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.

Sasha Banks Drawing The Best Numbers in Wrestling Since Return

Before we get into this lets make one thing clear, if you’re talking about on the level of a Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena nobody draws like that today for various reasons. The biggest reason being wrestling simply isn’t as popular anymore. However, if you’re talking about someone who consistently moves numbers no matter who they are paired with, Sasha Banks has a very good case of being the best in wrestling at doing just that. Here is a list of wrestlers she has swayed viewership with and some examples of just how much.

Sasha Banks vs Natalya/Becky Lynch August 2019 – October 2019
Lets start with her return on August 12 when she made her return to Monday Night Raw interrupting Natalya and turning heel on both her and Becky Lynch. That segment would gain over 300K viewers which gave Raw 2.729 viewers opposed to the week before of 2.473. The return also has over 9M views on Youtube. The following week the highest segment on the show according to WON was the supposed to King’s court with Sasha Banks which ended with The Fiend attacking him. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch would continue to feud through the October 6th Hell in a Cell pay per view before she would move on to Smackdown. That feud generated a 2.5 or more 4 times on Raw (2.534, 2.528, 2.507, 2.570) respectively. After Hell in a cell, Banks would move to Friday Night Smackdown on Fox. Even before the pandemic occured the highest Raw would reach would be 2.439 on Dec 30 2019 with Banks no longer on Raw. The next highest would be a show that had Becky Lynch, Randy Orton, Edge, Brock Lesnar, Drew Mcintyre and more that would only hit 2.437M. The following feud that Lynch had with Asuka from Nov through January of 2020 (with Charlotte and even Kairi Sane involved at times) would actually most of the time lose the TV audience for whatever reason.

Sasha Banks vs Lacey Evans
After heading off to Friday Night Smackdown in the draft, the post Survivor Series PPV Sasha Banks w/ Bayley would move into a feud with Lacey Evans that was preparing for Evans to go into a feud with Smackdown womens champion Bayley. The post Survivor Series segment with Banks, Bayley and Evans would gain 225K viewers something Evans never accomplished on Raw all Summer that she was pushed in 2019. The following two scheduled matches with Banks vs Evans that resulted in one being a double count out and the other with Banks no showing were part of the highest numbers on the Smackdown shows. There are also 2 videos on Youtube at the moment of Banks making fun of Evan’s daughter which are both closing in on 8M views on both the WWE account and the WWE on Fox account.

Sasha Banks on NXT
While Charlotte Flair went to NXT after WrestleMania as someone who was supposed to help the ratings war against AEW, the truth is she failed to do so. In fact, the only times NXT beat AEW in overall viewership was when Flair wasn’t even apart of the show. The only real time Charlotte moved viewers was when she was with Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley who before Charlotte were even moving numbers on their own in NXT. Charlotte had a 1 month build up to a title match defending against IO Shirai that failed to crack 700K viewers. Meanwhile when Banks went to NXT on June 17th with Bayley to defend the womens tag titles against Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox NXT would defeat AEW in the main event battle with Chris Jericho headlining for AEW. The very first time Chris Jericho would be beaten head to head by anyone in NXT. That tag team mach would gain NXT over 80K viewers. The second time Banks would head to NXT would be for the Great American Bash special on July 1st against IO Shirai with a match that ended with 900K viewers and a gain of 120K from the previous match with Santos Escobar. This match also obliterated the Omega and Page vs Best Friends AEW main event that night by almost 250K viewers overall. That is something that neither Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair or any other woman that faced Shirai has done and they did it with a 3 day build with a match announced via social media. This would be the highest main event NXT has ever had on the USA network until only a match between Adam Cole and Keith Lee title vs title with a spoiler beat it.

Sasha Banks vs Auska
After the Great American Bash, Banks would go into a feud with Asuka over the Raw women’s championship. Almost every Raw, Banks/Bayley/Asuka (and then the addition of Kairi Sane towards the end of the feud) would be in the highest hour of the show OR have the highest demo on the show. On June 29th, Banks would be in a contract signing with Asuka, as well as Ziggler and Mcintyre to open Raw to their highest opening in quite some time. On July 28th, 2020, Banks would face Asuka for the Raw womens championship. They would have a great match that would end in a count out win and title change for Banks. However, the interesting thing is after that match Raw would drop over 250K viewers for the rest of the 3rd hour where Drew Mcintyre was booked to be in the Main Event in a TLC match against Dolph Ziggler. Again unlike feuds with Lynch and Charlotte and recently even Shayna Baszler, Banks would gain, while others would lose viewers for whatever reason.

Sasha Banks vs Bayley
Talk to pretty much any WWE fan and they would tell you the story between Banks and Bayley pretty much carried WWE throughout 2020 and through the pandemic and the numbers would show it. Banks and Bayley would consistently be part of the highest numbers on 80% of Smackdown episodes during their friendship over 2020. They would open the very first WWE pandemic show from the WWE performance center with no fans to 2.83M against Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss. They would dominate the Summer appearing on all 3 brands with the highest viewership or the 18-49 demo. On September 4th in a rematch against Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler for the WWE womens tag team titles they would gain 120K from the match (2.14 up from 2.02 for the previous 30 minutes) and the after the match break up of Banks and Bayley would add another 230K with it peaking at 2.37 up from 2.14 which is yet another gain over 300K viewers. This would lead to a feud between the 2 where Banks would defeat Bayley to win the Smackdown womens championship at Hell in a Cell. On the Nov 6th edition of Friday Night Smackdown against 50M viewers watching election coverage across all platforms, Banks would defend her championship against Bayley opening Smackdown at 2.52M which was the highest of any wrestling show for the last 7 months.

