Almost A Superhero: Is Nikki A.S.H. WWE’s Greatest Storytelling Device?
I rarely tune in to WWE. Ideological differences caused us to drift apart after being a die-hard fan for nearly two decades. I still catch The Big Four and listen to the poor YouTubers tasked with recapping the RAW and Smackdown. With AEW in my life, I very rarely feel the need to go back. That is until a recent event piqued my curiosity. Bouncing down the ramp, an ear to ear smile donned in blue and gold, as if ripped straight from a golden age comic. Ditching her old persona, the person we knew as Nikki Cross had transformed into Nikki A.S.H (Almost Super Hero). It felt different, fresh, unlike anything currently on the roster. The gimmick change has had a mixed reception. Yet where some see a goofy, childish character, the eternal optimist in me sees the potential for fantastic storytelling.
It has never been a better time to be a heavily gimmicked character. Both hardcore and casual fans alike have embraced the likes of Orange Cassidy, Danhausen and The Fiend. Personally, I stan hard for the alien from the Andromeda galaxy Kris Statlander. When you look at the last decade’s landmark moments, you can guarantee a strongly gimmicked character isn’t far behind. Another niche of pop culture that has enjoyed an unprecedented surge in popularity is superheroes. People are no longer getting shoved into lockers for liking Captain America or Iron Man. Fringe heroes like The Guardians of the Galaxy or Vision are household names thanks to the efforts of Marvel and Warner Brothers. Being the perfect Venn diagram of these sections, Nikki A.S.H. has all the makings of the next John Cena. Okay, maybe she’ll never match Cena’s drawing power. Still, if booked correctly, she could fill the Superman archetype used throughout wrestling.
As much potential as I see in Nikki A.S.H., it seems things have already begun to turn. In a few months, Nikki has won Money in the Bank, cashed it in, and lost the title to Charlotte Flair. That signature WWE booking, the “we want to push you but not enough that we want to take an actual chance on you”, the Ceasaro special. A few months into her run, it feels like Nikki is already floundering. She is stuck somewhere between an inspirational figure for children and a goofy parody. The latter may have worked for the Hurricane and Mighty Molly, but this is a different world, one that has been conditioned to want a more nuanced caped crusader. Nikki A.S.H. can be more than that, a prism for exploring themes and ideas rarely explored in wrestling.
Speaking about the origin of her character Nikki’s sites the 90s X-Men animated series as her inspiration. The X-Men are literally a group of outcasts, shunned by the world for being different. It’s something that Nikki has dealt with, her whole tag team run with Alexa, and she has always been viewed as this crazy-lady stereotype. It has always been there, so why not use it, ditch the slightly saccharine “I want to be an inspiration for the children” origin, show that through her actions.
The other influence Nikki’s referenced is Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Along with every other iteration of Spider-Man, the show is predicated on Uncle Ben’s wise words, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Nikki could effortlessly embody the responsibility felt by our favourite web-slinger and what more is ripe for exploration and unheard of in the wrestling world. Have Nikki struggle with living up to fans expectations and her own. Make her vulnerable and sympathetic, something WWE has done so well in the past. It is not hard to do either. Pick a comic, literally any comic, and there is an internal struggle or crisis of self-confidence that you could use. While such nuanced storytelling may be out of the reach of WWE, there is one story that Nikki is tailor-made for. The redemption of Alexa Bliss.
A hero is only as good as their villain, and Alexa is the perfect foil for Nikki. Two friends turned bitter enemies. One desperately tries to pull her friend back from the brink of madness, with the other deliberately trying to corrupt her. Have Alexa manipulate Nikki, saying that Nikki abandoned her when she needed her the most. Have that be the finish to a match, where Alexa wins, leaving Nikki to question if she is strong enough to be a superhero. Then culminate it all in a massive cinematic match a-la the Firefly Funhouse, where Nikki is forced to confront that she failed Alexa. In realising her failure and embracing Alexa as her friend no matter what, Nikki vanquishes the demon inside Alexa and becomes a fully-fledged superhero.
It is epic, nuanced, and unlike anything, WWE has done. Nikki would come out of it as a much stronger character, one that more fans could get behind and serve as a way for Alexa to transition away from her demon persona. I know this is a lot of armchair booking, but this is just one possible scenario and serves as a testament to Nikki A.S.H’s potential.
Ultimately the story of Nikki A.S.H. is still being written. No gimmick is perfect from the word go (at least in modern WWE, it isn’t). There are always kinks that need to be ironed out as the performer, writers, and agents get used to the new character. However, the fundamental idea of a superhero in wrestling is evergreen. The archetype has manifested itself in Hulk Hogan, John Cena and countless others. Nikki is the next extension of that, and right now is the perfect time for it. Our world is pretty bleak. Having a bright and colourful hero to restore our faith in humanity is more important than ever. Whether this Nikki is a hero to do it remains to be seen, but the only way we will know is if she is given a chance to fly.