How to Rebuild Asuka as a Menacing Threat Again on WWE SmackDown Live

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2018

Credit: WWE.com

Asuka has fallen far from where she was on the card a mere six months ago, but despite the damage that's been done, she can still be rebuilt as a threat on WWE SmackDown Live.

For the first two-and-a-half years of her WWE career, she was known for her unprecedented undefeated streak. NXT did an exceptional job of protecting her and ensuring she never suffered a loss during her tenure in developmental.

Given WWE's track record of squandering once-promising NXT talent, there was no telling how she would fare on the main roster upon being called up in the final few months of 2017. However, she came across like a star as soon as she arrived on Raw and continued her winning ways on Monday nights.

It wasn't until her victory in the inaugural women's Royal Rumble match that it appeared WWE was ready to invest in her as a major player for the women's division. Her strong booking and above-average matches led to her gradually getting over with the audience and becoming a clear contender to Charlotte Flair's SmackDown Women's Championship.

Their one-on-one outing at WrestleMania 34 was among the most anticipated matches on the card going into the event—and also the most predictable. There was no reason for Asuka's undefeated record to be broken, but that didn't stop WWE from having her lose to Charlotte in decisive fashion.

Asuka's vulnerability and undergoing a slight character change by coming up short for the first time would have been excusable had the follow-up not been nearly nonexistent, ruining any momentum she had before and after WrestleMania.

Credit: WWE.com

Her move to the blue brand in April as part of the 2018 Superstar Shake-up was a welcome change in scenery after she beat almost everyone on the Raw women's roster. Additionally, she was in pursuit of the SmackDown Women's Championship before The Show of Shows.

However, Asuka hardly made much of an impact on SmackDown and was almost immediately positioned as a background player behind Carmella, Charlotte and Becky Lynch. Even her program with Carmella for the title was lackluster, and her back-to-back losses to The Princess of Staten Island were detrimental to her stock.

Now, The Empress of Tomorrow is nothing more than just another woman on the roster because of WWE's inability to allow her to maintain her mystique. But she shouldn't be written off as damaged goods just yet.

Asuka proved during her lengthy stint in NXT that she was significantly more comfortable in the heel role than as a babyface. The longer she remained unbeaten, the more confident and arrogant she became, which was when she peaked as a character before transitioning to the main roster.

Her recent rivalry with The IIconics has been fine, but she should be involved in a more meaningful storyline. A heel turn would have been an interesting idea had Lynch not betrayed Charlotte at SummerSlam to kick off that feud, so it could be a while before that could come to fruition for her.

In the meantime, she should at least return to decimating her opponents within a matter of minutes, a tactic that helped her become popular in the first place. Not only that, but Asuka's explanation of how she plans to redeem herself following a lousy past six months would be a solid start as well.

Her outing against Billie Kay on the most recent edition of SmackDown Live was exactly what it needed to be: short, sweet and Asuka won with ease. WWE must follow that pattern in the weeks and months ahead by having her squash the likes of Peyton Royce, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville in an effort to build her back up to where she should be on the card.

It worked for Lynch, who is the new SmackDown women's champion, and the same can happen for The Empress of Tomorrow, too. In fact, a feud pitting the two against each other would be fresh and result in a stellar series of matches over the gold.

There's still time for WWE to right the wrongs it has made with Asuka and make her the dominant force she was destined to be on the blue brand.

                  

Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.

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