Asuka is coming.
The imminent arrival of the undefeated NXT Women's Champion on Raw should terrify every other woman on the roster. (WWE could have made it a mystery whether she'd go there or Smackdown to milk even more suspense and dread out of the Empress of Tomorrow's call-up, but oh well.)
Though the "looming menace" story has been done to captivating effect elsewhere in fiction, Vince McMahon's short-term focus and love of surprises has made it less common in WWE. And aside from maybe Kharma (Awesome Kong), it's a story that's basically never been done in the women's division.
But with Asuka's resume known to a sizable chunk of the WWE Universe, the company has a unique opportunity to tell that story. They can hype her up not just with video packages, but testimonials to her fearsome ability by Raw women who've faced her like Emma and Bayley, or even backstage glimpses of them fretting about their locker room's new addition. In Asuka, WWE has the opportunity to make one of its women wrestlers a truly big deal.
Fans are already speculating on how big a deal Asuka could be: Some have suggested her WrestleMania opponent, and the presumptive breaker of her undefeated streak, will be none other than former UFC champion, Olympic medalist and fellow terror Ronda Rousey.
And that would not be a good story for WWE to tell.
First, let's set aside the many logistical issues that could derail an untrained but WWE-curious Rousey from signing with the company to wrestle at its biggest show of the year. If she does perform for the first time since her embarrassing knockout by Amanda Nunes, I doubt it's to take a loss. (Sure, Brock Lesnar was defeated by John Cena in his first match back from UFC, but WWE has no motive to humble Rousey like it did Lesnar.)
Great as the mainstream exposure would be for Asuka, shattering her dangerous mystique so WWE can build a WrestleMania moment around Rousey's damaged aura would be a dead end. After the headlines and the marginal bump in WWE Network subscriptions, what would the company have gained? Quick: Can you remember who Snooki and Maria Menounos beat in their WrestleMania outings? Or even their teammates? I didn't think so.
That's why — and I can't believe I'm saying this — the right opponent for Rousey would be Stephanie McMahon.
If Rousey is in play for WrestleMania, WWE might as well maximize her match's casual appeal by involving the only other woman in the company that target audience might know. Meanwhile, McMahon is a far more ideal partner in the kind of carefully plotted match Rousey would require to not look lost in a pro wrestling ring in front of 80,000 people. And, of course, the match would pay off their physical confrontation at WrestleMania 31.
This way, too, Asuka can have the kind of show-stealing WrestleMania match she's capable of, perhaps with a first-time opponent like Sasha Banks or Alexa Bliss (I'd have preferred Becky Lynch, but again, oh well.) We could see a lot of firsts in the women's division these next several months: The first WrestleMania with two marquee women's singles matches, the first part-time attraction in Rousey, and the first big deal full-time star in Asuka.