It’s been a weird year for the Raw Women’s Championship.
Asuka won the title through most unusual circumstances, having won Money in the Bank only to be informed that Becky Lynch had forfeited the title and put it on the line in that match, and has proceeded to monopolize the title for most of the year, barring a hiccup when Sasha Banks briefly won the title by countout, of all finishes.
But over the last couple months, a partnership with Charlotte Flair saw Asuka competing mostly in the tag division, and she’s only defended the title once in all of 2021, a twelve-minute match against Alexa Bliss in January with a non-finish that served mostly to further Alexa’s story with Randy Orton.
Now certainly part of that is due to the Empress of Tomorrow missing a few weeks of TV after Shayna Baszler literally kicked her teeth out of her mouth, and a second defense was initially scheduled for Elimination Chamber but canceled after Lacey Evans got pregnant.
And that’s the rub, is that all signs pointed to Lacey winning the title and carrying it to WrestleMania as part of her being taken under Ric Flair’s wing (to put it politely) and feuding with Charlotte, who presumably would have won the title from her on the Grandest Stage of Them All as part of WWE’s ongoing effort to give her the same number of accolades her dad won in half the time.
With that plan off the table, they took the simplest route to get to a marquee match for WrestleMania— Charlotte came to the ring and cut the pretense, giving Asuka the respect she deserves but admitting it had been too long away from the title and she was coming back for what she feels is rightfully hers.
It was a fine story and it would have made a great match, but then Flair tested positive for COVID-19 and disappeared from TV, and the Raw Women’s Championship scene took another left turn.
WWE teased Rhea Ripley’s arrival on Raw as a full-fledged main roster superstar for months, and she strode right into that ring and challenged Asuka to a title match. With her credentials as a former NXT Women’s Champion and NXT UK Women’s Champion, the match makes sense, and even with Charlotte seemingly recovered from COVID, she appears to be content to hang back and challenge the winner.
It will, to be sure, be a great match— Asuka and Ripley have never met in singles action, but their hard-hitting styles should mesh together really well and give us a match worthy of the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Can Asuka hang onto her title or will Rhea Ripley show her brutality?
Who will win?
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