Sasha Banks vs Carmella
While this feud hasn’t been going on too long or been given ample time before last weeks Smackdown, the December 11th Smackdown show built around Banks opening and closing the show would have almost a 100K overall increase from viewership compared to the prior week where Roman Reigns opened and closed the show. The opening with the contract signing between Banks and Carmella would hit a high of 2.41M (2.30M overall) and the ending with the SD womens title match between Banks and Carmella would have a high of 2.25M (2.16M overall). These are both significantly higher than the opening (2.16M) and closing (2.14M) of last week’s show opened and closed by Roman Reigns.

While wrestling fans can point to Becky Lynch and Bayley as big stars, and perhaps even IO Shirai and Asuka, what about the likes of Natalya, Evans, Nox, Blackheart and now Carmella? The common denominator in all these viewership swings seems to be Banks. While dirt sheets will continue to mostly discredit her contribution to TV viewership, its clear from late 2019 through 2020 that Banks has been able to swing some big viewership numbers for wrestling no matter what show she is on or what talent she is working with.

Sending Sasha Banks to Raw is just more of the same from WWE

One of the easiest things to lose in wrestling is momentum. You dont have to even look back far to see what has happened to Rhea Ripley since losing to Charlotte at WrestleMania 36 and where she is right now in WWE NXT’s pecking order. After having one of the best few months late 2019 and until April of this year, she isn’t even looked at as a challenger for IO Shirai’s NXT womens championship. The biggest example however is Sasha Bank’s WWE booking which has constantly hurt her momentum and might do the same thing yet again. The WWE draft is coming up this week and there are some swirling rumors that WWE might send Banks to WWE Monday Night Raw in order to keep her away from Smackdown womens’s champion until WrestleMania season. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea, but lets look at the facts.

Fact 1. Sasha Banks momentum has already been stopped on numerous occasions in WWE.

Lets take a stroll back to memory lane shall we?. It’s July 13 2015 and NXT Divas Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch are called up to the main roster. At the time, Banks was still NXT divas champion and was on a collision course in NXT with Bayley at NXT Takeover Brooklyn 2015. It was there where she would drop the title to Bayley, as well as losing the rematch to Bayley at NXT Respect in the Main Event that following October. There was no issue with that as Banks was already on the main roster. The issue came after those matches with Bayley in which Banks got such respect from the fans for her performances that they would chant “we want Sasha” on numerous occasions including matches she wasnt even in. Despite this, WWE would actually remove Sasha from TV here and there in hopes the chants would die down, instead they just got louder. The WWE was forced to turn Banks babyface the following year when she returned at the Royal Rumble to a big pop attacking divas champion Charlotte Flair. Banks and Flair would spend almost all Summer through Winter that year feuding over the Raw womens title. In that feud Banks would not only lose at WrestleMania 32, she also lost in her hometown in Boston as well as losing the final match at WWE Roadblock a few weeks after Charlotte’s own father Ric Flair gave her an endorsement as the face of the womens division.

Fact 2. Sasha Banks was already moved from WWE Raw to WWE Smackdown not even a year ago.

Sasha Banks returned in August of 2019 from a 4 month hiatus to WWE Monday Night Raw and turned heel on the main roster for the very first time. She returned with red hot momentum as fans finally were getting a taste of the boss as a heel on the main roster. She attacked Natayla in her own country in Canada the night after Summerslam before beating down Raw women’s champion Becky Lynch. She had a mini feud with Becky Lynch that culminated at WWE Hell in a cell 2019 where Becky Lynch won the feud and Banks was drafted to WWE Friday Night Smackdown as the 3rd overall pick (1st among women). However, it wasn’t until June of 2020 that WWE actually really did anything with Banks when they won the Womens Tag Team titles for a second time and also won the WWE Raw womens championship to become a double champion, which was shortly lived once again. So in essence, they absolutely hurt all the momentum of her heel turn to draft her to WWE Smackdown and now they’re gonna tempt fate with her as a babyface and do the same thing to move her back to Raw a year later?

Fact 3. Sasha Banks won the Raw womens title before actually winning the Smackdown Womens Championship.

Yes, you read that right, Sasha Banks won the WWE Raw womens championship despite being drafted away from Raw not even a year ago before she won the top womens title on the brand that she was the top womens draft pick of. With her and partner and at the time best friend Bayley they were able to win the WWE womens tag titles allowing them to jump to any brand. She would use this loophole to win the Raw women’s championship via count out only to lose it again less than a month later back to the same person she won it from. Why is the biggest women’s star on Smackdown and the woman who was their top draft pick winning the Raw womens title before the Smackdown womens championship? Why is it a year later and Banks has still not won the title that makes her the second womens grand slam champion? Well there’s a few answers, most of it has to do with covid 19 and wrecking plans for WRestleMania 36 as well as Summerslam in Boston which again hurt the momentum of Banks as WWE was building towards her clashing with Bayley at both events ultimately for neither to happen.

