The tales of Asuka promised an immortal; reality delivered something a bit less legendary.
The longest reigning NXT women's champ of all time stepped onto the WWE Raw stage amid a symphony of buzz. She defeated Emma on consecutive nights, forcing her foe to tap out at Sunday's TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view and Monday's Raw.
On the surface, there's little to pick apart.
The new arrival won her first two matches. Both of them were quality contests, but Asuka looked good rather than superhuman, a strong competitor rather than a force of nature.
WWE has got a number of parts of Asuka's presentation right. There was ample hype before her debut. Raw Superstars fought for the chance to face her, and the announcers gushed about her as she went to battle.
The missing element is living up to the dominance all those vignettes denoted.
All the videos painted her as a destroyer, as someone on a tier of her own, as a striker and submission artist to be feared. Both WWE and the warrior herself has told us: "Nobody is ready for Asuka." Emma sure looked ready, though.
She and Asuka traded the advantage several times during both matches. The Aussie at times manhandled The Empress of Tomorrow. Asuka's victories weren't especially impressive.
As WrestlingInc.com pointed out, that didn't match up with how WWE tried to sell Asuka:
Her first outings didn't need to be a 15-second steamrollings, but Asuka getting a bigger percentage of the offense at this point makes more sense. Her having Emma reeling more does, too. Emma may have lost, but she doesn't have any reason to fear this new arrival.
And neither does any of the Raw women's division.
Nothing about Asuka's opening salvos spoke to her being a five-star prospect. She has looked like a solid-but-ordinary Superstar. She didn't get the treatment Braun Strowman received en route to being a monster in a class of his own.
Voices of Wrestling noted that WWE hasn't built up her aura to this point:
It could certainly be worse. The Empress of Tomorrow could have lost or been turned into a cartoon character. But avoiding those outcomes isn't enough.
WWE hasn't yet taken full advantage of what Asuka can be. It's early and that can change, but it won't be able to re-do her debut. It can't change the audience's first impressions of her.
Asuka needs to maul someone. She needs to beat up and intimidate the opposition. She needs to be the apex predator Goldberg was in 1997.
Otherwise, WWE will have missed out on the opportunity to signal to the audience that a special talent is indeed special.