“Now walk it out (Now walk it out)/Now walk it out (Now walk it out)/Now walk it out (Now walk it out)/Now walk it out/Westside, walk it out (Westside, walk it out)/Southside, walk it out (Southside, walk it out)/Eastside, walk it out (Eastside, walk it out)/Northside, walk it out (Northside, walk it out)” – World famous scholar and philosopher, Unk
I thought about skipping this topic. There’s just so much speculation to make, and very little factual, concrete evidence to go off of. Then I thought about it, and I thought about it some more. That’s when I realized…
When has a lack of facts ever stopped wrestling columnists from writing things? I’m not a journalist, nor am I a news reporter. I write opinion pieces. That’s what these are… my opinions. I’m not claiming to know any secret information, and I’m not “reporting” anything.
With that said, here’s what we “know” so far…
This isn’t a “work” or some sort of story being told. That seems to be the one thing all of the actual journalists and reporters agree on. Sasha Banks and Naomi were scheduled to participate in a Six-Pack Challenge in the main event of last week’s episode of Raw, along with Asuka, Doudrop, Nikki A.S.H. and Becky Lynch, with the winner getting a Raw Women’s Title shot against Bianca Belair at Hell In A Cell. It was reported that Naomi was scheduled to win the Six-Pack Challenge, with initial stories saying she was set to pin Sasha, before the eventual “correct” reports saying that she was going to pin Nikki A.S.H. to get the win. Naomi would head to Hell In A Cell, where she would ultimately lose to Bianca, and it was being done to give Belair a new challenger at a “lesser” show before a string of stadium shows over the summer months. Now, as a result of their actions, Sasha and Naomi have been “suspended indefinitely” and have been stripped of the titles. They no longer have merch for sale on the WWEShop website, which says a lot, as they’re two of the stronger performers in the company when it comes to merchandise sales.
That’s about it.
Everything beyond that has been all over the place. You’ll see some reports that said Sasha and Naomi didn’t want to participate in the Six-Pack Challenge because they were “uncomfortable” being in the ring with two of their opponents in the match. Then you’ll see reports that say the women walked out because they were pissed off about working as singles wrestlers, which further put their WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles on the back burner. If you keep looking, you’ll find other reports that say both women, and specifically Naomi, are upset about their contract status. Some say it’s because they aren’t happy with their current contracts, while others say they aren’t happy with the new contracts they have been offered. Ariane Andrew (aka Cameron in her time with WWE, and aka Naomi’s old Funkadactyl tag partner) thinks that someone is “manipulating” Naomi because she would never walk out on her own, strongly implying that Sasha is the culprit and can get away with anything because of her star power. There’s a report that just came out saying Sasha’s latest burst of anger is because she was supposed to be in the main event of WrestleMania this year, only for Ronda Rousey to return and get handed that spot until “Stone Cold” Steve Austin agreed to do an in-ring return and then HE was given that spot. I’ve even seen people talk about how this might be Sasha and Naomi making a play to get fired so that they can go to AEW.
The first thing that jumps out at me in that paragraph is the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. If you’ve been reading my columns, you would know that I feel WWE has fucked up at almost every possible turn when it comes to those titles. Putting the titles on Sasha and Bayley to start was good, but then having them lose to The IIconics was terrible. Then it seemed like every set of champions was just two singles wrestlers thrown together, and they’d still wrestle as singles after winning the titles. Somewhere along the way, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez became the hottest women’s tag team act in all of WWE, so what happened? Instead of giving them the title victory over Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler, who absolutely nobody wanted to see as the champions, we get a screwjob finish to keep the titles on the champs. Okay, that’s fine. Dakota and Raquel will just win the belts in the rematch, right? Nope. They were simply handed the brand new NXT Women’s Tag Titles… only to lose them to Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart an hour later. The WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles would float around to a few more teams that weren’t really clicking with live crowds… until Sasha and Naomi won them at WrestleMania 38. Yes, their pairing was pretty random and seemingly thrown together at the last minute, like other teams in the division’s brief history, but at least these two were super over with the WWE Universe. Now, to make it even worse, we’re going to be getting a tournament to crown new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, which means… more hastily assembled teams that don’t make sense. If you want to take it a step further, it is said that NXT teams will be used to fill out the tournament bracket. IF YOU’RE GOING TO USE WOMEN FROM NXT IN THE TOURNAMENT, WHY DID YOU EVEN CREATE A SECOND SET OF WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLES IN THE FIRST FUCKING PLACE AND THEN RELEASE 90% OF THE WOMEN ON THE ROSTER?!?!?!?!?!?!?
