Io Shirai currently holds the NXT Women's Championship. The Genius of the Sky won the coveted title in a triple threat match against former champions Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley at NXT TakeOver: In Your House earlier this year.
So far, Shirai has had an impressive reign. She defended the title against Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai, despite interference from Raquel Gonzalez.
In this week's episode of NXT, General Manager William Regal announced that eleven members of the NXT women's roster will go head-to-head in a battle royal next week to determine the next number one contender for Io Shirai's NXT Women's Championship. There are some big names set to take part in the match including former NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley and relative newcomer Indi Hartwell.
As the women of NXT prepare to face off for a chance to contend with Io Shirai, here are the top five potential winners of next week's battle royal.
#5. Will Xia Li win a shot at the NXT Women's Championship?
Xia Li has made sporadic appearances on the black and gold brand this year, but could she earn a chance to be in the NXT women's title picture soon?
Xia Li is a talented in-ring competitor, and WWE appears to be teasing a change in her character. On NXT, she and Jessi Kamea took on the team of Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro, who are now known as Team Ninja.
Following Li and Kamea's loss, their opponents offered a friendly handshake but Li rejected it. This may be just the change in persona that Xia Li needs to propel her up the ranks and into a match for the NXT Women's Championship.
Io Shirai and Xia Li haven't had many encounters in NXT. Earlier this year, Shirai stepped in to replace Li in a bout to decide which women from the brand would move forward to compete in a number one contender's ladder match for the NXT Women's Championship. The identity of the culprit who attacked Li to keep her out of the match remains a mystery. It could've been Shirai, who later won the ladder match?
#4. Could Candice LeRae be the next number one contender for the NXT Women's Championship?
It is hard to believe that Candice LeRae hasn't won a title with WWE yet. The Poison Pixie has been a mainstay in the NXT women's division over the last few years and has been involved in some big moments involving the NXT Championship at times.
Earlier this year, LeRae turned heel. She went from a friendly and dedicated member of the roster to someone who is selfish and cruel towards her fellow competitors.
There is also a history between LeRae and current NXT Women's Champion, Io Shirai. In 2019, LeRae supported Shirai in her feud against Shayna Baszler and tried to help her defeat the Queen of Spades in a steel cage match. However, The Genius of the Sky was unsuccessful, and their alliance ended after Shirai attacked her former friend. The pair had a brief rivalry following this, and Shirai defeated LeRae in their acclaimed match at NXT TakeOver: Toronto.
In the past, Candice LeRae earned a shot at the NXT Women's Championship against Shayna Baszler, which she unfortunately lost. Has the time come for Candice LeRae to gain another shot at the title?
#3. Could Rhea Ripley have a shot at becoming a two-time NXT Women's Champion?
Rhea Ripley is still one of the NXT youngest stars and she has been a huge part of the title picture during her WWE career. The Australian Superstar has been involved in some of the biggest NXT moments so far including leading the first-ever NXT women's Survivor Series team, as well as competing in the only NXT title match in WrestleMania history.
Ripley and current NXT Women's Champion, Io Shirai, also have a storied past. At NXT TakeOver: In Your House, Shirai pinned Ripley in the triple threat match with Charlotte Flair to become the new champion. Leading up to this match, Ripley and Shirai even ended up fighting backstage during an interview.
Lately, Ripley has come to the defense of The Genius of the Sky. Follow Io Shirai's successful title defense at NXT TakeOver: XXX, The Nightmare came to the ring to prevent Raquel Gonzalez from attacking the champion. However, Ripley stood on the ramp following this, watching Io Shirai closely as she celebrated with the belt. Does Rhea Ripley have her eyes on the NXT Women's Championship again?
#2. Will Raquel Gonzalez earn her first shot at the NXT Women's Championship?
Raquel Gonzalez made her first televised appearance on NXT aligning herself with Dakota Kai. Before this, Gonzalez competed in the inaugural and 2018 Mae Young Classic tournament where she was eliminated in the first round both times.
Gonzalez made her NXT debut at NXT TakeOver: Portland to assist Dakota Kai in her match against Tegan Nox. Gonzalez has been acting as a bodyguard of sorts for Kai since, accompanying her to the ring and interfering in her matches. However, Raquel Gonzalez has recently started to make a name for herself outside of their alliance. She notably established a rivalry with former NXT Women's Champion, Rhea Ripley.
Over the past few weeks, Raquel Gonzalez has become a dominant force in the ring. In a recent tag match against Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley, she secured the win for her team when she pinned The Nightmare. Gonzalez and Shirai haven't met much in the ring, apart from the post-match beatdown attempt and the recent tag match. Still, Gonzalez has shown herself to be a worthy contender for the NXT Women's Championship.
#1 Is Shotzi Blackheart in with a chance of becoming the next number one contender for the NXT Women's Championship?
Since she made her NXT debut in December 2019, Shotzi Blackheart has become a fan favorite on the black and gold brand, renowned for her in-ring skills and memorable entrance. Despite being involved in some great moments, Blackheart hasn't challenged for the NXT Women's Championship yet.
Over the past few weeks, Blackheart cemented herself as a top babyface in a rivalry with The Robert Stone Brand, often mowing down Stone with her infamous little tank. During this feud, the star received praise for her work teaming up with Rhea Ripley.
On this week's edition of NXT, Blackheart faced off against Io Shirai in a truly show-stopping match where both performers shined. The pair engaged in an intense back-and-forth in this non-title match and their styles were well suited against one another. Blackheart managed to force a near fall, but in the end, Io Shirai emerged as the winner.
In a post-match interview, Shotzi discussed how much she respects Io Shirai. However, it was clear that Shirai sees Blackheart as a threat. Before the match, she refused to shake hands with the Superstar. Could this lead to a future rivalry over the NXT Women's Championship?