Asuka must win the women’s Royal Rumble feud for Charlotte Flair

Asuka during her days as NXT Champion, with Triple H

Asuka during her days as NXT Champion, with Triple H
Photography: WWE

I’m not stupid. Well, I didn’t that stupid. At least some of the time, when the few neurons I have fire at the same time. I know Rhea Ripley is winning the Royal Rumble on Saturday. You know Rhea Ripley wins the Royal Rumble on Saturday. And that’s not bad! She is great. But it should be Asuka.

Rhea has been an underutilized bad guy for most of the time on the main roster. She’s about the only good thing about Doomsday, and I say that as an unapologetic Damien Priest fan (I liked him even when he was called “Punishment Martinez,” which was a big hurdle to cross). Even when she was saddled with a failson cipher like Dominik Mysterio, Rhea shined as a dominatrix who just quit her job because she couldn’t inflict enough pain. She’s really the only force on the women’s roster that isn’t just big. Rhea can do a lot of shit!

He also has a history with Bianca Belair, going all the way back to NXT. There’s no doubt that they could have a Mania quality match in Los Angeles, and they could probably steal the show if they get 15-20. Belair has become something of a Mania specialist, and Rhea is certainly on that level.

But WWE and Triple H can get to that match without Rhea winning the Rumble. She’s really the only credible challenger on Raw as it is. Bayley is made to look more foolish than deceitful, and she’s already had her chances against Bianca. Becky Lynch has a “been there, done that” feeling about Belair right now. Unless Alexa Bliss has turned to theatrics with Bray Wyatt, she doesn’t have enough in-ring ability to be in a Mania match with Belair. And even if he did, Bray Wyatt theatrics never really worked on the Mania stage (think bugs, imagine Alexa herself coming out of that freaking box). Rhea-Bianca is already in the water.

WWE needs something for Charlotte. The SmackDown the women’s roster is pretty barren right now. Raquel Rodriguez seems to have warmed to Charlotte, but she’s not ready for this kind of platform. Ronda Rousey is sulking once again because things didn’t go her way like the spoiled brat that she is. Which leaves Shayna Bazler spinning in the wind, even though she could be a pretty good dance partner for Charlotte. Or would be, if she managed to do something on the main roster like she did in NXT, which she didn’t. To the WWE audience, she’s just a face in the crowd.

Flair needs a legitimate challenger

If the goal is to give fans a Charlotte game they can actually sink their teeth into, then there’s only one choice. Asuka hasn’t disappeared like some, though she hasn’t been in the spotlight since she paired with Belair and Bliss to take on Bayley, Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai. The last time we saw Asuka, a month ago on Raw, she had her face paint removed, but she had a new, steely edge in her match with Ripley. Fans felt he was returning to his NXT/unstoppable monster days, if not his Japan/days of the killer clown. On social networks, she teased finding a newer and/or better version of herself, and there would be no better place for her to introduce a new leaf than to walk into the Rumble and clear the ring as a refreshed aggression machine.

She also has a rich history with Charlotte. The two had perhaps their best match at WrestleMania 34, when Charlotte ended Asuka’s undefeated streak that spanned her NXT and WWE careers up to that point. Asuka also had to be fed to Charlotte right before Wrestlemania 35, causing her to lose her title because Charlotte was retrofitted/stuck in a Lynch-Rousey match where she really didn’t fit.

Asuka still hasn’t recovered from that, which most fans felt was completely unfair. She had great success as champion a year later… during the pandemic. She has never been able to take home the title in front of a live audience. But Charlotte had work to do to fulfill the vision Vince McMahon had the first time around women’s main event that left fans feeling like Asuka was cheated. There’s unfinished business here that the Mania match could focus on.

WWE’s underutilized ace

It’s this feeling that Asuka never reached the heights she’s more than capable of with WWE that makes her the best choice to win the Rumble for a second time. She would be the first to do so, which gives her even more glory to take the top spot at Mania. While HHH has brought a host of wrestlers back into the company, who has really been revamped and improved? Maybe Rhea? Debatable. Here is a real opportunity.

A new dawn for WWE, along with Asuka showing a desire to remake herself, gives both are the path to Asuka’s true revival. Her career was defined by Charlotte and losing to Charlotte. First, it was the end of her dominance. Then it was an example of how she was never going to be on the same level as Charlotte or Becky or even Ronda, despite probably being a better worker than all of them. Still, she belongs there.

Another match with Charlotte can put all that firmly in the past and give Asuka a great main roster. Now 41 years old, it won’t be forever. WWE could get a lot out of it reborn, murderous, terrifying Asuka. More than the kind of adorable, very funny, still technically gifted performer they’ve had for the past year or two. There’s no better way to get to the first avenue than for her to finally get one over Charlotte, and the symbolism of a revamped Asuka moving outside of Vince’s old standby/binky into Charlotte would be hard to miss. And the best way to get there is for this new version of Asuka to take over the Rumble.

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