The next thing that jumps out at me was the comments made by Ariane Andrew. First off, who gives a shit about what she has to say about this? Was Ja Rule unavailable for comment? Let’s have some fun and say that her comments about the situation were right on the money, though. In that case, Sasha Banks got into Naomi’s head a bit, on purpose or otherwise, and got her to do something drastic that she never would’ve done on her own. If so, who does that say more about… Sasha Banks for being so manipulative or Naomi for being 34 years old and allowing herself to be manipulated like that? I think it’s more of the latter, actually. Naomi is a grown woman who has been with WWE for nearly 13 years. By now, she should know the ins and outs, what to do, what not to do, what is accepted, what isn’t accepted, and so on. It shouldn’t matter that this is her friend and tag team partner in her ear. You would think she should know that walking out might not be the best way to go about things.
Next up is the reported frustration about Ronda Rousey. The report says that Sasha was supposed to be facing Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania this year, and that they were informed of the plan months before Mania took place. At the time, it wasn’t known if or when Ronda Rousey would be returning to the ring, as she was a brand new mother then. The report continues to say that Ronda would eventually agree to a return, and when she did, WWE changed their plans and decided to have Charlotte take on Ronda instead. To help ease her pain, the company decided to put Sasha into the team with Naomi and booked them to win the Women’s Tag Team Titles instead. I can understand why Sasha would be pissed off about that, but come on… it makes perfect sense for WWE to go with Ronda Rousey in that spot. I don’t think Ronda is anywhere near Sasha’s level when it comes to in-ring performances, but when you compare their star power, Ronda blows Sasha out of the water. For an event like WrestleMania, of course WWE is going to want one of the biggest female athletes on the planet in as prominent a spot as possible. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. Just saying it makes perfect sense when you look at things from WWE’s perspective.
The last thing that jumped out at me was the part about the women wanting to go to AEW. Like… why? I don’t give a shit which company you think is the best… the women’s division in WWE is better than the women’s division in AEW by leaps and bounds. Would Sasha and Naomi improve the division in AEW? Yes, of course they would. They would also go weeks at a time without appearing on television, though, because there are just a little over 16,000 men that need to make it on Dynamite and/or Rampage every week. Let’s also not forget that both Sasha and Naomi are married to men who are currently employed by WWE. Their best friends are currently employed by WWE. I don’t think some of you realize how important something like that is in pro wrestling, when you’re travelling all over creation on a regular basis. Having that familiarity and those loved ones right beside you goes a long way, literally and figuratively.
So what happens now?
If you’re Vince McMahon, why would you even think about releasing Sasha and Naomi from their contracts? This is a man that probably heard Mustafa Ali pour his heart out to him about wanting to be set free, and simply responded with one word… nah… and then probably did some eccentric billionaire shit like boop Ali on the nose or something and shooed him out of his office. If he did that to Mustafa Ali, who, as talented as he is, hasn’t won back-to-back singles matches on television since the end of 2020, what the fuck do you think he’s going to do to Sasha Banks and Naomi? If those women become free agents, there is going to be a lengthy line of suitors ready to show up at their door, asking if they prefer cash, check, Venmo, or direct Zelle transfers. They would appear on AEW or Impact television IMMEDIATELY when they’re legally allowed to do so, and folks… my goodness… can you just imagine what that first promo is going to be like?!? In what world does it make sense for Vince McMahon to help his biggest competition improve on what might be their biggest problem area? That’s one step away from Vince calling Tony Khan and telling TK that he’ll front the bill for AEW to run shows in bigger venues. It makes no sense. At all.
If Sasha and Naomi are still under contract for five days, five weeks, five months, or five years, you have to make the assumption that Vince McMahon will simply keep them out of the mix for the duration of their deals if things aren’t able to be fixed, or at least somewhat smoothed out. The latest rumor is that their contracts might expire in about two months. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but two months will fly by and be done before you know it. That actually makes it easier for Vince to keep them on ice. Like I said, two months will come and go in the blink of an eye. It would be much more difficult for Vince to be strong/petty (depending on what side of this debate you’re on) for, say, two more years.
When this topic is brought up, you would be foolish not to bring up the fact that this isn’t the first time Sasha Banks has been disgruntled during her WWE career. After she and Bayley dropped the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles to The IIconics at WrestleMania 35, Sasha would cancel media appearances that she was scheduled to make. It was then reported that she had become frustrated with WWE booking, with a specific frustration being that she was under the impression her and Bayley’s title reign would be much longer and that they weren’t told until the last minute that they would be losing. Sasha would then go on to say she was dealing with depression, and she would request her release from the company. Instead of granting it to her, Vince McMahon told her to take some time off. That hiatus would last four months.