Fact 4. Sasha and Bayley did NOT have to break up so soon

When Banks and Bayley won the WWE women’s tag titles for a second time on June 5th, it was the start of a pretty special run. They would be constantly praised as being the best act thats going on any of the 3 shows that they would appear on. So the big question here is if you’re not willing to go all in on a feud between the two yet, why would you willingly break up a red hot act in September when WrestleMania is in late March over 7 months away? Why wouldn’t you keep the act together for a few more monts as we get closer to the Royal Rumble and then do the big break up angle? What did they gain doing the break up angle if they’re not actually going to go all in on this feud yet?

Fact 5. Bayley has nothing else to do on Smackdown

Due in part to the WWE constantly trying for the perfect time to run this feud (WrestleMania 36 this year, and then Summerslam this year), WWE would have Bayley go through the whole Smackdown women’s roster. She has faced Charlotte Flair 3 times, Lacey Evans 3 times, Nikki Cross 6 times, Alexa Bliss 3 times, Tamina 2 times, Naomi 2 times and heck even has had 3 matches with Raw women’s champion Asuka including at Summerslam and recently at Clash of Champions when Nikki Cross was unable to make the event due to covid concerns. Yes you read that right, at the PPV where “all titles must be defended” WWE would AGAIN go to Nikki Cross because there’s simply no one left, and when Cross couldn’t make the show, they again used Raw women’s champion Asuka, because yet again, there was nothing else left for Bayley. As a matter of fact, there’s nothing left for Bayley on Smackdown period besides the storyline with Banks.

Fact 6. There’s nothing on Raw for Banks to do

Over on Monday Night Raw, talented women like Shayna Baszler and Bianca Belair can’t even get into the title picture against Asuka. On the Raw side, they have a lack of heels that they’re using Zelina Vega to face Asuka twice despite never winning a match before facing off with her. Why on earth would you bring over someone you just turned face in Banks when you need heels to face off with Asuka over the Raw womens championship? Also, moving Banks to Raw, once again will take the spotlight away from Asuka despite her being the Raw women’s champion because Banks just has a presence about her. What would Banks even do on Raw even for a few months with no real heels on the actual Raw roster that she can have a filler storyline with until Rumble season? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Bayley the heel who has nothing left on Smackdown to be the one to move to Raw with Banks staying on Smackdown to freshen up both womens divisions?

Fact 7. Banks winning the Royal Rumble at this point is just an accolade for her, it should go to someone who needs it.

I will admit, I am a big fan of Banks and as a fan it would be cool to see her win the Womens Royal Rumble in January. The fact of the matter is tho, it would simply just be another accolade. She is far past that “moment” with the star she is. As a matter of fact her buzz right now is maybe the strongest its ever been with the storyline with Bayley. You can argue her momentum is hotter now than it will be at WrestleMania next year. Also, I have to admit someone like Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, IO Shirai, or Sonya Deville if she returns would get much more out of a Royal Rumble win than Banks would at this point in her career.

Fact 8. Banks can use the momentum right now and go mainstream.

I know what you’re thinking, how would she get acknowledged mainstream? Well let me tell you. You see she’s about to appear in the most watched stream TV show since it debuted; Star Wars The Mandalorian season 2 which is streamed on Disney plus which just happens to have some connection to Fox where Friday Night Smackdown also airs. Why on earth would you willingly take your biggest women’s star off the show that has more people viewing just to keep a storyline that you didn’t even need to start yet apart for many more months? It makes no sense!. Why wouldn’t you use the momentum she has right now to garner more mainstream attention for not only herself, but also for the company? Imagine if she does press (even virtual) and you can announce her as Smackdown womens’s champion Sasha Banks playing whatever character she will be playing. The buzz and the mainstream attention it could get could do great for her career. Why wouldn’t you capitalize on this momentum?

Yes I get it, as a wrestling fan WrestleMania is the “pinnacle” of a wrestling moment to wrestling fans. I get that you would want to have live fans if possible for such a big moment to take place. However, there are also a few more problems. 1. WrestleMania is a stacked show that is usually filled with many big matches, who is to say this will get a chance to stand out?. 2. Who is there to guarantee the world wont get worse and we still wont be allowed a packed stadium full of live fans? and most important 3. Will the momentum be hurt too much by then as outlined by all the facts above? Momentum is very easy to lose in wrestling and hard to gain back just look at all the people struggling to gain theirs back, sending Banks to Raw and prolonging this story is simply too much of a risk to take in this person’s opinion.

WWE is taking a risk waiting for Sasha Banks vs Bayley at Summerslam

First off, I will tell you I am a fan of long term storyline builds where you have to pay attention to detail. However, there comes a time when there’s too long of a build up that wrestling fans today will get tired of waiting seeing the same stuff over and over. Understandably the WWE wants a crowd for this match and so do the women. The Summerslam date is also the 5 year anniversary of NXT Takeover Brooklyn where they had the greatest womens match ever in North America. So while commendable, there are a few reasons why WWE is taking a risk waiting to do Sasha Banks vs Bayley at Summerslam.

Lets get the biggest one out of the way first, most wrestling fans know this is being done because Vince McMahon is hoping there’s a crowd to be allowed for Summerslam where it ultimately would be a much bigger impact and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, nothing about this world right now at the moment is perfect. What happens if things open back up and there’s a second wave of the virus? What happens if someone in WWE contacts the virus? What happens if either of the women were to end up exposed? The whole thing blows up. I will say definitely these two women 100% deserve a crowd but there is no guarantee no matter how long they wait this year they will have one.

