Asuka vs. Sasha Banks Is the Feud WWE Raw Didn’t Know It Needed
The card for Extreme Rules, as far as Raw's side of things is concerned, doesn't appear to be too strong on paper. Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton vs. Big Show aren't anything new, whereas Asuka and Banks battling for the Raw Women's Championship feels fresh and promises to be a blast.
This comes after Asuka successfully defended the prestigious prize against Charlotte Flair in clean fashion on Monday's Raw. Later on in the evening, Banks challenged The Empress of Tomorrow to a title match at Extreme Rules and vowed to follow in her best friend Bayley's footsteps by becoming a dual champ.
Aside from one match they had against each other over two years ago on Raw, Asuka and Banks have hardly crossed paths in recent years and thus they're the best two possible people to be fighting for that championship right now. That's in addition to how Banks has been in the midst of an extremely-well-told story with Bayley over on SmackDown and her upcoming encounter with Asuka will play into that.
Raw will have its weeks where it's a chore to sit through, and other weeks where you can't wait to see what happens next. At a time when the red brand needs something to keep fans coming back for more, Asuka vs. Banks can help bring back the sense of excitement the show has long lacked.
Raw's Women's Division Needs a Shot in the Arm with Charlotte and Becky Gone
As exceptional of a talent as Asuka is, Raw needs more than just her to make the Raw Women's Championship picture worth watching. The division is loaded with talent, but after being overshadowed by Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair for so long, it's difficult to care about most of them.
Enter Sasha Banks.
WWE will have to start building up other women outside of Asuka and the Four Horsewomen at some point, but for now, Banks is the perfect person to fill in for Flair and Lynch. She's already established and can serve as a filler opponent for Asuka before she moves on to some fresher faces.
Lynch announced her pregnancy over a month ago and will obviously be out of action through the remainder of the year. It was a big blow to Raw's women's division because of how most of the show has revolved around her for so long now, but at least Flair was there to serve as her replacement.
Coming off the Dave Meltzer's report on Wrestling Observer Live that The Queen could also be gone for an extended period of time, Raw needs notable names now more than ever. Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair and Liv Morgan can reach that level eventually but need to be built back up first, whereas fans can easily buy into Banks as a championship contender.
Needless to say, resuming the rivalry between Asuka and Nia Jax over the Raw Women's Championship isn't the answer and Banks is a far more satisfying choice. That isn't to say she should be a full-fledged member of the Raw roster going forward, but the red brand could use her and Bayley for a little while following their losses of Lynch and Flair.
Furthering the Storyline Between Bayley and Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks and Bayley are telling one of the stronger stories in WWE right now with more and more tension between teased between the two by the week. As such, it's apparent that The Boss is gradually being groomed for an eventual feud with her friend over the SmackDown Women's Championship.
It would be ideal for SummerSlam to be the pay-per-view where they finally go one-on-one, but it remains to be seen whether WWE wants to wait even longer to break them up. Either way, having the storyline play out through Extreme Rules this way is both effective and entertaining.
After all, Bayley is currently a dual titleholder as both the SmackDown Women's champion and one-half of the WWE Women's Tag Team champions. Banks would love nothing more than for that to happen to her as well and show the world why she isn't the weak link of their tandem.
That isn't to say Asuka is an afterthought in this rivalry, as she could play a pivotal role in further driving a wedge between Banks and Bayley. Banks will give her all she has, and even if she falls short against Asuka, at least she would have proven her worth and gained something in defeat.
Bayley can volunteer Banks for a match only so many times before it starts to get old, so the direction WWE is moving in now with them (albeit temporarily) is a nice change of pace. If and when Banks loses to Asuka, she can betray Bayley and begin her pursuit of the SmackDown Women's title heading into SummerSlam.
Two-Woman Power Trip?
