WWE pulled the trigger on a major surprise title change Saturday, with Asuka defeating Bianca Belair for the Raw Women's Championship that she had held for nearly 14 months.
Belair won the title at WrestleMania 38 and defended it all the way up through Mania 39 against Asuka, though things have changed since then - and not just the fact that both wrestlers are now part of the SmackDown roster. The Empress of Tomorrow has turned heel, a development that helped her capture her first singles title in more than two years.
Asuka utilized the blinding/burning mist she has employed recently to topple Belair, but not in the traditional manner. She first tried to spray the mist at Bianca's face, but she ducked, allowing the match to continue. Moments later, Asuka was spotted surreptitiously spitting mist onto her taped fingers. Then, when Belair hoisted her up for a KOD, Asuka rubbed the mist juice into the champ's eyes, blinding her long enough to deliver a KO kick for the title.
The title change comes at a point in Belair's reign when she was starting to notice boos from fans, with her title defense against Iyo Sky at Backlash in Puerto Rico being an extreme example of the crowd turning against her. There had to be concern about Bianca becoming the female John Cena -- a dominant babyface champion who constantly prevails against all comers and eventually starts getting booed because she's almost too good.
Switching things up is one way to hopefully ward that off, and it changes the story from Belair defending the title to either trying to regain it or any other storyline they want to pursue.