Monday, April 3, 2017

The 2016 TWB 100 Slow Release: Number Five

Asuka kicks off the Top Five
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5. Asuka
Points: 4915
Number of Ballots: 56
Highest Vote: 2nd Place (Patrick Kay)
Last Year’s Ranking: 22nd Place

TH: Asuka's highlight matches in 2016 were good, very good even. Her best three, the two against Bayley and the one in Toronto versus Mickie James, were above-average affairs that fit in nicely with Takeover's standards. They didn't stand out, largely because it was hard for any match to stand out in the backdrop of the way that The Revival and their opponents reinvented tag wrestling within the NXT bubble. However, was she a top five talent in 2016? Eh, maybe to many people whose extent of viewing was NXT and the Cruiserweight Classic. I guess one could make the case that her combination of indomitable bulldozery intimidation, cocksure swagger, and crushingly beautiful execution on her big spots put her a tier above others not named AJ Styles or The Revival. I think her year was somewhat incomplete, however. She played the role of "juggernaut Champion" well, and true, it's not her fault she was asked to play that role for how long. But she left me wanting more, which from the looks of it (I know, I'm a cheater, I get to write my blurbs past deadline with impunity, it's good to be the boss) she's going to provide that in 2017. However, I come to praise Asuka, not bury her. She was still a dynamic force in 2016, one who at least scratched a majority of an itch. In a year where few people did well enough to scratch the entire itch, that was good enough for the upper third of my ballot.

Brock Jahnke: What Asuka lacks in a long list of “great” matches, she makes up for with a presence unlike any other in WWE. It’s probably not as effective to people more familiar with her Japanese work than myself (and I’m no slouch as far as joshi is considered), but her appearances are explosive and enthralling, a sort of odd violence that is just as interesting as it is fearsome. And for what it’s worth, she had my favorite WWE match of the year in Brooklyn.

Ryan Neely: Can we get Asuka to start kicking the main roster to death? It’s hard to maintain an unbeatable character after they’ve conquered an entire division, and as incredible as she is, the last few months of 2016 were a bit of a letdown for the women’s champ. Still, when she got the chance to fight Bayley and Nia, she was really, really good.

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Joshua Browns: I’ve got her behind only two other women on my ballot, and that was really only because she was left without any credible full-time opposition for the better part of 2016. Still, no single wrestler’s offense makes me wince (in a good way) as much as Asuka does, and I can’t wait to see what happens if she gets “the call up” in 2017.

Scott Raychel: The Empress of Tomorrow is a damn force to be reckoned with. She has an intimidating ring presence that rivals Brock Lesnar backed up by some of the most brutal offense in all of professional wrestling. She's one of the very few wrestlers in the world who you can chant about how she's gonna kill you and it could actually, potentially, literally come true.

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David Hobbs: No active WWE wrestler more convincingly inflicts violence than Asuka. Her match with Bayley will get more love, but the ending to her match with Nia Jax at Takeover was one of my favorite sequences from 2016, as she slowly dropped Nia with progressively more savage strikes. Everything she does looks like it should break whomever is unfortunate enough to be standing in her way.

Elliot Imes: Far and away the most consistent female performer in NXT. She never takes a moment off, or a moment's rest. She looks unbeatable without being a no-selling monster.

Jon Hunt: I tend to value good pacing and flow in wrestling matches, but Asuka completely turns this on its head and it works. Each match of her NXT run has been like a train crash - incredibly violent and completely mesmerizing. The booking has helped, but she carries herself like a completely unbeatable ace, and gives up just enough offense in her matches to keep them from becoming tedious squashes.

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