Over the course of the past few years, WWE Women’s Champion Iyo Sky has cemented her legacy as one of the most dynamic Japanese wrestlers in the company as well as one of the most impactful superstars on the Women’s roster. Whether she’s working alone or dominating as part of the Damage CTRL staple, the wrestler formerly known as Io Shirai has had one remarkable run over the past 16 years.
The road to the upper echelon of the professional wrestling world hasn’t been without its ups and downs or trials and tribulations, as Sky has faced and overcome a myriad of obstacles. Despite this, the former two-time WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion, Stardom fan-favorite, and world-renowned entertainer hasn’t let anything stop her inspiring journey to the top…
In 2016, Iyo Sky Underwent Back Surgery To Repair Her Coccyx
In July 2016, a little more than two years before she made her WWE debut in the second annual Mae Young Classic, Iyo Sky, who was still wrestling as Io Shirai, was forced to temporarily put her successful career with Japan’s Stardom female wrestling promotion on hold to undergo back surgery to repair her coccyx. In an emotional post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the future WWE Women’s Champion apologized to her fans due to her prolonged absence from the ring, promising to come back stronger than ever.
The following day, Sky shared an image of herself from the hospital thanking those who reached out and offered “warm messages,” which she called “very encouraging.” The setback was only brief, as Sky was back in action shortly after, and continued her run with the company for two more years.
Prior Medical Issues Almost Ended Her WWE Run Before It Started
In May 2017, the wrestling world was abuzz when Wrestling Observer Figure Four Online’s Dave Meltzer reported that Iyo Sky had accepted an offer to join WWE two months after participating in the company’s Performance Center. One of the biggest stars in Stardom at the time, this was going to be a major get for WWE, which was still bolstering its increasingly popular Women’s division at the time. However, the following month, Sky would face another setback, a neck injury that prevented her from jumping to WWE as quickly as everyone had hoped.
In June 2017, Meltzer (via FanBuzz) reported that a neck injury was discovered during Sky’s WWE physical and that she could be put on the shelf while the company’s doctors figured out the severity of the issue (WWE superstars Edge and Daniel Bryan were forced to retire prematurely earlier in the decade due to similar injuries). This would ultimately be a setback and not a career-ender, as WWE.com reported in June 2018 that the company had signed Sky to a contract and assigned her to the NXT developmental brand.
A 2020 Injury Briefly Put Her On The Sidelines
Iyo Sky would find a great deal of success during her run in NXT – she was named the 2018 Future Star of NXT, 2020 Female Competitor of the Year, and 2020 Overall Competitor of the Year awards, and won multiple titles including the NXT Women’s and Women’s Tag Team Championships – but like other wrestlers, she also faced some setbacks along the way.
In January 2020, Dave Meltzer (via Fightful) reported that Sky suffered an injury that would keep her out of action for two months, but it wouldn’t keep her down for long. After returning that March, Sky would go on to enter a feud with both NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair and Flair’s WrestleMania 36 opponent Rhea Ripley, which resulted in Sky winning the title and holding onto it for an impressive 304 days.
After dropping the title to Raquel González, who now goes by Raquel Rodriguez on the WWE main roster, at TakeOver: Stand & Deliver in April 2021, Sky would try her hand in the tag team division, eventually capturing the gold with Zoey Stark at The Great American Bash. They would end up holding the titles for 111 days.
Iyo Sky Fractured Her Ankle In April 2022, And Was Forced To Undergo Surgery
In April 2022, when it seemed like a post-WrestleMania callup was just around the bend, Iyo Sky suffered yet another setback. During NXT Stand & Deliver, Sky fractured her ankle and would require surgery, which put her out of action for several months. In an interview with Tokyo Sports that August, Sky revealed that she fractured her right ankle after crashing through the announcer’s table, adding that a bolt had to be inserted to hold the bone in place.
After a four-month break to heal and reevaluate the situation, Sky returned to wrestling. However, instead of going back to NXT and picking up where she left off, the decorated wrestler was finally called up to the main roster, where she immediately made a splash with the new stable, Damage CTRL, at the stellar SummerSlam 2022. The nearly four-month break would actually work in Sky’s favor, as she and her stablemates Dakota Kai and Bayley, would immediately take a place near the top of the division, with Sky and Kai winning the Women’s Tag Team Championship on two occasions since their return.
The WWE Women's Champion Considered Returning To Japan Before Making Her WWE Return In August 2022
Before making her return and starting what could arguably be her most successful run in WWE, Iyo Sky considered returning to Japan due to feeling isolated from her family and friends who were still back home. On the WWE After the Bell podcast (via Fightful), Sky was asked if she ever thought about going back instead of making her main roster debut, to which she said:
Yeah. I've been here four years. I came here by myself. I don't have family here and that time is so tough. I tried to think, should I stay here more or not. I got injured and after surgery, that time was thinking about my life again.
When Will We See Iyo Sky Next?
In the span of a year after making her debut, Sky would go on to win the two previously mentioned Women’s Tag Team Championships, the 2023 Money in the Bank ladder match, and then capture the WWE Women’s Championship after cashing in her contract on Bianca Belair at SummerSlam 2023, concluding a whirlwind of a year.
Only time will tell what the future holds for Iyo Sky. However, if the next five years are anywhere as successful as the past half-decade, then there’s a strong possibility we’ll one day be talking about her when discussing the best of all time.