This isn’t a post complaining that Becky Lynch tapped to Asuka at Royal Rumble – I already wrote one of those. It’s also not lamenting (Ronda Rousey word) the SmackDown Women’s champion not appearing on SmackDown the past two weeks.
If anything, I’m empathizing with WWE Creative. Because given their goal of making Rousey and Lynch’s match at WrestleMania 35 as big as possible so it can be a pay-per-view (PPV) selling main event, and the fact they want the focus of Elimination Chamber to be on the new Women’s Tag titles – I’m not sure what else they can do.
You can’t even really point the finger at the rumored and much debated possibility Charlotte Flair will be added to April 7’s Raw Women’s title match. At least not yet. Whether that bout becomes a Triple Threat or not, we still have two month until ‘Mania. WWE’s crafting several stories using the women atop the Raw and SmackDown cards right now, and revealing their plans for Flair right now doesn’t serve any of them. Eventually, she’ll join the chase for Ronda’s belt or turn her attention to the one Asuka has. But leaving us in suspense right now is best for everyone, even the Empress.
A quick feud could be thrown together for next Sunday’s event, but with six Superstars needed from each brand in the Chamber match for the tag straps, there aren’t a lot of good choices. They could use a recent NXT call-up as a challenger – Asuka & Nikki Cross certainly have history and chemistry together. But is a short program ending in a loss on a B PPV really helpful for Cross or Lacey Evans?
Luckily, both her character and the long undefeated streak Charlotte ended at WrestleMania 34 give Asuka an aura which allows WWE to market her as a presence looming over the division, even when she doesn’t appear. The typically top notch video package they aired on the Feb. 5 episode of SmackDown helped accomplish that. It would help even more if the other women on the roster talked about that, but again, everyone’s focus is on Lynch/Rousey or the tag belts at this point.
The reluctance WWE has shown, at least in the first two weeks, to have anyone mention Becky tapping at Royal Rumble is also odd… especially since it could be used to remind everyone what a fearsome competitor Asuka is, and as example of Lynch fighting through setbacks (while also establishing this layer of inner insecurity they seem to be trying to give The Man). But that dead horse has been beaten enough.
Not appearing on TV isn’t the only thing the Empress has done the last two weeks. She’s also been the post-205 Live dark match. Asuka again faced Charlotte at the end of the night in Everrett, Washington on Feb. 5. That’s a sign company officials think fans will stick around to see her, and possibly that she’ll be working with the Queen more going forward.
We might get some hints as to the direction the blue brand’s Women’s title picture will take next week, but I wouldn’t count on it. That’s the final build for Elimination Chamber, a show Asuka isn’t likely to be on. Any meaningful development for her will probably wait until Feb. 26.
And I’m not sure there’s anything else WWE can do at this point.