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You Deserve It, Sasha Banks

Sasha Banks is the WWE Women's Champion.

Wrestling is the redheaded stepchild of pop culture—a specifically, uniquely American medium that's somehow still mostly viewed as a joke by most of the country. But here we all are on this website, celebrating and devouring our interest, our passion. We watch to see moments created by our heroes that make us feel—angry, happy, sad, elated.

Well, I sure felt something during last night's Monday Night Raw.

I don't think it's fully hit me yet (writes the guy sobbing, drinking white wine, and watching wrestling by himself at home).

For those who don't know me, I'm the guy who writes thousands and thousands of words about the NXT Women's Division, and specifically, Bayley and Sasha Banks. And those that do probably wonder, why these two? Sure, they're spectacular performers, but seriously? That many words?

Allow me a brief bit of personal backstory. I moved out to Washington, D.C., almost seven years ago, with hopes and dreams of being a hotshot foreign policy journalist. Writing had been my passion since I was 10 years old, and I obsessed over international relations issues for years and years and years. I got a sweet internship gig (not right out of college, but slightly after), and the world was my fingertips. The Sky was the Limit, I thought.

Needless to say, things didn't quite work out as planned. My dreams were, to be blunt, shattered, for a whole number of reasons. As of 2013, I had completely stopped writing—anything. Not for business, and not for pleasure. I was adrift, apathetic, and massively depressed. I stopped doing what I loved: producing the written word.

In late 2014 and early 2015, I started inching back into wrestling. As I've noted on Cageside several times, it was TakeOver: Rival that hooked me again—more exactly, the Fatal Four-Way match for the NXT Women's Championship. I grew up in a house with very strong female influences—I had stopped watching wrestling in the Attitude Era specifically because of the way the industry presented women. So seeing Bayley, Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks tear the house down absolutely blew my mind—I was enthralled, immediately.

As 2015 went on, I grew more and more invested in NXT, more and more invested in its women's division, and more and more invested in Sasha Banks. I bought my first-ever wrestling shirt last year—and obviously, it was the black "Legit Boss" tee. I bought tickets to TakeOver: Brooklyn on a whim—a floor seat, for myself. I just couldn't miss it.

Lord, am I thankful I bought that ticket.

A few weeks after the Brooklyn match between Banks and Bayley, I stared a three-day weekend sans plans in the face. I resolved that Friday night—impromptu, mind you—to watch Sasha Banks' NXT career over those three days. I spent something close to 30 hours in 3.5 days, cataloging her body of work. And at some point, I resolved—someone needs to write about this woman's performances, and why the hell shouldn't it be me?

Turns out, I really like writing thousands and thousands of words about wrestling.

Yes, Bayley's debut at Battleground was an incredibly special moment for me. Getting to see that in the flesh was something else—but I had read the spoiler reports beforehand on Sunday. I had only bought my ticket after it was announced Sasha would have a mystery partner in a tag team match—as I assumed, correctly, it was Bayley. But Banks winning the title on Raw last night? Completely unexpected, and a total surprise.

When the match was announced, I instantly took to Twitter, sarcastically claiming that Sasha would be 50/50 booked for the next month before her coronation at Summerslam. And then ... she made an homage to her hero, her all-time favorite, Eddie Guerrero, getting Dana Brooke ejected from ringside. And I started to wonder ... surely they weren't putting the title on Sasha on this random Raw. Surely not. But why else would Brooke get thrown out ...

When Charlotte tapped out, I didn't scream. I didn't jump for joy. I stared at my TV in utter shock. Very slowly, an enormous smile crept over my face: Sasha Banks was champion. It just took a while to sink in, that's all.

I'll be honest with you—my writings on Bayley are substantially better than anything I wrote about Sasha last year. But that's not the point. The truth is, I probably never would have written a single word about Bayley unless it wasn't for Sasha Banks making me care enough again to put my name on something. The Boss gave me back my smile. For that, I owe her eternal gratitude.

(Though it does make me want to rewrite Sasha's history, and do it properly this time.)

I'm not sure if I'm rooting more for Sasha Banks, or rooting more for Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado. Thankfully, I get to root for both.

Witnessing someone triumph that has—through her performances and righteous motivation—compelled me to put effort into works of my own again is so very uplifting. It's the sort of gift we hope our favorite performers give us—a belief in something bigger than ourselves. Watching childhood dreams be fulfilled makes us feel like we, too, can do great things.

Being a wrestling fan is ostracizing enough—imagine growing up as a female wrestling fan in the late 90s and early 2000s. Imagine witnessing what it's like to see women degraded so regularly on wrestling programming—and imagine taking all of that in and using it as fuel, as motivation, to work your butt off to make people respect women's wrestling. Imagine years later, when you're living out your dream, having won your first (main roster) championship, and you get to tell 15,000 people in the arena and millions around the world that this is "the era of women's wrestling."

That's beautiful.

"Be so good they can't ignore you" reads the pinned tweet in Banks' Twitter profile. This is her un-hidden secret—she, like her idol Guerrero did, absolutely radiates with starpower. You can't help but notice her—at (approximately) 5'3" and 115 pounds, she stands out. You can't teach that, you can't train that. You either have that sort of magnetic presence, or you don't. And Sasha Banks has it.

I don't know Kaestner-Varnado, and in all likelihood will never meet her. Yet somehow this is a woman that through her work became important to me. Wrestling makes us feel like we know the performers, when we obviously don't in reality. But in a world so often bleak, we need to see heroes succeed. We need to smile. We need to know that dreams can still come true.

Well, I'm smiling right now, because I saw a lifelong dream come true last night on Raw.

Sasha Banks earned the "YOU DESERVE IT" chants that Pittsburgh gave her tonight (and boy did they make me finally break at home with that chant). Her backstage promo, where she fails to hold back tears as she acknowledges her dream realized, is special:

This means everything to me, everything I've ever worked for, legit, since I was 10. This has been my dream. We've come such a long way, fighting for women's wrestling, and tonight I think we proved that women can hang. This is the era of women's wrestling, and we're taking over, and we're changing the game. And, to have this, and to know that I'm the leader of the women('s division) now, I couldn't be more proud.

Bayley posted an Instagram photo last night of Banks FaceTiming her shortly after the match, with the familiar caption, "Remember yourself as a little girl, she is counting on you to protect her." As Banks stood in the ring last night and evangelized for women's wrestling—as she has for so long now—it's hard not to think of all the little girls at home, watching a proud, determined woman, through force of will and years and years of hard work, realize her dream. And maybe, just maybe, some of them started to dream, too.

Congratulations, Mercedes. You deserve it.

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