There was a time when I thought being a rabid fan of Sasha Banks was just MY thing. There was a time when I thought being captivated by the matches and stories of Bayley, Charlotte and Becky Lynch was just MY thing. I even told friends (and eventually John Canton) that Sasha Banks was the next Shawn Michaels.
In May I attended the first NXT show in Philadelphia, wearing my Legit Boss shirt and not knowing what to expect. To my surprise I’d say at least one of every three people was wearing a Boss, Hugger or Do It With Flair shirt. That night they closed the first half of the show with a Fatal 4 Way that tore down the house.
The following evening I was lucky enough to see Sasha and Charlotte main event for the first time. I was proud to be there and felt I deserved to be in attendance for that. It actually emboldened my emotional investment in these women and what they were doing. It entrenched me further in my belief of what they were capable of accomplishing in the future.
Over the course of the summer it was clear that the Four Horsewomen had gained too much traction to be denied much longer. I dreaded their arrival on the main roster for the obvious reason. I didn’t think they’d be used to their potential. Nonetheless, Sasha, Charlotte and Becky made their debut to start the revolution. Unfortunately Bayley was left behind with a broken hand.
While the three NXT graduates were making their mark on Raw, Smackdown and at Battleground, Bayley was making her emotional run toward an NXT Women’s Championship match agains The Boss. She would earn it by defeating Charlotte and Becky Lynch in consecutive weeks. This led to the much talked about match at TakeOver: Brooklyn.
Once again, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance that night for what I considered to be the best match of the year. It was so good that those in attendance were spent by the time the main event took place. They stole the show that night, and it was after that match that I realized being a fan of Sasha and Bayley was not MY thing. Supporting women’s wrestling was not MY thing. At least not anymore.
Their match in Brooklyn was the talk of the wrestling world until, of course, the first women’s Iron Man Match was announced. On top of the match stipulation, it was also announce that they would be billed as the next TakeOver main event. It was a spot they deserved in Brooklyn, but would finally be given.
The in-ring promo leading to that match was tremendous, with Sasha coming back to Full Sail and Bayley refusing to back down. It continued with the tremendous video that aired on last week’s NXT broadcast. It culminated last night with the most anticipated women’s match of all time finally taking place.
Being a guy that hyped this match up to literally anyone who would listen, I began to worry whether it could live up to the Brooklyn match. That was until Bayley herself tweeted that topping their previous encounter wasn’t the main objective of this match. The point of this match was really to decide once and for all who was the best woman in NXT and to be a fitting end to Sasha Banks’ impressive NXT career.
Now I know there will be endless recaps and analysis written on this match, many of which will be better than I could dream of. But as I wrote my feelings on the promo last week, I figured I should share my feelings on the final product. I’ll go into this assuming everyone reading has already seen the match.
What made this match truly special was the attention to detail in storytelling before, during and after the match. The build to this match was as good as any I’ve seen in years. It truly felt just as big, if not bigger than the Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar match at WrestleMania. Some may think I’m overselling, but I truly felt that heading into the opening bell.
The story of their rivalry was beautifully told, the stark differences in their characters were on display, the effort both were putting into it was emphasized and the idea of Sasha as the bully who let one slip away was instilled. Just as important was the hunger of Bayley to prove to everyone, especially to Sasha, and maybe to herself, that she had earned it. Sasha said she wanted to beat Bayley “again and again and again”, making herself the aggressor.
There were incredible touches even in the wardrobe as Sasha wore her original colors of purple and yellow while Bayley wore red and gold to signify Iron Man the superhero. Part of what would make this match a challenge in any comparison to Brooklyn was that it was going to last 30 full minutes. There would be obvious pacing issues that could risk taking the crowd or the home viewer out of the moment.
Luckily, these two have such chemistry, such history and so much emotional investment from the crowd that nothing could derail them. The opening 40 seconds were captivating, even as no action took place. Sasha stared down and stalked a seemingly hesitant and intimidated Bayley. It took a full minute for the two combatants to even lock up. Even nothing in this match meant something.
