Sir Mitch: This is a special guest article from Women Of Wrestling’s very own golden-voiced commentator Stephen Dickey. Be sure to give him a follow on twitter @TheVoiceOfWOW and be sure to follow Women Of Wrestling @wowsuperheroes.
The second season of WOW Superheroes is set to air on AXS TV later in 2019 and tickets for the first set of tapings are on sale now. Check out wowe.com for details.
Stephen Dickey: As of this writing, two weeks have passed since WrestleMania 35, and an interesting story proves visible in the settling dust. The WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship transitioned from Bayley and Sasha Banks to the Iiconics (Billie Kaye and Peyton Royce). Since then, numerous reports from several reputable sources have given credence to the belief that Sasha Banks possesses an incredible amount of frustration towards this decision. Reports that surfaced also claim that Banks holds animosity in regards to prior and subsequent decisions regarding the Women’s Tag Team Championship, her character’s storyline direction, and on-air presentation. Reports of Banks’ ill-feelings only build upon stories of other performers growing dissatisfaction with their status in WWE. It seems that the current and ever-altering landscape of the professional wrestling industry has many looking for greener pastures away from the WWE machine. Sasha Banks’ situation provides the world with more insight into the disenfranchised nature of WWE’s performers and the mishandling of the creative efforts of those in charge of the Connecticut-based wrestling juggernaut.
While several tales circulate regarding Sasha Banks’ attitude and handling of her grievances, viewers cannot deny that Banks’ on-air role has been inconsistent. Haphazard booking decisions and weeks away from television make Banks seem like a forgotten character and performer or a member of the roster that is not as highly valued as her peers. When looking at how she’s portrayed within the WWE narrative, the stories they tell, paint her as someone that wrestles well but cannot win consistently. If observers are to believe the sports-like structure of WWE’s storytelling, then this makes Sasha Banks appear to be a loser and not someone in which the audience should invest interest. She’s the professional wrestling equivalent to a small-market sports team that finishes with a .500 winning percentage. While those teams have their fans, they do not captivate audiences through television ratings, and they do not lay claim to many championships.
Sasha Banks has many championships and accolades to her name; however, this is where WWE’s sports-like comparison ends, and the journey of a character begin to factor into observers’ perception of a wrestler. While spectators do not challenge Sasha Banks’ athletic ability or her championship resume, they can hone in on the way she’s written for television and utilized in week-to-week booking to see that she’s not valued or important in WWE’s running stories. Looking at the time between Sasha’s intense rivalry with Charlotte Flair and her ongoing storyline with Bayley, weeks would pass where Sasha would fluctuate between not being featured, taking part in an inconsequential contest, and revolving around the championship scene without truly being a serious contender. Then, her storyline with Bayley began to plant seeds of dissension between the two former rivals that would lead to a personal feud between two close enemies-turned-allies-turned-
Once this story materialized on television, it seemed to renew Banks’ character and freshen the women’s wrestling segments on Raw. Banks and Bayley went on to become the inaugural champions after a well-choreographed Elimination Chamber match. Despite Banks’ commitment to the story and renewed vigor for her character, the positioning of Banks, Bayley, and the newly-established Women’s Tag Team Championship seemed to be an afterthought. Everything felt similar to celebrating an acquaintance’s birthday. There’s not much interaction before the party, but everyone has a good time while they’re celebrating, and then everyone goes back to living their lives with no more interaction than they had prior to the festivities. Sasha Banks and Bayley had the championship, but they weren’t positioned any stronger on television. They fell victim, yet again, the 50/50 booking time-loop that WWE writing and creative comfortably settle into each and every week. They were not made to look strong as a champion should. They were not made to look threatening. The announcers continued to frame Bayley and Sasha Banks as having a rocky relationship as former adversaries despite the narrative inside the ring not matching the story being told over the announcers’ headsets.
Then, at WrestleMania, the WWE creative efforts decided to move the titles to Billie Kaye and Peyton Royce. Bayley and Sasha Banks’ reign lasted less than fifty days. Not many memorable title reigns last less than fifty days. What came to light following the event revealed that Banks was told hours before the match that she would be losing the championship. Other reports that emanated later said that prior to the event, Banks was told that she and Bayley would be given a long title reign in which they would defend the titles multiple times throughout all of WWE’s brands including, Raw, Smackdown, pay-per-view events, and NXT shows. This seems to be a truthful claim considering Banks and Bayley made appearances in NXT with the championship belts indicating potential for the titles to be featured prominently there as well. As we witnessed on Smackdown weeks after WrestleMania, Bayley was shifted to the blue brand in the Superstar Shake-up angle. According to multiple sources, this was the plan coming out of WrestleMania.
