Lots of words have been written about Sasha Banks & Bayley’s 2018. Many more probably will be when new generations of bloggers hit the scene and cast a critical eye on the first phase of the Women’s Evolution.
As my man Brent Brookhouse wrote last week, no one thing is going to make up for main roster creative never understanding or committing to the Hugster’s gimmick, complete with the all-time stinker that was Alexa Bliss’ “This is Your Life”. Nor will it overcome their booking of Banks as unable to defend a title and therefore casting her as the rare WWE babyface who couldn’t win a main event-level feud. It certainly won’t make up for the “will they or won’t they?” of last summer, especially the atrocious therapy skits.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate all involved at least trying to wrap a bow on their nightmare year with a spot in the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection’s big win at Elimination Chamber last night (Feb. 17) in Houston.
At the 2018 edition of the pay-per-view (PPV) in the first ever women’s Chamber match, Sasha and Bayley were working as a team to try and win the title from Raw Women’s champ Bliss... until The Boss decided that gold was more important than friendship and cheapshotted her bestie off a pod:
It was a moment that fired a lot of imaginations, and drove reasonable fantasy booking of a feud between the two NXT Horsewomen for WrestleMania 34. But that didn’t happen, and then several more overt turns - including one from Bayley which got a huge reaction from fans in the arena & online - led nowhere (or to Kurt Angle mandated counseling, aka nowhere).
Their re-alliance was going well, but didn’t have much direction until the Christmas Eve announcement that the women would finally get tag titles for the first time since the 1980s. Since then, Banks & Bayley have been the favorites to capture the new belts... but there was always a little bit of fear WWE would lose the thread again.
But those fears turned out to be unfounded, and we got the payoff of at least a year’s worth of shoddy storytelling.
Wrestling is a tale that never ends, though. And while it wouldn’t be unheard of for WWE to just ignore the roller coaster character swings the new tag champs went through in 2018, I’m glad they didn’t. The most overt acknowledgement came from this spot in the opener from Houston, when it was down to just The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection and Fire & Desire. Where last year she’d kicked her partner to the ground, this time Sasha lifted her up:
While this was happening - because WWE isn’t known for subtlety - Michael Cole, Renee Young, Corey Graves & Beth Phoenix were explaining how it was evidence of how far Sasha & Bayley have come as friends and teammates over the last year. It was a bit heavy-handed, and ham-fisted, and could have been more meaningful had it come at a decisive moment in the bout’s final third (in other words, it could have been done better... which makes it even more fitting a tribute to last year, in a way).
But it was there, and at least for this someone who stuck with WWE through the indecisive booking of last year, I appreciated it. It made it feel like it wasn’t quite all for nothing. These women and their relationship did go through those trials, and even though they didn’t make a ton of sense, they learned from them.
And now they’re the champions.
There’s work to be done, and the next twelve months might be just as bad as the last twelve. But for today, we’ll take it.
H/T: Kell (Mitch) on tumblr for the GIFs!