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Sasha Banks (left) vs. Bayley (right)

By Todd Matthy

It’s very hard for friends and family to understand why I’m a wrestling fan. Making it harder is when you try to show them, WWE books something stupid and your they look at you and say, “you watch this?” (SummerSlam 2005 is a perfect example)

Then something reminds you of why you love wrestling. A match that inspires you to buy a ticket because you wanted to be there and witness history. Last year in Brooklyn, Sasha Banks and Bayley reminded me of why I fell in love with wrestling.  Want to know why and see EXCLUSIVE photos and video from the Nosebleed Section? 

 

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Left to Right: Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Bayley

The Wrestler’s:

What made the Sasha/Bayley match so magical were the players. Sasha and Bayley had such well defined characters that the personality clash alone made you want to see what happened. Sasha Banks is “The Boss.” When she walks into a room, she’s in charge. Sasha doesn’t care if you love her or hate her, only that she’s better than you.

Bayley, on the other hand, is a sweetheart. A doe-eyed fangirl who was grateful to be on the WWE roster and shares her joy with fans (and fellow wrestlers) by giving out hugs.

Where Sasha was the girl who blew you off, Bayley was your shoulder to cry on. What is going to happen when these two fight?

The Set Up:

Sasha Banks was WWE NXT Women’s Champion. She beat the best WWE NXT had to offer in Becky Lynch and Charlotte (Ric Flair’s daughter). This group of women are not only the best women’s wrestlers in the world, they some of the best WRESTLERS in the world.

Earlier in the summer, Sasha, Becky, and Charlotte were called up to the main WWE roster.  Bayley, on the other hand, returned from a hand injury with a determination to win the NXT Women’s Championship. The roster laughed at her and said she was “too nice” to be the champion.  This lit a fire in Bayley. She ran a gauntlet through the roster culminating with victories over Becky Lynch and Charlotte to become the number one contender. What did Sasha do? Laugh at her.

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The Match:

The setting for Sasha vs. Bayley could not have been better. NXT was WWE’s equivalent of a farm system but overnight became the number two wrestling organization selling out the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. One of the reasons this happened was the Women’s Division.

NXT’s Women’s Division did not focus on pillow fights and one minute matches featuring Playboy models. The NXT Women were not only attractive but WRESTLED NWA styled matches. To me,  they brought good ol’ fashioned “rasslin” to the masses.  And they did it with WWE’s emphasis on spectacle. The fusion of these worlds was on display for Sasha Banks vs. Bayley.

Bayley entered with a bunch of “wacky inflatable tubesman” while hugging kids and giving out headbands. Sasha entered in a limousine surrounded by bodyguards who hoisted her into the ring. Even if you never saw them, the entrances alone told you who these women are. And the bell hasn’t rung.

Bell rings. We are chanting “Bayley’s gonna hug you” while Sasha mocks Bayley by calling her “pathetic.” Bayley’s response? Shooting a double leg takedown and hammering Sasha to our delight. The advantage doesn’t last. They roll and trade blows until Bayley gets the advantage for a one-count.

Why is this important? Bayley is trying to win, so is Sasha. No posing toward the hard-camera or dramatic kick out’s at two. For the duration of this match these women are telling us they are trying to win.

Sasha goes for a roll up, Bayley kicks out at one. Sasha goes outside the ropes to rest. Bayley follows. Sasha traps Bayley and gains the advantage. She sets Bayley up in the ropes for her “double knee to the stomach from the top rope” spot. Bayley slithers away.

Why is this important? Because it’s not two wrestlers getting moves in for a cheap pop. It’s two wrestlers telling parts of a struggle and the wrestling ring is the stage.

Sasha knocks Bayley outside the ring and mocks her. Bayley gets mad, comes under the bottom rope, and Sasha traps her by grinding her face into the mat. Sasha slaps Bayley. Bayley pauses to sell the slap. Sasha puts Bayley in submission maneuvers. She screams and cries, yet continues to fight

Why is this great? Bayley is putting over Sasha as a threat. She’s selling us on the idea that she’s being hurt and building sympathy.

The match continues. Sasha has the advantage but Bayley resists. We cheer Bayley on, giving her power, but Sasha has a counter. She sets Bayley up for the knee to the abs. Bayley catches her for a powerslam but Sasha wraps her legs around Bayley’s head and pulls her into the turnbuckle.

