Some weeks ago, I wrote that WWE had a huge problem filling a ‘Becky Lynch sized hole’ in the company and that it would be extremely difficult to fill the huge void left by the Irish lass kicker. Initially, I believed WWE would be fine in the short term when Asuka won the Women’s Money in the Bank briefcase, only to discover the case contained the Raw Women’s Championship that Becky Lynch surrendered. I’m a big fan of Asuka and I love her style, move-set and overall demeanour. She’s a star on the show and a fine choice for a champion. She’s carried the belt well since MITB.
My concern with this was that Asuka, like many other top stars over the years, needed a foil to work with. A champion can’t be dominant without opponents and while I don’t think Asuka having squash matches week after week would solidify her as a tough, all-conquering champion, she would need tricky, strong opponents to challenge her for the prestigious title. Meanwhile, over on Smackdown, Bayley was continuing her run with the blue brand’s Women’s Title and doing a damn fine job of it. Indeed, it was safe to say that the Women’s Division was in safe hands for the foreseeable future with these two stars at the top of their respective trees, not to mention the very established Charlotte Flair holding the Women’s NXT title on the yellow brand.
No matter how far you go or how successful you become, you can always come home.
Thank you @SashaBanksWWE and @itsBayleyWWE for bringing your shine to @WWENXT. #WeAreNXT #Proud pic.twitter.com/ZfEJSoiZuQ
— Triple H (@TripleH) June 18, 2020
In recent weeks, however, Bayley and her fellow tag champion, Sasha Banks, have decided that they do not like to be pigeonholed on one brand and need to spread their wings and talents across all of the WWE and this has been a superb move. Not only does this give more opportunities for different matches across all brands, but also allows them the opportunity to showcase what they can do. The hindrance of being locked into one brand can mean that particular brand may excel if the talent on the show put on great matches, but can mean that brand can’t help others that may be suffering. By allowing Bayley and Sasha to switch it up, it means their talent and star power can help elevate the brands and also make every show a ‘can’t miss’ if they’re going to be on it.
The best part of this is that their star power and ability has allowed others to excel. Asuka is a great talent and performer, but she needs others alongside her to continue to be great. Look, I’m not going to shit on the talented women WWE has, but the difference in match quality between Asuka and Bayley/Sasha is a world away from Asuka vs. the IIconics. The chemistry is vital to give the fan a good experience and also allow the stars to tell a story in the ring. You just know you’re going to get something great when those top tier stars are put together.
These past few weeks on Raw and Smackdown have allowed Bayley and Sasha to be the stars of the show and steal main event bragging rights from their male counterparts. Something that now doesn’t even raise an eyebrow amongst fans, such has been the rise of the Women’s Division in recent years. They’re now the best parts of the shows they’re on, and it’s fully deserved.
Looking into the partnership a little deeper, I’m happy that Sasha Banks has become part of the main event scene once more. I worried after her recent injury that she would struggle to dislodge Bayley, Asuka and Charlotte in the long term, but she’s fought back to reclaim a top spot that she truly deserves. Sasha seemed to be the one who lost out when the top of the division was dominated by Becky Lynch. That being said, others such as Shayna Baszler and Rhea Ripley have had their opportunities but for whatever reason, WWE have cooled their pushes in favour of the more established stars like Bayley, Banks and Asuka. I’m certain the absence of Charlotte Flair from the Raw and Smackdown scene has also helped in Sasha pushing her way back to the top.
Her tag partner and current Smackdown Women’s Champion, Bayley, has also excelled in recent months. There were some critics who disliked her change of persona from the huggable, colourful babyface to the snarling, tough heel, but it’s been a breath of fresh air and she’s taken the character to new heights. Many current and former wrestlers always say that the onus is on the individual to make success happen. You can be given a flashy entrance, a wonderful costume and a dynamic new look, but it’s up to you to make that work. Without the wrestler’s input, charisma and work ethic to make the character work, it’ll fall flat in a few weeks. Bayley fully embraced her new character and made subtle tweaks along the way to improve it. Her snarling and grimaces were replaced by a cocky arrogance that suited the character well. She began to mock and laugh at the misfortune of her competitors and rub their noses in defeat – a superb trait for any heel, but she does it so well. So much in fact that her old, happy-go-lucky character is a distant memory and this version of Bayley outshines the old one.
When Bayley and Sasha were paired together and even when they captured the Tag Titles, we all knew the inevitable fallout would happen and both would face one another at some point, however that hasn’t happened yet and with each week that passes, I don’t want it to happen. I want to see more from each and allow them to have full reign of the division and shows they choose to be part of.
In a time of uncertainty and turbulence, Bayley and Sasha Banks have been a welcome distraction and undoubted highlight on WWE shows. Their chemistry and partnership is superb and they’re more than a match for their opponents. I have always bemoaned champions who don’t defend their titles, but Bayley and Banks do this regularly and it’s fantastic to see. They’re becoming the highlights of the show and in doing that are allowing their female colleagues to be part of the ride and be elevated alongside them. It’s superb and long may it continue.