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31 Days of Wrestling (12/14/18): Of Queens and Empires (Charlotte vs. Asuka, WrestleMania 34)


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

As a fan of women’s wrestling, the “Women’s Revolution” evokes mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s great that recent memory has been kind—if not magnanimous—to women’s wrestling in general, showing that the division once known for Pigpen Matches and Bra-and-Panties Matches has truly evolved to showcase the athleticism and performance of women in the professional wrestling ring.

And yet there’s that part of any women’s wrestling fan that pines for the days where women’s wrestling was at its zenith: the sort where armchair historians would roll off names like that of Manami Toyota, Akira Hokuto, Bull Nakano, The Crush Gals, and so on.

And then Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka happened.

In the Granddaddy of Them All, women’s matches typically took the form of an intermission number: the sort that would have people run off to the concession stands, or perhaps catch their breath after wrestling’s longest pay-per-view event. The last time in recent memory that a women’s match really and truly became must-watch spectacles involved some degree of the titillation and seduction: consider “Fulfill Your Fantasy” Battle Royals.

But the contexts of WrestleMania 34 mattered as much: how movements were breaking the patriarchy a blow at a time, how women stood up to say #MeToo, how the Harvey Weinsteins and Larry Nassars of the world were rightfully pilloried. This world was where Charlotte Flair and Asuka wrestled one of the most important matches of the year: perhaps, in history.



There was Charlotte Flair: the scion of the greatest name to ever be associated with professional wrestling, the most complete women’s wrestler to ever be born out of the WWE style of wrestling as sports entertainment. Her entrance leading to the match was proof of that: Charlotte Flair was the queen of the WWE, heir to the Flair wrestling legacy, and WWE Women’s Champion.



And then there was Asuka: the Empress of Tomorrow, a woman who built her fearsome reputation in Japan before stepping into the WWE. Asuka was undefeated: “No one is ready for Asuka” wasn’t just a catchphrase, but a fact proven by her record in a WWE ring. And by winning the Royal Rumble, Asuka earned the right to challenge a Women’s Champion of her choosing.

The prelude to the match was textbook WWE storytelling: streak vs. title, a stipulation that has been seen many times over to great effect. The match, however, was anything but the typical women’s segment: the crowd remained riveted and focused, watching the most brilliant display of women’s professional wrestling unfold before their eyes.



Asuka was focused on breaking Charlotte down at the first sign of weakness: the latter’s arm was battered and twisted and bruised in every conceivable way. Counter-for-counter, Asuka and Charlotte showed that they can hang with the men in a wrestling ring, but that they are in a league of their own when it comes to wrestling. Be it Charlotte’s moonsault reversed into a triangle choke, or the Spanish Fly delivered to Asuka, the match—in that very moment—was to set the standards for women’s matches for years to come.

Yet ultimately a winner had to be decided: they could have fought forever, but a myth had to be shattered right there. In the end, Charlotte remained the undisputed Queen of the Ring, while Asuka was handed her first-ever loss in the biggest stage of them all.

If anything, Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka should be remembered because of the technical superiority and in-ring grace that the match was from beginning to end. Yet at a time when narratives shift and histories are made, when the true contributions and voices of women start rising to the fore, Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka deserves the respect to be recognized as a true historical milestone. We need not look so far back and so far away to see one of the greatest moments for women in professional wrestling: we need only look at this match.


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31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

Read our previous entries:

1. Winnipeg Boys Conquer the Tokyo Dome (Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, No DQ match for IWGP US Heavyweight title, Wrestle Kingdom 12)
2. Roman Reigns Finally Becomes Universal Champion (Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, SummerSlam 2018)
3. The Man Is Last Woman Standing (Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch, Last Woman Standing match for SmackDown Women's title, Evolution)
4. Kenny Omega, Finally IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega, 2-out-of-3 Falls match, Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall)
5. The Resurrection of Daniel Bryan (AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship, WWE SmackDown Live 11/13/18) 
6. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Unsanctioned match (NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
7. The Lightbringer Has Arrived (Ralph Imabayashi vs. Quatro for the PWR Championship, PWR Live: Homefront)
8. The First Ever Women's Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble 2018)
9. To Surpass God (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi, G1 Climax 28 Finals)
10. Wreck It, Rowdy (Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H, WrestleMania 34)
11. Pentagon Dark vs. Marty "The Moth" Martinez (Ultima Lucha Cuatro)
12. King in the North (America) (6-Way Ladder match for NXT North American title, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
13. A Dream Ricochets (Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream, NXT TakeOver: Chicago II)

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