Shayna Baszler has fallen short in her two biggest matches on the WWE main roster thus far, but delaying her ascent to the top of the Raw women's division will ultimately prove to be a smart move on WWE's part.
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Paul Davis of WrestlingNews.co), Baszler was originally scheduled to win the women's Money in the Bank ladder match, but WWE reversed course and had Asuka win the match instead.
Baszler was also reportedly set to win the women's Royal Rumble match as well, but she finished as the runner-up to Charlotte Flair.
Even so, Baszler went on to face Becky Lynch for the Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania 36. Baszler was impressive leading up to and during the match, but she lost to The Man when Becky caught her in a pinning combination.
The Queen of Spades seemed likely to win Money in the Bank and then enter into a feud with Lynch, but circumstances beyond the company's control may have led to the reported decision to change the finish and have Asuka win instead.
It was revealed on the Raw after Money in the Bank that Lynch was pregnant and unable to continue defending the Raw Women's Championship. As a result, she relinquished the title to Asuka and announced that Money in the Bank was for the championship rather than a contract for a future title shot.
Now, Asuka will have the opportunity to be the face of the Raw women's division moving forward, although Baszler will unquestionably be waiting in the wings.
Shayna made disparaging remarks regarding Lynch and her pregnancy on Raw a couple of weeks ago, which led to a mini-feud with Natalya. Baszler won two matches over Nattie, and that suggests WWE still thinks highly of Baszler and is attempting to keep her relevant and in the mix.
Baszler conceivably could have won Money in the Bank and gotten the title handed to her by Lynch, but it wouldn't have had the same impact that it will if and when she beats an established star like Asuka for the title in a traditional match.
Also, handing the title to a heel like Baszler would have taken away from Lynch's feel-good moment, and it is clear that WWE wanted to celebrate her pregnancy while also putting over Asuka as the heir to Becky's title reign.
While there can be value in a wrestler getting called up and almost immediately becoming champion at times, there is also value in playing the long game and having them face adversity before finally reaching the top of the mountain.
By putting the title on Asuka, WWE can build her back up with wins over other top heels in the women's division, including Nia Jax. Meanwhile, Baszler can get built up parallel to Asuka to the point that it becomes obvious they are on a collision course.
If both Asuka and Baszler are handled well in the coming weeks and months, then it will feel like a big deal when they meet and an even bigger deal if and when Baszler takes the Raw Women's Championship from her.
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