In the summer of 2017, when Asuka vacated the NXT Women’s Championship after an undefeated reign of 522 days, it felt like the women’s championship scene was about to open up. Despite the talent in the division at the time, nobody proved to be “ready for Asuka.” She dominated every opponent she faced, defending her title against the likes of Nikki Cross, The IIconics, Ember Moon, Bayley, and Mickie James. Moving to the main roster opened up the division. Suddenly, that championship was up for grabs, with nobody around to snag it with an iron grip.
Or at least, that’s what it felt like. In reality, the post-Asuka women’s division has been dominated by one woman: Shayna Baszler. Ember Moon originally won the vacant title in November of 2017, but it wasn’t long after Baszler showed up in NXT that she was fighting for the title at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans in April 2018, and walking out the champion. Since then, Baszler has barely let up. She lost one title defense to Kairi Sane at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV in August 2018, but “The Pirate Princess’” reign only made it to its 71st day before “The Queen of Spades” came calling again.
So the question is, can Shayna Baszler ever surpass Asuka as the greatest NXT Women’s Champion of all time? Sure, Baszler doesn’t have that massive undefeated streak, but she’s made a mark in NXT like few other champions. With Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir by her side, she has put an entire division on notice. They’ve made sure the title once again looks uncapturable, a mere image in the distance for anyone looking to step up and challenge Baszler.
Digging into the numbers, there’s a case to be made for Baszler having a shot at being the best NXT Women’s Champion of all time. Yes, Asuka’s undefeated streak is an accomplishment that will likely never be topped, but there’s also something to be said about vacating a title rather than losing it. Asuka never had to come back from a tough loss, whereas Baszler is the only two-time NXT Women’s Champion. She’s the only one to lose the title and then regroup, refocus, and come back hungry for the gold. That kind of fight will be tantamount to staying at the top throughout her career, and considering Asuka’s disappointing numbers on the main roster (a Royal Rumble win and a single championship victory count as bad numbers in the age of Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks).
What makes the comparison between Asuka and Baszler so interesting is that their runs with the title are very similar. Both Superstars climbed to the top of the division relatively quickly; Asuka won the title six months after debuting and Baszler climbed the mountain just four months after her non-Mae Young Classic in-ring debut. Both women have defended their championships in a variety of matches, from singles matches to Fatal 4-Ways to an incredible Last Woman Standing match between Asuka and Nikki Cross, and still come out on top. There’s seemingly no combination of competitors or match stipulations that can stop them.
Then, there’s the wrestling itself. Asuka and Baszler employ a similar style of deadly strikes and even deadlier submissions. They bait their opponents into coming at them hard, using their confidence and swagger to draw opponents into their space so that they can lock in a hold or hit them with a quick kick. They’ve each had their fair share of squash matches, but they excel at drawing out match lengths, tiring out their opponents with submission after submission until they have no choice but to tap out or, more often than not with Baszler, pass out.
Bianca Belair gave Baszler one of the most competitive matches of her career at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix, and yet Baszler still outlasted her, going just long enough to lock in a rear naked choke that put Belair down for good. Similarly, Baszler learned from her losses to Kairi Sane and used Sane’s offense against her to recapture the NXT Women’s Championship at WWE Evolution.
So far, Baszler’s numbers are outstanding. In about a year and a half, Baszler has become the first ever two-time NXT Women’s Champion; her current reign of 233 days and counting is only outdone by Asuka, Charlotte (258), and Paige (273); her combined days as champion leave her with only Asuka to pass, those 365+ days putting her well ahead of the rest of the pack.
In other words, Baszler has spent most of her time in NXT as the Women’s Champion, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. NXT has cycled through various women’s champions that have made their mark on the Black and Gold brand, from Paige’s inaugural win to the various wins of NXT’s self-proclaimed “Four Horsewomen.” Baszler feels different though. She’s a talent that could have made her mark on the main roster by now but is instead focused on demolishing an entire division of wrestlers, all while holding that NXT Women’s Championship in their faces. She hasn’t snatched Asuka’s crown just yet…but look out, because she still has a lot of time to become the greatest NXT Women’s Champion of all time.