“I know what it’s like to sit in the back and watch other people get opportunities,” Becky Lynch says.
“The Man” has spoken.
Despite a controversial finish to the WrestleMania 35 main event, where Ronda Rousey appeared to be pinned without both of her shoulders sitting squarely on the mat, Becky Lynch believes there was no doubt that the finish went as planned.
“Ronda’s shoulders were on the ground, she got pinned one-two-three, she lost her championship, and we haven’t seen her since,” said Lynch, who is the WWE Raw and SmackDown Women’s Champion. “My goal wasn’t just to knock Ronda Rousey out, it was to chase her out of the company—and we haven’t seen her since.
“The way to beat Ronda isn’t through her body, it’s through her mind. Once she feels like she is untouchable, that’s when she is most vulnerable. Ronda enjoyed WWE, as she did in MMA, when she was on top, but she got her jacket and left once she found out she wasn’t infallible.”
Unlike Rousey, who has taken a sabbatical from WWE since WrestleMania 35, Lynch has embraced every opportunity to be a featured part of Raw and SmackDown, and throughout mainstream media.
“After WrestleMania, I didn’t go on vacation,” said Lynch. “I got an hour of sleep, then I got up and did morning media. That’s all I’ve ever wanted—to run on dreams, hard work, and adrenaline.”
WrestleMania 35 ended with Lynch in the center of the ring, standing atop the wrestling world, immediately following a match that saw Finn Balor defeat Bobby Lashley for the Intercontinental title.
Lynch’s pro wrestling odyssey started in 2002 when she enrolled with her brother in a wrestling school run by Fergal Devitt, who is better known as Balor.
Her first match was in the tiny St. Andrew’s school hall in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland when she was only 15 years old. The commute was 90 minutes; an hour train ride, followed by a 30-minute walk. On her first show night, Lynch managed her brother, but had her moment when she hit a hurricanrana on his opponent. Later that night, she was in a battle royal, and she still has a hard time comprehending that she and Balor closed out WrestleMania 35 with a combined three title belts.
“You couldn’t write that,” said Lynch. “We started out together as little teenagers, living the dream, I was 15 and he was 20, and we end up in the semi-main event and main event of WrestleMania? And both walk out with championships? Finn found me after the show to tell me he was proud of me, and I am sure as hell proud of him.”
The rise to the top was far from easy for the 32-year-old Rebecca Quin, who has reached a celestial level of stardom portraying Becky Lynch.
A string of injuries, including a head injury to her eighth cranial nerve, forced Lynch away from the ring for seven years. During her time away from the ring, she was a flight attendant, she competed in martial arts, but nothing ever brought her the joy of pro wrestling. Even a year ago, after struggling to find her place in WWE and playing a miniscule role in the WrestleMania 34 pre-show women’s battle royal, Lynch still had a fire burning within her to succeed.
“I remember getting a text at WrestleMania 34 from a friend, and the text read, ‘I heard it’s going to be Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey in the main event of WrestleMania next year,’” said Lynch. “I thought to myself, ‘How dare you not even put me in consideration?’ Even though I was looked at as a mid-card player, I always viewed myself as a top star. I knew it was just a matter of breaking through, but I just had to figure out a way to do it.
“If you can dream it, you can achieve it. Once I got that opportunity, once I got that ball, I knew I was going to keep running ’til I touched down. I don’t even understand football, but I think that metaphor works.”
Lynch is a student of the game, and noted that there are parallels between her WrestleMania title win and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s WrestleMania 14 victory. Austin defeated Shawn Michaels, who subsequently left the company, with a mainstream guest referee in Mike Tyson. Austin then started a new feud the night after ’Mania, much to the dismay of the masses, with Mick Foley’s Dude Love character.
Following an extremely intense feud with Rousey and Charlotte Flair, Lynch is now battling newcomer Lacey Evans, whose “Lady of WWE” character is a stark contrast when standing next to “The Man.”
“I see the similarities, but I’ve always loved Mick Foley and I do not like Lacey Evans,” said Lynch. “I can’t stand her and I don’t know what she’s doing here.
“She’s talking about how I’m failing. I just walked out of the main event at WrestleMania with two championships. I don’t know what she’s on, I don’t know what she’s smoking, but she’s out of her goddamn mind if she thinks she’s going to beat me at Money in the Bank.”
The meaning of “The Man” will become more commercial as Lynch continues her wrestling ascension, but aside from serving as a strong catchphrase, Lynch—who is redefining success for women in a field largely dominated by males—spoke to the poignancy and importance of her message.
“This is about overcoming the odds,” said Lynch. “Believe in yourself, even when no one else does, that’s what it means to be ‘The Man.’ Being ‘The Man’ is all about going against the odds.
“Lacey Evans can call me ‘a man’ all she thinks, but that’s an ignorant view. Being ‘The Man’ means working to become the top dog, then holding yourself in that manner. No matter how people are trying to hold you down, you keep rising above. That’s what it means to be ‘The Man.’”
In addition to her upcoming match with Evans on May 19 at Money in the Bank, Lynch has no shortage of challenges. And she was thrilled to add one more challenger to the list in Sasha Banks, who is currently off WWE programming.
“Come fight me, Sasha,” said Lynch. “At one time, Sasha Banks was the top dog, she was ‘The Boss,’ but Sasha’s fallen from grace. It seems like she can’t hack it.
“Let’s prove something. I know we’ve had tremendous matches back in NXT, and it’s been an age since we stepped in the ring together, and I would love to again, but this is a whole different kettle of fish. This ain’t ‘The Lasskicker’ anymore, this is ‘The Man.’ I would love to go toe-to-toe, ‘The Man’ vs. ‘The Boss,’ to prove who is the top dog now.”
Unencumbered by the fear of overexposure, Lynch appears every Monday on Raw and every Tuesday on SmackDown on USA Network. She does not adhere to the less-is-more approach of special appearances made famous by the likes of Hulk Hogan and Brock Lesnar, instead relishing the chance to prove herself at every opportunity.
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” said Lynch. “I’ve obsessed about this and I’ve wanted it for so long, and I know what it’s like to sit in the back and watch other people get opportunities while I wanted to be doing what I love more than anything in the entire world. And I had to sit there in catering and watch that? That is a horrible feeling.”
Lynch’s journey is about to become tougher than ever. Getting to the top is a challenge, but staying there—especially in the political world of pro wrestling—is an entirely different beast. For anyone who doubts her, however, Lynch promises that she will deliver in a way that will continue to make viewers catch their breath.
“Conor McGregor can talk about how we’re not tough,” said Lynch. “This is the toughest line in the world, but we do it because we love it. Ronda Rousey did it for a year but she couldn’t hack it. This is not easy, and no other athlete works as hard as we do. But it’s not so hard when you love it.
“I refuse to take a second of this for granted. I want to lift both shows, raise both shows, and make WWE must-see TV.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.