The March 1, 2017 edition of NXT featured two title matches, with both the NXT Women’s and Tag Team Championships on the line. The show ultimately contained several key pivots in the road towards NXT TakeOver: Orlando, but there was one wrestler who stood out above the others as the #NXTMVP of the show: Asuka.
Over the last year, Asuka has quietly become something of a Bret Hart figure in NXT. Her ability to have good matches with just about anyone has kept the NXT Women’s Championship strong during a lean time and helped cement the reputation of the NXT TakeOver brand as a platform for consistently spectacular bouts. Even as NXT’s best female talent disappeared before her very eyes, Asuka used sheer excellence and force of personality to keep herself, her title, and the reputation of her promotion as a showcase of excellent women’s wrestling afloat.
In her #NXTMVP performance on this week’s show, every bit of the Empress of Tomorrow’s Hitman style was on display. She exuded championship confidence during her incredible entrance, walking with her arms out like a star to let the Full Sail University crowd drink her in. However, like Hart handing his sunglasses to a child, Asuka was sure to connect with the crowd facially after taking off her mask to show that them that she wasn’t an arrogant winner, she was a charismatic assassin on their team.
Once the bell rang, Asuka displayed the blend of technical, high-flying, and theatrical wrestling that has made her an MVP-caliber star in NXT. Even though she faced Peyton Royce, a heel she had already given her comeuppance in the past (the very formula for a cold match), Asuka twisted and leapt to get the crowd into the action. Her flying armbar into the Asuka Lock gave the match a crisp, decisive finish that put over Asuka’s ability to find different transitions into her finishing hold (like 2017 WWE Hall of Famer DDP’s legendary Diamond Cutter gimmick).
Unlike Raw’s perennial champion Charlotte, who has been booked to lose the Raw Women’s Championship several times on TV, Asuka has been kept so strong in her title reign that fans know they can just sit back and watch her kick someone’s ass. It’s visibly evident that Asuka relishes that role, and every time she gets in the ring, she is a candidate to put on the best performance anybody’s seen in months. On this night, Asuka stood head and shoulders above every other NXT Superstar as the rightful #NXTMVP.
The Empress of Tomorrow has been stuck in something of a purgatory since her win over Mickie James at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, however. While Royce and her partner Billie Kay have provided heads for Asuka to kick, they’ve hardly been portrayed as worthy contenders at championship level. With the post-match pivot to Ember Moon, who figures to be Asuka’s opponent at the WrestleMania 33 weekend NXT TakeOver: Orlando show, the NXT Women’s Champion appears to have something she can really sink her teeth into for the first time in months. As such, the build between Asuka and Moon should be something to look forward to over the next month of NXT television.