoto, Io Shirai has been wrestling since 2007, starting out with promotions like IBUKI, Pro Wrestling WAVE and Sendai Girls. In 2010, along with her sister Mio Shirai, she joined the faction Triple Tails, lead by Kana (aka WWE’s Asuka), before joining Stardom in 2011. She would soon become the face of Stardom, as a 2x World of Stardom Champion, 2x Wonder of Stardom Champion, 6x Artist of Stardom (Trios) Champion and Goddesses of Stardom (Tag Team) Champion. Shirai was slated to join the WWE last year prior to the inaugural Mae Young Classic, but an injury discovered during her WWE medical cost her the opportunity. She was finally cleared earlier this year and signed with the WWE in late spring.
Three other first round matches round out the show tonight, including another joshi star, “Lady Godzilla” Hiroyo Matsumoto (OZ Academy, Stardom, SHIMMER) facing Rachael Evers (aka Rachael Ellering), Canadian indie star Nicole Matthews (SHIMMER, ECCW) vs. Scottish star Isla Dawn, and NXT Superstars Jessie Eleban vs. Taynari Conti.
The First Round of the Mae Young Classic concludes after tonight, with the second round match-ups kicking off next Wednesday night, with some big upsets already in play.