No more kayfabe running and hiding for Trish Stratus. No more delays on the part of WWE creative... we think. Becky Lynch will finally get her hands on the WWE Hall of Famer tonight when she faces her one-on-one on Monday Night Raw.
Unfortunately for Trish’s protégé, Zoey Stark, she’s going to have to join the majority of the WWE Universe in watching this match on television.
Due to causing a very quick disqualification during their match-up two weeks ago, Stark has been barred from ringside for tonight’s contest. Lynch hopes that will finally level the playing field in this battle between two generational talents.
Stark has been front and center in this rivalry since she shockingly cost Becky Lynch the victory in her first match-up with Stratus at Night of Champions.
A month after she was drafted to Raw, Zoey was thrown right into the middle of the most high profile woman’s program on the Red Brand. A program that, reportedly as far back as April, was planned to reach it’s dramatic conclusion at the ‘Biggest Party of the Summer’.
Spoiler alert: That did not happen.
Cageside Seats had a chance to catch up with Zoey Stark during the SummerSlam Press Junket in Detroit, and while she was naturally disappointed in the decision to postpone the match, not for one second did she think it was a slight against anyone.
“Obviously we all wanted to see Becky and Trish at SummerSlam. We wanted to see Rhea Ripley on SummerSlam. But I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Hunter’s a smart man. He’s doing it for a reason. He’s not just saying whatever, you know, screw the women. He’s not doing that.” Stark said. “Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus will be a great match and it will be well worth the wait.”
WWE Chief Content Officer Paul Levesque, Triple H, was heavily criticized by fans and media alike for ‘cutting’, not only Becky vs. Trish from the card, but also Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez.
Safe to say the move was not popular among the talent involved either, but The Game said difficult decisions had to be made for the sake of the matches individually and the SummerSlam card as a whole. Which ended up being nine matches deep, carrying the show into Sunday morning on the East Coast.
“That show was plenty long tonight,” Triple H said during the post SummerSlam press conference. “If it had been longer, it would have been bad. So there comes a time when you say, ‘Well, does everything get shorter time? Does everything get rushed? Or do we move things around and shift it and give it a bigger spotlight?’ As a performer, for me, I’d rather have the bigger spotlight. That’s how I look at it.”
Being left off of the company’s second biggest show of the year is, no doubt, disappointing for any talent. But it’s their job to make the best of a bad situation.
Take the lemons life has handed over and make lemonade, has been the popular analogy for this situation. Similar verbiage was used by both Becky Lynch and Triple H during SummerSlam weekend.
In case you were wondering why The Man was chilling at the commentary table last Monday with a big pitcher of the yellow stuff, that we can only assume was freshly squeezed. And then, after Shayna Baszler defeated Zoey Stark in a match she MAN-ipulated into taking place, Lynch paid homage to The Game.
Unless even more shenanigans are afoot this evening, Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus are expected to get a significant amount of time in front of the crowd in Winnipeg. And one would have to imagine that they’ll get a considerable amount of time more than they would have in Detroit.
Or they don’t.
The backlash would be unworldly, but at this point, would anyone be surprised if this feud is elongated even further? Say to Payback in Pittsburgh on Sept. 2, for example.
Triple H is going to need some high profile matches to fill that card with the Bloodline as fractured as it is this moment. Jey Uso ‘quit’ WWE on Friday’s SmackDown and no member of the Anoaʻi family is expected on television this week.
Payback may be the first Bloodline-free show since... anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Cue Zoey Stark. Unless you’ve been a pro wrestling fan for less than two weeks, you are fully aware that just because RAW’s fastest rising Superstar has been told to stay in the back does not mean that Zoey is guaranteed to be spectator for this one. Her interference, could lay the groundwork for a major stipulation match at the next Premium Live Event.
From a personal standpoint, Zoey may not be ready for this feud to end just yet. Since jumping into the fray back in May, it’s been one bucket list experience after another for the former NXT Tag Team Champion. That includes getting to take part in her first Money in the Bank Ladder Match in July, where she had, arguably, the most memorable bump of the entire show.
“In my head, I’m just saying, ‘Don’t die. Don’t die. Don’t die.’”
