Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Asuka returns to form in time for TLC

It’s been a tumultuous year for Asuka. She seemed poised for a big push following her dominant run as NXT Women’s Champion. In January, she entered and won the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, punching her ticket to WrestleMania. She and the Miz won the inaugural WWE Mixed Match Challenge. 

At WrestleMania, she lost to Charlotte, unceremoniously ending her undefeated streak. The match was easily one of the best on the card, but the outcome felt premature. Surely there were more stories to tell using the streak.

It was an odd decision for someone with so much momentum, but there was no doubt she could bounce back. After all, the streak wasn’t what made Asuka so entertaining. It’s her timing, workrate, and in-ring presence.

Fans were hopeful when she got her next title shot, at Money in the Bank. Instead, The Empress of Tomorrow lost in uneventful fashion. After another loss to Carmella at Extreme Rules, she got lost in the shuffle. Losing to a seven-time Women’s Champion is one thing, but losing to Carmella in two forgettable pay-per-view matches was hard to understand.

Recently, Fightful reported Asuka received a renewed push because of the crowd reaction she got on the go-home episode of SmackDown Live before Survivor Series. When Becky Lynch stood in front of her to choose her replacement, the fans gave a surprisingly huge ovation. Obviously, Becky ended up picking Charlotte, but WWE took notice.

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In the last three weeks since, Asuka looks more like the character who debuted on the main roster, a year ago. Her win in the Battle Royal for a spot in the first-ever women’s TLC match evoked shades of her Royal Rumble win. She’s no longer gracious about losing to Charlotte. On Tuesday, the two put on an incredible match in the main event.   

It would be a shame to see her go to tag matches and comedy segments. That’s why she should win this weekend at TLC. After the last eight months of underwhelming booking, it would be fitting for her to finally win the SmackDown Women’s Championship at the event where she made her WWE in-ring debut.

This is also a good chance to create some new match-ups for the title going into 2019. Asuka hasn’t been in a real storyline since July, and it would give Becky another viable opponent other than Charlotte. If Charlotte and Becky enter the Royal Rumble, it opens the field for another woman to challenge for the championship.

Even if she doesn’t win, it’s hard not be excited about a match involving three of the best women on the roster. The title picture for the SmackDown Women’s Championship is more compelling than it’s been in months. Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come for Asuka.

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