Asuka will compete for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at WWE TLC on December 16. The Empress of Tomorrow will face off against Charlotte Flair and current champion Becky Lynch in the first ever women’s Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match.
This match is yet another step forward for the women’s division in WWE. Over the past couple of years, the company has made great strides for women’s wrestling and those strides are giving the female Superstars more spotlight than ever before. But regardless of how important this match is, the question is what needs to happen for Asuka?
Asuka’s rise in WWE would not have been possible were it not for the Women’s Evolution. Indeed if she had come along 10 years ago, she would likely have been dismissed as just a Japanese wrestler with an odd personality. But she was given a platform on which to shine and that’s due to the progress women have made in the company.
Asuka is not presented as Jimmy Wang Yang or Funaki. She is the real deal and her character is treated with respect. She’s not a comedy act and she shouldn’t be. But even though she’s in a good spot in Vince McMahon’s company, she’s not exactly in a great spot.
It does seem as though Asuka has lost some serious momentum over the past several months. Many fans would likely argue that she’s never been given what she needs since she got to the main roster. She was a beast in NXT. She was also the most dominant female star in the brand’s history.
But she has yet to reach that elite level on the main roster. Some point to her loss at WrestleMania 34 as the moment when her career derailed and perhaps that’s true. After all, Asuka’s mystique was still very much in effect when she came into her match with then- Women’s champion Charlotte. But after Asuka lost? Not so much.
It seemed that when her undefeated streak ended, her spotlight dimmed. The streak meant more to Asuka’s career than anyone really knew and that has been evident in the months following her loss. She’s not been the same and everyone knows it.
Of course if a Superstar stays in WWE long enough, then she will experience her share of hills and valleys. It’s the ebb and flow of WWE and virtually everyone must go through it at some point. No one stays on top forever. The moment always comes that the downtrend happens. That’s when the fans see what the star is truly made of and that’s also when the company decides how to proceed with that star.
This is where Asuka is right now. She’s had her fair share of false starts and even though she’s not exactly hit rock bottom, she does know what it’s like to just float along with no direction. But if anyone in WWE can swim rather than sink, it’s The Empress of Tomorrow.
This is where Asuka’s personality comes into play. She’s unique, she’s a bit eccentric but she’s always intense. Asuka brings a level of believability to her character and to her performance that few others can. She seems dangerous, as if she’s physically capable of destroying any woman that gets in her way. She hits hard and she takes as good as she gets.
More importantly, she looks and acts like a star. Much like Shinsuke Nakamura, who has also seen his share of ups and downs, Asuka’s swagger is the thing that saves her. It keeps her relevant. Even if she were just mediocre in the ring, her persona would still keep her on the minds of fans.
In fact it is the fans that have demanded she return to main event form. The live crowds are cheering for Asuka in moments when WWE is obviously not using her. This was true on the night that Lynch made her decision about who would take her place against Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series. Becky settled on Charlotte but the fans obviously chose Asuka. The WWE faithful wants Asuka to do well. But how well can they expect her to do at TLC?
Therein lays the problem. Becky Lynch is red hot and she’s probably not dropping her title any time soon. Charlotte Flair is hot again thanks to her heel turn against Rousey. Neither woman stands to lose any ground at TLC, despite the outcome. But if Asuka is to gain any ground, does that mean she has to win?
How does WWE protect her and satisfy the fans at the same time? At this point, it could very well be that fans will not give up on her if she doesn’t win the gold at TLC. The match itself should have enough high spots and Asuka should have her fair share of them, to keep the fans buzzing long after it’s over. But is that enough to carry Asuka on to the next step?
For that matter, what is the next step for Asuka? If the WWE fanbase determines value based upon how well a talent does when faced with a challenge, then Asuka will always be in good shape. She could work whoever, wherever on the card and it won’t matter. But if her value is based on her ability to win high profile main events when it counts, then she may be in for a rough road ahead.
The fact is that Asuka is ready. She’s more prepared for a run on top than she was before her undefeated streak ended. Whether or not WWE will give it to her at TLC is unknown. But whether or not the fans want it, is not in question.
WWE TV Ratings Still Matter
For the average WWE internet fan, TV ratings often support or refute claims about the product. But do TV ratings still matter?
In today’s TV landscape, the value of TV ratings has lost most of its importance because of the appearance of YouTube and torrent sites. WWE has used this excuse and the birth of the WWE network in a way of explaining why the ratings are down, and in a way, they are right, but WWE can’t use this excuse forever, at some point they have to see that their product they show to the fans weekly is the problem.
In the last couple of weeks RAW have been unwatchable and some of the worst WWE has to offer while ‘’the B show’’ SmackDown has been doing great and NXT is still on fire in terms of booking.