Story, emotion, selling and psychology reigned supreme on this night on details both big and small. One of my favorite aspects of the match was the idea of familiarity between rivals. So many matches are formulaic with both performers “getting all their stuff” in regardless of how many times the opponents have faced each other. Not in this match.
Almost every high spot from their Brooklyn match was attempted last night. Almost every one was countered in some form. Whether it was Bayley evading the double knees in the corner or Sasha catching Bayley on her sliding drop kick, or my personal favorite, Sasha landing on her feet after the Bayleycanrana, which was the high point of their last match. Offense was difficult to come by. This led to a more physical and violent style than they showed in August or than I can ever remember in a women’s match.
Sasha continuously threw Bayley out of the ring. She continuously slammed her body into the steel stairs. She battered Bayley with absolutely no conscience. This forced Bayley to reach a previously unseen level of intensity, which made the match incredibly compelling. Watching Bayley go to work mercilessly on Sasha’s hand was a thing of beauty. It was beautiful that Bayley used Sasha’s tactic from their previous match against her. Even more beautiful was that it actually paid off.
Banks sold the hand injury throughout the course of the match. Both competitors sold the fatigue and the toll the match took on their bodies. It felt like a true slugfest, or even a slobberknocker as someone once said. Corey Graves made mention of Sasha’s bad hand at numerous key times in the match. It even played into the finish, as it prevented Sasha from locking in her patented Bank Statement and allowed Bayley to reverse it. Bayley also used the damaged fingers to cause the submission for her last second victory.
There are a few other details I feel really added to the match. First, Sasha Banks typically has at least half the crowd on her side. Her taunting of little Izzy in the crowd and her unforgiving beatdown of Bayley truly turned the entire crowd against her. Not enough heels today are so willing to generate that type of heat. There were times in the match where she was borderline reviled by the crowd, which served to elevate Bayley as the babyface, and rightly so.
Also, the idea that there was actually a 3-2 score was really cool. I had discussed this with friends before, that if a normal 20 minute match has one fall, why would there all of a sudden be multiple falls in just 10 extra minutes? I think these women answered that question with their performance. They both showed desperation in gaining the first fall. Desperation leads one to take chances they wouldn’t normally take, which can lead to mistakes, thus, falls that wouldn’t occur under normal circumstances.
Add to that the fact that Sasha was especially desperate to win her title back. This explains her falling prey to a roll-up which tied the score at two falls apiece. I felt the extra falls actually added to the drama. It could have been like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, conceding no falls until overtime, but the complexion of the match was totally different. Shawn and Bret fought a defensive style strictly waiting for the other to make a mistake that never came. The two women in the ring last night fought with a burning desire to finish the other as early and as often as possible. It was really a brilliant twist on the match that I think was boosted by Bayley beating the buzzer.
As someone who was truly invested in this match and truly emotionally invested in seeing both of these women succeed, I can honestly say my expectations were met and possibly exceeded. I expected them to put on a meaningful and emotional show. I didn’t know how their match would play out, but I was pleasantly surprised by the aggressive route they chose. While some may say the Brooklyn match was better, I agree with Bayley. This wasn’t about “topping” Brooklyn.
This match was about two women who pushed each other so close to the brink that the only way to settle their score was the most grueling of matches. They had to push each other to a point where they could push no further. With last night’s match they did just that. You could see on their faces after the match that they had poured every bit of their heart and soul into that arena, and the crowd, the locker room and the bosses showed them the admiration they deserved.
As a fan of both Sasha and Bayley and a supporter of women’s wrestling in general, I am truly proud of what these two women accomplished last night. They were thrust on the biggest stage with the most hype any two women’s wrestlers have ever been faced with. They were the main event for the first time in a match no woman had ever competed in. Sasha Banks and Bayley more than delivered on that hype and in so doing took women’s wrestling to yet another level.
They proved they belonged in the main event. It wasn’t the first time they proved it and I’m sure it won’t be the last.