“The NXT Women alone are worth more than $9.99.” Lance Storm
Any wrestling fan worth their salt logged on to the WWE Network on Wednesday evening and watched NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable. It was a great night of action and excitement that culminated with the debut of former TNA star Samoa Joe. While Joe’s arrival means a plethora of dream matches for the energetic brand, the women’s championship match featuring Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch stole the show.
In fact, they didn’t just steal show, they flat out hijacked it at point blank range.
WWE did a great job of presenting this match with that big fight feel before the bell even rang. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks were both shown behind the curtain as that subtle, yet ominous, pre-match production theme hummed in the background.
Lynch came out first sporting an updated look with fiery red hair coupled with steampunk attire. Banks, the champion, came out next with the pizzazz and swagger that conveys that she is indeed the boss.
“Ding, Ding” went the bell and, for the next fifteen minutes, both women put on a masterful performance that got better with each hold applied and every crash to the canvas. In the end, Banks won with her signature maneuver, the bank statement, proving that NXT is still her house. Lynch, in defeat, showed the type of moxie that showed the heart of a champion as the crowd at Full Sail University sang her theme song in uplifting and appreciative fashion.
Banks vs. Lynch not only begs for serious renovations on the WWE main roster, but sadly, it also highlights how Vince McMahon views women in this profession. The word “Divas” really says it all. It’s about looking good first and actually being good at your craft second.
This is nothing new, but the recent push in pop culture to not only give women leading roles, but also to portray them as strong and inspiring individuals instead of the standard damsel in distress continues to gain momentum. These types of socially conscious campaigns usually fail to infiltrate the industry due to its low-brow reputation.
Ironically, it was McMahon’s own son-in-law, Triple H, who carefully crafted this “developmental” system into a product that seemingly puts the men and women on equal footing. Stephanie McMahon, who is the head of creative, understands the importance of featuring women in a lead role thanks to her experience with NXT and her association with the biggest star in MMA, Ronda Rousey.
Despite having decision makers holding key positions with in WWE, there is a barrier that will need to be torn down, and it’s called perception. For over fifteen years now, women’s wrestling in the United States has been about style and sex appeal over substance.
It’s going to take a combination of time and a firm new creative direction to change the way most look at women’s wrestling. If Banks and Lynch has the same match on Monday Night Raw, the masses wouldn’t know what to think because they’re conditioned to expect something completely different. Therefore, it wouldn’t resonate on the level that it did with those in the know.
I walked away from Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch with the same feeling of astonishment that I had at the conclusion of Shinsuke Nakmura vs. Kota Ibushi from the Tokyo Dome show. Banks may very well be the greatest female wrestler on the planet and Lynch isn’t that far behind.
This was an epic physical encounter with great performances that produced the perfect balance of spectacle and sport which serves as an example of how beautiful professional wrestling can be when the art is done right. It will take time to change the narrative so the content will be accepted and enjoyed by the masses, and NXT TakeOver was a great start.