If these reports are to believed, then this means that Sasha Banks was told that many great things would be coming her way, and then her employer went against all of that. Anyone in that position could empathize with someone being frustrated and angry. Being lied to is not what anyone wants out of life. Being promised something and given the opposite is not how an employer should treat their employees.
There are stories floating around about Banks handling the situation childishly and immaturely, but none of that has been validated as of this writing. Whether those stories are true or false, the sentiment is understandable. No one should be lied to by the company for which they work. No one should be promised something and not given what was promised. This is not how employees are kept happy. This is not how employees are satisfied.
WWE has enjoyed being atop the sports-entertainment mountain for a considerably long time with no competition. Now, however, companies like Ring of Honor are proving they can run successful events are large arenas like Madison Square Garden. Companies like All Elite Wrestling are run by professional wrestlers and have a financial backing that rivals the deep-pockets of WWE. Even companies like Impact Wrestling are offering performers the freedom to broaden their career; however, they see fit while still offering them some television experience and exposure. Performers are starting to understand their value, because of companies like this. Performers are starting to see the potential to make money outside of the Titan Towers. This empowerment of wrestlers and people within the wrestling industry has many people looking at the giant that WWE has been and noticing weaknesses and flaws with every step the giant takes.
Sasha Banks signed with WWE when she was very young. She’s gone on record several times discussing her passion for the business as a young child. Her desire to enter the world of professional wrestling. She has been a lifelong fan that dreamed of being able to wrestle and work for WWE. However, as she has matured as a human being and a performer, surely she’s starting to realize she desires different things from her life and career. Simply being in WWE used to be enough to keep a performer happy. Now, people want to be successful regardless of the company.
Since the beginning of 2019, stars like Tye Dillinger, Scott Dawson, Dash Wilder, and Luke Harper have also voiced their displeasure with WWE and desire to leave. Sasha hasn’t gone on record with her side of the story yet, but with the evidence that exists, it’s easy to see how WWE employees can become disgruntled with their positioning.
To be quite honest, it seemed only a matter of time before something like this happened. The United States economy hit a recession after the housing bubble burst. The US economy is going to see another bubble burst soon once student loan debt reaches its critical mass soon. WWE, though, is witnessing its talent bubble bursting right before their eyes. WWE has brands like Raw, Smackdown, 205 Live, NXT, and NXT UK to divide its wealth of talent. However, that’s only five brands, which means only five people can be on top of those brands. Everyone else will, inevitably, be beneath whoever stands on top of the mountain. The stars on top will be taken care of and—most likely—happy. However, the stars beneath them will experience varying levels of satisfaction. Some, like Sasha Banks at the beginning of her WWE tenure, will be happy to wear WWE colors and wave the companies flag. Others, as has been witnessed, will hunger and yearn for more. Those that yearn for more without any nourishment will want to leave.
This is what WWE is currently experiencing. This is the reason Sasha Banks wants to—and should—leave. WWE has all of the talent. The bubble is bursting. Now, Sasha needs to find a place where she can stand out from the crowd. The top of WWE’s women’s division has evolved past her rivalry with Charlotte Flair and developed into the land of Becky Lynch. WWE is riding that wave, and they should be. However, someone like Sasha Banks should feel free to pursue other endeavors. Especially if the rumors of deception regarding her recent storyline direction is true.
There are many places for talent to land. There are many ways for talent to make money. WWE needs to understand this. Once WWE understands this, they can foster and nurture the spirit of competition that will come from it, or they will suffer from the negative press they receive from their resistance to change. They will gain a reputation for holding talent hostage, bloating their roster, and attempting to monopolize the industry.
Companies like Impact, Ring of Honor, and All Elite don’t have access to the talent that remains exclusive to WWE, but they don’t allow that to stop them from creating content, providing the talent they have with opportunities, and putting on decent shows. WWE lays claim to a multitude of resources the other aforementioned companies do not, but they cannot maximize those resources to satisfy their employees or their fan-base. WWE is in a position where they need to decide if they want to make the most of the talent they have and encourage competition or watch their reputation and goodwill wither away with every story as we see with Sasha Banks. WWE is in a precarious position. Will they fall or back away from the ledge?