Returning WWE Stars Remain Works in Progress, Repackaging Asuka, More Quick Takes

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured Columnist IVDecember 19, 2022

Returning WWE Stars Remain Works in Progress, Repackaging Asuka, More Quick Takes

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    It's too soon to tell who among Triple H's recent rehires will sink or swim.
    It's too soon to tell who among Triple H's recent rehires will sink or swim.Credit:

    Triple H has done a world of good for WWE's on-air product since assuming creative power back in July, including bringing back many familiar faces that Vince McMahon either mishandled or never gave an opportunity.

    Some have been successful so far, but others have struggled to connect with the audience and have fallen short of fans' expectations.

    It's important to remember that many of them remain works in progress—another few more months are needed until their return runs can be accurately analyzed. Tweaking and repacking certain characters can be effective, as it has proved to be for someone such as Asuka in recent weeks.

    The Empress of Tomorrow has captured many championships since signing with WWE years ago but hasn't been interesting in quite some time. Her recent repackaging has injected new life into her career and the Raw women's division as a whole.

    This installment of Quick Takes will look at Asuka's resurgence, how AEW's Winter Is Coming special produced one of wrestling's best moments all year, how a Hurt Business reunion could be looming, and more.

Triple H's "Underwhelming" Rehires Can Still Be Salvaged

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    WWE insider Twitter account WrestleVotes revealed last Wednesday that Triple H and other officials have been "severely underwhelmed" by some of the recent rehires and feel they have "underperformed" compared to what was expected of them upon coming back.

    There are a few reasons why certain stars haven't gotten over the way they should have.

    Some of the blame can be put on the talent, but a majority of it falls on the booking and subpar creative. If they aren't being presented as anyone important, fans will be a lot less willing to get invested in them.

    Hit Row hasn't clicked as an act at all since returning to SmackDown. Part of that is due to their need for a fourth member who serves as the singles centerpiece (i.e. Swerve Strickland), but it's not as if there's been a great effort from WWE to push them, either.

    Dexter Lumis has also fallen flat so far on Raw, but in his case, that's a direct result of his storyline with The Miz being dragged out past its expiration point. Regardless, all of these returning wrestlers can be salvaged if the proper changes are made in the coming months.

    Some have been back for a few months already, but more time is needed until it can be determined whether they've been a bust or not. That said, their situations will only improve if Triple H hasn't lost interest in them yet, and that will be what separates him from Vince McMahon as a booker.

WWE Has Finally Figured out How to Properly Utilize Ricochet

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    For every few Superstars who have flopped during the Triple H regime, there have been many others who have benefited greatly. Ricochet is a prime example of that.

    After starting out the year as a non-factor, Ricochet clinched his first Intercontinental Championship in March and reigned as champ for three months. Thanks to Triple H, his best work of 2022 occurred in the months following his loss of the title.

    For the first time since joining the main roster, The One and Only is a regular fixture on WWE TV, as he should be. He's knocked every opportunity he's been afforded out of the park by having terrific matches on a weekly basis.

    Many fans may have forgotten that he is one of the best athletes in the world and incredibly exciting to watch work. From his thrilling affair with Carmelo Hayes back at NXT Worlds Collide to his outstanding outing against Gunther on Friday's SmackDown, he has been on a tear these past six months.

    Ricochet doesn't need to be unbeaten to feel special, and spotlighting him for the spectacle he is has been a brilliant move on WWE's part.

Chris Jericho vs. Action Andretti Exemplifies How Wrestling Moments Are Made

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    Chris Jericho has been involved in many monumental moments throughout his wrestling career, and he was responsible for creating yet another one with Action Andretti on last Wednesday's Winter Is Coming edition of Dynamite.

    Delivering a moment as special as that one isn't easy nowadays, especially when everything in wrestling feels like a retread of something we've seen before. Although Jericho vs. Andretti was no different, it was perfectly executed, and the crowd's reactions managed to make Andretti feel like a star.

    What started out as an apparent squash match between the two quickly turned into a competitive contest, with Andretti taking the fight to Jericho. Andretti then pinned him in shockingly clean fashion to pick up one of the biggest upset victories in recent wrestling history.

    The aftermath will be incredibly important and will determine whether this moment will stand the test of time or not. Jericho's meltdown may end up being the focal point, but it would be foolish for AEW to not let Andretti ride this wave of momentum by racking up more impressive wins on television.

    In an age where everything in wrestling feels predictable, AEW and even WWE could use more moments that were as organically great as this one.

Bobby Lashley's "Firing" Must Involve Hurt Business Reunion

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    Monday Night Raw hasn't been an exhilarating show these past few weeks, but Bobby Lashley's "firing" courtesy of Adam Pearce provided the perfect cliffhanger for the program last week.

    This came after he disobeyed the WWE official's orders again by attacking a referee. Pearce later rescinded Lashley's "firing" via Twitter, but fans are still questioning where WWE is headed with this angle.

    The many mentions of Brock Lesnar on TV as of late indicate the rubber match between the two is coming, but whether it happens at the Royal Rumble or is saved until WrestleMania 39 remains unknown.

    Either way, the storyline should involve The Hurt Business getting back together and putting the Raw roster on notice.

    The group was a recurring highlight on Monday nights from mid-2020 through early 2021 and was broken up prematurely. Triple H can right that wrong by reuniting them in the immediate future.

    It can play out any which way, but it would be logical for Lashley to want to wreak havoc on WWE by realigning with the men (MVP, Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander) that had his back when he was at his most dangerous.

Asuka Returning to Her Roots Is Long Overdue

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    During her two-year stint in NXT, Asuka's booking was practically perfect. She remained undefeated for two years and had one of the most dominant title reigns in NXT history.

    Amazingly, her momentum seamlessly carried over onto Raw in late 2017 and she endeared herself to the audience quite quickly because of how she was portrayed. She lost a little bit of that mystique upon being beaten by Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34, and she never reached that level of stardom again.

    She has been champion many times over in WWE but has never been slotted above The Four Horsewomen on either Raw or SmackDown. It hasn't helped that she's been playing the same wacky character for years and hasn't been nearly as intimidating as she once was.

    If her match with Rhea Ripley last Monday on Raw was any indication, we'll be getting aggressive Asuka back soon, and she will be much better off for it.

    Dropping the over-the-top antics and returning to the roots of what made her feared in the first place will give her the fresh coat of paint she needs.

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.