In case you haven’t been anywhere on the wrestling web this week, Sasha Banks and her relationship with WWE is a hot topic of conversation.
The Boss dropped the Women’s Tag titles on Sun., April 7 at WrestleMania 35, missed Raw the next night amidst posting cryptic messages and feuding with old rival Alexa Bliss on Twitter, canceled a scheduled appearance Tuesday for The Wendy Williams Show stating a personal/family emergency as the cause, and then started showing up in vacation pictures from the Dominican Republic on Instagram.
All that was potentially explained by Wrestling Observer’s report Banks tried to quit WWE at ‘Mania after learning she and Bayley were booked to lose the belts to The IIconics. Banks was apparently upset because she thought the Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection would get a long run with new championship to establish its credibility.
Two reactions I’ve seen – and had myself, in all honesty – to the unfolding saga are “here we go again with some Sasha Twitter drama,” and “jeez, doesn’t she know the belts are just props? She’s as big a mark as us!”
They’re both bull$#!+. Here’s why, starting with the second one first.
Yeah, championships are just storytelling devices, and wrestlers are hired to play characters in stories. In that regard, Banks did sign a contract to perform the scripts WWE writes. But like any entertainment field, wrestling is an image driven business. And unlike other movies and television productions, the performer is playing a version of themselves. So while an actor may get typecast in a certain type of role, most of the time the audience doesn’t question where they end and their character begins.
Perception is more reality in wrestling. It’s why someone like Steve Austin was famously so protective of the Stone Cold gimmick, refusing to do things he didn’t think were true to his character and even once “taking his ball and going home” because he didn’t think he should lose to Brock Lesnar until more work was done to build to a match between the two.
At this point in her career, the character of Sasha Banks has experienced some really high highs. But her booking has already created the perception she can’t successfully defend a title. Banks also frequently drifts into the background whenever she’s not losing title matches, not something a character who prides herself on being a Boss wants to be seen as accepting without a fight. It’s the kind of booking someone like Stone Cold would probably tell her to fight, lest the paying audience only think of her as a secondary player.
Sasha’s a lifelong wrestling fan, which invites the “mark” jokes. That’s a part of her kayfabe backstory in this ‘Reality’ Era, too, though. Which is all the more reason why it’s important she’s seen as fighting for the betterment of not only her character, but the business as a whole. If it makes her character look like a mark, well, she’s supposed to be.
As for the “Twitter drama”? Sure, Banks comes across as a teenager on tumblr at times. But she’s also aware a lot of her most passionate fans are teenagers on tumblr, and relate deeply to messages like these. She also knows that whether adult fans roll their eyes at emo confessional moments, they’ll be posted to websites like this one, picked apart and speculated about.
Which is good business. You can’t be forgotten when you’re being talked about.
For the last several years, if a women wanted to wrestle on a television show most of the world can watch, WWE’s been their only option. That may be about to change when All Elite Wrestling announces their broadcast plans. That’s why not only threatening to quit, but using social media for things like unfollowing WWE accounts and following AEW ones is a savvy move for Banks.
We’ve all heard how motivated Vince McMahon is to keep talent from leaving. Sasha would not only instantly be a main eventer for AEW’s women’s division, but poaching one of the Four Horsewomen WWE’s marketed their Women’s Evolution around would be a major coup for the Khans & The Elite. There’s no time like the present to plant the seed in the minds of fans & management that you’re investigating working with Cody Rhodes & The Young Bucks.
Randy Orton was rumored to have done the same thing – albeit less publicly. That was deemed a shrewd negotiating tactic. Why shouldn’t Sasha do the same… with a little millennial twist?
We’ll see what comes of Sasha’s alleged walkout. But after I thought past the kneejerk jokes and criticisms, I fail to see how it’s a bad play for her in any way.