• Asuka did not appear at the Royal Rumble despite the rumors
  • WWE decided to fill out the women's Royal Rumble match with former superstars
  • Asuka is now rumored to return in February after dealing with an arm injury

Former SmackDown Women’s Champion Asuka was rumored to make her return at the recently-concluded Royal Rumble event, but she was curiously missing in the women’s 30-woman match.

According to Fightful Select, Asuka was not the only woman who was supposed to make a surprise appearance but Kairi Sane as well.

“Regarding several of the names discussed, we’re told that Asuka and Kairi Sane’s names were brought up, but WWE didn’t feel Asuka was physically ready, and that it was easier to bring in other talent than Kairi Sane,” as quoted by Ringside News.

Fans have not seen Asuka since the 2021 Money in the Bank event back in July, and entering the Royal Rumble would have been the best way to reintroduce her to the viewers.

Rumors of Asuka’s impending return at the Royal Rumble intensified just a few days before the event after a report leaked that WWE was heavily discussing whether to bring her back into the fold after being on the shelf.

With WWE releasing so much of its roster in the months leading up to the Royal Rumble, the pro wrestling company brought in its most recognizable legends to fill out the 30-women match.

From Michelle McCool and the Bella Twins to Hall of Famers such as Lita and Ivory, the women’s Royal Rumble match consisted of 14 former WWE superstars that dragged down the quality of the match.

While the surprise entrance and subsequent win of Ronda Rousey drew massive applause from the crowd, the fact that Asuka did not make her appearance had fans feeling mixed emotions about the event.

At 40 years old, Asuka was an important fixture for WWE’s Thunderdome Era at the height of the global pandemic and could very well be taking her time to return from the ring.

Asuka was believed to have been working injured during that period and was seen in an arm sling back in September of last year, which suggested that she was nursing an injured elbow or shoulder.

During her absence from in-ring competition, the decorated WWE women’s superstar stayed in touch with her fans via social media thanks to memes.

"The Empress of Tomorrow" is reportedly targetting a return to the ring in February alongside Bayley, who suffered an ACL injury last summer.