A completely understandable thought to cross through someone’s mind when they are being power-bombed off the top of one ladder, onto another.
Not long before IYO SKY ascended to the top of the ladder to grab the briefcase over a handcuffed Bayley and Becky Lynch, Zoey Stark was duking it out with Zelina Vega before the LWO member took them both out of the match with a massive Code Red.
“It’s a scary bump to take, you know? When you’re up there and you feel it going and a ladder’s right there, all you wanna do is protect your head. So you just kind of cover up and you go. You have no choice in the matter. We’re in front of millions of people”. Stark continued by saying she narrowly avoided striking the back of her head on the ladder. “It was very close. My head went through and then as I come up, I feel it scraping. And I thought I was bleeding for a second, but luckily, no.”
Money is the Bank was an extra special night for Stark as she was able to compete alongside her mentor, Trish Status, as well as against Becky Lynch.
Zoey has had several chances to lock up with The Man in recent months, even getting a marquee victory over the WrestleMania main eventer.
No one can question Stark’s in-ring ability. When she’s on top of her game, you could convince me that she’s the most skilled female wrestler in the entire company. The magic that Becky Lynch can generate in the ring is also well documented, but just because two performers are extremely talented, does not mean they’ll be able to dance with one another.
Thankfully, Becky and Zoey can dance. And dance they did - each time.
“I think we mesh really, really well together. She was definitely a dream opponent of mine in NXT. So being able to actually reach another dream of mine, it’s amazing. Becky Lynch and I, we have great chemistry. She’s great to work with. I actually really do enjoy her.”
During our conversation with Zoey, it steered toward some recent criticism of how women’s wrestlers are booked nowadays. And no, this isn’t a rehash of the SummerSlam drama.
Quite the contrary, the complaints I’m referencing this time, were made by a certain prominent figure in wrestling and sound like they came straight out of the 1950’s.
Paraphrasing said individual, who I’m not naming because these opinions don’t even deserve the platform I’m already giving them, women have no business wrestling in ladder matches because it makes the men look weaker by comparison.
The Code Red spot performed by Zoey Stark and Zelina Vega was specifically brought up as an example.
Needless to say, Zoey did not agree with that assessment. And I felt bad for even bringing it up, but as long as there are those who think that way and are very vocal about it, there needs to be just as big a spotlight on this simple truth - someone’s size and gender has no bearing on their toughness.
Case in point, let’s go back to SummerSlam 2022. A little over three minutes into her match with Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch separated her shoulder. It was an injury that kept her out of action for months. Yet, it didn’t stop her from going 12 more minutes with the E-S-T or taking part in the post fight extracurricular activities with the debuting Damage CTRL.
“She finishes the match. Like, who does that? You know, I tore my ACL and I finished the match,” Zoey said referencing her own match at NXT: Halloween Havoc 2021. “Us women, we have so much more to prove, so we do not stop. We keep going. You’ll find it’s very rare when a [referee] has to say, ‘Hey, we gotta actually stop the match because this person’s seriously hurt.’”
While tonight could be the final night that Stark has any interaction with The Man for some time, it could also potentially be one of the last night’s she gets to work with Trish Stratus.
It’s not clear just how much longer Trish plans to stick around as a full-time member of the RAW roster, but her extended run this Summer is expected to come to an end sooner, rather than later.
Then the question becomes, what does the future hold for Zoey Stark? A question Becky Lynch posed herself on TV just a few weeks ago.
“It’s actually really hard to imagine [life] without her right now. Like, she’s been such a great mentor in helping me figure out how to work RAW and everything. So I mean, me shooting for the stars, I would love to go after Rhea Ripley and go after that title, but who knows what happens? That’s my dream. That’s what I want to happen. Rhea Ripley and I could tear the house down and maybe we do another Code Red off of the ladder.”
Will we see Zoey Stark tonight? Will she find away to intervene and help Trish Stratus go 2-1 against The Man? Will the match even happen?! Tune in to Monday Night RAW tonight - and follow along in Cageside's live blog - to find out, starting at 8pm ET on the USA Network.