You’d think WWE would relish the chance to promote a women’s world championship match between two of the most complete performers in the division, but the build to Asuka vs. Bianca Belair indicates otherwise.
Instead of presenting Asuka and Belair as two dominant forces set to clash over the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 39, WWE put the two in time-filler matches with Carmella and Chelsea Green while limiting champion and challenger’s interactions to Belair watching Asuka secrete GOO from her mouth.
After a few weeks of this, WWE realized that it needed to do more than have both women trade offensive moves with tepid midcarders, but the company, unfortunately, turned to a familiar plot device to manufacture tension.
WWE dusted off the “Can they co-exist?” plotline…again
Asuka and Belair teamed up to face Green and Piper Niven (replacing an apparently injured Carmella) on the March 20 episode of Raw. Throughout the bout, the babyfaces followed the “Can they co-exist?” template to the letter, as the two bickered and suffered some miscommunication errors (despite previously teaming together with no issues) before picking up the win.
Like a tight end for a quarterback or a weird plot twist for M. Night Shyamalan, WWE loves to use this trope when it feels it has no other options, especially when two fan favorites are scheduled to wrestle each other at a big show. It’s become such a pervasive cliché that the company now references its overuse in lampshade hanging dialogue.
This isn’t even the first time it has employed “Can they co-exist?” in a WrestleMania story involving Belair; WWE made the same mistake while hyping up Belair’s WrestleMania 37 match against Sasha Banks. Clearly, the company hasn’t learned its lesson when it comes to forcing babyfaces to team up and squabble.
To be fair, “Can they co-exist?” can be effective in moderation. As part of an arc for a tenuous partnership that ends with the team winning the tag titles or the impetus for a break-up, centering the unease around a duo’s inability to work together can create some entertaining drama.
In a story that ends with two wrestlers fighting in a one-on-one battle, however, such histrionics aren’t necessary. Why should fans care if Asuka or Belair (or any pair of babyfaces) get along if they’re gonna tear through each other in two weeks anyway? And why would anyone support babyfaces who are too egotistical to work together to achieve a common goal?
Is it that hard to give wrestlers definitive wins and allow them to communicate to the audience their desire to beat their opponent? It’s not the most complex story, but do you really need an elaborate narrative to get fans excited about seeing two superstar babyfaces wrestle, particularly ones the caliber of Asuka and Belair?
WWE’s over-reliance on “Can they co-exist” has stymied far too many feuds over the years, which is why the company needs to discontinue using it for a while. A few years of dormancy could restore novelty, but for now, the focus of a feud between two top babyfaces should be on how much one wants to beat the other, not how cohesive (or dysfunctional) they are as a team.