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Io Shirai returns, Shirai and Candice LeRae qualify for NXT ladder match

Io Shirai returned to action on NXT tonight and qualified for the upcoming number one contender's ladder match.

A qualifying match between Xia Li and Aliyah had originally been announced for the episode, but there was an angle where it was shown that Li had been attacked backstage. Aliyah was happy about the attack and wanted to win by forfeit. It was then announced that Li wasn't cleared to compete -- but the returning Shirai was.

Shirai defeated Aliyah with a moonsault.

This was the first time Shirai has wrestled since she suffered a knee injury on January 22. 

In tonight's second qualifying match, Candice LeRae submitted Kayden Carter with the Gargano Escape. Chelsea Green, Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, Shirai, and LeRae have now qualified for the number one contender's ladder match. The final spot will be decided when Li, Aliyah, Carter, Dakota Kai, Deonna Purrazzo, and Shotzi Blackheart face off in a second chance gauntlet match next week.

The ladder match was originally scheduled to take place at NXT TakeOver: Tampa. WWE has announced that -- starting next Wednesday -- the matches that were planned for TakeOver will air on NXT television over the next several weeks. The ladder match is airing in two weeks (Wednesday, April 8).

NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley is defending her title against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36. WWE hasn't announced when the winner of the ladder match will be getting their title shot.