NXT TRACKER – ASUKA: A weekly assessment and predictions on the prospects of an NXT wrestler’s main roster future

By Kelly Wells, PWTorch Specialist

Asuka (photo credit Scott Lunn @ScottLunn © PWTorch)

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Welcome once again to the NXT TRACKER, where I pick an NXT talent, assess their progression to this point and make bold, sure-to-look-hilarious-in-retrospect predictions about their future prospects. Part of my intent, early on, has been to identify talent that’s probably going to move up sooner than later so I can use them here on the Tracker. We’ll get to the young Liv Morgans and Riddick Mosses of the world eventually, but today we’ll focus on Asuka.

The Talent

Asuka, like other imports on top of the pile in NXT, is no rookie. Asuka wrestled under the name Kana from 2004 until she signed with WWE in 2015. She won titles all over Japan and has remained undefeated since her NXT debut. While the WWE has a healthy helping of talented female wrestlers on the roster, she brings a stiffness and aggression that set her apart from the pack, along with a dark sensuality that never crosses over into being trashy. I’m kind of in love with her. Don’t worry; my wife already knows.

Signature Wins in NXT

There’s a lot of competition here, since Asuka has done nothing but win. For the first six months of her time in NXT, Asuka defeated the lower and middle-positioned heels in NXT while being given feuds that kept her from being in the title picture before it was time. She opened with a lengthy feud with Emma and Dana Brooke that culminated in a win over Emma at Takeover: London in December 2015. At the next Takeover event, in Dallas just before Wrestlemania, she beat Bayley in a hot match for the title that saw audiences split between the two very popular wrestlers (but leaning a little toward the almost-universally-lovable Bayley). Asuka has successfully defended her title at the three Takeovers since, against Nia Jax, Bayley and Mickie James. The win against James culminated in Asuka refusing to shake James’s hand afterward, though nothing has come of this heelish move.

Live Reactions

Asuka’s in-ring charisma had the audience eating out of her hand from the beginning. I hadn’t been so entranced by a debut in a long time when she showed up. Asuka is ruthless in the ring, so she’s won over the hardcore audience as well as the kids who just think she’s cool. I’m not one who loves constant fan chants, but I always look forward to a good “Asuka’s gonna kill you” and even got to participate in one at a house show where she and Ember Moon put on an excellent match.

The Booking

It’s hard to find fault with anything that’s been done with Asuka, who’s not only undefeated, but comes off like someone who’s earned that push. Tatanka was undefeated on TV for longer than this and didn’t have nearly this credibility, for instance (not a slam on Tatanka; he was just fine). I’ve also enjoyed the occasional displays of Asuka’s darker side, which occasionally straddles the line between face and heel without ever crossing over, though it’s clear she could be a successful heel if it was asked of her.

The Future

Women in WWE aren’t chewed up and spit out like MTV veejays anymore, but I wouldn’t bet on the company keeping them long past age 40, either, unless the harsh realities of being a woman in entertainment change dramatically, and soon. Asuka’s not a far cry off from that, so if she’s going to be expected to make waves on the main roster, it’s probably time to find someone who can reasonably defeat her. Given the match ahead at Takeover: San Antonio, there may be a plan – one I would agree with – to transition the belt off of Asuka without really having her lose it.

Predictions

I suspect Asuka will be called up before long. There are a lot of talented women between Raw and Smackdown, and it would be a tremendous division on one show but split in two, both still seem a bit thin. Asuka isn’t likely to have trouble getting herself over on the main roster, as ultra-stiff workers usually elicit some reaction immediately. At this point, I’d guess that Asuka will drop this title in San Antonio, get a rematch the night before WrestleMania that ends in a disqualification, and will be called up as an immediate post-WrestleMania boost to… oh, let’s say Raw. This worries me a little since Raw has a mixed history with getting the most out of their NXT callups, but I honestly think Asuka is a can’t-miss prospect that will win a main roster title within the year.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: NXT TRACKER – ANDRADE CIEN ALMAS: A weekly assessment and predictions on the prospects of an NXT wrestler’s main roster future

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