The second issue is what happens if there is an injury or either one gets wary of performing with the virus? We all have heard the dirt sheets claim how Sasha Banks is injury prone; while thats always been extremely overblown the truth is she did get hurt in a hell in a cell match with Becky Lynch and then in a tag team match in January which already derailed plans for this once. Its wrestling, its not ballet, wrestlers get hurt/nicked up all the time. What happens if one of them decides the reward is not worth the risk like Roman Reigns did for WrestleMania 36?

The last issue is where can you take the storyline until then and how do you continue to stall?. I will say last week with the inclusion of Charlotte Flair the WWE took a step in the right direction, but you can’t use Charlotte every week and they shouldn’t want to, this is their story. However, you can’t keep booking Smackdown and pay per views every week where Bayley costs Sasha a big match while Sasha helps Bayley retain the title. That simply has already been played out. Another big issue is Bayley has already defeated everyone else on the Smackdown roster, multiple times so where does she go from here? Where does Sasha Banks go? You can’t just keep having her stand by Bayley, sooner or later you have to split them up, but then how do you pro long the match? Does Bayley make Sasha jump through hoops and beat everyone on Smackdown like she has? What happens after the feud then though if Sasha has already beaten everyone to get the title shot?

Perhaps the better way to do this story would be for them to have their first match at Extreme Rules and let it end in a no contest/DQ match (WWE’s specialty of the challenger never beating the champion on the first try). That way you can do the turn after the June pay per view Backlash, and you dont have nine more weeks of finding a way to stall. If you do the turn at Backlash or the Smackdown after, then you have 4 weeks to build up the match at Extreme Rules, and then another 4 weeks after that for Summerslam. You still need a reveal, a turn, and ideally Sasha would win some big matches before she ultimately clashes with Bayley.

While the idea of waiting for Sasha vs Bayley to take place at Summerslam is admirable and quite clearly the much preferred option, there are some hurdles to it.  With this pandemic holding everything up and nobody knowing what happens next there are no guarantees fans will even be allowed in wrestling arenas for shows by August. There is also the hurdle that the champion Bayley simply has no challengers left without just doing more rematches that frankly haven’t been great. In a perfect world Sasha vs Bayley would be able to happen at Summerslam wherever the WWE decides to hold it with hundreds if not thousands of fans in attendance. However, the world is not perfect and while it might not be ideal, the first Sasha Banks vs Bayley match might need to be moved up to the July pay per view Extreme Rules. If WWE ends up not having fans at Summerslam, then you stalled the whole Summer to do a match the same way in front of no fans in attendance.

Why Sasha Banks is the female Shawn Michaels

sasha-banks

The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels is known to wrestling fans throughout the world as one of if not the best pure talents its has ever had. With his brash and confident charisma and his in ring prowess and his ability to play either a beloved hero or a hated villain, he would go on to have a hall of fame career. In my opinion, Sasha Banks is the female Shawn Michaels and here are 7 reasons why.

Big Match Performers

First of all, they are both big match performers. You would usually hear it in Shawn’s matches, there isn’t a better big match performer in wrestling than Shawn Michaels. From his classics at WrestleMania with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and his final 2 matches with the Undertaker, to his classic feud with Triple H there wasn’t a big match that Shawn didn’t excel in. The same can be said about Sasha Banks who has had many classics of her own. Lets start in 2015 in NXT, She would go on to produce 5 straight 4 star matches (and in my opinion some are ranked low) in a row; a fatal 4 way where she won the NXT title against Charlotte, Bayley and Becky Lynch, her 2 NXT title defenses against Charlotte, her takeover unstoppable match with Becky, as well as her 2 matches with best friend Bayley at Takeover Brooklyn and Takeover Respect. She would also go on to have many top tier matches in all of 2016 with Charlotte on the WWE main roster in which PWI would vote it the feud of the year as well as voting Banks the top female of the year. Finally, in 2019 Banks would put on 3 more classics in big matches with Ronda Rousey at the Royal Rumble and Becky Lynch at both Clash of champions and Hell in a cell (IMO the womens match of the year).

Their Ability to make stars

One of the biggest needs to be able to consider yourself a star in the wrestling business in my opinion, is the ability to not only become a star yourself, but also make a star. While a lot of people would credit Shawn Michaels with helping many including Stone Cold Steve Austin become a major star in wrestling, the same can be said about Sasha Banks. In NXT in 2015, she had what I consider the best womens championship run ever in only 5.5 months. Her relationship with Becky Lynch (Team BAE) as well as her match with Becky at Takeover Unstoppable put Becky Lynch on the map. Her matches with Charlotte Flair (2014/2015) as well as their year long feud in 2016 on the main roster made both of them stars. Pro wrestling Illustrated actually voted Banks the #1 female in wrestling and her vs Charlotte the top feud of 2016.  Then there’s Bayley, who in 2015 NXT had THE greatest North America womens match (voted NXT match of the year men included) with Banks and would become the biggest star that NXT had at the time.  That historic match would also set the stage for women in wrestling to main event not only tv shows, but pay per views. They are now main eventing house shows which is something no one ever thought would happen.  Finally it led to 2 other historic things, Ronda Rousey joining the pro wrestling world and women main eventing WrestleMania.

Their ability to stay relevant despite questionable booking. 

