WWE SummerSlam 2020: Asuka happy to work with Kairi Sane, wants women’s wrestling to continue to grow

When Becky Lynch announced her pregnancy and surprised Asuka by handing her the Raw women’s championship one night after the Japanese star had won Money in the Bank, it completed Asuka’s journey to become a WWE grand slam champion. Without a championship once again, Asuka heads into Sunday’s SummerSlam pay-per-view with the opportunity to walk away with not one, but two titles.

Asuka will first face Bayley for the SmackDown women’s championship before battling Sasha Banks for the Raw women’s title later in the evening. Banks won the Raw women’s title off Asuka on July 20, ending a title reign that Asuka told CBS Sports came with a unique sense of responsibility.

“When Becky gave her title to me, I was so surprised, surprised, surprised,” Asuka said. “Becky made the decision about being a mother, so I wanted to respect her by defending the title. It was different [than winning the title in a match], because when Becky gave me the Raw women’s title, it was more of a responsibility on me. It’s a big difference.”

The duo of Banks and Bayley became a thorn in the side of Asuka once “The Empress of Tomorrow” had moved past the immediate challenge of Nia Jax. Eventually, Banks “won” the Raw women’s title at Extreme Rules when Bayley stole a referee’s shirt to make the three count herself. Banks would eventually pick up the title officially when Stephanie McMahon arranged a rematch where the title could change hands by disqualification or countout. Bayley and Banks used those rules to their advantage with Bayley attacking Kairi Sane backstage during the match, causing Asuka to run from the ring to help her friend and tag partner, being counted out in the process.

The story represented the end of Sane’s time with the WWE as the charismatic superstar decided to return to her native Japan. Asuka said she was happy to get to spend those last few television tapings working with Sane and putting on a series of great matches against Banks and Bayley.

“I spent a lot of time [in my career] working alone, but teaming up with Kairi made me so happy. It was everything, backstage and in ring. We were very powerful partners,” Asuka said.

Now, as she prepares to go in for two matches on one of the biggest shows of the year, Asuka says she’s ready to battle two women with whom she has a long history.

“Sasha is a great athlete,” Asuka said. “I have worked with her many times, but every single match updates or evolves. She always changes her movement, so I have to be careful.

“Bayley is also a great artist, but when she works with Sasha Banks, they are so foolish and always doing silly things. I think everyone knows I won the NXT women’s championship from her. At SummerSlam, hopefully the same thing and I’ll regain the Raw women’s championship.”

Win or lose in her SummerSlam matches, Asuka’s list of accomplishments is already impressive. She has won the Raw, SmackDown and NXT championships, along with holding the tag titles with Sane to complete the grand slam. In addition, Asuka has won a Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank and the Mixed Match Challenge.

Having accomplished basically everything there is to accomplish in WWE, Asuka said that improving the standing of women’s wrestling is among her primary goals moving forward.

“For now, my focus is to become double champion at SummerSlam,” Asuka said. “Then, I just want to help the level of women’s wrestling continue to go to new levels in WWE.”

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