Asuka and the WWE Stars Who Should Benefit Most from Becky Lynch's Hiatus

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2020

TOKYO,JAPAN - JUNE 29: Asuka and Kairi Sane celebrate the victory during the WWE Live Tokyo at Ryogoku Kokugikan on June 29, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

WWE Raw will be without one of its biggest stars for the foreseeable future, which could be a blessing in disguise after the company let its women's division grow stagnant in recent months.

Becky Lynch announced May 11 she's pregnant. Since she was unable to defend the Raw Women's Championship, Asuka became the titleholder by virtue of her victory in the Money in the Bank ladder match.

The Man told People she's due in December, so she will probably be off television for the remainder of 2020. With its back against the wall, WWE has no other choice but to lean on some new stalwarts to anchor the Raw women's division.



While having Lynch surrender the belt was the obvious move, simply handing it to Asuka was somewhat puzzling. WWE could have had a match on Raw to determine a new champion or staged a tournament that unfolded over multiple weeks.

Still, this an opportunity to give The Empress of Tomorrow a soft reset and rebuild her as an unstoppable monster again.

Asuka couldn't remain unbeaten forever, but her loss to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34 really took the wind out of her sails as she was attempting to gain a foothold on the main roster off the back of her NXT run.

Bayley was in a similar position on SmackDown prior to winning the Money in the Bank briefcase last year.

She was treading water for the most part, with The Boss 'n' Hug Connection's tag title run providing a brief respite. It wasn't until Bayley's heel turn in September 2019 that things truly started to change for the better.

With Lynch gone, Asuka can reign over Raw in the same way Bayley has dominated SmackDown.


Kairi Sane

For the time being, Asuka looks tied up with Nia Jax heading into Backlash on June 14. The Irresistible Force attacked Kairi Sane backstage at Raw on Monday night, which drew retaliation from the new titleholder.

Looking ahead to SummerSlam or later in the year, an Asuka/Sane breakup is an easy way to build a compelling storyline around the Raw Women's Championship.

The Kabuki Warriors held the women's tag team titles for nearly six months, but that distinction has become almost meaningless with how little attention WWE has paid to women's tag team wrestling.

As a result, The Pirate Princess has suffered from the same lack of direction that plagued her teammate.

This was a star who defeated Shayna Baszler twice in marquee events, first in the inaugural Mae Young Classic final in September 2017 and then at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 in August 2018. She was crowned the Overall Competitor of the Year on NXT for 2018.

As much as WWE should shine a light on Asuka, this is a time to elevate newer faces into the upper echelon on Raw, and Sane is one of the most deserving candidates.


Peyton Royce/Billie Kay

Perhaps expecting some sort of trickle-down effect on Raw is overly optimistic. Lynch cast such a large shadow over the division and was so much of the focus that her absence could create a power vacuum in the division.

Rather than tabbing somebody to be the "new Becky Lynch," WWE should craft angles for the division that don't involve the champion in order spotlight a wider variety of Superstars.

The IIconics are the most obvious example.

Fans witnessed the possible seeds of a rivalry when Billie Kay slapped Peyton Royce following their disqualification loss to Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross on Monday.

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While not the biggest stars on Raw, the Australian pair have built a loyal following through their backstage interviews and friendship away from the ring.

As heartbreaking as it may be, separating the two would help them become more than just a comedy duo and create a story with actual emotional heft.

Part of what made Bayley's heel turn so meaningful is the fact that she had always been a clear babyface to that point in her career. Kay and Royce haven't been together for their entire NXT/WWE run, but the formation of The Iconic Duo is what helped them both take off in the yellow-and-gold brand.

Were The IIconics to turn on each other, it would feel like a genuine betrayal, which is something WWE could use to create a top heel on Raw.


Bianca Belair

Bianca Belair was stuck in a rut on NXT. Maybe she could have stayed and eventually dethroned Flair to finally capture the elusive NXT women's title.

However, Rhea Ripley will probably end up getting the belt back from The Queen, which would have meant more months of The EST of NXT treading water at Full Sail.

From that perspective, bringing her to Raw made sense.

At the same time, it's hard to see her general direction on WWE's flagship program. She might wind up in the same position Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan, where they do little of consequence when they get featured on the show.

The promotion can't keep cycling through the same established names, though, especially since one (Jax) is already being positioned to challenge for Asuka's championship.

Somebody new will eventually need to get a shot, and Belair checks all of the boxes for a future star. She has a great look, tons of charisma, supreme athleticism, and the ability to hold her own in the ring.

Assuming she can generate some momentum over the next couple of months, inserting Belair into the championship scene by the winter would be a smart move. The creative team could see how she's fitting in as a challenger—or the one at the top of the mountain—heading into WrestleMania 37 season.