By April Lavalle, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@imatoofbrush)
Although Asuka’s record-breaking streak lasted over two-and-a-half years and an impressive 276 matches, it still feels like it came to a premature end when ‘The Empress’ shockingly tapped out to Charlotte Flair during their intense 13-minute WrestleMania match on Sunday. The finish to Charlotte and Asuka’s match was a shock to most, and I am still not convinced that it was the right move.
After The Empress relinquished her NXT Title due to injury, the Asuka buzz started and had only grown until her debut on Raw October 27 after weeks of build up and many, many promotional packages. After six months of Asuka crushing every opponent she had on both on Raw and in the Mixed Match Challenge, it seemed clear that creative wanted to go the distance with her.
So it made perfect sense when Asuka went on to win the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble and chose to challenge the Women’s Champion on the Smackdown brand. Charlotte is one of the best wrestlers in the WWE today, and after building Asuka to be what seems like an unstoppable force it only makes sense to have these two incredible women beat the ever-loving shit out of each other.
And they did!
From entrance to finish, Asuka vs. Charlotte was a main event-worthy match by all accounts. However, that does not mean it was perfect.
Perhaps we should have known that Asuka was doomed after Charlotte, accompanied by several beefy dudes, entered the Superdome in a golden robe on an actual throne, to the tune of her legendary father’s music. Asuka’s bedazzled mask paled in comparison. But fans knew it was all over for Asuka when Charlotte hit that stunning Spanish Fly and proceeded to lock into the Figure Eight, causing Asuka to tap.
Of course, a loss to Charlotte Flair is nothing to be ashamed of, but Flair did not need this win. A former Divas, Raw, Smackdown, and NXT champ, we have seen Charlotte do it all— including lose. Charlotte retaining doesn’t particularly do anything for her besides confirm what we know— she is really good. It would have been nice to see Charlotte chase the belt for awhile, especially because she hasn’t had such a worthy competitor in quite some time.
However, Asuka winning the title at WrestleMania would have only been the beginning for The Empress. Instead, we saw Asuka tap after one submission attempt in an anticlimactic — and confusing — end to a match over two years in the making.
Ultimately, Asuka took the loss graciously and proclaimed that Charlotte was ready for Asuka…but where was the person whose “MY STREAK” scream had become somewhat of a battle cry? Sure, it was a nice display of sportsmanship, but it made me yearn for the Asuka who slapped Ronda Rousey’s hand out of the way…the one who elicited “Asuka’s gonna kill you!” chants from the crowd.
Not only that, but it was disappointing that both Royal Rumble winners lost their high-profile matches at WrestleMania, especially given their country of origin. It makes me wonder if Vince McMahon doesn’t trust two Japanese wrestlers who speak little English to be the faces of his company. Both Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura have yet to hold any titles on the main roster, despite having impressive reputations from their wrestling careers in Japan and being hugely popular with fans. Instead, we saw two white, veteran wrestlers retain their titles. And while AJ and Charlotte are talented and more than worthy champions, I felt that the WWE missed their opportunity to make an interesting change.
Of course, there are many who are already looking at the silver lining of Asuka’s loss. Some speculate that Asuka had to lose to set up an eventual Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair feud for WrestleMania 35. Others wonder if it’ll be Ronda Rousey vs. Asuka at next year’s WrestleMania. With Carmella’s successful cash-in on Smackdown this week, it is clear that Asuka didn’t lose at WrestleMania so Charlotte could retain. Then why did she? To let the audience know that she is not as strong as the company allowed you to believe for so long?
Here is one theory: WWE wrote themselves into a bind by giving Asuka her streak. WWE clearly made Carmella the first Ms. Money in the Bank without having a clear direction for her in mind, but knew that wanted her to have a successful cash-in. And creative probably knew better than to have Carmella end Asuka’s streak, so they decided to let her take the loss at the hands of Charlotte. Plus, now that Charlotte no longer has the belt, she can be moved to Raw, and Asuka could be moved to Smackdown during next week’s Superstar Shakeup. So in the long term, yes, I can see why Asuka needed to lose her WrestleMania match for booking purposes— but that only means that the WWE undermined their own storytelling at the expense of logistics, which is a shame.
And look, Asuka doesn’t need ‘The Streak’ to solidify her place as one of the top wrestlers in the company, but it feels like the WWE did a disservice to their own storytelling by ending it how and when they did. On the bright side, Asuka has a clean slate to wrestle without risking feeling too stale or predictable. And, more than anything else, at least I can now watch Asuka wrestle without the anxiety of ‘The Streak’ ending in a really absurd way.
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