The New Year’s Day edition of SmackDown Live left the identity of Asuka‘s Royal Rumble opponent up in the air. In a backstage segment, each of the previous three champions – Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Carmella – made their case to Triple H. He simply responded that management would take it under advisement. But today, WWE announced all three women would compete in a triple threat to determine the number one contender to Asuka’s title.
Asuka’s reign as SmackDown Women’s Champion began after she defeated Lynch and Flair in the main event of last month’s TLC pay-per-view. The previous title holder, Lynch, won the belt from Flair at Hell in a Cell. Flair herself won it in a triple threat with Lynch and then-champion Carmella. The number one contender triple threat will be a rematch of that SummerSlam clash.
Flair previously defended her title against Asuka at WrestleMania 34, in a match that ended Asuka’s undefeated streak in singles competition. Carmella then claimed the title from Flair by cashing in her Money in the Bank contract after Flair was laid out by the IIconics. She defended the title against Flair at Backlash in a clean win. She subsequently defended it twice against Asuka, at Money in the Back and Extreme Rules, winning both matches due to the interference of James Ellsworth.
Asuka’s victory at TLC was seen as a welcome return to form after a lackluster post-Mania run. In addition to two embarrassing losses to Carmella, she had a disappointing tag run with Naomi. The pair to the IIconics at WWE Super Show-Down, in the latter team’s native Australia. Asuka previously held the NXT Women’s Championship for a record-setting 510 days, only relinquishing it due to a legitimate collarbone injury sustained at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III.
Check back in with Diva Dirt for more updates on the SmackDown Women’s Championship as we begin the road to WrestleMania 35.