There is one thing the WWF/WWE (especially WWE today) is known for and thats their odd booking of many top tier talents. While Shawn Michaels is known as Mr. WrestleMania how many realize he’s only won 6 of the 17 matches he’s had? How many big matches has he lost to Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret Hart, among others, it hasn’t hurt him. The same can be said about Sasha Banks who really only has a few signature wins to her resume, however much like Shawn, she has been able to overcome questionable booking and it hasn’t hurt her star power at all.. While many of her fan base (the krew) will disagree with that statement, lets just look at the facts. How many big time babyface stars lose a feud in the end to the heel and overcome it?.  How many big time babyfaces could go on TV basically denounce her character and 2 weeks later come out to one of the biggest pops the women have gotten that year? How many women could survive a 2018 booking where she would lose almost as much as she won and in matches that really served no purpose. Finally, how many women could be dragged through the mud after rumors swirled of a 2019 walk out and return to one of the biggest pops of the year as well as split a crowd with the top star at the time as a villian no less? Her merch sales, quarter hour ratings, and fan base continue to rise above any questionable booking the WWE throws at her.  Oh by the way, Banks also now has appeared in a Super Bowl commercial in 2020 (the only wrestling woman to do so) along side Roman Reigns and is also rumored to be playing a role in the upcoming Star Wars Mandalorian season 2; that my friends is what a star is.

Their ability to make anyone they are in the ring with look good. 

One of the most common things wrestling fans will tell you is that you need a dance partner, and while that is partly true, there are just some who stand out and are able to create a special dance with the lack of a great dance partner: Shawn Michaels was able to do it, and Sasha Banks is also able to do it. While both have had many big time classics that I have outlined already, I would like to point out just a few times that Sasha Banks was able to create magic without a real dance partner.  In 2017, with a green Nia Jax, Banks would go on to produce three solid matches including one in her hometown of Boston. She’s also credited by most wrestling fans with the accolade of getting the best match out of any woman she’s in the ring with, which is what Shawn Michaels was great at. In the art of wrestling, you have to also be able to make your opponent look good by selling moves , and both Michaels and Banks excel at selling the other’s moves whether they are playing a babyface or a heel.

Their ability to play a babyface or a heel

Speaking of, there are 3 characters that a pro wrestler can play in wrestling, a babyface, a heel, or a tweener (which is basically a babyface with some heel tendencies). In my and many others opinions, both Michaels and Banks excel at both. Lets start with Michaels, he orginally was part of a tag team known as the Rockers with tag team partner Marty Janetty as a beloved tag team. However, in 1992, on an episode of the barber shop, Michaels would end up throwing his then partner/friend through a barbershop window turning heel. His heel run would include a feud with Bret Hart in which he would make many disparaging remarks about Canada and end with putting over Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14 before he took a long hiatus returning to WWE again and starting a feud once again as a babyface with Triple H. In 2005, Michaels would turn on Hulk Hogan going into Summerslam playing a tweener role, he would still have his babyface persona but he would make fun of Bret Hart in Canada and run away from Hulk Hogan. In the same way Michaels could play all 3 roles well, so can Sasha Banks. In 2013 Banks would debut in NXT as a go happy girl just happy to be there. However one day that all changed and Banks decided she needed something different and turned heel, added some swag to her character, put on some shades and called herself the boss and became one of the best heels going. From 2016 to 2018 Banks would play the role of a babyface and was one of the most over talents on the roster In 2016; a roster that included John Cena who no one in wrestling is as big today. In January of 2019 while in a tag team with Bayley, Sasha would play the role of a tweener in a feud with then Raw womens champion Ronda Rousey where she would use both her boss persona from NXT in 2015 but also play the character she has been playing then at the time teaming with Bayley a beloved babyface.

The emotional and physical issues they dealt with thanks to pro wrestling and how it changed both

Lets start of by going back to Survivor Series in Montreal Canada in 2017 Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart. What happened that night is something most people thought wouldn’t happen, a script was broken, Michaels put Bret Hart in the sharpshooter and owner Vince McMahon called for the bell without Bret tapping out. Thats right, Vince screwed Bret (or Bret screwed Bret). Over the years of wrestling, Michaels would deal with drugs and alcoholism before he found Christianity.  One thing both share in common is back injuries, back injuries is what made Shawn have to retire from wrestling for many years, and while they aren’t as bad as his, Banks herself has dealt with back injuries in the past (probably from carrying a division for years LOL). As with Shawn, Banks one day decided that her love for wrestling was gone and she needed to take a break in the summer of 2019 due to depression, burn out and other issues stemming from the accident with fellow wrestler Paige in 2017 that forced her to retirement. That incident led to many questioning just how good she is, including herself. You could tell she just wasn’t the same after that especially with all the criticism she would face from social media fans. She has since returned and has returned to being as great as she has always been, some would claim even better and she seems more happy than she’s been in a long time. Sometimes you just need time away from what is destroying you no matter how much you love it.

Their overall impact on the business

While many wrestlers from the past and even the present have said they became a pro wrestler due to Shawn Michaels, the same can be said for Banks. Lets go back to the Summer of 2019 when it was rumored that Banks was leaving WWE, you had women pro wrestlers from every promotion asking for a match with her. That is still happening today as even impact stars like Tessa Blanchard and Rosemary are wanting to have a match with Banks. While Michael’s was known to use his pull backstage (kliq, his feud with Bret Hart, etc), Banks is known for something else. With her match with Bayley at NXT Takeover Brooklyn, they not only changed the game for women in North America but they raised the bar. That match set the stage for the likes of Ronda Rousey one of the biggest women stars in the world to venture into pro wrestling after years of being a fan, as well as mentioned before setting the stage for the WrestleMania 35 main event. Without that match with Bayley at Takeover Brooklyn, there is no guarantee that the womens revolution comes as far as it has.

