Asuka has been pushed to the side during build towards her next WWE Women's Title defence at SummerSlam vs. Charlotte Flair and Bianca Belair.
The reigning champ has taken a backseat to yet another "frenemies" story between two women from WWE creative. Company writers are really fond of that plot, but it doesn't make much sense to fans that the actual champion is largely out of the picture right now.
On this week's episode of SmackDown, Asuka only appeared during a backstage segment with Damage CTRL members Bayley and IYO SKY; WWE teased SKY cashing in her Money In The Bank briefcase, then Asuka was absent as Flair and Belair conquered reigning Women's Tag Champs Sonya Deville and Chelsea Green.
It's all rather confusing.
Asuka hasn't been portrayed as a strong defending champ on the next PLE. Instead, WWE has shoved her into the background and revolved booking around Charlotte and Bianca's on/off respect issues. Meanwhile, the actual champion (y'know, the one defending the gold at SummerSlam!) is barely featured on TV and rarely comes between them.
WWE has one last episode of SmackDown to put this right next week.