RAW and SmackDown have a symbiotic relationship, and this is so clear nowadays looking at the ratings. RAW’s terrible numbers affect SmackDown because of the stigma of being the B show and the fact that a lot of people use the logic of ‘’if the A show is bad, the B show will be bad as well’’ but this logic is wrong and SmackDown is paying the price for RAW’s mediocre performances which is a shame because SmackDown is killing it in almost all of its creative.
How Should Ratings Be Used?
The TV ratings in the most cases are used by TV shows in a way to measure what things are doing well and bad for a show while also listening to the audience, two things that WWE is oblivious of. WWE pretends to listen but its not true and the ratings reflect that.
The big amounts of money WWE will receive in 2019 from FOX and USA will only make things worse since WWE will not improve in terms of creative and things may actually get worse, which is a shame looking at the roster WWE has right now,and the ratings will still go down.
The only way that WWE will ever change is if the ratings of RAW fall under 2 million spectators and the WWE stock falls big time but both cases are very improbable to happen any time soon specially with The WWE stock having great numbers almost every day in Wall Street.
Could A Change Be Coming?
The XFL could be of tremendous help for WWE’s TV ratings in a weird way. In 2020 with the launch of the XFL, Vince could actually leave the control of WWE creative to Triple H, in a way to focus full time on the XFL, Triple H’s booking could be the fresh start the main roster of WWE needs and could potentially improve the viewership of the two biggest shows WWE produces weekly.
Currently the ratings are a reflection of WWE’s poor booking decisions and change may actually never happen and at some point fans will either quit wrestling or will change their loyalty to another promotion that can actually deliver the wrestling the fans want to see and only time will tell if WWE will ever be affected by this terrible viewership numbers they are drawing weekly.
Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
ROH In 2019: Top 5 Things To Watch For
Greg DeMarco explores the potential for a company-altering 2019 on the horizon for ROH.
As Ring Of Honor heads into Final Battle 2018, the company finds itself at a crossroads of sorts. Things might look quite different at the 2019 edition of the company’s annual capstone, and the year of 2019 could be quite a journey to get there.
Or not. That’s the really interesting part.
Here are my Top 5 things you need to watch for in 2019 for ROH.
(I am publishing this before Final Battle because the event itself, and subsequent tapings, will likely go a long way towards shaping 2019, and might answer some of the questions posed below.)
5. Continued Production Upgrades
This one seems like a “no brainer,” as the company has continually upgraded production equipment and production values over the past few year. Last year’s Final Battle was no different, with a new lighting rig that was almost too big for the Hammerstein Ballroom.
But this is on the list for a bigger reason: people are too hard on ROH for this subject.
I think people watch Ring Of Honor and expect WWE quality, or even IMPACT Wrestling quality. Yes, they are owned by a television broadcast company, but that company does more distribution than production. And the production they do is local news, mostly from affiliates they purchased.
They don’t do live sports, which is what ROH is. I’ve never really understood the thinking of fans when slamming ROH for this. But I do see it continuing to get better.
4. The Elite Departs…? (Big Shoes To Fill)
Talent turnover could be its own category, but let’s be honest here: The Elite has made themselves the most valuable talents in Ring Of Honor.
Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks, specifically, have had a hand in building the ROH of today, the one that partnered with New Japan to sell out Madison Square Garden for WrestleMania Weekend in 2019.
If Cody and The Bucks, along with “Hangman” Adam Page and ROH part-timer Kenny Omega do indeed leave, the void will be massive. “Next man up” is a great idea in theory, but this isn’t football. The “next man” doesn’t have the following to make an impact like The Elite did.
And because he was “spoiled in talent,” Delirious hasn’t spent the time and broadcast resources to build their replacements.
But here’s the biggest what if: What if they don’t actually leave?
Final Battle is supposed to be the last night for Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks (among others), but what if it isn’t? The trio already put on ALL IN, a “non-ROH” event that drew 10,000 fans in Chicago while under a Ring Of Honor contract.
Yes, they’ve filed trademarks for All Elite Wrestling, Double Or Nothing, and All Out, with those filings coming from Jacksonville. They are linked to the Jaguars owner. But does that mean they have to leave ROH?
Not hardly. No one has said that All Elite Wrestling is going to be a weekly or even monthly product. Nothing of the sort, actually. It’s entirely plausible that Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks could stay with Ring Of Honor and be given the freedom to put on the All Elite events that offer them more fulfillment.
In fact, having a “working relationship” with All Elite Wrestling can only benefit ROH. If talent has the chance to work 2-4 All Elite “mega-indy” events per year, while working a full ROH schedule, plus New Japan and international bookings, than said talent actually has an option outside of WWE to make a great living. No one company can provide that to many, but the combination of ROH, All Elite, and NJPW can. That’s a point many are overlooking.
