This Is Why We Watch

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Wrestling endlessly tortures us, given that a lot of it—thanks Mr. Landis—"sucks."

But when it doesn't suck, it can sometimes be magical. None of the September 16 episode of NXT sucked, but the last fifteen minutes or so were wrestling perfection, thanks—unsurprisingly—to Sasha Banks and Bayley.

We're all well aware how big a mark I am for Sasha Banks, but I'll try to be as balanced here as possible. Bayley is one of the very, very few babyfaces that I actually enjoy—because she's a face for legitimate and consistent reasons, with a character narrative that proves her goodness. She's not just a face because we're told she's a face—she's not a face that uses derogatory language, or hits on their opponents' significant other, or pretends to be a underdog when the reality—in kayfabe—is the exact opposite. She struggles. She's betrayed, more than once. She fails. For a very long time.

Bayley is a face that both kids and adults cheer for. There are no dueling "Let's Go Bayley / Bayley Sucks!" chants. When she won the title in Brooklyn, the entirety of Barclay's shouted "1-2-3!" for her victory. Even the most hardcore Sasha marks in the building screamed in delight for Bayley—and I know this because I was one of those hardcore Sasha marks doing just that.

Maybe I'm just emotional and still in the afterglow here (editor's note: this is obvious), but I think Wednesday's final segment was the best promo I've ever seen in real time. I have literally watched it frame-by-frame, and the shifting facial expressions and body language presented by Bayley/Pamela Rose Martinez and Banks/Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado are incredible.

In my prior piece on Sasha Banks' evolution, I claimed her reaction to winning the NXT Women's Championship was "immersive" and that it was hard to tell where the line between Banks and Kaestner-Varnado was. That was, indeed, a wonderful fifteen seconds or so. But this entire promo is immersive: both in terms of getting into the heads of the characters Sasha Banks and Bayley, but also for witnessing the real-life emotions of Kaestner-Varnado and Martinez. There isn't anyway I can describe this without temporarily discarding kayfabe, and you'll see why shortly.

What do I mean by the real-life emotions of the performers? There are two quintessential examples: the first is when Sasha and Bayley trade points about how they are determined to see who the best women's wrestler is in the company. Bayley's heavy emphasis on "women's wrestler" prompts a completely involuntary smile out of Kaestner-Varnado before she slips back into Sasha Banks. (These screenshots are literally taken in three consecutive seconds.) This is an absolute treasure: I love this moment. Later, there's this genuine smile from Kaestner-Varnado once the Full Sail crowd correctly recognizes and cheers for what's about to be announced.

The monologue given by Sasha Banks at the opening of this promo is so on point, so heartfelt, so emotionally charged, that it certainly seemed just as much a Kaestner-Varnado speech as a Sasha Banks one. As Kaestner-Varnado says that they stole the show, and put on not just the match of the year, but the best women's wrestling match in WWE history, her voice wavers and she appears on the verge of tears.

Until, of course, Sasha reemerged.

She's good. Real good. To basically shoot and nearly cry (fuck it, I had tears in my eyes ever since Bayley lifted Izzy over the barricade and this promo put me over the top) about the impact these two performers, these two very good friends, were making in women's wrestling, to display all this pride and joy in herself and her friend to the point where she absolutely cannot maintain her facial expressions—the little involuntary smiles (this example is after Bayley calls her "sister") she allows herself before she's able to recompose as The BO$$ are absolutely heartwarming—to then turn that around into a distinctly in-character work, without missing a beat, is masterful.

Kaestner-Varnado is saying, yes, this is all great and wonderful for everyone, in real life, and we're all cheering it—"except me," says Sasha Banks. This blurring of kayfabe and reality is astounding.

Adding to the performance is William Regal's brief cameo to announce that their rematch would both be the main event at the next TakeOver special, and that it would be a thirty-minute iron woman match. Regal literally cannot keep an enormous smile off his face as he's set to make these announcements. It's more or less the face of an extremely proud father. But there is one moment shared between Kaestner-Varnado and Martinez—specifically not their characters—during Regal's declaration that makes me feel all the feels. It's a split second glance and smile shared between the two, as if to say, "This is really happening, for us." This image captures it well.

Kaestner-Varnado does the bulk of the work in this promo, yes. But that is not to sell Martinez' short—the look on Bayley's face, and her walk across the ring, immediately after Sky's the Limit hits, is perfect. She is conveying the inherent babyface doubt and insecurity—that maybe their opponent is right, maybe they just aren't good enough. Yes, Bayley won the title from Sasha in Brooklyn, but could it have been a fluke? (A point that Banks of course hits home in her promo.) It's a look of fear that someone gets when they've just received something they worked desperately so hard for, and now worry will be gone oh so quickly. The way that Bayley grips the title close to herself as Sasha walks toward the ring seems an exceptionally small thing, but this is how you play a babyface.

Banks and Bayley are determined to prove just who is the best female wrestler in the company—but they're actually selling themselves short.

Change comes slowly everywhere, and especially so in WWE. But these two are breaking down long-held beliefs about the role and value of women's wrestling for the company. I've said it before, I'll say it again, and this time more definitively: Sasha Banks is the best wrestler in the world. There's been much discussion about who can take up the torch of "top guy" in the company after John Cena retires. I don't think any of that discussion has yet reached the truth: the next megastar in WWE is a woman.

Maybe it's absurd to be so incredibly proud and happy for two people you've never met and in all likelihood will never meet. But that is exactly how I feel toward Kaestner-Varnado and Martinez. There is no discounting this: having a women's match main event a TakeOver special is historic. (The subtitle for the show, "Respect," seems particularly pointed.) And while the current booking for the main roster seems unlikely to recognize how worthy these women (and others in the division, too) are of this status, main eventing TakeOver signifies that perhaps in the future we will see a women's match main event a major pay-per-view—perhaps even Wrestlemania.

Fellow Cagesider Shaqustewart93 may have put it best: "This is fucking compelling TV." It's impossible to argue otherwise.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.