While some would consider Banks to be more like the likes of Eddie Guerrero which is who Banks credits to wanting to be a pro wrestler or Randy Savage as my friend believes (flamboyant, fans made her turn babyface, willing to ruffle feathers and stick up for herself among other things), I believe she’s more of a Shawn Michaels, she might not retire with the accolades of a Triple H (13 time WWE champion, RR winner, etc), she will however retire one day being known as a star creator and much like Michaels, one of if not the best pure in ring women talents ever.

5 Reasons Sasha Banks should win the Royal Rumble.

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The WWE is about to kick into high gear and kick off their WrestleMania season starting with January’s Royal Rumble pay per view. While you can make a case that a couple other women are options to win the women’s Royal Rumble, these are five reasons why Sasha Banks is the best and most logical choice to win the annual event.

  1.  She is one of the biggest stars in the company men or women based on popularity, merchandise sales, ratings, and other metrics. She is known as one of the members of the esteemed 4 horsewomen of WWE that includes Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Bayley. However if you follow her booking, she hasn’t exactly been pushed on the level of those other 3 women. There are four major pay per views and she has a combined W/L record of 4-10 at those annual events including 0-4 at WrestleMania. That is simply unacceptable for a star of her status. Yes, you can say wrestling is scripted so wins and losses dont matter, but I’ll argue they matter more because of it being scripted it feels like every time she gets hot the WWE does something that undermines her and tries to kill her momentum.

2.     She has earned it for everything she has done for the women’s division over 4 years. Her NXT run in 2015 would put fellow 4 horsewomen Becky Lynch on the map, as well as make other 4 horsewomen member Bayley the star of the entire brand after their matches at NXT Takeover Brooklyn and Takeover Respect. For the last 2 years, she has been in pointless rivalries and feuds with no direction that were started and dropped. while putting over almost every other woman on the roster.  Then just recently making a red hot return and being the talk of the company after a 4 month hiatus and giving Raw women’s champion Becky Lynch the match she needed to heat up her record breaking title run that before that rivalry most will admit had fallen flat.

3.     She would have the best story of any other woman on the roster.  Does she jump back over to Raw and look for revenge on Raw women’s champion Becky Lynch for the defeat at Hell in a Cell? Does she do the unthinkable and decide to go back to NXT which is now considered a third brand and look for revenge on NXT womens champion Rhea Ripley due to what happened at Survivor Series? Finally, does she decide to stay on SD and challenge best friend and Smackdown womens champion Bayley because winning that title would make her the second grand slam champion in history? Yes, some have argued there is the Elimination Chamber, but based on storyline wise where Sasha doesn’t want the title as long as she’s facing Bayley, why would she want to enter either a #1 contender match or a match that is for the Smackdown womens championship as long as Bayley is the champion?  However, the possibilities of her turning on Bayley, or Bayley turning on her which is something we’ve never seen on either side are endless and could make for compelling television if she were to win the Royal Rumble. Not only that, fans for years have been craving for Sasha Banks and Bayley to get a chance to re create the magic they did 4 years ago at Takeover Brooklyn and Respect. It’s time to give the fans what they have been asking for.

4.    If not now, when? The truth is, this should have already happened 3 years ago. In 2016, Sasha Banks was one of the hottest things on the entire roster, so much so that the WWE would pair her a few times with Roman Reigns in order to try to get him over as the face of the company that they have been trying to do for years now. Instead, the WWE failed to capitalize on her popularity, and instead chose someone else. Fast forward to today, they once again have a chance to make her the top star on the Smackdown brand alongside Roman Reigns. Do they finally pull the trigger or do they again pass over her for someone who doesn’t do as much for the company as she does? Yes she is 27 years old so you can claim they have time, but this summer she almost walked away from it all because she was suffering from depression and anxiety. The truth is no one knows what tomorrow will bring, you can’t keep pushing it off thinking you have time due to her age.

5.   The company claims they value her. While she got a rumored substantial bigger contract signing with the company, money only goes so far. The WWE has no problem using her on billboards and posters and magazine covers among other promotional material to help draw fans into the buildings, but yet dont treat her on TV like the star they promote off screen. The last two years she has been constantly involved in tag team matches, 6 women tag matches, she’s had rivalries started and dropped, she’s had a title reign promised to her and then taken away from her 8 days and 48 days later (this was due to extenuating circumstances however) among other things. She along with Roman Reigns are the top 2 stars on the highest rated WWE show Smackdown.  She supposedly has a really good relationship with WWE owner Vince McMahon now and is one of the easier people to work with again in the locker room by accounts.

It’s put up or shut up time for the WWE in 2020, do they finally decide to go all in and let her get the chance to carry the ball starting with a Royal Rumble win, or do they just continue to treat her like they always have, a star who makes stars but never gets a real chance to be THE star? If the company is going to go all in with her, it should start January 26th with a Royal Rumble win, if not fans will once again realize that no matter how much they try to talk about how much they claim to value her, she will still be seen as someone who is not quite that level to the company.

