Moments of 2016: The Boss - A new era

Moments of 2016 is a series of articles that detail the year in review for WWE, whether it be specific moments, matches or superstars who've stood out on the WWE main roster and NXT, one way or another. You'll see this series of pieces go through to the end of December. In a special sub-series, here is the second of four articles focusing on The Four Horsewomen of WWE.

Remember that one time where Monday Night Raw was so good, it was incredible? Believe it or not, it's worth remembering that happened. For all the shit Raw (rightly) gets compared to SmackDown Live, there was July 25, 2016 - arguably the greatest episode of Monday Night Raw of all time and the first in the second brand split era.

Everything about it was amazing. It genuinely felt like a new start. Of course, that would feel less the case as weeks wore on (with the exception of the Raw in Houston the Universal Championship was on the line the week after SummerSlam, but we'll get to that and the events before it). But that night in Pittsburgh actually meant something, even if only for one night.

For example:

+ Remember when we were first introduced to fun squash matches again for the first time in a while with Nia Jax, recently called up from NXT, and Braun Strowman?
+ Speaking of Braun, remember when we first introduced to a man who had no chin, but said any man with two hands had a fighting chance, who would go on to be an integral part of SmackDown for the latter half of 2016?
+ Remember when there was two decent Fatal 4 Ways to determine the number one contender against Seth Rollins for the brand new WWE Universal Championship?
+ Remember when Finn Balor, finally called up to the main roster and thus ending the wait for one of the most anticipated debuts in modern WWE (and also had one of the best debut watches ever), won not only one of those Fatal 4 Ways, but also beat Roman Reigns - for better or worse, the anointed one of WWE - to be the one to face Rollins at SummerSlam for the UC title in a massively unexpected way? And on his birthday too, no less.

There was so many things right about that night.

But when you ponder about the best thing that went down during that Raw, we have to first go back to just after Wrestlemania, which we focused on last time in the first article in this sub series.

When Charlotte won the new WWE Women's Championship in Dallas in the triple threat, this was against the grain of what was expected. It was heavily thought that Sasha Banks would walk out of Dallas with the belt. For me, I figured this would mark the return of The Boss character we all know well and love and go back to full on heel instead of a tweener assisting Becky Lynch in the run up to Mania. And would also thus set up the debut of a certain Hugger and the final Horsewomen not on the main roster at the time. She didn't and it didn't.

Instead, after a few matches post-Mania, Banks disappeared off the face of the planet (or was in catering). It didn't help matters that reports suggested she had suffered a freak concussion during a house show as she ran into a referee. She had an occasional appearance on Main Event, but beyond that, was not sighted on either Raw or SmackDown.

Meanwhile, Charlotte grew as a character big time. Having essentially been a deer in headlights as a heel the night after WrestleMania, she started to become more comfortable being a heel and would improve more and more as the year went on. With a feud against Natalya that'd carry her through to Money in the Bank. From there, it was to see what was next for the Queen whilst Natalya turned on her partner at her MITB tag match against Charlotte and Dana Brooke, who had joined the main roster from NXT after Mania to join up with Emma again as in NXT only for the latter to get injured and thus have Dana join Charlotte as 'her protegee', in Becky Lynch.

It was only after a Women's Championship match after Money in the Bank against Paige - remember her? - that The Boss made her return.

As time wore on, The Boss and Charlotte plus Brooke would face up against one another in various one-on-ones and tag matches, including Battleground, where a certain hugable someone debuted as Banks's mystery partner in a tag match against Charlotte and Brooke. But we'll come to that specifically later this week.

With Battleground out of the way with a win over Charlotte and Brooke, all eyes were now focused on when the SummerSlam championship match would be announced. Turned out, we wouldn't have to wait for SummerSlam. It was going to happen on the first post-draft Raw.

On a night of palpable anticipation and excitement already, what was to be expected from a title match that wasn't expected until SummerSlam? At the time, everything including the kitchen sink. Sasha and Charlotte went hard at one another, going back and forth, including an amazing spot which harked back to the days of Eddie Guerrero where Sasha cheated by tossing Charlotte's belt to Brooke which saw her ejected by the ref just as it looked like she was about to hit the challenger. She lied, she cheated and she stole... our hearts with that.

But from then on, it was a proper match. And with Brooke's ejection, it genuinely felt like Banks had a legit chance to win it. And she went at it with everything, including the most concerning suicide dive to Charlotte where she landed face first. Even now, it's still hard to watch that moment and not cringe.

However, she did it. After a arrogant Charlotte tried to bring her down following one Bank Statement, Banks hit a second. And the rest is history.

By the way, worth noting in case you forgot - and if you did, don't blame yourself too much - the crowd was not into this at first, with a few people even throwing around CM Punk chants. But as the match wore on and got more and more intense and more and more dramatic, it got more of the crowd into it. Charlotte and Sasha deserve a lot of credit for turning the crowd on their side, going from 'CM Punk' chants to 'this is awesome' to then chant 'you deserve it' as Sasha stood in the middle of the ring being interviewed by Byron Saxton.

That's the power of what these women can do, stemming all the way back to NXT and their respective matches there. Charlotte and Sasha, as well as Becky Lynch and Bayley, changed the game in Florida slowly. That night in Pittsburgh proved that they can do it also on the main roster and showed in a 24 hour period between Battleground and Raw that if the women's division had stalled in the aftermath of WrestleMania, it just got a rocket booster to go loud again.

But as amazing as that match was - it was for a good period my women's MOTY, overtaking the WrestleMania triple threat, until last week's Last Woman Standing match on Raw - it wouldn't be the end of Sasha and Charlotte's rivalry, for better or worse. Far from it. And in their war against one another, they'd up the ante each time in historic fashion.

To Be Continued...


Day One: The Phenomenal Year (AJ Styles)
Day Two: Grateful (Daniel Bryan)
Day Three: Here Comes the Money (Shane McMahon)
Day Four: The Rising Sun (Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn)
Day Five: The Queen - Making history (Charlotte - 1/4)
Day Six: Fight Forever (Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens)

Johnny Cullen writes about games for a living and has written for the likes of Eurogamer, VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine UK and also podcasts about games for My Favourite Game. You can follow him on Twitter - for mostly games hijinks but also WWE tweets (and be a bit obsessive over Bayley), The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Jonsi & Alex) - @JohnnyCullen.

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