Becky Lynch first proclaimed herself “The Man” on October 18, 2018.
She has successfully backed up that claim over the past 12 months, in a manner both unrelenting and compelling.
Her list of accomplishments during that stretch of time are long and distinguished, including main-eventing WrestleMania 35 and starring in two of ESPN’s signature “This Is SportsCenter” commercials.
But there is one moment from this past year that still makes her blood boil.
Covered in blood, her skin already turning odd shades of black and blue, there she stood, incredibly, calling for the fight to continue.
The incident, which took place on the November 12 edition of Raw, turned into a career-defining milestone. Lynch didn’t tell the WWE audience how badly she wanted to be their star. She showed it.
Six days before a Survivor Series showdown against Ronda Rousey, Lynch took the full-brunt of a punch to the face by Nia Jax during the go-home segment of Raw. The punch by Jax broke bones in her face and caused a concussion, stomping on Lynch’s dream match against Rousey that Sunday.
Legitimate momentum is fleeting in the scripted, vastly competitive world of professional wrestling. As a veteran with over 15 years in the business, Lynch needed no reminder that the chance to shine against Rousey at the Survivor Series no longer belonged to her.
With her swollen face throbbing, fatigued from a sleepless night, Lynch showed up to television for the next day’s SmackDown intent on holding onto her spot.
“I wasn’t letting that moment slip away,” said Lynch, the 32-year-old Rebecca Quin. “So I showed up the next day at TV in St. Louis, concussed out of my mind, begging to work, begging to be cleared. I told anyone who would listen I was fine even though, clearly, I wasn’t.”
Lynch’s pleas fell on deaf ears. Wrestling at the Survivor Series was no longer an option; close off-screen friend Charlotte Flair took her spot, delivering a captivating performance as she turned heel and laid down a beating on Rousey.
Sitting at home, icing her wounds, the incident served as another reminder that life as “The Man” wasn’t going to be easy.
“There have been so many times in my career where I thought I was hot, thought I had momentum, then I was taken off TV and it slipped away,” said Lynch. “But there was no way I was letting this slip past me. I wanted to make wrestling the coolest thing on TV. That was my goal, and I wasn’t going to stop trying to make that a reality.”
Adding an edge to wrestling is exactly what she worked toward on a weekly basis, infusing energy into the product and evoking emotion from the audience every time she stepped in front of a WWE camera.
Lynch recovered from her injury, then went on to win January’s Royal Rumble and followed it up with another career-defining moment in April, pinning Rousey (in a triple threat match with Flair) in WrestleMania’s first women’s main event. Despite encountering her share of road blocks common in the cutthroat television industry, she remains atop the WWE, standing tall last month alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on WWE’s premiere of SmackDown on Fox.
This was not originally what Lynch had in mind for her run as “The Man.” She had planned to be an antagonist. The red head from Ireland, always beloved by her peers, desperately yearned to show off her edge.
Lynch wanted to be bad.
“I certainly tried,” she admitted. “But I could hear a wave of disappointment when I’d cut promos on the crowd. I was willing to go without them, but they wouldn’t let me. And the reason I’ve been able to have this phenomenal year is because of the fans.”
Lynch made her initial boast of becoming “The Man” on Twitter, a domain she has mastered over the past year through engaging and connecting with her supporters.
She also uses the social media tool to start new feuds, or spit fire at those she feels deserve it. Her grassroots approach has further endeared her to many of wrestling’s most loyal fans, the ones who filled MetLife Stadium at WrestleMania 35 in New Jersey to watch her make history as the first woman to have in her hand raised in the main event.
“Wrestling is 20% about the matches and 80% about how you engage with the people who care about you,” said Lynch. “I remember walking through the building at WrestleMania 35, passing by The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan. I’d idolized them when I was younger, and now they’d be watching me in the main event. And that’s something I accomplished with the help of these people.”
Since WrestleMania, the hits have kept coming.
A snippet of Lynch’s accomplishments this past year include proudly wearing both the Raw and SmackDown women’s championships; being featured on millions of Post Golden Crisp cereal boxes, as well as the cover of Muscle & Fitness alongside fiancé Seth Rollins; speaking at the Sports Business Journal Game Changers Conference; participating in a panel discussion at the 10 annual espnW Women + Sports Summit, and walking the red carpet at the MTV TV & Movie Awards.
But the accolades haven’t enlarged Lynch’s head or lessened her work ethic. A critical piece to her success is remaining laser focused on what comes next.
“There’s probably some Buddhist lesson on how you’re supposed to savor the moment or how you’re not supposed to keep looking forward, but that’s the industry we’re in,” said Lynch. “There is so much competition and you have to stand out. If you don’t, you’ll be left behind.
“I’m constantly thinking about the work at hand. How do I make this more interesting? Do I need to be more of an antagonist? How do I get the most of this match? There’s no time to celebrate. I’m already onto the next goal and putting in the work.”
Lynch confirmed that she will be home twice the rest of the year. The overnight sensation that took 16 years refuses to ever take her success for granted or assume that she will always stay atop the wrestling business.
In addition to support from her fans, Lynch also receives unconditional support from her fiancé Colby Lopez. WWE fans know him better as Seth Rollins.
“Nobody gets me like he does,” said Lynch. “He’s my partner in crime for life. As soon as we started dating, it was pretty obvious that this was it for both of us.”
Rollins proposed to Lynch in past August, and “The Man” accepted.
“I was a little caught off guard,” Lynch noted about the engagement. “I didn’t expect it right there and then. But as soon we started dating, that was it for us.”
After all her accomplishments this past year, both personal and professional, only one questions remains.
What comes next?
“I’m exactly where I want to be, but there’s always more work to be done,” said Lynch. “The world still needs that one-on-match with Ronda Rousey. Whenever she’s ready, I’ll be here, still holding down the fort in WWE.”
In addition to a rematch with Rousey, which would fit perfectly onto the card at WrestleMania 36, Lynch is eager for someone from WWE’s talented roster to step up and challenge her.
“In our locker room, there are two types of people,” explained Lynch. “Those who are bitching about how I got to the top and those who are trying to copy what I did. But you have to go outside of that. You have to be completely different.
“Step up. Make a name for yourself. Do it without doing it the way I did. I see what everyone else is doing, and then I try to do the opposite. Be original. Create the interest I have, put together the matches I’ve had. No one can do what I do. If you can, please step up to the plate.”
Lynch’s work has transcended the realm of professional wrestling. She is a role model, not only for women but for anyone seeking inspiration. Wrestling has forever existed as a male-dominated industry, but Lynch was never intimidated or frightened to create change.
“I’ve never approached my work as a woman,” said Lynch. “I’m here to prove I am the best. That’s always been my intention. Take gender out of the equation. How does my sex matter on whether or not I can accomplish my dreams? That’s so archaic.
“I was able to appreciate some of my contributions when we were shooting the commercial for the 2K video game. Stone Cold was there, Hulk Hogan was there, Sting and Bret Hart were there, and they’d all talked about how they were the man in their day–but now a woman is the man. I thought to myself, ‘OK, s---, I’m on that level.’”
As she reflected on an unforgettable year, Lynch once again expressed gratitude to those who stand beside her on a daily basis.
“The fans are everything to me,” said Lynch. “That’s why I’m able to do what I do. So I’m going to keep doing all that I can to keep them talking and keep them interested, and let’s see where it goes in 2020.”