 

Should we bank on WWE pushing Sasha Banks in 2020?

Sasha Banks was one of the hottest acts in NXT in 2015, so much so that when she debuted on the main roster alongside Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair on Monday Night Raw, fans thought that she was going to be the next big thing in the womens division and one of the women to carry Monday Night Raw or Tuesday Night Smackdown, It hasn’t exactly worked out that way so will it change this time? If you listen to many fans on social media, they believe nothing will really change.

Going back to late 2015, the WWE universe would chant “we want Sasha” in matches she was apart of, matches she wasn’t even in with other women, or heck even arenas she wasn’t in, this continued until 2016 where she made her big “return” at the January pay per view Royal Rumble. She went into a feud with Charlotte all of 2016 and despite being the 2nd overall merchandise seller (this included a roster that had Roman Reigns, John Cena, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, and even a red hot Dean Ambrose), someone who brought in big ratings (Her vs Charlotte did 3M in a 3rd hour of Monday Night Raw), someone who helped sell out arenas in a time where wrestling was bigger than it is now, the WWE never capitalized on that momentum and never gave her a chance to run with the ball. They essentially in the end chose Charlotte over her and went with the other 4 horsewomen member Bayley in 2017 before going to Alexa Bliss.

For 2017 and 2018, both Banks and Bayley would be reduced to constant tag team matches with no direction, whether it be with the Riot Squad or with Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose known as fire and desire. Basically, Sasha Banks and her partner Bayley were on TV just to be on TV.. This continued until the womens tag team titles came early 2019 where they won the tag titles as the inaugural champions.

In 2019, Sasha and Bayley defended the tag team titles on PPV (or even tv) one time before they lost them to the Iiconics at WrestleMania. Now there were extenuating circumstances as Sasha Banks said in her chronicle that she was suffering from burn out and depression and just didn’t have the urge to do it anymore at the time. For months and months fans were wondering if she would even come back, they asked time and time again for her to come back into a feud with Becky Lynch, which ultimately she did after a red hot heel turn. However, much like her whole main roster run, even as a heel with a new attitude, new look, and the talk of the business again, she wasn’t chosen to be given the ball. She eventually lost her very first big feud back to Becky Lynch and then was drafted to Smackdown where she also at Survivor Series ended up losing being eliminated by Rhea Ripley but was protected in the loss.

Fast forward to today, Sasha is presented as a big deal on Smackdown, she is constantly involved with Bayley who is the SD womens champion. She is treated as a special attraction as she doesn’t really wrestle much, the roster has been basically cleared for her without Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, or heck even Asuka. She is on constant posters, gets constant promotion from Fox, and SEEMS to be heading into a WrestleMania program with Bayley, has been protected pretty much the entire time, yet fans on social media are constantly believing that the WWE will yet again ultimately choose someone else be it someone like Lacey Evans or Alexa Bliss.

The truth is, can we really blame those fans? Every single time Sasha has gotten red hot the WWE has done something to stop her momentum (purposely or not is up to what you believe), they technically just did it again this October unless there is a bigger picture really here. How do you not only book her as a face to lose big matches, but even with a change that made her successful from NXT she also loses 2 big matches as a heel? Most people have no belief at all she will win the Royal Rumble to kick start some momentum in 2020.

Even the biggest, most optimistic fan has belief that once again the company will choose someone else to give the ball to. Will this new found relationship with Vince pay off? Will sticking up for herself and betting on herself pay off? or will she be used as what she’s been used time and time again on the main roster to make the next star?.. Will she finally be treated as a star herself, or simply the star maker? I guess we will find out in 2020 starting with the Royal Rumble.

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Four Reasons Why the New York Yankees Should Choose Bryce Harper Over Manny Machado

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While the New York Yankees sit with the second best record in baseball in 2018, as a Yankee fan you can never not think about what could happen in the near future. Especially when in the near future is the 2018 off season loaded with talents like outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado both of whom have expressed interests in playing for the Yankees at some point in their careers. If the Yankees have their choice in the off season they should go with Harper.

The first reason the Yankees should go with Harper is because he is a left handed power bat which would compliment the right handed power of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. While its true the Yankees are getting above average production from the likes of Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorious from the left side, you really can’t qualify either one as a power threat. There is also the fact that Aaron Hicks hasn’t been the epitome of health and Didi Gregorious before coming to New York was a failed prospect. Meanwhile the power bat the Yankees thought they had from the left side in Greg Bird putting it mildly hasn’t quite lived up to what the Yankees envisioned him being. If the Yankees can add Harper in the off season it would give them that power left handed bat complimenting their right handed heavy power hitting lineup.

The second reason the Yankees should go with Harper is because they already have a future all star third baseman in rookie Miguel Andujar who is well on his way to becoming the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year. While its true the Yankees can use an upgrade defensively at third base, there’s no reason to think Andujar who is only 23 can’t improve his defense there. Not to long ago, another rookie by the name of Derek Jeter, started his Yankees career makin 26 errors at short stop and playing less than average defense. It would appear he turned out pretty well there. While he will never be Manny Machado at the hot corner, Andujar’s all star level bat will surely make up for his defense.

