I always say I am not going to write one of these things for a while, but after seeing the divided opinion about the Flair-Banks feud, I figured I would go ahead and weigh in.
There's really two ways you can look at this, from a standpoint of pro wrestling being pro wrestling and from the standpoint of television.
Let's take a look at former. Sasha Banks is a beloved, virtuous babyface that has taken on every challenge that has been thrown at her. She has been written as an underdog, that's not exactly an underdog, but is sort of an underdog because her opponent has a mile-wide mean streak and incredible athletic ability. When she wins, the fans win.
Charlotte Flair is a villain's villain; a vain, selfish individual that sooner or later is going to get what's coming to her. She attracts heel heat better than most non-authority figure role women have done in years. Aside from The Miz, she is WWE's most reliable antagonist. She's booked a lot like her father was back during the Jim Crockett days -- just a heel that is too damn good. With her being the titleholder for most of the year, audiences would of course pine for her to be away from the title at least for a little while as Banks would move on with the title in hand.
Looking at it like that, I can see why folks are infuriated about last night's result and the vacillating booking between the two wrestling goddesses. I will admit that Charlotte is my favorite WWE performer. However, fans love a good story and the story fans wanted to be told was that Sasha would end up prevailing; or, at the least, not have the babyface tap out with only a couple of seconds remaining.
But that's pro wrestling. If fans always got what the wanted whenever they wanted it, then pro wrestling would not be all that enthralling.
Let's keep those aforementioned thoughts in mind. Let's talk television.
Remember, WWE is primarily a television product -- and yes, I get it about the live events, the pay per views, and so on -- but WWE's primary product is television regardless. This is where it gets muddy.
Remember my post about big moment booking versus plot-oriented booking? Raw mainly focuses on big moment booking and while there's still a plot, everything about the angle is geared towards setting up a memorable event. In this case, for Flair and Banks, it has been a series of groundbreaking matches between the two.
However, a key thing got lost in the way their feud unfolded.
Every plot on television -- primary, secondary, tertiary, whatever -- has a protagonist. The protagonist is not always a hero: James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano and Larry Hagman's J.R. Ewing were both villainous examples. And while WWE programming technically features an ensemble cast, any given angle will focus on someone in particular. And if done well, that focus is consistent.
Smackdown usually makes this fairly clear: the women's division right now is about Alexa Bliss; the mid-card is about The Miz, and the main event is about A.J. Styles. All of them are heels, but they are ultimately the protagonists of their current angles. When televised wrestling is written well, this distinction is clear.
Flair and Banks' feud was open to too much interpretation. You can say that the main idea of their feud is how Banks fought hard and came up short. Or, you could say the angle was about how no one can stop Flair. You could make an convincing argument about either.
The lack of clarity undermines their feud. Sure they put on great matches. Sure they are both coming along as well-rounded performers. Sure Charlotte is making leaps and bounds improvement on the microphone. However, this story clearly is about someone and WWE did a very poor job conveying who and what this angle was really about.
So what is my point exactly?
The conclusion of the match, and this feud itself, proved that the angle was about Flair and not Banks. On the surface, that's fine. However, good television will clearly convey that to the audience. The "face-heel alignment" is irrelevant. Audiences were clearly buying into Banks being the protagonist in this story when (apparently) that was not really the case.
That's not necessarily bad pro wrestling -- for what its worth, the performances were good.
That was bad television.