I sat at my computer last week to piece together a recap on NXT Takeover: Unstoppable and the state of women’s wrestling in the WWE. After blankly staring at an empty document for 20 minutes, I decided I’d sleep on it, and revisit this idea later on. The words to describe my feelings simply weren’t making their way to my fingertips, a helplessness that rarely comes to surface in my psyche.
To avoid exaggerating the importance and entertainment factor of the NXT Women’s Championship between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, I let the match digest. A week’s worth of contemplation led me to the conclusion that I haven’t seen two women wrestle a match like that in my 28 years on this Earth.
Sure, Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, Mickie James, Melina, Beth Phoenix, and Natalya had good matches…but were any ever as psychologically and technically sound and inspiring as what Banks & Lynch pulled off? I don’t think so.
Not to say those divas couldn’t have performed in a similar fashion, but the opportunities came few and far between.
So, this match further exacerbates the difference between the NXT brand and the WWE brand.
Almost a week later, I can still definitively say that the bout currently holds ‘match of the year’ honors in the book of Stoney Keeley (that’s me – Hi!).
What Banks and Lynch pulled off drastically altered the direction of women’s wrestling in the WWE. The contest served as Lynch’s “coming out” party. If you didn’t know what a talented grappler she was before, you know now. It also established Sasha Banks as the greatest women’s wrestler on the planet.
Say what you want about Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens, Banks/Lynch was the main event of that show. But, of course, you’ve already read and regurgitated enough Banks/Lynch praise to last a lifetime.
When you tune in Mondays, Thursdays, or Sundays, the divas matches serve as little more than bathroom/snack break outlets. WWE divas seem to have comically similar “characters,” with indiscernible entrance music and outfits. Certainly, there’s no depth to many of the women.
Upon Paige’s main roster debut, she cycled through generic challengers to her Divas Championship, with no interesting program for months. When she finally found an intriguing opponent, AJ Lee, the storyline was based on the two being “frenemies” and both women playing the psychotic loose cannon role. The WWE is tripping over its’ own tropes.
That doesn’t happen on NXT.
There aren’t repetitive and hokey entrance songs describing how all of the men want to be with the arriving diva, or how hot she is. You have characters famed for athleticism and individuality.
Women like Charlotte are featured, who may be more powerful and athletically gifted than half of the men in NXT. Bayley has managed to steal the hearts of the collective NXT universe with the loving energy she exudes. Carmella displays an abundance of charisma and ring presence. Each diva projects a uniqueness that draws us in for different reasons.
Above all else, this division gets the care and attention it deserves to make it an unrestrained success. The NXT women’s division is booked and treated with respect, and so, an overall great product is enhanced even more.
That’s what the main product lacks more than anything – direction. Able women step into the squared circle each week (Natalya, Paige, Naomi, Alicia Fox, Layla, Emma, etc.). A commitment must be made to developing these ladies as riveting characters and giving them an allotment of time that will organically create a connection between performer and spectator.
(side note: ditch the “Divas Championship” and bring back the WWE Women’s Championship.)
Trish Stratus and Lita rarely had the field of talent that NXT has. The same can be said for a lot of the great women wrestlers in history.
Soon, the benefits of what is happening at Full Sail will trickle up to the main roster. As Banks, Lynch, Charlotte, and Bayley start to filter in, the depth of talent will translate to a better product with fresh faces.
Then, the division will be ripe with talent, and we’ll be closer to seeing women headline a major show – which has to be the ultimate goal of the trailblazing ladies of NXT.
Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, and is a Tennessee Titans Staff Writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT’s Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.