*Change is good. World Wrestling Entertainment has kicked off their much-touted “New Era” in historic fashion. After creating two unique Superstar rosters for its Monday Night RAW and Smackdown Live brands via a draft on July 19, WWE crowned popular grappler “The Boss” Sasha Banks as its WWE Women’s Champion on the July 25 edition of RAW.
The title change generated a great deal of excitement within the online wrestling community and across social networking. Sebastian Alvarez, founder of RealMenReport.com, says to EURweb, “I wholeheartedly believe this was Sasha’s time. Considering all the changes made to WWE programming over the past couple of weeks, a title change was sort of required.”
Banks defeated Charlotte (Ashley Fliehr) for the championship; daughter of WWE Hall of Famer and 16-time World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair, she and Banks are considered the two best women wrestlers in the world. Cedric D. Lynum, creator of popular Facebook group True Hardcore Wrestling Fans, tells EURweb it was inevitable that Banks would win the title. “Her and Charlotte are the front runners in this division,” he says. “[Banks] will be a great rep for the company.”
This victory marks the first time a Black woman has held a title in WWE since Alicia Fox (Victoria Crawford) was Divas Champion in 2010. The last Black Women’s Champion reigned 13 years ago when Jazz (Carlene Moore) held the gold in 2003.
Like all previous black women to hold titles in WWE, including pioneering Hall of Famer Jacqueline Moore, Banks will be a great representative for their culture. Alvarez calls her the perfect candidate.
“She’s a young, fresh face who instantly connected with the fans, going back to her NXT days.”
Born Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado in Fairfield, CA, Banks plied her trade on the independent wrestling circuit for 2 years before joining WWE’s developmental brand NXT in 2012. Here she polished her already notable hard-hitting, high-flying in-ring ability while honing her “The Boss” character, a persona inspired by her real life first cousin, Snoop Dogg.
Proving the bite of her villainous character was as vicious as her charismatic bark, Banks was crowned NXT Women’s Champion at live event TakeOver: Rival in February 2015.
On July 13, 2015, Banks debuted on WWE’s main roster, appearing on RAW while still champion in NXT. She would drop the title to raising star Bayley (Pamela Martinez) the next month at TakeOver: Brooklyn in a bout that was named Match of the Year.
Banks’ rematch with Bayley that following October at TakeOver: Respect proved to be an equally groundbreaking affair, and then some. It was both the first time in history women competed in an Iron Man Match – a 30 minute bout where the competitors attempt to score the most victories within that time limit, and the first time a women’s championship match headlined a major WWE event.
With each career milestone Banks’ notoriety and popularity increased immensely.
Her first opportunity to become WWE Women’s Champion happened at WrestleMania 32 this past April. Banks was escorted to the ring by Snoop, given a tremendous ovation from the more than 100,000 fans on hand at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. If there was any doubt Banks was a major draw in professional wrestling before this match, her ceremonious stride to the ring proved just how huge she’d become. This was further solidified by the standing ovation she received on RAW after winning the title. Expect another when Banks and Charlotte tangle again at Summer Slam on August 21.
Alvarez says Banks is “a great performer who truly understands and appreciates in-ring psychology -a relatively lost art in the business. She perfectly captures what the ‘new era’ is supposed to be: authentic, unique talent getting a real chance to shine.”
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion,” Mr. Joe Walker has been a biographer, entertainment journalist, and columnist for 18 years; his acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online for numerous publications including SoulTrain.com, Kalamazoo Gazette, WrestlingInc.com and Notion Magazine. Walker’s currently writing for EURweb, Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com, RealMenReport.com, and Hood Illustrated Magazine. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official website.