Bogus match endings and all foaming at the mouth aside, Extreme Rules was a good show. Rare as it is for me to end a WWE PPV without wishing I’d taken more bathroom breaks, I’d call this one of their best shows of the past two years. Although, looking at the ThunderDome Era, I can’t say that bar was very high. Still, WWE managed to do what they do best: somehow turn out good wrestling despite all the other weirdo stuff they have their talent do on screen.
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Besides watching a grown woman scream and force tears over the sight of someone ripping up her doll, the highlight of my night was Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair. We knew this would be great going into it, but there is the constant fear that things will go horribly wrong; see Lynch’s 26 second victory last month at Summerslam. Even when all the ingredients are right, WWE can still make a shit sandwich. But this time they let Lynch and Belair do their thing, which is be very good at professional wrestling. This match ran just over fifteen whole minutes, which is 57x longer than their Summerslam match.
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This was more than enough time for both women to show off just what makes them so excellent; Lynch, who is showing no ring rust after a year and a half away, as the cocky champ, Belair as the confident challenger. I’ve been a fan of Becky since getting into wrestling a few years ago, and I’ve never wanted to see her get slapped in the face so much as I did during this match.
While much of that is due to Lynch’s build and promos over the past few months, combined with some bizarre wardrobe and hair choices, I couldn’t help but fantasy re-book Summerslam for just a moment. Imagine if this were Becky’s return match—if she came out to that huge pop and then delivered a banger like this, instead of a 26 second Rock tribute. The result would have been the same, but instead of the outrage over how unfair Belair’s treatment was, the internet would have be abuzz with praise for two of wrestling’s top stars. They blew the roof off Columbus, but I couldn’t help wishing they’d turned this out in Vegas. “How could it possibly get better than this?” I asked myself, as Lynch ate a mouthful of turnbuckle. “Could they even top this?”
To my absolute surprise, the answer was yes. Just as Belair had the champ in position for the KOD, Star Wars star and liker of unfortunate Instagram posts, Sasha Banks, made the save. A backstabber to Belair caused the DQ; Lynch tried to escape with a thumbs up and a smile, but Banks gave her the same treatment. The Boss stood tall over both women before taking a bow in her very excellent new gear, then sauntered back up the ramp with the confidence that instead of being told to eat a Tums to lukewarm crowd reaction, she had cemented her place in what should be one of WWE’s best matches of the whole year.
Watching wrestling week after week—and more specifically, watching WWE—can sometimes make me feel numb to even the best of sports entertainment. It’s especially hard to get excited about things, knowing that Vince McMahon holds my heart in his hands like a tiny, fragile bird. But this time I truly can’t help it. I’m salivating for the triple threat match between Lynch, Belair, and Banks.
Nothing else in the world sounds as enticing as watching these three tear each other apart. Three of the greatest talents in WWE, who have shaped WWE’s women’s division since their arrival, giving us a beautiful gift of professional wrestling. It’s been a tough few years with the whole global pandemic business, we deserve this. The evidence is all in our favor; Becky and Sasha killed it at Hell in a Cell last year, while Sasha and Bianca delivered a classic at Mania this April. Throw in what we just saw from Becky and Bianca tonight, and that’s some excellent sports entertaining.
There’s just so much to play with there. Becky and Sasha, half of the Four Horsewomen and two of the best in SmackDown’s new age, have years and years of history between them. They’ve both done it all as women’s champs, tag champs, double champs. They’re also both excellent chickenshit heels. Becky has easily slipped into this role over the past month, flaunting fluffy jackets and evading Bianca like my father dodges my calls. We saw Sasha play into the same rhetoric in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania 37; the overconfident champ who’s done it all, too good to be in the ring with the rookie Belair.
Bianca is, to use one of Michael Cole’s favorite phrases, the x-factor here. While she’s more than proved herself across the board—charisma, athleticism, work ethic, natural talent, I can go on—she doesn’t have the accolades that Lynch and Banks do. Belair arrived after the ladies previously known as Divas had helped bring us Mania’s first women’s main event, the first Hell in a Cell, women’s tag belts, the women’s Royal Rumble. While all these things should have happened long before the 2010s, and while we still have quite a ways to go, you can’t deny that Lynch and Banks helped pave the way for more women’s wrestling in WWE.
They both traveled and trained and competed long before coming to NXT and taking those champion pointing pics with Stephanie McMahon’s husband. They’ve become household names since joining with the company; my grandma knows who Becky Lynch is, and she hasn’t seen a match since Hogan and Andre. Belair has come at this from a completely different angle; she’s a homegrown talent, a true PC success story. She’s grown tremendously within the WWE system, a feat which seems more difficult than it probably should be, to earn her spot main-eventing Mania. Her journey is unique from many WWE talents, especially the women, who are often brought in after years on the indies.
It makes her significantly different from Banks and Lynch, both of whom play their entitled vet card very well. Belair has been the consummate baby face against two women who, on all levels, have a right to call themselves one of the greatest in the history of the company. The easy to root for Bianca is born to be the hero, but she seems even more likeable against two women as cunning and legendary as Sasha and Becky. Putting her in the middle of these two makes will make her win that much bigger, and that much better. Her win over Sasha at Mania? Emotional and heartfelt. A victory over the most decorated women’s superstars not named Charlotte Flair WWE has ever had? Oh, baby. I’m ready for it.
And to end on that note, Belair vs Flair at Survivor Series sounds like the cherry on top of a star studded cake. No one, and I mean no one, is more deserving of a Bianca ass-whooping than The Queen.