After what can only be described as an underwhelming 2018, Asuka is starting to reassert herself as a player in the SmackDown women's division as the year comes to the end.
Making that point most obvious is the fact that she has been added to the WWE TLC SmackDown women's championship match between Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, making the bout a triple threat TLC match.
A new report from Fightful makes the reason and timing of that decision known. According to sources, Vince McMahon made the call after he was surprised at the reaction that Asuka received from the crowd on the SmackDown prior to Survivor Series.
It was at that show when Lynch appeared mid-ring following a concussion and broken nose suffered the previous night on RAW via Nia Jax. Surrounded by the SmackDown women's division, Lynch chose her replacement to face Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, and as she strolled by each competitor one by one, it was Asuka who easily received the loudest ovation from the crowd.
McMahon was reportedly surprised that Asuka had received a louder reaction than Charlotte and the roots of her current push go back to that moment. Despite all of the bad booking around Asuka this year, the fans still care and are invested in the former NXT Women's Champion.
One of the most surprising moments of 2018 had to be when Flair defeated Asuka in their heavily hyped WrestleMania 34 bout in New Orleans, clean and in the middle of the ring. Many had expected that program would be drawn out a lot longer, and with Asuka still in the midst of her undefeated streak going back to NXT, nobody expected the streak to end at that moment.
Following her loss at WrestleMania, Asuka was essentially removed as a major power player in the women's division. The booking of Asuka on the main roster had certainly become a lightning rod for discussion and argument among wrestling fans since that point in time, so hopefully here as the year is coming to a close the WWE is realizing the opportunity that they still have, despite all of the past booking flaws, in making Asuka a major star for the foreseeable future.