Sasha tries the move again only setting Bayley up on the top rope. She succeeds and goes for the pin, Bayley kicks out at two. Sasha is pissed. Sasha is getting frustrated.

She hounds Bayley into a corner and taunts her. Bayley kicks her in the face. Bayley still has fight in her and its driving Sasha mad. Sasha drives Bayley outside of the ring. Amidst a “this is wrestling” chant, Sasha gets sadistic.

Sasha’s frustrated. She can’t put away this “headband wearing little girl” so she plays dirty by attacking Bayley’s injured hand. She slams Bayley’s hand into the steel ring steps. The referee holds Sasha back to check on Bayley. Sasha shoves him aside and presses the attack. It’s not enough. Bayley kicks out of Sasha’s pin, while holding her hand and selling the injury. The two trade blows while we chant “Yea!” for Bayley, “Ooh!” for Sasha. All this time, Bayley keeps selling the hand injury. A series of moves happens resulting in Bayley getting the advantage.

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Bayley goes for her finisher, the “Bayley-to-Belly” suplex. Sasha drops to her knees, blocks her momentum and traps Bayley in her finisher, “The Back Statement” (a submission maneuver where the neck is trapped in a chin lock and the spine is bent backwards). Bayley crawls toward the ropes for a break. Sasha drives her heel onto Bayley’s injured hand. Bayley reaches the ropes and reverses the move. Sasha escapes. Bayley hits a “Bayley-to-Belly” for a two count. We chant, “this is awesome!”

Bayley sets Sasha up for a “Bayley-to-Belly” off the top rope. Sasha answers with an elbow to the face. It’s not enough. Bayley attempts a hurricanrana (attaching your legs to your opponents head and doing a flip) off the top rope but Sasha blocks it, sending Bayley to the mat.

Bayley’s hurt. Sasha drives her knees into Bayley for a two count. Sasha smacks the mat with frustration. Dueling chants of “Let’s go Bayley!” and “Let’s go Sasha!” echo through the sold out Barclay’s Center.

Sasha places Bayley onto the top turnbuckle. Bayley resists and executes a hurricanrana from the top rope. She “hulks up,” rushes Sasha, executes a “Bayley-to-Belly” for a three-count. Ding! Ding! Ding! Bayley is the new NXT Women’s Champion!

 

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Aftermath: 

When Bayley won, the entire Barclay’s Center (including myself) jumped to our feet chanting, “You deserve it!”Bayley was handed the belt and sat in the ring. She’d look at the belt, she’d look at us. Impatiently, we waited for her hold the belt in the air triumphantly so we could scream for joy. Bayley savored the moment. She didn’t pose, she let the moment sink in and we had our cheer waiting for her. When, she held up the belt, we exploded! We could feel Bayley’s joy. We were happy for her. Even though we knew this was choreographed performance, we cared so much about Bayley that we wanted to make her happy.

Suddenly, Charlotte and Becky came down to congratulate her. They hugged in the ring and we cheered. Then Sasha joined them. She tearfully extended her hand to Bayley and they hugged in the middle of the ring, crying while they embraced. All four joined together in a group hug. Then they raised each others hands, and flashed the four fingers of the Four Horsemen. We flashed the fingers back to the Four Horsewomen. They didn’t just bring Women’s Wrestling back to the forefront. They showed the world that taking wrestling seriously still appealed to fans. The Art of Pro Wrestling lives thanks to these women and their joy was our joy. My joy.

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This is why I’m a wrestling fan. This is why I love wrestling. Even if it’s “fake,” I can  believe in the characters. Like Rocky, Bayley and Sasha made us like them as people and we wanted to see which one would win. It didn’t matter that the outcome was pre-determined, their personas made us believe the struggle was real. Their emotion made us believe the struggle was real. We suspended our disbelief and saw a sport in a performance. This is what separates wrestling from sports-entertainment.

One Year Later

One year later. After having a 30 Minute Iron Maiden Rematch,  Sasha and Bayley are on RAW. They’ve come to the WWE main roster. Its only a matter of time before they clash and there is no better venue than WRESTLEMANIA!

If we get a build up and match like we had in Brooklyn, in front of an entire stadium, with mainstream media coverage due to celebrity involvement on the card, millions (and millions) of people will see why we love wrestling. They may not close the show, but they will OWN the show.

Thank you Sasha Banks and Bayley for making me believe. Thank you for making jaded wrestling fans believe. Go forth and make the world believe in wrestling again.

And now, a gallery of this classic match from the Nosebleed Section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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