The Yankees once considered to have outfield depth galore are now playing Shane Robinson in 90% of the games due to injuries to Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, and a balky hamstring to Giancarlo Stanton who is now being forced to DH. The Yankees depth evaporated quick when they traded away outfielders like Billy McKinney, Dustin Fowler and others to upgrade other areas or for future assets. There’s an old saying in baseball that you can never have enough pitching. Well in the Yankees case this year it appears you can never have enough outfielders. While the Yankees at one point envisioned Clint Frazier taking over LF after Brett Gardner, the injury history of Frazier has to make them somewhat hesitant to hand him the starting job in 2019. The thought of Bryce Harper taking over for Brett Gardner in left field sounds better than Manny Machado taking over for Miguel Andujar at third base. The Yankees will get far more production in Left field from Gardner to Harper than they will Andujar to Machado at the hot corner; not to mention having to shift their infield around on the off chance that Andujar could be a better 1st baseman.  Furthermore, the Yankees signing Bryce Harper would then give them the options of trading a Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial for a deal for starting pitching.

The final reason is one Hal Steinbrenner will love, the idea of Bryce Harper playing left field in Yankee Stadium will be too tempting for him to pass on. This is the guy that wears the number 34 because the two numbers together adds up to 7 because of his idol Mickey Mantle. His favorite player when he was growing up was former Yankees captain Derek Jeter. It has always been a dream of Harper to represent the pinstripes. If the Yankees sign Harper, think of the merchandise sales from his jersey, or the ticket sales to see a lineup that includes not only Bryce Harper but Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, talk about a real murderers row. Above all Hal Steinbrenner is a business man, and Bryce Harper adds more business, money and revenue to the Yankees than Manny Machado will.

The Yankees will continue to play baseball in 2018 and attempt to finish out the season on a high note going for their 28th World Series championship, but as a fan of the team its still hard not to think of what could be if the Yankees do end up signing Bryce Harper after the season is over. The Yankees need pitching first and foremost and will address that, but if the Yankees have their choice of Harper or Machado in the off season, it will be Bryce Harper.

Lack Of Urgency Will Cost The New York Yankees The Division.

The New York Yankees are one of the best teams in the major leagues against teams over .500. So why then are they in second place in their division? It has to do with their play against teams under .500 as well as the lack of urgency on the part of the organization.

The Yankees own the best record in baseball against teams over .500 but are 16th in the majors against teams below that mark. You can say “its baseball Suzyn” but the real problem is they play down to their opponents. They are often times unprepared and take teams for granted.

The Yankees had a chance coming off their All Star break to reconfigure their starting rotation and make sure they threw their three best pitchers at the Mets who are using their two best despite being in last place and lucky to win 75 games. Instead of the Yankees pitching Luis Severino, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka they chose to start their two worst starting pitchers by far this season in Domingo German and Sonny Gray.  That’s a lack of urgency despite being 4.5 games out already in the division because they’re playing a bad Mets team.

While the starting pitching market is thin, there are still upgrades out there available as mid rotation arms over German. Meanwhile they were engaged in third baseman Manny Machado and CL Brad Hand neither who fill the Yankees biggest need which is SP. In one aspect you can understand the leash that Sonny Gray has been given, he at least is a proven starting pitcher but what exactly has German done to earn such a long leash?

If the Yankees are content with the Wild Card then by all means keep sending German out there to try to develop him more. After all, Luis Severino was destined to be a reliever after his awful performances as a starter in 2016. However, if the Yankees goal is to win the division, which it should be, they better show more of an urgency before the division completely gets away from them.

The New York Rangers Should Not Use The Cap Space They Have This Summer

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The New York Rangers are in the midst of continuing their rebuild and reports say they are interested in bringing in character guys and guys who play much harder than they did last season. Any signing the Rangers make should be a one year commitment only. Although the Rangers have a lot of cap space, they also have a lot of restricted free agents. Whether its signing unrestricted free agents or worrying about their own restricted free agents they have to be careful what contracts are given out with an eye on upcoming NHL free agent class that can be as star studded as this year’s MLB free agent class.

The Rangers goal this season should not be to attempt to bring in guys and then try to sneak their way into a playoff spot. This is New York, ultimately we dont care about playoffs, the goal of a New York team should be to win a championship. The Rangers are nowhere near that at the moment. What sense then does it make to bring in players (maybe outside Tavares whom they didn’t even request a meeting with) for a multi year commitment? The Rangers did that with Michael Grabner and although he performed well, what exactly did that do for them in the end? The Ranger are nowhere close to a championship this season. The goal this off season should be to continuing to attempting to build the team with as much high end talent as possible.

While its true NHL free agent superstars rarely hit free agency, the odds next year are better that at least a few of them will shake loose because there are just so many impact players and so many teams who don’t exactly have a ton of cap space. This list includes guys like Tyler Seguin, Arteri Panarin, Erik Karlsson, Logan Couture, Drew Doughty among many others.

The Rangers have almost 30 million in cap space this Summer but they should be very careful with how they use it. They have to make a decision on guys like Kevin Hayes and Brady Skjei who probably should be part of this solution but guys like Spooner, Namestnikov and the other restricted free agents they have should not be. The Rangers can’t get stuck in the same cycle they were in the past where they were paying good money to players who are simply not going to win you a Stanley cup if they are who you are relying on.

If you’re the New York Rangers wouldn’t Arteri Panarin and/or Tyler Seguin look good on Broadway? The Rangers need to make moves this off season with an eye on the star studded class that could await the team after the 2018-2019 season.