Those complaints by Sasha, combined with the current set of complaints by Sasha, are painting her in one of two ways, depending on your personal opinion of her. Either she’s a very strong woman who knows exactly what she wants and won’t take anyone’s shit if they’re going to get in the way of that… or she’s an Insert-Derogatory-Name-For-A-Woman here because she won’t stop complaining when things don’t go her way. If you look around, there’s really not a lot of middle ground. It’s one or the other. The second group has added ammunition to their side of things because of the numerous fan accounts from people who met Sasha out in society and asked for pictures, autographs, and so on, only to either be denied outright or have their requests granted with tons of attitude. We’ve all seen pictures floating around of Sasha taking pictures with fans where she looks like she would rather be anywhere else in the world at that moment.
I’ve never met Sasha Banks. Never had any sort of correspondence with her on social media. I can’t say if she’s a sweetheart of a human being or the Antichrist. Yes, I’ve seen the stories of people who had negative opinions of her after meeting her, but I’ve also seen plenty of stories from people who have met her and said she was sweet, genuine, humble, and very willing to take pictures and sign autographs with what little time she had. I’m of the thinking that Sasha is more of a strong-willed woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. Any sort of professional athlete worth their weight should be that way, if we’re being honest with each other. If you feel you know your worth, then why wouldn’t you stand up for yourself when you feel you aren’t being respected or treated in line with that worth? Sasha SHOULD want to win titles. She SHOULD want to keep those titles for lengthy periods of time. Main events. Epic feuds. A Hall Of Fame career. That’s EXACTLY what she should want and crave for herself.
For me, Naomi is a different argument. Naomi has always been popular with the WWE Universe, but I have been very vocal about how I just don’t see it with her in-ring work. She’s one of the most athletic women on the WWE roster, but in my opinion, that’s about where it ends for her. She has some of the worst looking offense in all of wrestling, from her strikes to her little jump kicks at an opponent’s sides to simply jumping in the air and having her opponents slowly run into her ass. This whole situation is something that probably isn’t going to hurt Sasha Banks much. Sasha will be fine, whether it’s with another wrestling promotion or finding work in Hollywood. Naomi, on the other hand, isn’t anywhere near Sasha’s level. If she were to leave WWE and go elsewhere, do you think she would be as successful? Not only is she not as good, or as popular, as Sasha is, but she would also then be without any sort of “protection” that being married into the Anoa’i family provides. Say whatever you want, but there’s a lot that comes with being in that family, by blood or by marriage. We’ve seen it time and time again through the years.
This is an ugly, unfortunate situation. There really aren’t a lot of winners here. You’re either losing respect for Sasha and Naomi, or you’re losing respect for WWE. If we’ve reached this point, I’m just not sure how things can be fixed. Short of something like Roman Reigns, The Rock, and Snoop Dogg going to Vince McMahon personally and throwing their weight around to get the issues resolved, you have to think this is going to get worse and worse. I would love to see both Sasha Banks and Naomi back on WWE programming. Yes, even Naomi. The WWE women’s division could really use the depth, and there’s unfinished business for both women there. Am I going to complain if one, or both, of them end up wrestling for another company? No. I’ll be watching in AEW, Impact, STARDOM, or anywhere else they happen to land. That’s looking more and more likely with each passing day.
What say you, ReaderLand? Are you on Sasha and Naomi’s side, or are you on the opposite side? Keep in mind… if you’re against Sasha and Naomi, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re pro-WWE or pro-Vince. It could just mean that you really disagree with the way the women went about things in this situation. No matter what side you’re on, do you think we see them on AEW television here at some point in the next couple months? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- “Hangman” Adam Page vs Konosuke Takeshita: There is obviously a lot of talk about the upcoming Forbidden Door with AEW and New Japan, and for good reason, but it sure seems like AEW has stumbled upon a gem in Takeshita. As of the day this column gets posted, Takeshita is four days away from his 27th birthday, and he looks like a major star on a bigger stage. He has been a big-time young star for DDT Pro in Japan for the last few years, but this extra exposure has really done a lot for him. I have no idea how long his excursion to America is going to last, but he looks like someone who could be a main event wrestler for AEW moving forward if he sticks around. This was another really good performance for him, but let me make sure I give the AEW World Champion his credit, too. It’s not like Page is brand new to Japanese wrestling, so he was able to slide right into this match and add another banger to a lengthy list of them.
