Sports

It’s been Sasha Banks’ year in WWE, but let’s get her a better one soon

Sasha Banks has breakthrough crossover star written all over her.
Image: Getty Images

WWE will air its final PPV of the year Sunday, Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. Roman Reigns will almost certainly anchor the show against Kevin Owens, and probably rightly so. Reigns has been the story in the company for the last quarter of the year, but that’s just it. It’s only been a quarter of the year. If you want to find the performer who has been the unyielding rock for WWE through the entirety of this hellspawn of a year, through no crowds and into the “Thunderdome,” then you need look no further than one Sasha Banks.

It’s been the kind of stretch that fans, and Banks herself, have been dreaming of and expecting ever since she was tearing up NXT six or seven years ago. While Charlotte had the pedigree, Becky Lynch an unmatched charisma, and Bayley a unique connection with the fans, Banks is the one of the Four Horsewomen who had all of those and was the clearly superior in-ring general. Her willingness, and sometimes desperate need, to do ungodly damage to herself in pursuit of a better match endeared her to fans from jump. While the other three are certainly no slouches, Banks was always the one fans projected to have the classic matches and performances once on the main roster.

But Banks’ career with WWE would only flash in fits and starts. She watched as Charlotte moved on from their epic work together on Raw to be the main draw on the women’s side. She was almost an afterthought as Becky Lynch stormed not to just the top of the women’s division, but the top of the whole industry and main-evented Wrestlemania. It wasn’t that Lynch (or Charlotte) didn’t deserve that, but the common thinking had always been it would be Banks’ slot before any of the others.

Perhaps there was no more striking juxtaposition of just how lost in the shuffle Banks had gotten than that ’Mania Becky and Charlotte headlined. On that same card, Banks and Bayley dropped the women’s tag belts that had essentially been created for them to the IIconics, a decision that caused Banks to do her best to quit the company for months. Banks clearly felt betrayed that something she was going to use to flourish was taken off of her on yet another Vince McMahon whim. Fans and Banks herself were jonesing to tour between WWE’s three shows and put on great matches with anyone and everyone Banks wanted to work with. And then it was just gone, and so was she.

Banks is lucky, in some respects, that WWE and Vince himself think so much of her, as they allowed her to take a monthslong hiatus to reassess what she wanted to do. And they allowed her to do that without absolutely burying her upon her return. Banks could have easily made it big with AEW (and boy do they need someone like her) or on the indies had she chosen to leave, but WWE was never going to let her go so easily, and it could have gotten really ugly.

Banks provided a glimpse of what was in store for 2020 upon her return, turning heel (which has always been her best look) and getting to run two PPV matches with Becky Lynch, including a killer Hell in A Cell match.

After overcoming some injury issues, which are a constant problem for her given her size and yearning for leaving it all in the ring, Banks returned in time for the 2020 in-studio Wrestlemania that would kick off the “world tour” she thought she was getting in 2019. She teamed up with old friend Bayley, soon won the tag belts and became pretty much the pillar for both Raw and Smackdown and was the highlight when they moonlighted on NXT as well. Banks got to work with a variety of competitors and styles, and put up banger after banger.

She had a great encounter with NIkki Cross. Her and Bayley dropped down to NXT to give some shine to Shotzi Blackheart and Teagan Nox, the former of which used that to rapidly become one of that show’s biggest stars.

Another visit to NXT provided a match of the year candidate with Io Shirai. She had multiple memorable matches with Asuka, and the fall was built around her split with Bayley and the two matches they had after it, including yet another masterpiece of a Hell In A Cell match. Her last match with Asuka at Survivor Series was a different kind of genius, featuring some heavy catch-as-catch-can work that’s hardly ever seen in the women’s division.

And that’s what makes Banks special. She can do just about anything and go with just about anyone. She can do the acrobatic high-flying, or figure out a way past a behemoth, or simply get into a goddamn slugfest. Her hiatus allowed her to develop and grow her move-set and repertoire, and once again she’s just on a different level than pretty much everyone else. Combining that with her otherworldly storytelling ability, her innate sense of the business, and you have one of the world’s best and most unique performers.

It wasn’t just in the ring for Banks, who also appeared as a guest star in The Mandalorian this season, which must’ve made her uber-nerd heart do flips . When people discussed Banks in the past, you often saw her likened to The Rock. Not in wrestling ability, but in crossover-potential. Banks’ personality and magnetism have always simply spilled out from the screen and through an arena, and a lot have thought that Hollywood will beckon one day. Hell, John Favreau cast her in The Mandalorian off an appearance on “Hot Ones,” not anything to do with her wrestling.

This will hopefully lead to Banks finally getting the Wrestlemania slot she hasn’t had since her, Lynch, and Charlotte stole the show in 2016. A main-event is probably a bridge too far, but reigniting her feud with a returning Charlotte, or Ronda Rousey (or possibly Becky?) would certainly be high up the card. And given that Banks has finally been allowed to take off the shackles, it’s a good bet that it’ll be the best on the show, even if it’s in front of no fans.

2020 has been utter garbage, but at least we can take the full Sasha Banks experience with us into the future.

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