Immediately following WrestleMania 17 in 2001, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Triple H formed an unstoppable tag team that saw them set their sights on every piece of gold WWE had to offer. Sure enough, within a matter of weeks, they were in possession of the WWE Championship, the Intercontinental Championship, and the World Tag Team Championship.
Bayley and Sasha Banks, assuming Banks is successful in beating Asuka for the Raw Women's Championship at Extreme Rules, can achieve that same feat and become the first pair of females in WWE history to do so.
It isn't completely out of the question for that to happen. Of course, Asuka retaining the title to pave the way for Banks vs. Bayley at SummerSlam is the most obvious outcome, but it could be fun for the inaugural WWE Women's Tag Team champions to parade around Raw and SmackDown for a month or so with all the gold.
To their credit, Banks and Bayley have been incredibly entertaining as a heel duo this year and have done more for the women's tag titles than anyone else up to this point. It's possible WWE runs into the issue of overexposing them by putting them on every weekly show, but other than that, it's perfectly logical for them to be featured as the company's top female performers with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair out of commission.
Additionally, Banks winning the Raw Women's Championship for a brief period could prolong her feud with Asuka and prevent her and Bayley from breaking up as soon as SummerSlam. That's only if they have a lot left in the tank together, but time will tell on that front.
A Rivalry That's Never Before Been Done
That first-ever one-on-one encounter between Asuka and Sasha Banks on Raw from January 2018 was truly terrific. It was almost too good for it to be on free TV, but it was evident at that point that WWE wanted to get the match out of the way before they embarked on separate paths en route to WrestleMania.
Over two and a half years later, it's finally time for them to wage war again and it's bound to be even better. Banks has been in her element as a heel lately, while Asuka has a ton more main roster experience under her belt now than she did back then.
WWE could have waited for them to be on the same show again to book this feud, but there's no telling when that will be. With Banks being one-half of the WWE Women's Tag Team champions, it makes sense to have her challenge for the Raw Women's Championship right now, especially with the story being told with her and Bayley wanting to dominate both brands.
Asuka has already feuded with the rest of the Four Horsewomen and beaten them all. She owns a victory over The Boss as well, but not multiple. As a full-fledged feud, Asuka vs. Banks has never been done before and is the best thing that could happen to the women's division with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair taking time off.
Nia Jax did very little to boost Asuka's stock as Raw Women's champion during their recent rivalry, whereas Banks is a bigger star who can have the great match with Asuka that Jax never could. As thrilling as Flair vs. Rhea Ripley and Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler were, this feud seems to have a lot more going for it and is already shaping up a major win for both fans and the division itself.
No One Else Is Remotely Ready for Asuka at the Moment
When The Empress of Tomorrow proclaims that "no one is ready for Asuka," she's 100 percent correct, at least when it comes to women on the Raw roster. Thankfully, Sasha Banks hails from SmackDown.
It doesn't speak too well to the current state of the Raw women's division when a SmackDown Superstar has to be brought in to challenge for the Raw Women's Championship on pay-per-view. However, there aren't many options that make sense at the moment.
Nia Jax has already failed to win the title twice while Shayna Baszler and Bianca Belair have been off the show for several weeks. Furthermore, Liv Morgan, Ruby Riott and Natalya currently lack credibility and wouldn't be interesting opponents for Asuka at Extreme Rules.
The only other person who would have worked was Charlotte Flair, but WWE gave away her anticipated rematch with Asuka on Raw this week and she tapped out. Although that's likely because Flair appears to be taking a break for the foreseeable future, it puts WWE in a tough spot ahead of their next pay-per-view.
After years of being overlooked and dealing with injuries, Banks is back in the spotlight where she belongs on the blue brand. She feels like a legitimate threat to Asuka, who needs to continue defending her title against high-profile competition and The Boss fits the bill.
Hopefully by SummerSlam, Baszler will have resurfaced on Raw and started her ascent toward the title again, but in the meantime, Asuka vs. Banks is the perfect program to hold down the fort on the flagship show.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.