As announced on last Wednesday's episode of NXT, Asuka is officially headed to WWE's main roster in the very near future. Although that should be celebrated, it also makes me fearful that WWE will somehow find a way to screw her up.
Now, that sounds like a tough task considering her charisma, exceptional in-ring ability and connection with the crowd, but look no further than Bayley as someone who was almost impossible to flop yet is way worse off than she was a year ago when she first joined Raw. Asuka should not meet that same fate, especially considering she has been built up better than just about anyone else in recent memory.
Sometimes NXT graduates will do fairly well for themselves on Raw and SmackDown Live and other times they will be unsuccessful and fizzle out instantly, but WWE simply can not afford to have Asuka flop. After her recent remarkable run in NXT, if she is anything less than the main attraction in either show's women's division, WWE will have already failed with her, and with how much potential she has to be a big star in WWE, the company must tread lightly with how they book her going forward.
It was almost exactly two years ago that Asuka arrived in NXT, and at first, I was fairly unfamiliar with her body of work prior to coming into the company. I had heard through the grapevine that she was a fantastic wrestler and assumed she would be an amazing asset to NXT's women's division, but it wasn't until TakeOver: Respect in October 2015 that I would see for myself just how good she actually was.
Let the record show that her debut match in NXT came against Dana Brooke, who was (and still is) very green at the time and struggled to put together a decent match. With Asuka's guidance, they had a hell of an bout and The Empress of Tomorrow came across like an absolute star with her flashy entrance and the aura she had about her inside the squared circle. Of course, Asuka emerged victorious, kicking off what would be one of the most incredible undefeated streaks in WWE's illustrious history.
Brooke's ally, Emma, then tried her hand at defeating Asuka and fell short but only after a stellar showing at TakeOver: London. If it wasn't already apparent by that point, Asuka had her sights set on becoming NXT Women's Champion and a dream match with Bayley hung in the balance. They finally clashed one-on-one at TakeOver: Dallas, and despite Bayley's best efforts, she was unsuccessful in knocking off Asuka. It was a very good match, but it was their rematch in Brooklyn later that summer that took my breath away, and she has had nothing but tremendous title matches since then.
Whether it was Nia Jax, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Nikki Cross or even a returning Mickie James, no one was on Asuka's level. Ember Moon came close to snapping the streak at both TakeOver: Orlando and TakeOver: Brooklyn III, but she too was conquered. Both of those bouts were phenomenal, and by that point, everyone was waiting with bated breath to see if Asuka could be beaten. The suspense of every nearfall on Asuka was unreal and created such an incredible atmosphere. That was the result of NXT protecting her so heavily for so long.
Originally, I expected Moon to take the title from her in Brooklyn last month, and part of me hoped she would because it would have been a surreal moment, but in retrospect, I'm glad she didn't. Very few people can say they left NXT without dropping their championship first (Paige being one of them), but no one can say they departed to the main roster while still undefeated. WWE has kept stars unbeaten for up to a year at times, but not a single Superstar in the past decade has gone nearly two years without being pinned or submitted.
That is a fantastic feat that needs to remain intact on the main roster. There is no doubt that certain acts feel less special on Raw or SmackDown Live compared to NXT because they're on television weekly as opposed to once or twice a month, but Asuka must be the exception. That isn't to say she should show up on occasion, but it isn't necessary to have her wrestling every single week. Her presence alone is enough to satisfy viewers, and what's impressive is that she still sometimes struggles with her English and thus her mic skills aren't too strong. Granted, she's easier to understand than Shinsuke Nakamura, but her promos are typically short and sweet. If that's what worked for her in NXT, that's what WWE should continue to do with her on the bigger stage.
It's official that she is headed to Raw, but what awaits her upon her arrival is unknown. I would imagine that she will immediately enter the title picture and challenge Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women's Championship, but she could just as easily build credibility with the audience by scoring a handful of victories versus Emma and Jax first. Either way, the entire division should be centered around her, similar to how the Universal Championship conversation is all about Brock Lesnar. The biggest difference is that Asuka is full-time and can contribute more to her division than Lesnar has.
Between Bliss, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and so many others, the amount of money matches Asuka can have on both brands is plentiful. Similar to Lesnar, she brings a sense of legitimacy to women's wrestling that we have never seen before. A Japanese women's wrestler reaching such heights years ago would have been unheard of based off WWE's lousy track record with Asian talents (Yoshi Tatsu, Gail Kim, Kenzo Suzuki, etc), but this is a different era. She can be the Ronda Rousey of WWE if the company allows her to be.
It has often been said that no one is ready for Asuka, and while that is true, WWE should be ready to give her the mega push she deserves.
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