WWE just made things worse with Sasha Banks and Naomi. Much worse. What were the options considered by Vince McMahon and discarded? I can’t think of how Friday’s actions on Smackdown! make things any more amicable after two of the company’s standout performers walked out, due to bad creative plans, earlier this week.
Both Naomi and Banks were suspended indefinitely by the company and stripped of WWE’s women’s tag team titles, the root of the duo’s disgust with their creative direction in the first place. All of Banks and Naomi’s merchandise has been pulled from the company’s online store and they are no longer advertised for any upcoming shows through the rest of the summer.
It’s made the rounds on social media that Banks and Naomi’s walkout was due to McMahon’s meddling with their storylines. Banks and Naomi were reunited as a team in February after neither had a singles feud lined up for WrestleMania, and they did their best to bring legitimacy to WWE’s floundering women’s tag division. It was a tough ask, but their title reign led to several good matches.
Tone-deaf WWE confirmed many of the details that led to Naomi and Banks walking out, through an announcement by lead commentator Michael Cole, who looked incredibly uncomfortable with every word coming from his mouth, including the make-up of a six-women tag team match, meant to separate the tag team champs from competing together for several weeks. It’s part of the script and not Cole’s own soliloquy, assuredly with a heavy influence from McMahon himself.
Naomi was reportedly slated to emerge victorious and challenge Raw champion Bianca Belair at the company’s next pay-per-view. Banks would’ve allegedly provided the next challenge to SmackDown champion Ronda Rousey. Both were going to lose, which would make the tag champions look weak. A lack of legitimate challengers for the women’s singles belts shouldn’t impact other champions.
Is Vince bluffing by seeing if they’ll walk to All Elite Wrestling? Or does McMahon actually not care? He’s an idiot if he’s thinking the former. McMahon is an even bigger imbecile if the thought of the latter has crossed his mind. When Toni Storm walked out after internally raising creative concerns several months ago, she was quietly released. She’s now in AEW.
For any WWE fan reading this thinking this is 100% a storyline, it’s pretty clear now that’s not the case. WWE has never escalated a storyline in this way. CM Punk’s “walkout” of 2011 preceded by the “pipe bomb” and followed by a few instances of breaking the fourth wall, such as him calling Triple H “Paul” on-camera, was a shoot turned work with little escaping the walls of WWE of what was fiction. It was incredibly well done.
This week has shown how far McMahon, and the yes-men and women that surround him, have fallen. How they’ve packaged the Banks and Naomi situation has been sloppy and arrogant. It makes Naomi and Banks look all the better for disappearing. They have every right to see how they’ve been treated publicly and digest their true reputations. A few under-contract WWE wrestlers have spoken out in support of Banks and Naomi, including Shayna Baszler, who posted to Instagram with pictures of her wrestling the disappearing duo, quoting the game Warhammer 40,000.
WWE’s reaction to Naomi and Banks looks even worse when you see how no reprimands were handed out last year when Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch’s backstage heat led to a horribly managed on-screen segment, where they exchanged titles after switching brands as champions. It made both women look childish by going off script. There was never another mention of it on television and both went about their business without even a slap on the wrist.
Cole’s proclamation included announcing a tournament to crown new women’s tag team champions. How many organic women’s tag teams does WWE have? A two-team tournament is just a match. The only logical explanation I can think of for WWE’s strategy is to make an example out of Naomi and Banks as a method to discourage other wrestlers from attempting to walk out themselves. That plan will only be successful if Banks and Naomi come crawling back and fully admit how wrong they were. And that won’t happen. Ring the alarm bells. WWE has an uncharted talent-relations crisis on its hands. And it’s not going away anytime soon.