After over 500 days undefeated as NXT Women’s Champion – a streak that blows even Goldberg’s out of the water – Asuka has relinquished the NXT Women’s Championship due to a collarbone injury and is on her way to the main roster.
How to handle the end of Asuka’s reign and her streak has been one of the core booking mysteries of NXT since she first won the title at TakeOver: San Antonio. In a broad sense, there were three options: have someone beat her for the title, the greatest accomplishment possible in NXT and one of the greatest in all of current WWE; have her vacate the title and go to the main roster; or, as a wild card option that was almost never seriously floated, give her a bananas Fabulous Moolah-style reign for decades until she retires or dies.
Who could beat her? Nikki Cross and especially Ember Moon were credible, but came up short in ways that still built them. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce could’ve cheated to win it, but despite it being a heel move it would’ve reeked of Kevin Nash tazing Goldberg. (That is, it would’ve deflated a great angle and spoiled a huge rub.) The only real option left was to have the Mae Young Classic award its winner number one contendership, and that winner would then go on to dethrone Asuka in what would have been an incredible story: running through some of the best female wrestlers in the world to get to Asuka perched on a throne of skulls like Shao Khan from Mortal Kombat and eventually beat her.
I’m still not totally swayed one way or another on if this injury is kayfabe to sell Ember’s finisher, so it’s possible that a legitimate injury forced their hands somewhat in a pretty convenient way. Then again, if the injury is purely storyline, then that’s a pretty brilliant booking move. It’s not delegitimizing the women’s division in the way that it would have if Asuka had simply said “No, none of you can beat me, I’m voluntarily vacating.” The footage of Asuka being chased outside by a referee shouting at her that she’s hurt is enough proof that the title is still deeply important. To everybody. Including Asuka, even if she won’t be in NXT anymore.
And on the plus side, Asuka can now continue her streak on the main roster.
I can’t say for sure what the alternative options would have yielded, and this definitely isn’t how most people would’ve fantasy booked things. But from a perspective of making the most people look the best… it actually ended up being the best possible move.
Intentional or not.
Written by Bobby Murphy (@RobertJMurph)
Image courtesy of WWE.com