Paige and Asuka remain on a collision course, but one where the two trains are still miles away from each other.
A slow-burn rivalry is underway. And the seeds WWE are planting on Raw will be best suited for an April 8, 2018, harvest. The early confrontations between The Anti-Diva and The Empress of Tomorrow are setting the foundation for a WWE WrestleMania 34 clash.
Paige's return from a neck injury is overlapping with Asuka's rise on the red brand. As their paths cross, neither of the two former NXT women's champions have struck first yet.
In a scene reminiscent of last week, Asuka found herself on the defensive after knocking off Alicia Fox in singles action on Monday's Raw.
Paige and her Absolution faction stood at ringside, surrounding Asuka, seemingly ready to pounce. The Empress of Tomorrow grinned and dared them to step in between the ropes at her. They didn't. Asuka instead slipped out of the ring as Absolution throttled a fallen Fox.
This looks all too familiar... #RAW #Absolution @WWEAsuka @RealPaigeWWE @SonyaDevilleWWE @WWE_MandyRose @AliciaFoxy https://t.co/mQ8vSbIrjU2017-12-5 03:16:55
This is how things unfolded last time out.
The pacing to this point suggests a patiently told story is on the way. Paige and Asuka have yet to say much to either, much less trade blows. They are two predators eyeing each other from across the river, neither willing to cross at this point.
That's smart as Paige vs. Asuka is one of the biggest, most intriguing matches possible within the women's division. And it's one that will be best saved for WrestleMania.
Lucha Underground star Vinnie Massaro had visions of a showdown at The Showcase of the Immortals on his mind last week:
Vinnie Massaro @snoringelbow
Paige vs Asuka for Mania https://t.co/0zI2HBtCNO2017-11-28 14:09:10
The unhurried follow-up to the Superstars' last meeting may be a sign that Massaro will prove prophetic.
Absolution has attacked Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James. Paige battled The Boss on Monday night. But with Asuka, the group has hesitated. Hopefully, WWE's patient approach continues as Paige vs. Asuka is a WrestleMania-worthy showdown.
Paige and Asuka are the only two NXT women's champs who never lost the title. They are two of the best performers in their division, and they have yet to face each other at any point.
After a stretch of repeat matchup after repeat matchup, the freshness of this clash is mouthwatering.
Daily DDT foresees their bout happening someplace with plenty of spotlight:
Daily DDT @FanSidedDDT
Nothing is set, but we're getting Paige vs. Asuka on a big stage of some sort. https://t.co/u7uA4qDrkx2017-12-5 17:07:06
There is no stage bigger than WrestleMania. That's where these two warriors belong. Paige vs. Asuka is too good of a match to go with at a B-level PPV.
Miss Hell in Boots should lead the way as Absolution wreaks havoc on Raw in the coming months. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville would then assist Paige in seizing the Raw Women's Championship from Alexa Bliss.
Asuka, meanwhile, will be busy extending her historic undefeated streak. She can take down Bayley, James, Deville, Rose and anyone else within striking range.
And as Paige claims dominance over the division, a face she knows well will emerge. Asuka would challenge for the gold at WrestleMania. The anticipation should be of the high-voltage variety by that point.
This is not a meeting WWE should rush. It's one befitting the grandness of WrestleMania.
What we're seeing now is foreshadowing in what should be a lengthy hyping process.