Asuka’s sudden rise to the top of WWE‘s Raw women’s division has come to the surprise — and delight — of many fans. Long touted as an underrated and well-deserving wrestler, Asuka has now been skyrocketed to her lofty new status as the Raw women’s champion a day after her major Money in the Bank briefcase win.
Asuka’s rise to the top, however, did not come out of nowhere. For months prior to her massive push, she proved she could be one of the highlights of Raw‘s empty arena shows on countless occasions. She has provided both great matches and “sports entertainment” moments, such as her commentary on Raw where she yelled in Japanese throughout. In the process, she’s become a valuable asset for the WWE at a time when it’s at its lowest.
Asuka hasn’t been the only one that WWE has rewarded for being a dependable asset during these difficult times. Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman have both been gifted their first championship belts, with Braun earning his by stepping up to take Roman Reigns’ place when the Big Dog decided to go into quarantine rather than risk working during the pandemic. Elsewhere, Otis has been given the men’s Money in the Bank briefcase over more established singles wrestlers as a reward for his entertaining storyline involving Mandy Rose.
It appears that these wrestlers, Asuka in particular, have finally managed to grab the famous “brass ring” that Vince McMahon has long alluded to and that many other wrestlers have spent their careers trying — and failing — to attain.
For those unfamiliar with the term, the “brass ring” is a metaphor, coined by Vince McMahon, for wrestlers who have managed to propel themselves to the top of the WWE landscape not through booking, but through their own efforts. Wrestlers such as The Rock and Steve Austin are prime examples of WWE talents who successfully managed to grab the “brass ring” and break out as major stars by getting over with live audiences during the Attitude Era.
The modern WWE however, has long faced criticism for not honoring its side of the bargain by rewarding wrestlers who have seemingly grabbed that “brass ring” with good booking. For years, fans have torn apart the concept of the “brass ring” due to wrestlers managing to get organically over with the crowd, and then not receiving the push from upper management that is implied by Vince’s metaphor. Examples range from CM Punk being infamously snubbed of the opportunity to main event WrestleMania to Cesaro not getting a championship shot after getting over through his matches with the Cesaro Swing.
Asuka’s push exemplifies what grabbing the “brass ring” has evolved to mean in the current landscape of the WWE. In the empty arena era of the WWE, it’s not getting over with the audience or selling a lot of merch that gets a wrestler to the top of the card, it’s getting over backstage by being a dependable workhorse for Vince McMahon.
This can be seen with many of the wrestlers that Vince has pushed in recent years, such as John Cena, who has done more interviews, late-night show appearances and Make-A-Wish visits for the WWE than anyone else over the years despite being booed for most of his run in the main event scene. AJ Styles is another wrestler that has earned a push by being a dependable worker, both before and during the COVID era, who has managed to earn the confidence — and trust — of Vince McMahon.
Wrestlers who are not willing to bend over backward for the company seem to be the ones most unlikely to receive pushes. This can be seen in Rusev’s later run in the WWE when he dragged his feet over contract negotiations and vented his frustrations with the company over social media.
Despite reinventing himself with his “Rusev Day” gimmick, getting over organically with the audience, and becoming a high merch seller, Rusev was put into unflattering “sports entertainment” angles such as the one involving Lana and Bobby Lashley. Rusev didn’t just play along with the humiliating angle about his real-life wife cheating on him in the storyline without complaint — he gave the mid-card storyline his all and made the angle a huge success. Rusev went above and beyond to carry out what was required of him by the company’s booking, and instead of a push, he was rewarded for it by being fired during WWE’s infamous string of cost-cutting releases.
There’s no guarantee that WWE superstar will find themselves pushed to the moon if they give their all for the company –as recent history has proven, they might find themselves released if Vince feels like it. One thing that is certain is that fans should no longer expect a wrestler to be pushed strictly for getting over with the audience, as was the case during the Attitude Era.
In the modern era, what the WWE seems to value most in a wrestler is the ability to be a dependable worker and a good company man (or woman) — and that means that the only truly dependable path to success in WWE is to get over, first and foremost, with Vince McMahon.
Asuka's radical championship push exemplifies what grabbing the metaphorical “brass ring” means in the modern landscape of the WWE.