The fallout from Sasha Banks and Naomi walking out of WWE Raw continued over the weekend. With this drip-fed style of news, the overall feeling is still that there’s something much bigger floating beneath the surface and has been there a while, and it may be some time, if ever, that we get to the real meat of the whole affair. But there was one interesting nugget that gives it a new layer.
It came originally from Dave Meltzer and popped up a few places since, and it was that Banks had been upset for a while that her WrestleMania spot had been scrapped in favor of Ronda Rousey getting a match with Charlotte Flair, with Banks moving down to a multi-team match with Naomi for the women’s tag titles. Still on the card, but not in the prime spot that a championship match with Flair would have been.
And just about any wrestling fan’s reaction to that news would be, “Damn right she’s mad.”
On the surface, it gives a whole new context to WWE’s bitchy and unneeded statement on the night in question, specifically the section where they claimed “Banks and Naomi were uncomfortable in the ring with two opponents they’d worked with before.” That still doesn’t give WWE a pass for bus-tossing Banks and Naomi and doing their best to try and alienate the rest of the roster against them. However, if we read between the lines a bit and try to synthesize more of the dispute, the picture becomes clearer.
Because the rumors have been that Banks was going to be positioned to face Rousey at Hell In A Cell — and lose — while the company ignores her tag title run with Naomi for a couple months and essentially putting the belts on ice. And working with Rousey hasn’t exactly gone well for Banks before. You can understand her trepidation on just that level, about being used to make Rousey look better at the cost of her current run. She’d already done it once, and the ensuing injury nearly cost her a spot at Mania altogether.
But it almost certainly goes deeper than that. Banks must see what we see. The argument for Rousey getting more prime and bigger slots than Banks is that she’s a bigger name. But is that really true? Among wrestling fans, Banks is far more beloved and just a far better worker and bigger star in any way you can conceive of comparing the two. As far as name recognition, sure, maybe Rousey has more crossover appeal, but is that even a thing in wrestling? And even if it is, we’re still talking about a person in Banks who is already making inroads in Hollywood. What exactly does the idea that the person on the street might have heard of Rousey more than Banks get WWE anyway?
The argument WWE would put forth is to point at the reactions Rousey got at her return at the Royal Rumble or at Mania, but that’s something of a red herring. They put her there, so she’s going to get those reactions regardless. It’s the Rumble, fans are cheering every entrance every couple of minutes, and Rousey is just a name they know. You could trot out Serena Williams in the same spot and almost certainly get a bigger reaction (I didn’t start this to construct a vision board of getting Serena into the Rumble, but these things go where they go). Fans in the arena will cheer just about any surprise because of how the atmosphere is. Sure it might be a bigger pop than most get, mostly due to the surprise, but that doesn’t really equate to love or adoration. It’s just an impulse.
Rousey’s spot at Mania was no bigger a pop or event than whichever Paul it was that trotted out with The Miz, and her performance certainly wasn’t as good. And that’s probably where Banks’ issues are rooted. Especially in this latest run, Rousey has gone through the motions, both in the ring and with her character work, the possible exception being her last “I Quit” match with Charlotte, and that’s only because fans (and me) really enjoy watching her get hit with kendo sticks. Rousey hasn’t really had a great match since her debut, now four years ago, and has openly moaned to anyone who would listen when things didn’t go exactly as she thought they should. Banks also isn’t the first, if that was part of the problem, to think that Rousey isn’t the safest worker because she hasn’t bothered to really learn how to transition into a wrestler.
While Banks is no stranger to voicing her displeasure about her booking in the past, when she’s come through the curtain you could never accuse her of not throwing her all into whatever she’s been asked to do, no matter how dumb or wasteful of her talents it might be. She hasn’t openly shat on segments like Charlotte has, or simply walked through matches and shows that didn’t meet her perceived level of approval, also like Charlotte. She hasn’t driven everyone nuts backstage. And when given the chance on the biggest stage, she only just had the best match on the WrestleMania card last year. While Rousey’s match with Charlotte and Becky Lynch at Mania 2019 was certainly a bigger “event,” there’s no question that Banks’ match with Bianca Belair was better. In every way that should matter, Banks has run laps around Rousey. WWE also has a bad habit of building up part-time talent at the expense of those in it for the long haul — see Brock Lesnar beating Big E for the WWE Championship in January and Goldberg pinning The Fiend in 2020 for two recent examples. If Banks doesn’t want to be used as cannon fodder for Rousey, who could very well ride out her current deal and disappear again, then good on her for speaking up about it.
So from where Sasha sits, after doing all she can with whatever she’s given, she was asked to essentially act as a boost to a person in Rousey (and a terrible person at that), someone who has already injured her, who took her slot simply by existing, and make her look good by putting Banks’ stories on hold and getting back in the ring with her. But Rousey’s never come close to putting on the quality of matches Banks could belch out every day if asked. Banks has worked tirelessly over years and years to get the name she has within the pro wrestling industry. Rousey simply walked in, and really didn’t do much more than walk in. It’s pretty easy to see where Banks reached the point of, “Fuck this.”