Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Asuka vs Charlotte

It’s officially Wrestlemania week! This year we have an absolutely stacked card. There could be five legitimate main events for varying reasons. So with that in mind, just like last year it’s not going to be enough to cover the show with a single Spotlight. Once again, I’m going to attempt seven Spotlights in seven days. And this time, I start with the SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Asuka vs Charlotte Flair.

Asuka vs Charlotte could be one of the best matches on the show. From an in ring stand point, I only have it behind AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura in my expectations. Asuka’s push has been unrivalled in WWE, and Charlotte has clearly been the queen of the company in recent years. It should be one of the featured matches on this year’s extravaganza. But for some reason, the hype just isn’t there. It feels like just another match.

There’s still one week for that to change. But it’s already been overshadowed to the point it will take something spectacular to give Asuka vs Charlotte the place of prominence it warrants.

Charlotte-Flair-vs-Asuka.jpg
Wrestlemania is the appropriate stage for this match, but the build has been underwhelming.

There’s one obvious reason for that. They’ve barely been on the same show. There was one promo exchange between them two nights after Fastlane, but Asuka has wrestled on Raw since her last SmackDown showing. And not just that, it’s not like this has been a teased match for ages, like Styles vs Nakamura. Or a dream scenario like Daniel Bryan’s return. It’s a match we all know can be great, but the build hasn’t justified the talent involved.

Maybe Charlotte has just lost some of her star power. She does seem to have lost some of her aura since her PPV win streak came to an end, despite having won the vast majority of her matches since. That also just about coincided with her move to SmackDown, with could have hurt her. She’s almost too far ahead of the rest, whereas on Raw she was the cream of the crop on SmackDown she can be seen to be peerless.

It’s also possible that WWE just have new priorities, namely Ronda Rousey. There was a time that Charlotte was the priority in WWE’s women’s division, then Asuka seemed to take that mantle round the turn of the year. Now, Rousey is the focal point. Much like we’ve seen with the likes of Becky Lynch and Bayley over the last couple of years, it’s easy for big names to fall by the wayside.

Becky Lynch Charlotte
In recent times the first SmackDown Women’s champion has been relegated to the role of “Charlotte’s Friend”.

The thing is, this is the biggest women’s match WWE has. For all the hype around Rousey, it’s Asuka and Charlotte that have been built up. Rousey has the mainstream attention, but it’s these two who are WWE’s players.

That’s not to be critical of Rousey. She is a star who will help WWE. It’s just that for this match, instead of it coming across like a battle for supremacy in the division, the winner will most likely win a match against Rousey next year.

And let’s face it, Asuka is going to win. I can’t see any way her undefeated streak ends before she becomes a champion on the main roster.

But that shouldn’t take away from the match. Kazuchika Okada has proven in New Japan that even when it’s obvious who’s going to win, the match can still be great, and the crowd can still buy into false finishes. These two are more than capable of doing the same.

Kazuchika Okada.jpg
That’s right, even in an article about a Women’s Championship match at Wrestlemania, I can work in a relevant reference to Okada.

But what is usually the most interesting questions still remains – what’s next for these two? If Asuka does win, you’d have to imagine a dominant title reign for the foreseeable future. Presumably that’s why Natalya beat Charlotte a little while back, to set up a challenger for the new champion after Wrestlemania. It’s possible that in a few months Asuka turns into the cocky heel she never quite fully transitioned to in NXT, leading to Ronda Rousey being the one to shut her up at next year’s Wrestlemania.

As far as Charlotte goes, she’s run through Natalya and the entire Riott Squad during her title reign. So if she stays on SmackDown, a heel turn would probably be the best thing for her. Carmella, Lana and Tamina can’t give her the same quality of matches as Asuka, Becky Lynch and Naomi can. But it may also be too soon considering she only really turned face one year ago as she moved to Tuesday nights.

She could also move back to Raw in a post-Wrestlemania Superstar Shake-up. As a face, she’d have Alexa Bliss to face, who she wrestled at Survivor Series but hasn’t had a proper feud with. She’d also have Absolution, and can help develop Deville and Rose in a way I’m not sure she could with Lana and Carmella. And on Raw, she could set up a match with Rousey down the line, and they’d be one step closer to the Four Horsewomen vs Four Horsewomen match that seems a natural option.

There will also be NXT call ups, with Ember Moon and Billie Kay & Peyton Royce seeming the most likely candidates. The Iconic duo could make good foils for Charlotte, and Moon is another one of those dream matches. But where any of them go, and who will be waiting for them, is anyone’s guess. Last year a handful of storylines just about to kick into gear were ruined by the Shake-up, so it’s impossible to tell who’s going to be where in a month’s time.

And finally, there’s the constant wildcard that is the Money in the Bank briefcase. I’ve been wondering for a little while now if Asuka will have to put her streak up against a cashing in Carmella. And I can’t decide if Asuka would win. On one hand, it would really put over her dominance if she beats two people back to back. On the other, Asuka’s dominance is already well established, it wouldn’t do anything for her. And it would be a way to end the streak cheaply, which would protect the Empress of Tomorrow but also open up more storyline possibilities. And it would make Carmella if she was the one to end the streak. Remember her badass promos after winning the contract in the first place? Doing that on a regular basis could make Carmella long term.

But I doubt that will happen at Wrestlemania, if it happens at all. What I do think we’ll get is an awesome match. Because it’s gone comparatively under the radar as I talked about at the top of this article, it’s my sleeper pick for the best match of the night. And I believe we will see a new champion crowned in the form of the undefeated Empress of Tomorrow, Asuka.

Asuka

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