WWE’s booking is a constant target for critique among fans. Watching Superstars with huge potential struggle on the main roster is made all the worse when you realize that it could have been so different. Yet with Asuka set to make the transition from NXT to Monday Night Raw – WWE has a great opportunity to not only spotlight a great talent, but help refocus a division that’s in desperate need of new ideas. If WWE are smart, Asuka will be a true main event talent.
Asuka’s arrival in 2015 was seen as quite a coup for the company. Her reputation already established in Japan, NXT provided the perfect playground for the Empress of Tomorrow to slowly work on building a reputation within the company. Even as WWE pushed women’s wrestling into the forefront, Asuka was the name on everyone’s lips. Her shadow has cast long over the last year of women’s wrestling – fans eagerly awaiting her promotion from the Florida brand. When she didn’t come up after Wrestlemania 33, fans were disappointed.
They weren’t disappointed this past Monday.
But the excitement of her imminent arrival is tinged with mild anguish. WWE has a habit of taking bright NXT stars and diminishing their potential. The clash of booking styles in Florida and on Monday Night Raw means that some Superstars fail to make the transition. Bo Dallas, The Ascension, Tyler Breeze, The Vaudevillians, The Revival, Emma, Adam Rose are just some of the names of Superstars that the main roster hasn’t been kind too. For one reason or another, the stars didn’t align.
Even those that have made a success of their main roster run, only a handful have become main event level talent. Outside of Kevin Owens and the Shield members, the successful generation of main event talent has been mixed. Bray Wyatt, for example, is a former WWE Champion – but you’d be hard pressed to consider him a main event talent thanks to some incredibly poor long-term booking. Not even the likes of Finn Balor can escape the tedium of WWE’s yo-yo booking – having struggled to recapture the kind of momentum that should have come easily.
It’s a problem that’s afflicted the Four Horsewomen, who have suffered through awkward booking (Sasha Banks and Bayley in particular have been damaged to certain degrees). Once upon a time, Bayley’s name rang through arenas as fans pleaded with WWE to give her a chance. Prior to her injury several weeks back, audiences were busy booing her audibly. It’s a sign of fan frustration and points to the single biggest problem WWE has right now – the gap between NXT and the main roster is littered with pitfalls.
Timing is everything in wrestling, Asuka’s arrival came at a very opportune moment. As the Four Horsewomen (Charlotte, Sasha, Becky and Bayley) were transitioning to the main roster, her arrival gave NXT a new sense of direction. By avoiding those four women, WWE has managed to keep her special by not having her lose. Immune to the yo-yo booking that has afflicted the rest of the women, Asuka’s star power has only risen. Her 500+ reign as NXT Women’s Champion is a genuinely impressive feat in a company that values quantity over quality. The fact she hasn’t been pinned or submitted (Yes, there was that one tag match, but she didn’t eat that pin) means that she’s instantly different from everyone who came before her.
Her imminent arrival is a gift that WWE can’t afford to squander. A legitimate star with the potential to not only have great matches but tell a story that genuinely could change a division. Up to now, the “women’s revolution” has given women more air time – but failed to address the underlying problems that caused fans to turn off from Divas wrestling. Inadequate booking has seen audiences grow jaded with the likes of Sasha Banks and Bailey which, left unchecked, could potentially bring the Raw Women’s Division down. Audiences need to care about Superstars if they’re to stay invested, they need to care about the Championship.
Asuka presents an opportunity to change the way the Raw Women’s Divison operates. By having her work towards the Championship, it grants a belt that’s been hot shotted around, an air of legitimacy. It creates a challenge for every Superstar to rise too, an oppurtunity to tell stories that WWE’s booking hasn’t allowed for thus far.
To this end, WWE really needs to consider breaking out the main event level treatment for Asuka. If she’s to really make the difference that the Raw women’s roster needs, she has to be elevated as such. She has to be treated as anything but normal.
The main concern for me is that WWE fails to see the long term. In the desperate chase for viewing figures, the company makes rash, silly and sometimes downright dumb decisions. Decisions like taking the Women’s Championship off Sasha Banks four times without a successful defense Like teasing Bayley handing her belt away. This awkward booking has come to embody a company that reacts all too harshly – destorying long term credibilty. If Asuka falls to this kind of booking – she’ll be useless.
There’s so much potential in Asuka on the main roster. If booked right, she could easily be seen as a legitimate main event player. Not just on the women’s side – someone that audiences will pay to see fight. A WWE Superstar who people want to see in the ring. Someone who audiences take seriously. We’ve never had a Superstar like that on the women’s roster – it’s an exciting prospect.
The big question though – can WWE avoid the temptation of ruining it?