After the struggle that was Fastlane this past weekend, I started to evaluate how I felt about specific aspects of WWE wrestling. In general, the wrestling product is strong, but I’m finding myself more and more at odds with the storyline decisions. This is absolutely a key contributor to why I’ve started to become much more invested in NXT as oppose to the main TV shows. For NXT, I personally find the biggest draw to be the Women’s Champion Asuka, who I feel is wildly underrated.
The Women’s Revolution that was spearheaded by the quartet of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley, may be the best story in wrestling from the past couple years. While I still find the women’s division one of the stronger aspects of the main roster shows, the belt swapping with Charlotte and Bayley/Sasha on Raw is disorienting, and the splitting up of the division hurt it overall. That said, what’s going on in the NXT women’s division continues to be one of the strongest parts of that show, which is spearheaded by Asuka. It is fair to say that the product in NXT is inherently different, as there’s less need to appeal to the mass audience of general WWE, but it’s important to note that Asuka is thriving with a unique character both inside the ring and out.
What personally draws me into Asuka’s work is her in ring style, namely, strong style. As a big fan of this technique of wrestling, which features fairly stiff chops and kicks, seeing Asuka perform so strongly in this manner is a big draw. Also, it’s important to note that we see very little strong style in WWE, with only Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura using it regularly (and the UK guys, but they haven’t been seen too much). On top of that, it’s almost unheard of for WWE women’s wrestling, so seeing it done is not only groundbreaking but a nice breath of fresh air. While the current wave of WWE women wrestlers have a strong technical game, few can match strikes with Asuka, which makes her an extremely dominant and convincing champion.
The main point of criticism you can lay on Asuka is her character outside of the ring, which is an odd, intense mix. It’s not too dissimilar to Nakamura’s approach, but where he has some weirdness she replaces with intensity. That said, while she doesn’t speak a huge amount (unsure if this is to mask that English is her second language, never personally seems like a barrier to me), she never feels lessened by it. This type of character also proves itself well in versatility, in that she is firmly placed as a tweener, able to fight both heros (as seen with her set to face Ember Moon at the next takeover) and villains (seen with her recent battle with Payton Royce, who is on par in villainy with The Miz). It is concerning in that WWE does not have the best history with foreign superstars, but with the sheer ability and popularity she has, it would be fiscally negligent for WWE to not pump her up when she make her way to the main roster.
While this post seems overly laudatory, that comes with what seems to be a fairly big oversight when it comes to what Asuka has accomplished in NXT. With being champion for nearly a year, she already has become the longest reigning champion, it’s ridiculous that we don’t talk about her in the same breath as Charlotte and Sasha Banks. Her style should easily transition to the main roster, but I’m truly unsure with what WWE will do with her there, as they seem pretty fixated on Charlotte remaining dominate overall (this may change at Wrestlemania this year), and it does concern me slightly. Asuka is a rare talent that brings a completely different style to a division that sometimes needs an extra boost with the casual fan. As I see more and more people become slightly bored with the main roster product, Asuka can be that shot of adrenaline that can boost up segments of the show.