By former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive”.
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There’s no doubting the magnitude of Sasha Banks’ Smackdown Women’s Title win over Bayley at this year’s WWE Hell in a Cell event. From a purely fictional standpoint, toppling Bayley from the throne upon which she sat for three hundred and eighty days is obviously noteworthy. A reign which surpassed even the Becky Lynches and Charlotte Flairs of the world.
Bayley’s record breaking stint at the top went from uncomfortable looking performances following a shock heel turn, to a wrestler so comfortable in her skin that the side ponytail wearing hugger gimmick now looks vastly inferior by comparison. Such a run wouldn’t have been possible for Bayley if she hadn’t gone under such a diametrically opposite transformation. Gone are the wacky wavy inflatable flailing arm guys. Gone is the “I lost, oh well, let’s continue to fight the good fight” attitude. With that, however, gone also is the girl with no backbone. Or the potentially career threatening treatment at the hands of Alexa Bliss and the infamous “This Is Your Life” segment.
Bayley has managed to shake off that stink that slowly but surely coated her main roster presentation. Sasha Banks, on the other hand, has had a harder time doing the same. Even with her recent and well received Two Women Power Trip alongside Bayley, some spectres still follow Banks. That of the only Horsewoman not to have won a singles title match on PPV, never mind successfully retain the gold. Or the multiple accolades her aforementioned sisters in arms have amounted which, by comparison, leave Sasha in their dust.
The backstage rumours of spats with other wrestlers. Of temper tantrums in hotel hallways and other displays of a sore loser attitude. These are all factors that will no doubt have had an impact on Banks’ mental health. Whether truthful or not, the least attractive narratives in wrestling fandom are usually the ones that hold the most weight. Ones that were growing to a boiling point. That, personally, affected her performances in the ring. Really, it’s no wonder Banks took time away from wrestling to regroup and look after herself.
Professionally speaking, and maybe even personally, Sasha Banks will have, at times, been in her own form of hell. Trapped in a cage with both glass ceiling and brass ring way out of reach. Which her peers broke through or hung onto with ease. An idea encapsulated in her return from exile in a Hell in a Cell loss, no less, to Becky Lynch. All of a sudden, while more than holding her own in said matches, the stipulation became a commentary of Banks’ pecking order in both the Horsewomen and WWE.
With such insecurities simmering beneath the surface, it’s no wonder Banks was drawn to a friend in Bayley who not so long ago shared the same self-doubt. Together, their collective fragility began to harden. To become an unbeatable force, with each others’ loyalty to the other unwavering and absolute.
As the months rolled on, however – the wayward glances, the match costing mistakes, the assertions of who’s in charge – history was repeating itself. Once again, Sasha Banks was used merely as second fiddle. To bolster the stock of the other in the pair. The wish of many was for this inevitable clash to play out all the way to Wrestlemania. It was my want, too. But what better PPV and match stipulation were there when Banks found herself in hell yet again? In the same setting that both Flair and Lynch reminded Banks of her place in things? In a setting as violent as the cell, where revenge is best served with weapons and furniture as your silent tag partner? Hindsight can be a wonderful thing. In this instance, the timing was perfect. For Banks, specifically.
For her to take out her five years’ worth of frustration on someone she thought she trusted. To deliver meteoras, a move Banks regularly miscalculates, with escalating risk and precision. Putting to bed the doubters of her in-ring quality. To bring to Bayley’s attention that Banks is better than she was on that fateful night at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. But not only by using her foe’s own Bayley to Belly against her. No. The imagery of stamping down on Bayley’s broken hand mid-Bank Statement five years ago to no avail, only for her to enact near identical punishment (this time to the chair-cradled neck) to actually beat Bayley? Well, consider my long term storytelling radar well and truly tickled.
This was an enormous win for Sasha Banks. Not just for the fact that Bayley’s year-plus reign came to an end in emphatic and fitting fashion, as alluded to earlier. But also for the multiple milestones Banks can now proudly add to her career. Milestones that were all born from this one match. First PPV Women’s Title, as well as Smackdown Women’s Championship. Her first win out of three inside Hell in a Cell, all opponents aptly being those whose shadows she now refuses to stay within. But also, a major win over someone who had their own career defining win at her expense at the start of the Women’s Revolution.
Sure, there will have been the odd television match, both on main roster and early days NXT, where Sasha had her hand raised. For all we know, though, that brace of victories Bayley earned over the Sasha Banks character in 2015 may have stayed with her all this time. Niggled away at her subconscious, until it became the proverbial elephant in the room. Well, not anymore. This might be the biggest takeaway from the evening for Banks.
Sasha Banks’ relationship with the WWE Universe has always been a strong one. But she does come across as one with something of a fragile ego. This win may be the career validation she’s been looking for. To be on a true equal footing with the other Horsewomen. In accomplishments as well as in name. It validates the praise and hero worship given to her by die-hard fans. To the point that anything less than Championship status was lesser than her.
It’s not all been plain sailing for Sasha Banks. However, it’s amazing what a bit of patience and trust in the system can do. As now, without any uncertainty, Banks has escaped that hell. And, without any doubt, she really is The Boss.
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