Booking undefeated wrestlers quickly becomes tricky. Wins and losses are part of the ups and downs of being a performer, but when handled properly, even a loss can build up a character. When someone is supposed to remain undefeated and can’t lose, suddenly half the playbook goes out the window and writers are forced to be even more creative than usual.
That’s the challenge the WWE will face with Asuka, who made her in-ring main roster debut at TLC.
Even fans who don’t keep up with NXT have been made well aware of her resume over the last few weeks. Her women’s title reign in NXT reached 510 days — the longest any individual has held a belt during the WWE’s post-national expansion era. Asuka is also billed as having the longest undefeated streak in WWE history. In 2015, Dave Meltzer went as far as to call her the best worker in the WWE, man or woman.
The accolades roll off of Asuka every time she struts down to the ring, and the assumption has been that, upon getting called up, she’d roll through the entire Raw women’s division en route to another lengthy title reign. She’s been called a merchandising goldmine and with good reason.
She’s only had two matches on television to this point, and so far, Asuka hasn’t been booked like some kind of untouchable monster. Handling her in that way would have quickly gassed creative and their collective ability to tell interesting stories despite her always winning.
Instead, she’s had two strong bouts with one of Raw’s forgotten workers in Emma. Emma has been largely left on the backburner since the four horsewomen made their impact, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have plenty of potential as a performer. While she predictably dropped both of her matches to Asuka, they were booked in a way that allowed Emma to come off looking strong.
Here’s Asuka, the heir apparent to Alexa Bliss as the undisputed Raw Women’s Champion. Someone who overtook Bill freakin’ Goldberg and his insane win streak from the WCW days. A wrestler who no one in NXT had an actual answer for — in or out of the ring.
Then there’s Emma, a wrestler who has mostly been treated as a toss-in for big tag matches or mid-card fodder for the upper echelon of the women’s division. Yet when the two stepped into the ring at TLC — and again during the most recent edition of Monday Night Raw — they were essentially treated as equals.
Creative could have allowed Asuka to squash Emma, and it would have caught no one off-guard. Instead, it was largely a back-and-forth affair, with Emma getting in at least half of the offense. If not more. Again, she eventually took the loss, but her two fights with Asuka have given her credibility that she simply didn’t have a month ago. She lost, but she still hung with the Empress of Tomorrow. That’s not a bad look.
This probably won’t be a long program between the two, and it’s odd to think that an established veteran could receive a rub from a recent call-up. Yet that’s exactly what happened at TLC and during Raw. Asuka got the win, but she didn’t look untouchable doing so.
Could we see other performers who have struggled to get over — someone like Sasha Banks or Bayley — also get a similar treatment during a longer run with Asuka? What’s next up isn’t clear, but this early booking should give fans confidence that the WWE is going to leverage Asuka and her resume to help the rest of the division — not just allow her to steamroll it.