Our video aces Cain A. Knight and Stef Hatala pretty much hit the nail on the head in one of their latest productions, which you can see above.
But as someone who considers himself a fan of both performers and who loved their work as rivals in NXT from 2014 - 2015, I can’t stop thinking about why Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, a program WWE picked back up on Raw again this past Monday (June 18), isn’t a big deal anymore.
The women bear some of the blame. While I wouldn’t go as far as Hollywood Chris Hall does in his latest “Weekly Slam”, the trip to the main roster has exposed holes in their games. Their feud in NXT actually involved quite a bit of nuance and acting. Both characters and perfomers evolved from their first encounter during the inaugural Women’s Title Tournament until their Iron Man match at TakeOver: Respect. But there was more time to prepare and hone the scenes - and they certainly weren’t called on to handle a live microphone in front of tens of thousands of people for five minutes at a time like Raw Superstars have to almost every week.
Even admitting to those weaknesses, however, I think Cain and Stef get closer to the issue. We’ve seen the exact moments we watched on Monday night play out before - multiple times, in the case of the in-ring tensions between The Boss and The Hugster. They never led anywhere except to right back to this moment... again. There’s a way to do in-depth narrative exposing the complexity of adult friendships. And then there’s making the characters look stupid by having them repeat the same actions, either ignoring they’ve done them before or indicating they learned nothing from their consequences.
If there even have been consequences. Wrestling stories, like all drama, requires stakes. Either overtly or covertly, WWE’s sent the message that whatever’s going on between Sasha and Bayley doesn’t really matter. They can play it up on social media, and viewers can connect the dots with fan-fic, but in terms of what we see on screen, we’ve been given no reason to think there will be a resolution to their issues which will impact the larger fictional world of Raw. These women’s story starts and stops depending on how much of the show producers decide is needed for the angles they’re more invested in at the time. Which is a business decision they’re paid to make, but they can’t be surprised when viewers logically decide the angles they drop don’t matter. The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection program disappears as often as a Mojo Rawley push.
Creative’s “no heels or faces” approach to this rivalry hurts it a great deal, too. In NXT, Banks was ripping up children’s signs as we watched Bayley struggle to accept that she might have to betray her youthful ideals and cut corners to finally reach the top. On the main roster, Sasha is a valiant underdog in her matches who also attacks her best friend, while Bayley’s never kissed a boy but jumps people in multi-person beatdowns... and also sometimes attacks her best friend.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. Sadly, though, the bottom line is this. Regardless of how much blame you assess to the wrestlers, the writers, the bookers or even the fans, what once felt like it could be an epic rivalry and pay-per-view (PPV) headlining showdown now looks destined to be one of several SummerSlam Kickoff matches - if WWE even sticks with it long enough for it to make the card in Brooklyn.
Sasha vs. Bayley isn’t a big deal anymore.