SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Becky Lynch on wrestling Sasha Banks: “That match on SmackDown meant a lot”
Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks were magnificent in the ring Friday on SmackDown. In a match that seemed destined for a DQ finish, a real moment occurred when Banks pinned Lynch.
The trajectories of Lynch and Banks are similar, yet distinct. Each has had a run as the undisputable top star in the company, but this match was different as both are operating at the peak of their powers. And it was especially meaningful to Lynch, who had stepped away from WWE for more than a year after giving birth to her first child.
“Coming back, I had a mantra in my head: ‘Better than ever,’ ” Lynch says. “My goal was [to] come back better than ever. That’s what I trained for and worked toward. Win or lose, I believe I proved that on Friday.
“So that match on SmackDown meant a lot. Any time Becky Lynch steps in the ring with Sasha Banks, it’s magic. That’s two of the best in the world going head-to-head. And let’s be honest, if it weren’t for that meddling Bianca Belair, I wouldn’t have lost that match anyway.”
Lynch now has a triple-threat match against Banks and Belair at the Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. With all due respect to Roman Reigns, Big E, Drew McIntyre and Brock Lesnar, this is the match that should headline the show. The three women’s marvelous workmanship in this program has made it must-see.
“It would be very powerful if we headline the show,” Lynch says. “This is the biggest match you can have in pro wrestling right now, regardless of gender.”
Every WWE trip to Saudi Arabia is a lightning rod for criticism, but it could be a poignant statement if Lynch, Banks and Belair close out the event tomorrow.
“I think what’s very important, in a place like Saudi Arabia, is to show the women what’s possible,” Lynch says. “Maybe pro wrestling catches a young girl’s eye. If we can have that effect on even one person, it’s huge. Maybe it’s not now, but for the future, you can dream and you can achieve. Now more than ever, that’s so important.
“Even when I think about myself, I remember how I felt growing up when I first saw Lita come into WWE. She was a badass, and she could hang with the guys. She wasn’t the typical cookie cutter at the time. When I saw her, it showed that you don’t always have to be blonde and look like a Barbie doll to make it in wrestling. That meant a lot to me. Obviously, I’m not a girl that grew up in Saudi Arabia; I had a very different upbringing. But this is an opportunity to show them what girls can do, and that’s very powerful.”
Lynch is also no stranger to headlining big events, closing out WrestleMania 35 in a triple-threat against Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey. She intends to return to that position at future pay-per-views, proving that there is no one—Banks, Belair or anyone else—better than her in pro wrestling.
“I was hoping to be back at WrestleMania, especially since it was the first one in front of fans,” Lynch says. “But I’m ‘The Man’ for a reason. I was on top since 2018, left for a year, and now I’m back on top.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Hangman Page possesses every tool necessary to become the biggest star in wrestling.
- I never knew how much I would enjoy the Roman Reigns–CM Punk feud.
- Reigns and Brock Lesnar had an intense showdown on SmackDown, and it will be worth watching to see how WWE extends Reigns’s title reign beyond tomorrow’s Crown Jewel.
- WWE did not carry its momentum from SmackDown into Raw, delivering a record-low number in the prime 18-to-49-year-old demographic.
- As much fun as it is to watch Bryan Danielson in AEW, I can’t wait until he eventually makes his way to Japan for some battles in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
- Beyond Wrestling’s Uncharted Territory features another chance to see rising star Trish Adora.
- This was a fascinating piece on Pat Patterson.
Pro wrestling delivered an incredible Friday night—and there is even more to come
WWE and AEW had a brief head-to-head battle on Friday night.
For one half hour, SmackDown aired directly opposite Rampage. And the results were telling: WWE won the overall ratings battle, while AEW claimed the higher mark in the highly coveted 18–49 demographic.
That is a very important moment in AEW’s growth as it continues to build its brand and connect with even bigger sponsors. For WWE, which aired SmackDown on FS1 due ALCS Game 1 airing on Fox, it is a not-so-subtle reminder that its programming needs to be better, sharper and more precise on a weekly basis—with an emphasis on consistent storytelling, not solely the occasional big match. But whether you are a WWE fan or an AEW diehard, there is no doubt who won the wrestling battle on Friday night: the fans.
Friday’s SmackDown was one of WWE’s best shows in recent memory. Some of the matches were outstanding. Viewers were able to enjoy a compelling match pitting The Usos against the Street Profits, as well as Finn Bálor against Sami Zayn. Then, of course, was the Becky Lynch–Sasha Banks match, which was fantastic—and surprisingly ended with a pinfall—plus there was a gripping promo from Edge. It ended with the Roman Reigns–Brock Lesnar showdown.
Thankfully, courtesy of the wonderful invention of DVR, we could also watch Bryan Danielson against Minoru Suzuki in an AEW ring. There was CM Punk against Matt Sydal, as well as a chance to see Ruby Soho against The Bunny and matches featuring rising star Lee Moriarty and even former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. Again, this all took place in the same night. Wrestling fans have not been treated this way in a long time, and there is reason to expect more of this head-to-head excitement as the AEW-WWE rivalry intensifies.
Friday night proved that, in the battle between Vince McMahon’s company and Tony Khan’s company, it is the wrestling fans who are destined to win.
Tweet of the Week
Congratulations to Daniel Garcia, who certainly is an elite talent.
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.