3. A Departure For Christopher Daniels
Yes, losing The Elite is big. Bigger than any other talent loss the company could endure during this time of transition. But that doesn’t speak to the potential loss of Christopher Daniels.
All three members of SoCal Uncensored (Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) are rumored to be leaving ROH at the end of the year. Daniels and Kazarian are under contract, and if Sky is contracted it’s not likely a full deal as he has been working independent dates throughout the year.
Daniels, Kazarian, and Sky have a good relationship with The Bucks and Cody, and Kazarian is actually in business with Rhodes outside of wrestling. So their involvement in whatever All Elite Wrestling does is an easy assumption.
But if Daniels does go, they are losing more than an in-ring talent. He is one of the most influential backstage personalities the company has. Seemingly ageless, at 48-years old and with over 25-years of wrestling experience, he has helped craft some of the best in-ring showdowns ROH has seen over the past few years.
The Ladder War that took place at All Star Extravaganza (The Addiction vs. The Motor City Machine Guns vs. The Young Bucks) was one of the best inc company history, and saw the first reports of Daniels’ work backstage in an agent-like capacity. He has since gone on to hold the ROH World Championship, and his partners Kazarian and Sky are the current ROH World Tag Team Champions.
Daniels, along with Kazarian, have a heavy influence over the talent in ROH, especially the younger talent. There is no one better to learn from than “The Fallen Angel,” and if he goes an irreplaceable amount of knowledge and impact will follow him out the door.
And in writing this section I cannot neglect Frankie Kazarian, himself closing in 20-years in the business and an amazing talent in front of and behind the camera, and Scorpio Sky, himself 35-years young, is just not getting the recognition he deserves as a performer. All three are tremendous losses for the company if they do indeed depart.
2. New Talent Coming In
With talent (potentially) leaving the company, opportunities are created for new talent to enter. One is already there, and two more have been recently announced.
Jeff Cobb: Cobb, recently killed off of Lucha Underground seemingly to end his role as Matanza Cueto, was long considered one of the best talents not signed to any major company. His signing is a major coup for ROH, and he’s already the World TV Champion. If the company plays their cards right, he could have a Samoa Joe like run through 2019 and beyond, and be a star they can catapult to main event status with ease.
PCO: The former Quebecer (not a Mountie) had a career resurgence in 2018, becoming one of the fanbase’s favorite stars at the young age of 50. Faced with losing The Elite, ROH was smart to sign the man who is arguably the most sought after talent not named Cody Rhodes, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, and/or Kenny Omega.
Brody King: With 3.5 years of experience, Southern California’s King has fast become one of the most reliable talents in independent wrestling, providing stellar match after stellar match. His signing proves that ROH is looking beyond the New England area for talent–and they’d be smart to look into other Santino Bros Academy grads while they’re at it.
Personally, I am surprised we haven’t seen more talent announcements. As I’ve hinted above, I am not 100% certain The Elite and/or SCU end up leaving, as recent comments by Cody, The Bucks, and ROH COO Joe Koff could be more posturing than anything.
If so, then look for more talent to be signed by ROH–and that’s a good thing. Otherwise it’s “more of the same,” and as much as I love Jay Lethal and The Briscoes, they need fresh talent to work with in order to keep the product interesting and relevant.
1. The New Japan Relationship
It might not be the most fun to admit, but ROH might not be in in the “Number 2” position in the United States without the New Japan relationship. In fact, it’s really easy to argue that ROH needs NJPW more than New Japan needs Ring Of Honor.
That’s why the company gets by not putting ROH talent over, regardless on which side of the ocean the match takes place. And if The Elite leaves, Harold Meij and company have even influence over ROH.
G1 Supercard is already a huge success, despite nothing being announced outside of a few talents. The event at Madison Square Garden is going to be nothing short of amazing, and anyone in attendance is sure to leave happy regardless of The Elite’s presence.
But what happens after? What I want to see happen is simple: the ROH World Champion after Jay Lethal (let’s just use Jeff Cobb as an example) needs to be put over by a big name from New Japan. A Tetsuya Naito level name.
Basically, ROH needs to stand up for themselves, and be treated as an equal to NJPW in their booking, not as a little brother. Otherwise the relationship remains one-sided, and hurts ROH despite helping them draw.
2019 is set to be a very telling year for ROH, and I personally plan to devote more time and energy to covering their product. Many of you know that I worked for Ring For Honor in 2010 as I was their local contact for the Phoenix events that happened during WrestleMania 26 weekend. Nearly everyone I worked with on that weekend is gone, but my love for the company and my desire to see them succeed hasn’t left at all.
Hopefully 2019 will be a year that ROH transitions into a strong #2 option, a true alternative to the WWE product.