By Thomas Albano
(Cheap plug before I begin: I’ll be starting up a new podcast for professional wrestling, MMA and boxing soon, called “Combat Mania.” Please check it out!)
Eight nights after losing her championship at SummerSlam, Alexa Bliss regained the WWE Raw Women’s Championship last Monday night on Raw by defeating the woman she lost to at the pay-per-view, Sasha Banks. And the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) exploded.
While I can understand some fans’ frustrations, to say that WWE is intentionally burying Banks, in my opinion, is untrue.
Hot Potato Belts
Plenty of fans know that this isn’t Banks’ first short title reign, as all four of her title reigns now have been less than 30 days in length. And as pointed out in the storyline heading into Monday, Banks had not (and still has not) made a successful title defense — she has been a constant transitional champion.
And, of course, this isn’t the first feud where Banks has experienced short title reigns. Her feud with Charlotte from the start of the brand extension until the end of last year was filled with short title reigns among two — with Banks winning the title on three different episodes of Raw before Charlotte won the title back at whatever the next pay-per-view was.
While one may point out that was when Charlotte had her pay-per-view winning streak, it’s far from the first time WWE has had “hot potato syndrome” with one of its titles. In fact, until Jinder Mahal’s reign started at Backlash in May, the WWE Championship was sort of in a “hot potato” status this year. After AJ Styles’ title run was ended at the Royal Rumble, the title went from John Cena to Bray Wyatt to Randy Orton to Mahal within a span of about four months — and the only one to have one title defense was Wyatt, and it was just that one.
And the Intercontinental Championship? Oh boy, talk to anybody in the IWC and they can tell you about the WWE’s treatment of that title, especially prior to 2016. Between From 2008 through 2015, very few got past the 100-day mark in an Intercontinental Championship title reign. And even with those that did, it gets slimmer in terms of those who had a good, effective title reign.
Heck, even though we may praise the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era, the title bounced around there, too. After Ken Shamrock lost the title at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 1999 (his 125th day of his reign), no one held the title for 100+ days again until Randy Orton in 2003.
So, the history of WWE and playing “hot potato” with its titles is pretty clear. As to how we can chalk up Banks’ title reigns? Well…
Playing Up to Moments
If there’s one thing we should have taken away from these past few years watching WWE, it’s that WWE doesn’t care as much for story as they do for having big, trending, talked about moments.
Let’s analyze Banks’ title wins a little further. One came on the first episode of Raw in the new “Brand Split” era. Another came when she and Charlotte faced off in the first Raw to have a women’s match main event since 2005 (and only the third in history). One was another Raw main event, and the first women’s falls count anywhere match in WWE in many years, too. Finally, as for the win at SummerSlam, well, SummerSlam is one of the big four. And both brands’ women’s titles changing hands this year (as well as both tag titles and the cruiserweight title) was certainly a talking point.
Let’s even go back, again, to the WWE title earlier this year. Cena’s win at the Royal Rumble marked his 16th world championship in his career, tying Ric Flair for most career world title wins — quite the historical feat. Then, just two weeks later, he loses the title to Bray Wyatt inside the elimination chamber. Hell, Cena wasn’t even in the final two — he was eliminated before the final fall!
New Day’s record-setting title run? It ended not long after passing Demolition’s record. The Dean Ambrose U.S. title reign where he rarely defend the title? It ended after he passed MVP’s record run from 2007-2008.
WWE has even played the “lose in your hometown” card three times within the past year when it comes to the Raw Women’s Title! When Banks and Charlotte faced off at Hell in a Cell 2016, it was the first time a women’s title match (or a women’s match at all) main evented a pay-per-view, and it was the first time a women’s match took place inside Hell in a Cell.
That event took place in Banks’ hometown of Boston, and she lost. Just weeks later, when the Falls Count Anywhere Match happened, it was in Charlotte’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina…and she lost. Then, when Bliss had her first Raw Women’s Title run this year, what was the whole thing behind it? Oh, right, she beat Bayley in Bayley’s hometown.
Heck, even Bliss’ title win wasn’t the main talking point coming out of Monday (at least it shouldn’t have been). It was Nia Jax’s betrayal of Bliss, ending their alliance and setting up a feud between the two.
(And as a side note: WWE booking a lot of title matches on TV shows recently, in my opinion, is just their usual, yearly, last-ditch effort to keep fans from tuning out once Monday Night Football starts back up).
WWE lives for the moment. They just want the publicity and to be talked about, throwing away logic and history if it meant that as the end result.
Booking of Women
Now, WWE has, of course, come a long way in treating their female active roster members from how they have in years past, even as little as early 2015. They’re no longer called “Divas”. They get spotlight time (and as mentioned, some main event spots). Their matches are usually not less than five minutes anymore (minus the occasional squash match). The women are seen as competitors rather than just eye candy. Basically, the women have a much better rep.
But, not everything is perfect.
On this same most recent edition of Raw, the one that featured Bliss vs. Banks in the main event, as well as an outstanding promo with John Cena and Roman Reigns, we got…the hashtag match.
Seriously, why this absolutely ridiculous stipulation of a match? I know they’ve had the Emma/Women’s Revolution/hashtag storyline going for a couple of weeks now, but why this so suddenly? And, honestly, I’m not finding this storyline interesting. So why have it at all?
But, I mean, it’s one bad storyline. After all, we’ve got the first-ever Mae Young Classic women’s tournament ongoing. In recent times, The women have competed in matches like Ironwoman matches, Falls Count Anywhere, Hell in a Cell, etc. There’s some speculation we could eventually see a Women’s Royal Rumble or Women’s wrestleMania main event someday.
Hell, this year, the Smackdown women even participated in the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
Oh, right, you pissed people off then, too, WWE. (Though I think Carmella has become a great heel since, because of these events).
So, maybe there are things that still need to be done, and this rant has gone on for quite a bit. So, I’ll end it with one last thought.
To those of you who claim WWE is trying to purposely bury Banks, do you remember that she wasn’t originally scheduled to challenge Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title at SummerSlam? It was Bayley. And if Bayley wasn’t injured and competed at SummerSlam, don’t you think the same results would have happened to her?