From “Villian” to Hero?

For many years now, WWE women’s superstar Sasha Banks who is confident, brash, even cocky and arrogant at times has always stated how her work that she has put into the company allows her to call herself the best that has ever done it. This at times (along with dirt sheet reports designed to tear down) can turn some people off, but she continues to be unapologetic about believing it which is even a tougher sell today as an African American woman in what has been known as a white male dominated sport professional wrestling . Is it possible one fateful April night in Florida has changed many people’s opinions. Lets explore!.
First lets return to the Summer of 2019 after WrestleMania 35 when Sasha Banks lost the women’s tag team titles asked to leave the WWE due to many personal issues she was going through both professionally and personally in her life. She said “this has become too big for me, its swallowing me, I don’t even know who I am anymore” on a recent podcast with hall of famer Stone Cold Steve Austin who also has been in the same predicament when he admitted he refused to take a loss to Brock Lesnar in 2003. Also, much like Austin, it was met with people both for it telling them to stand up for their worth while others would say suck it up and do your job at the expense of your worth. She would take a 4 month break to re evaluate priorities, find herself again and find her love for wrestling once again. There were many podcasts, tweets, even some former wrestling personalities saying ” she is not needed, let her go” If she comes back she will just get her way and bury the division because she’s a horsewoman and the company revolves around them only.
Sasha Banks would make a return in August of 2019 and there were many both ecstatic about it and there were also doubters about it because she was thrust into the women’s title position right away. A lot of fans said “so she’s going to get what she wants” but what happened? At the expense of her own momentum coming off a red hot return and turning heel for the first time in 4 years, she would lose her first big feud to Raw women’s’ champion Becky Lynch before being moved to Smackdown on Fox. Surely, she would win the title right away since “she will get what she wants”? Well, turns out that’s also wrong, not only did she not win the title for a full year, she would only have one title shot until October at WrestleMania 36 in a fatal 5 way match where again many thought surely she’s going to win the championship right?. Well no, the money was in the singles match with then Smackdown women’s champion Bayley down the line and she understood that despite what many of her fans wanted as she has never won at WrestleMania.
Following WrestleMania 36 is where they really started to start the Sasha Banks vs Bayley storyline. Yes there will be one side that argues that “they were holding up a division” because they tried to keep waiting for live fans to return for the match because its been a match wrestling fans had been waiting for so long. On the flip side, you could argue it became of the best things on TV going being universally praised and what really kept the WWE going while missing some stars such as Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch. Fast forwarding Banks and Bayley would also win the tag titles where they could go to every brand. Many would argue they don’t need the tag titles for their upcoming feud, but there are far more that argued they would raise the credibility of the titles which is exactly what they did. They gave some shine to NXT talents like Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart, IO Shirai and for one night when they dropped the tag titles making Shayna Baszler look like an absolute star that night as she beat both at the same time when they dropped the tag titles. Banks would also win the Raw women’s title from then champion Asuka who was floundering, they would hold all the gold, but the destination was trying to raise Asuka (on tv) to the level where fans wanted her to be. Not only did Asuka end up beating both, take her title back, she was actually the catalyst on TV for breaking up the friendship that nobody else could do, she felt like the biggest babyface in the company at the time. There was an outcry from Banks fans to “keep the title on her and forget the Bayley story” because she had never actually defended a championship successfully but again, she knew the bigger picture was better. While there will be people who argue the Banks/Bayley feud was too short, there’s no denying it hit with most fans, it was a ratings bonanza and the Smackdown women’s championship felt like the biggest championship in the company
Lets fast forward to that fateful night in April of 2021 in Tampa Florida, Banks was the champion, she was in Star Wars, she was the green flag waiver at Daytona, basically she was one of the biggest stars in the company, she was made. However, she was going into WrestleMania the stage she has never won at despite her star status against the hot upcoming new talent Bianca Belair the 2021 women’s Royal Rumble winner. There were dirt sheets and fans claiming “Banks needs a WrestleMania win” “its too soon”, ” the story isn’t good enough” but none of that mattered that night. The main event of WrestleMania was Banks vs Belair, one of the biggest stars vs a new upcoming favorite. What happened was a thing of beauty, they crafted a damn near perfect match, Banks played her role perfectly trying to get the crowd behind Belair throughout the match for the big happy moment at the end when Belair beat Banks to win the title and a new star was born.
However, its the aftermath, and while talents do not book themselves there has been a strong belief among many non 4HW fans that the division just revolves around them, no one else is going to get any shine but them; and for the longest time they were right. You see there were many people that thought Shayna Baszler would beat Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 36 she did not. There were many people that thought Charlotte Flair another horsewoman won the 2020 Royal Rumble chose to face Rhea Ripley to make Rhea a star. She did not, instead she went over Ripley also at WrestleMania 36. So here we are WrestleMania 37, Banks a horsewoman against Belair the Royal Rumble winner, there were some that thought history would repeat itself. It however did not, there was no way that Sasha Banks of all people was going to steal someone else’s moment, no matter how many of her fans wanted it to happen because she never won at WrestleMania before. It was Belair’s moment and it was a historic match, she was always going to do the right thing. While there are some who will admit “they just want to see the division push forward” Banks has showed it time and time again her actions.
The follow up to this historic WrestleMania match has been amazing to see, Belair looks like the star she could be, and Banks has been getting nothing but flowers and praise universally for doing the right thing “and what no other HW would do”. Is it possible one match, one moment created on that one fateful night in Tampa Florida has completely changed the reputation of Banks? Well if you look at social media, articles and even dirt sheets it certainly appears that’s a case that can be made.

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