Io Shirai is the new star of NXT, the Japanese wrestler was confirmed as the brand’s new fighter during the WWE tour of Japan. The story of Io begins in 2007, when at the age of 16 she decided that her future was to be a fighter. After finishing school, Io and her sister Mio began to fight in the most important parts of Japan. For a couple of years, they ended up gaining fame thanks to their participation in AJPW or Pro Wrestling Zero 1.
Io Shirai: 10 Fun Facts About The Japanese Wrestler!
Who is Io Shirai?
Masami Odate is a Japanese professional wrestler, better known under her ring name Io Shirai. She currently works for the WWE company in the NXT brand. Making her debut in March 2007, Io spent several years working as a tag team wrestler, teaming up with her older sister Mio Shirai, with whom she would fight for various promotions in Japan and Mexico, winning the TLW World Young Women’s Tag Team Championship in the process. In June 2010, the Shirai family teamed up with Kana to form the stable Triple Tails, which would last for fifteen months, before Io parted ways with the group and began her individual career with the World Wonder Ring Stardom promotion. In April 2013, she won the promotion title, the World of Stardom Championship, which she would hold for more than fifteen months.
Shirai was previously in a relationship with fellow professional wrestler Kazushige Nosawa; the two lived together. Reportedly Shirai is committed to the star of New Japan Pro-Wrestling Evil.
In May 2012, Shirai and Nosawa were arrested at Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba upon their return from Mexico on suspicion of attempting to smuggle 75 grams of marijuana, hidden within paintings, into the country.
Both Shirai and Nosawa denied the charges, claiming that the paintings were gifts from admirers.
Shirai was released from a detention center and held a press conference in which she publicly apologized to her fans, employers and co-workers, while again denying the charges. Shirai also revealed that she had not considered retirement, but wanted to go back to work and regain the trust of her peers and fans, while also revealing that she and Nosawa had ended their relationship.
On June 28, the prosecution of Japan decided not to prosecute Odate for the incident.
On July 9, Mexico-based Japanese wrestler Takuya Sugi held a press conference and confessed to planting drugs in Shirai and Nosawa. According to Sugi, Masahiro Hayashi, who worked as a liaison between AAA and Japan and who had a personal grudge with Nosawa, had promised her a contract extension with AAA in exchange for the deed.
Alliance with Kana
Io and Mio Shirai began teaming up with Kana (Asuka), one of the most popular fighters. This alliance allowed both Io and her sister to continue climbing in the business, although it did not allow them to win championships, since whenever they obtained opportunities, the champions managed to retain their championships.
2011 would be the year that Io Shirai came to Stardom – where she would spend more than seven years. In this place, Io was positioned as the best Japanese fighter, obtaining many championships and achievements such as being an individual champion, in pairs and in trios.
Among her achievements, two reigns as Stardom World Champion stand out, she was also once Goddess of Stardom, Wonder of Stardom, High Speed and SWA World Champion and a record of five times Artist of Stardom Champion, which places her as the only one Stardom Grand Slam Champion.
She is recognized as the “ace” of Stardom, and was named in 2015 and 2016 as the female fighter of the year by Tokyo Sports. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has called Shirai and her Stardom teammates, Mayu Iwatani and Kairi Hojo, as one of the “three of the best female wrestlers in the world.”
Io has also had experiences outside of Japan, She has participated in events in Mexico. She also had an appearance on Lucha Underground, where she did a Stable with another NXT fighter, Kairi Sane.
Io was confirmed in WWE on July 30, 2018, after several years of speculation, she could have arrived earlier but an injury prevented it.
In WWE, Mae Young Classic and NXT was her debut (2017-2019)
In October 2016, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that both Shirai and Kairi Sane had been contacted by WWE and offered contracts at WWE as of 2017. Shirai reportedly informed Stardom management that she accepted the offer.
In March 2017, Shirai participated in a WWE audition at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. On May 15, 2017, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that Shirai had accepted the contract offer and in the following month, it was reported that a medical examination had found an injury on the neck that would delay Shirai’s WWE debut.
In August, Meltzer reported that just as doctors had cleared Shirai to return to the ring, WWE had rescinded her contract offer, noting that the company had a ” General rule of not wanting to bring in a new talent who has concussion problems or neck problems. ”
It was later reported that the medical examination had also found a problem with Shirai’s heart. Japanese doctors had cleared Shirai for both her heart and neck, but WWE documents suggested going through.
Six months later, on May 28, 2018, Tokyo Sports reported that Shirai was in talks with WWE. On May 29, Shirai announced that she would be leaving Stardom.
Shirai made her first official appearance for the promotion on June 30, 2018 at a WWE house show at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, where it was announced that she had signed with the promotion and would compete in its development territory, NXT.
In July, it was announced that Shirai will participate in the second Mae Young Classic tournament.
The Pirates of Heaven
On the December 19 episode of NXT, in what was her television debut, Shirai teamed up with Kai when the two defeated Duke and Shafir in a tag team match, and due to her victory, a week later, Shirai competed in a fatal four-way match to determine the number one contender for the NXT Women’s Championship, however, the match was won by Bianca Belair.
Shortly thereafter, with Kai out of the game by injury, Shirai continued teaming with Kairi Sane, forming a team called “the Pirates Heaven” while still beating several opponents.
In April 2019, Shirai laughed at Sane’s rematch with Baszler and attacked her as she sought to hurt Sane, resulting in a disqualification loss for Sane. As a result, Sane was not allowed to compete for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Upon moving to the main roster of Sane and the dissolution of The Pirates of Heaven, Shirai continued her feud with Baszler, Duke, and Shafir as the three continually attacked her.
Champion Women’s NXT (2020-present)
During a fight against Toni Storm in the episode of the 22 January 2020 NXT, Shirai suffered a minor injury that kept her out of action for two matches. She returned in the episode of March defeating Aliyah and calling for a flight of stairs.
In the episode of April 8 NXT, Shirai won the battle ladder for a chance against new NXT women’s champion Charlotte Flair. She received her title match on the May 6 episode of NXT, which she won via disqualification when Flair attacked her with a kendo stick. Shirai got into a history with Flair and Ripley (whom Flair defeated to win the title at WrestleMania 36), that led to a triple threat match at TakeOver: In Your House.
At the event, on June 7, Shirai defeated Flair and Ripley to win the NXT Women’s Championship, marking her first title win in WWE.
Over the summer, Shirai would switch to tweener and successfully defend her title against Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai.
In September, Shirai renewed her rivalry with Candice LeRae. Their feud sparked two title fights, including the first tables, ladders and scares match, in which Shirai could retain her titles.
In March 2017, Shirai appeared in a photograph in Weekly Playboy.
Io Shirai made her debut in video games as a playable character in the WWE 2K20.