Two things before I really get started: First, it is 4:00 AM and I am just getting home from a WrestleMania party as I write this. My hope is to collect a fully coherent series of thoughts regardless. Second, I am taking a little inspiration from fellow TJR Wrestling columnist Matt Corton. His most recent column called back to his first-ever TJR column. The one that got him chosen as a columnist by the owner and proprietor of TJR Wrestling, John Canton. I don’t want to write a show review, since I know that will be taken care of on this site and by many others. I also don’t want to write something about a general topic when the year’s biggest show has just happened. So I will take a page from Matt’s book and go back to my TJR Wrestling roots.
What I chose to write about in my first submission to TJR was Sasha Banks being the next Shawn Michaels. I had never written about wrestling before but that was a column I just had to write. I hadn’t read much about her at that point, and I wanted to share an opinion that was truly mine and hadn’t been discussed for years already. For anyone that hasn’t read my debut column, I basically said that Sasha shared a lot of similarities on the surface with HBK. The style, the attitude, the arrogance, the entrance music and the work. I actually called Sasha “Miss TakeOver” in the column because of the escalating quality of her matches on NXT’s biggest shows. Now she would be wrestling at WrestleMania for the first time, and she did not disappoint.
I wrote two weeks ago that the Divas Revolution would truly start at WrestleMania 32, with the three best women in the company competing for the top prize. I realized throughout the past week, I was finding myself nervous for WrestleMania. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it felt very similar to the feeling of one of my home teams playing in a playoff game. I’m from Philadelphia, so I haven’t had that feeling much recently. But why was I nervous for WrestleMania? After some thought, I figured it out. While Daniel Bryan’s story got me into WWE again after a long hiatus, Sasha Banks brought the magic back for me. I was nervous because I wanted her to win the Divas Championship so bad. I haven’t felt that way since I was a child.
Having figured the business out and viewing it through the spectrum of that knowledge, match outcomes were very low on my list of priorities as a fan. This time was different. I felt myself getting even more anxious as Sasha’s series of WrestleMania video diaries were released over the course of the last few days. From her trip to Dallas, to her emotional first look at her image on the arena, to her first Hall of Fame ceremony, I continued to become more invested. In a very nice surprise, WWE changed that top prize from the Divas Championship to the Women’s Championship. This raised the stakes even more and the nerves continued to grow. I realized I would be disappointed in WrestleMania 32 as a whole, no matter what happened, if Sasha Banks didn’t become the first woman to hold that new title.
Ultimately, as you all know, Sasha didn’t take home the Women’s Championship. Charlotte won, with the help of Ric Flair, and she’d forever be known as the first. I actually went into the Hell In A Cell match still dejected. At 36 years old, I was sad that a professional wrestler lost a predetermined match. But then I started thinking about it, and I had a new outlook by the time Shane dove from the top of the cell.
Sasha Banks winning the Women’s Championship wasn’t what was important in that match. What was important was that the women were allowed to be women and no longer forced to be Divas. What was important was that their match was as anticipated as any other on the card. What was important was that the women’s match was actually treated as an important part of the show. What was important was that the women’s match stole the show. Put under the microscope with the brightest lights shining on them, Charlotte, Sasha and Becky Lynch performed at a level that exceeded even my admittedly high expectations.
Probably the most important aspect of this match was that each woman honestly had a claim to the title. There was a scenario that made sense for any of the three emerging victorious. The lack of inevitability created a tension that seems to be lacking in many WWE matches. The brisk pace to start the match felt real and palpable. The crowd was fully engaged for the entire course of the match. All three showcased new wrinkles to their offense. All three showed a sense of urgency on their faces and in their actions. In a group of six grown men, the unanimous feeling was that when the match ended, it had been the best match of the night. For the first time in WrestleMania history, the women got over 10 minutes to work. Not only that, they got 16 minutes. After the main event ended, and fireworks erupted in and around the arena for Roman Reigns, we realized Charlotte got the same celebratory display. With that and the new belt design resembling the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, it felt like the women were finally elevated to the same level as the men. This leads me back to the magic of Sasha Banks.
Part of my realization after the match came from one of the comparisons I made between her and Shawn Michaels. I said that in a lot of cases his wins and losses didn’t matter, because his matches stole the show either way. He is Mr. WrestleMania for a reason and it isn’t because he necessarily won so much on that stage. He just had a way of reaching another level, pushing us as fans to that level with him, making us feel something more than usual. Sasha Banks did that last night. Unfortunately for her fans, she didn’t realize her childhood dream like HBK did at WrestleMania XII, but in a way she did.
She started by coming out with her cousin, newly-minted Hall of Famer Snoop Dogg, dressed in gear inspired by her hero Eddie Guerrero. She hit flying head scissors off the top rope, the first time I’ve seen her do that. She pushed her tribute to Eddie even further by hitting a frog splash on Charlotte. She added a flip to her usual suicide dive. She bumped around the ring and outside of it like a young Shawn Michaels. I believe she hit the backstabber three times in the match, each to an incredibly loud fan reaction. She was clearly the crowd’s choice to go over and take the new white belt home, and in some ways that matters even more than being the champion. Being champion is chosen by Vince and creative, but being beloved by the fans is solely up to all of us.
I closed my debut column by saying that the sky is the limit for Sasha Banks, and she proved that to be true at WrestleMania 32. I’ll close this one by saying that she will never have a legendary undefeated streak like The Undertaker and she won’t be the first to hold the new Women’s Championship like Charlotte. But she did take her first step in becoming Miss WrestleMania, which I think means even more to her.
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