- Wardlow: I’ve made this comparison before, but Wardlow really is looking like Batista in 2005, when Big Dave was becoming more and more popular, even as a heel in hated faction Evolution. Once Batista split from the group, he would go on to become one of the biggest faces in WWE. We’ve been seeing that, albeit on a lesser scale, with Wardlow in AEW. He was becoming more and more popular, even though he was aligned with hated heel MJF. Once Wardlow split from MJF’s side, he has gone on to become one of the biggest faces in AEW. This segment, with Wardlow having to receive belt lashes from MJF in order to earn a match against him, was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Seeing the big man (well, relatively big, anyway, as he’s similar in height/weight to Roman Reigns or The Ultimate Warrior, but looks bigger compared to an AEW roster full of smaller wrestlers) no-sell the shots made him look like the monster he needs to be. MJF was still able to heel his way into success here, but Wardlow was the star. The AEW crowds are dying to see him get his hands on Maxwell.
- RK-Bro vs The Usos: The match itself was pretty good, but it was the post-match stuff that really stood out. After The Usos won, unifying the Raw and Smackdown Tag Team Champions, they would go on to attack RK-Bro after the match. Along with Roman Reigns, the heels would take both Riddle and Randy Orton out. It was relatively tame stuff as far as attacks go, but that crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan really let them have it. Grand Rapids is either VERY pro-Bro (lol) or VERY anti-Bloodline. Major heel heat, and lots of crowd shots of angry and/or sad fans. Good stuff.
- Jon Moxley & Bryan Danielson vs Matt Sydal & Dante Martin: The outcome was never in doubt, but the match itself was still really fun. Lots of clashing styles here, but that’s something I love with my wrestling matches.
- Rey Fenix vs Kyle O’Reilly: Once again, I love matches that feature styles that clash drastically. Unlike the previous match on this list, the outcome here really was in question. I saw a lot of people predicting a win for the returning Fenix, but I also saw a lot of people predicting a win for the Undisputed Elite member, as the group really needed it. Couldn’t really go wrong either way.
- Evil Uno, 10 & Fuego Del Sol vs House Of Black: At this point, I’m starting to think AEW could randomly choose six wrestlers in a drawing, put them in a six-man tag, and it would be a blast. A hectic, pedal-to-the-metal match that did everything it needed to.
- Riddle & The Street Profits vs Sami Zayn & The Usos: I don’t know about all of you, but this stuff with The Bloodline reuniting with their cousin Sami has been very entertaining, in and out of the ring. This was no different.
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn: Another good match between these two. Of course, it makes me think of their match at NXT Takeover: Dallas in 2016. That was one of my favorite matches in NXT history, and also one of my favorite debut matches of all-time, as it was Nakamura’s first match for the brand. So much chemistry between these guys.
- Asuka vs Becky Lynch: Speaking of chemistry, these two have it, as well. That chemistry hasn’t led to any Match Of The Year classics yet, but it’s always a very solid, hard-hitting affair when their paths cross.
- The Possible Return Of “Glorious” Bobby Roode: We haven’t seen Roode wrestle on television since the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale on the go-home episode of Smackdown before WrestleMania. It looks like we might be on the verge of seeing him again, but in the return of a character he hasn’t used in a while. He’s been wrestling as a face at live events, working as a singles guy and not in a team with Dolph Ziggler. Even better is the fact that he went back to his old entrance with the lavish robes and the “Glorious” entrance music. Will we see that return on television? It remains to be seen, but it couldn’t hurt for it to happen.
This Week’s Playlist: “Wild World” by Maxi Priest… “Close To You” by Maxi Priest… “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles… “I Wanna Be Rich” by Calloway… “I Don’t Have The Heart” by James Ingram… “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross… “Ready Or Not” by After 7… “Can’t Stop” by After 7… “Til You Do Me Right” by After 7… “Epic” by Faith No More… “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” by Lenny Kravitz… “Again” by Lenny Kravitz… “Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz… “The Way You Do The Things You Do” by UB40… “Here I Am (Come And Take Me)” by UB40… “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps… “Because the Night” by 10,000 Maniacs… “Back In The Day (Remix)” by Ahmad… “Shy Guy” by Diana King… “Roll To Me” by Del Amitri… “When I Come Around” by Green Day… “Acura Integurl” by Frank Ocean… “Can’t Be The Last Time” by Frank Ocean… “If I’m In Love” by Frank Ocean… “Lonny (New Mix)” by Frank Ocean