Luke Owen looks at the Raw debuts of Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks on this week’s Raw…
Fans of NXT and wrestling in general have been waiting a long time for this day. The day awesome women wrestlers like Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks get the call to join the main roster and show the world that women’s wrestling is about more than just tits and ass.
Since the invention of the Attitude Era (and slightly before), women’s wrestling had been portrayed as a joke; a bathroom break when you can go and top up your refreshments and not care about what’s in front of you. Even those who recall the ‘glory days’ of women’s wrestling in 2000 gloss over the fact the only women’s match on WrestleMania 2000 was a cat fight between Terri and The Kat with Val Venis as referee. Lita, Trish Stratus, Ivory and Victoria would work hard to make the division mean something in the intervening years, but the stage had been set: this is your one women’s match for the evening, and it’s likely to be a filler match before the proper action starts again. The audience were taught not to care. Instead of chanting for the woman they want to win, they would chant, “show your puppies” and this downward trend would continue with the fall of the Women’s division and the rise of the Diva’s division.
Some women would try, of course. AJ Lee was a big proponent of treating women’s wrestling seriously and the Bellas, for as bad as they are, have been working hard to improve on their in-ring skills. But they wanted a big change. They wanted the office to give them a chance. Sadly, the #GiveDivasAChance movement was short lived, highlighted only by a couple of 10 minute matches no one cared about. However down in the developmental group of NXT, it was a very different story.
NXT treated their women’s wrestlers on the same level as the men. A women’s match in NXT isn’t a bathroom break, it’s often the show-stealing attraction. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bailey were pulling out great matches with engaging storylines that people cared about. The most recent Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch feud that culminated at Takeover: Unstoppable was outstanding. They got themselves over by being awesome. Some womens matches were even co-main events on Takeover shows, and Charlotte and Sasha Banks have headlined some house shows. This was a revolution. Even the women who are still learning the ropes like Alexa Bliss, Carmella and Dana Brooke are being treated with the same level of respect a main event match would get between Sami Zayn and Finn Balor.
Back up on the main roster, the Diva’s division has grown incredibly stale as of late, partly due to the fact it’s so small. How many times can we see the Bellas take on Paige and Cameron in some combination? Nikki Bella has been champion for 250-odd days, but it feels more like a lifetime of boring matches. But it started to feel like they were building towards something: a revolution, a change to women’s wrestling in WWE.
But it struggled, mostly through terrible story telling and the constant need to book and write shows week-to-week. The Bellas would be heels on one show, but then valiant babyfaces on another. Paige would struggle to overcome her three-on-one attacks on some nights, but would then beat all three heels on her own in a badly booked segment on Raw. They had one terrible three-way match after another, with Paige calling spots so loudly it was as if she was looking for her own segment on Botchamania. But even through all of the terrible story telling, we knew what this was all going to lead to. Paige wants to take down the tyrannical reign of the Bellas (when they’re heels, of course), but she needs some new back-up in order to make it a fair fight and thus create some new stars in the process.
Sadly, that’s not what we got. What we got instead was a segment designed to make one person a star: Stephanie McMahon.
This week on Raw, the Bellas and Alicia Foxx came down to the ring to boast about their winning ways. They were interrupted by the boss’ daughter, Stephanie McMahon, who was there to inform them that a change was coming. Out comes Paige, the fighting babyface who is looking to finally get even with the Bellas. As suspected, Paige needed back-up in order to survive her brutal three-on-one beatings, and she took the microphone and boldly introduced her new allies: Becky Lynch and Charlotte.
Nope, sorry, my mistake. I’ll try that again.
Out comes Paige, the fighting babyface who is looking to finally get even with the Bellas. She then stands there while Stephanie tells her she can’t beat the Bellas on her own, so she hired some help for her: Becky Lynch and Charlotte.
Why did Stephanie need to be the one to introduce Becky and Charlotte? Wasn’t the storyline there for Paige to bring these women up as the new faces of the division and put them over? Why does Paige need Stephanie’s help? Doesn’t this make Paige look like the biggest loser because she couldn’t find friends on her own so she has to ask for Mommy to do it? Furthermore, a couple of weeks ago on Raw, the Bellas said that they kept winning because they had Stephanie on their side because of their feud back at Summerslam last year. So why is one of the biggest heels in the company now introducing fighting babyfaces to beat the women she’s supposed to be friends with?
But wait, there’s more.
Out comes Naomi and her bodyguard Tamina, who tells the girls in the ring that she has unfinished business with both the Bellas and Paige. But she now realises, even with her dominating Samoan bodyguard, she’s outnumbered. Only she’s not outnumbered, because she came with a plan of her own. She scoured the roster and found the baddest Diva alive: the NXT Women’s Champion, The Boss, Sasha Banks.
Nope, sorry, my mistake. I’ll try that again.
Out comes Naomi and her bodyguard Tamina, who tells the girls in the ring that she has unfinished business with the Bellas and Paige. Stephanie then interrupts her promo to remind her that she’s outnumbered, so she’s hired a third body for her group: the NXT Women’s Champion, The Boss, Sasha Banks.
Why did Stephanie hire Sasha Banks to the be third wheel in the Naomi/Tamina team? What if Naomi didn’t want to team with The Boss? Does she now have to because Stephanie said so? For that matter, why does Sasha want to team with Naomi and Tamina when she can beat most of these girls on her own? Furthermore, why is the newly turned babyface on NXT a heel once again on Raw? And why didn’t she come out with the NXT Women’s Championship to put it over, just as Kevin Owens had done with the NXT Championship against John Cena?
It calls to mind a moment during the infamously botched WCW invasion of WWF back in 2001. The angle was struggling to get over because the WCW team was lacking the star power it was known for, but it was tanking even further because it was treated as a backdrop to the ‘bigger angle’ of Vince McMahon versus his son Shane. But, suddenly, WCW were not alone as former ECW wrestlers turned on Team WWF to form an alliance with WCW. And who was there to head up ECW? Was it Paul Heyman, the man who revolutionised the company and turned into a cult phenomenon? Would they fly solo as a renegade group of outsiders? No, it was Stephanie McMahon of course. Because once again, the Invasion angle was a backdrop for what they felt was the bigger storyline: Vince McMahon versus his children Shane and Stephanie.
The NXT women coming up to the main roster didn’t need Stephanie McMahon there to introduce them. It didn’t get them over any more, nor did it further the already botched storyline. It needed them to sort this angle by themselves. In fact, bringing these three girls up to be part of useless 6-women tag matches is the last thing this division or this talent needed. And that’s not even bringing up the fact that Stephanie essentially buried the current main roster of women by saying the competition was pathetic. She doesn’t need to play “mother hen, assigning teams during recess” as Bryan Alverez put it. Once again, this was just an exercise in the McMahons reminding us that they’re pulling the strings and people only get over because they say so.
Now, looking at the positives, at least we have some incredible talent among the Diva’s division at long last. Sasha Banks is superb and one of the best personas in wrestling today, and Charlotte is so talented for someone who has been doing this for such a short amount of time. And the segment did get over. Becky Lynch got a superstar reaction, and seeing Sasha Banks do her entrance on a Raw show gave me legit goosebumps.
But this angle was not about the NXT women debuting and making an impact, it was about Stephanie McMahon putting herself over as the saviour of a division she wasn’t a part of. And this was highlighted when the 9-women brawl was over, and the camera didn’t focus on Becky, Charlotte and Sasha, but on a smiling Stephanie McMahon.
Phew, it was about time she was the star of the show.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.