A Crying, Crying Shame (Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Charlotte)
Unsurprisingly, the latest edition of NXT Takeover was a delicious treat, served up with the kind of execution Ilyn Payne would be proud of. Niche Game Of Thrones references aside, the historic main event pitted two women against each other for the first time on a WWE PPV in only the tenth ever Iron Man match. Sasha Banks and Bayley, yet again, put on a clinic to be proud of. They wrestled the hell out of each other, and did so, for 28 minutes of their 30 minute match. Because for the first 2 minutes, they cried. They stood there, looked at each other, and cried. For 7% of the bout. It was an understandable outpouring of emotion from two young women, nay two young wrestlers, who had dreamed about this almost unimaginable moment for their entire lives, and the crowd duly and fittingly chanted “You deserve it” in admiration of their milestone accomplishment. The things the women of the WWE are currently achieving is remarkable and a testament to their talent. However, as I watched the opening of the Banks and Bayley match, I worried. Just as I worried at the close of the PPV, because there were more tears. Some poor floor staff member must have had the unenviable task of mopping up the rivers of fluid that drenched Full Sail, and it worried me because there have been so many water work explosions in this recent investment in the women’s division that the world drought is likely on the verge of extinction.
Now let me firmly state that I am wholeheartedly behind the women being given more screen time, specifically more time actually wrestling. And not only that, being great at it. I also recognise that sometimes, no matter who you are, man or woman, emotions get the better of you in the workplace and you can’t help but involuntarily bawl your eyes out. In the workplace of professional wrestling, tears can and do add an emotional depth to storylines, be them the tears of a talented actor, or the tears of the overwhelmed person behind the actor. What Sasha and Bayley have achieved in the last few months is indeed overwhelming. They are creating history, and I’m proud to be a fan at a time when this is happening. It’s something I’ll recall to my kids when they are inevitably forced into WWE fandom but, when it boils down to it, the accumulation of cries are beginning to bug me.
At the culmination of their match at Takeover Brooklyn, Sasha Banks broke kayfabe and joined the rest of the Four Horsewomen in the ring after losing to Bayley. And there were tears. Three of the ladies in the ring had been called up to the main roster, and another had just won the NXT Women’s Championship. Two of them had co-Main Evented a PPV and given a Match Of The Year display. It was a powerful statement to see them stand tall in the middle of the ring in front of a sold out crowd at the Barclays Center, symbolic of the future of women’s wrestling, and wrestling in the WWE as a whole. Tears were understandable. This, for me, was a one off moment. It can be amazing when emotion overpowers character in wrestling, but I worry that this is happening too often. It’s a petty grievance, I know, but Sasha Banks is a bad ass heel. A one off occurrence is excusable in the circumstances, but The Boss, as a character, is a dick. There’s presumably a face turn on her horizon, but she’s currently still a heel. To see her continually sob as emotion bests her is undermining her well-crafted persona.
While the first 2 minute cry fest of the Iron Man match irritated me, Banks brought it back in commendable style with her antics during her loss. I was screaming at the TV for her to abuse the Bayley super fan on the front row, and when it happened, I laughed so hard out of fulfilment I almost broke a rib. She became a heel again. She made a child cry, and it was awesome.* Her hard work was then to come undone at the close of the show with tears of her own as the roster emptied to show their respect. For Bayley to blubber irrepressibly makes sense – other than John Cena, she’s the purest face in the entire company – but yet again the best heel in the division was a sobbing wreck.
This isn’t limited to Bayley and Sasha. As things stand, I’d be more surprised if Charlotte didn’t cry when on camera. Upon winning the Diva’s Title, you can appreciate the tears as a career becomes vindicated, but she also cried on the Raw before Night Of Champions when she beat the champ via DQ. Then backstage at Night of Champions with her dad. Then again on the following Raw. A tough powerhouse wrestler, crying on screen, 4 times over 3 shows. Plenty of wrestlers cry when winning titles. One of my all time highlights as a wrestling fan was watching Chris Benoit capture the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania XX, and being joined in the ring by fellow champ and best friend Eddie Guerrero. They wept uncontrollably – two friends reaching the peak of the industry on the biggest stage of them all. There will be swathes of other examples, but they are limited to specific moments and, most importantly, not dwelt upon. 4 times over 3 shows is excessive.
I’m not an emotional robot. I understand that people cry. Hell, I’ve watched bleary eyed, tissues at the ready, on countless occasions in my 20 years as a wrestling fan. The tributes to Benoit and Guerrero, especially from Chavo and Edge; seeing streams of tears cascade down Mark Henry’s cheeks at the Owen Hart tribute show; Daniel Bryan’s Hall Of Fame induction speech for Connor Michalek; the culmination of Ric Flair’s retirement match; the Dusty Rhodes tribute package, and in particular Renne Young’s reaction to it… The list is extensive. In short, what I’m saying is, the use of tears in professional wrestling should be sparing, and it usually is. The effect of an outpouring of emotion is incredibly powerful, partly because it is so uncommon. It highlights a very real side to the personality of a superstar and has done for the ladies mentioned above, but too much and I worry it will begin to undermine them. Eventually. I worry because I don’t want anything to undermine what they are achieving, and what they will no doubt continue to achieve.
* According to reports, after Takeover ended, Sasha Banks apologised to Izzy, the crying Bayley super fan. She even donated the flowers given to her by Triple H. This adorably sends a family home happy, but it sends me home fuming. It’s probably too much to ask these days to have a wrestler live out their character in a more complete way, but there you go. After everything Sasha Banks is giving us, I ask for more. I’ve just embodied the whole of the IWC and I’m off to cleanse the feeling from my system.