WRESTLING HEROES:ON WHY WE NEED SASHA BANKS & BAYLEY
Sasha Banks and Bayley recently shared their childhood writings on Twitter.
The prompt for these essays seems related to one's "dream job" or one's idea of "success".
Read them below:
SASHA BANKS (11 years old)
BAYLEY (In High School)
Unbridled passion is infused in every word, a sense of near-desperation to achieve one's desired goal. It's especially inspiring to see that their present-day personalities are contained in these phrases. When we watch Sasha Banks and Bayley perform, we are not watching characters too far-removed from the young women who wrote these essays. This reveals how our instincts as children are often far more helpful when attempting to navigate the overly complicated landscape of adulthood than the "mature" and "practical" lessons we learn along the way.
"Oh yeah, I'm that damn good" and "I would like to fight the guys too and kick their ass and I'm not gonna do any catfights" are sentiments Sasha Banks embodies every single time she enters an arena and fights for the right to be named champion.
As a child, she stressed what she would not do. She finds strength through calculated denial. And what she plans to do (fight the men) spits in the face of convention. It makes sense then that she would be the best heel in the entire WWE today. Even at eleven, she demonstrated attributes that would be necessary to getting over as a heel.
From her swagger to her confident grin, she exudes a venerable defiance that's destined to inspire future generations to do the same.
In reading her essay, I’m reminded of the refrain in her entrance music:
Had a dream I hadn't made it
There's nothing dragging down me now
Cause a girl gonna push it all out the way
Destined to break in
I found my way yeah
Now ain't nobody gonna take it
Cause a girl gonna push 'em all out the way
It's as though eleven-year-old Sasha was writing her own musical accompaniment.
“…being a successful female wrestler in the World Wrestling Entertainment isn’t running around having a little five minute match every show. I want to be the Women’s champion. This sport is serious to me and I want to be elite in it…”
This statement epitomizes Bayley.
In tearful promos and vignettes, Bayley has often expressed how she’s wanted to be Women’s Champion. The childlike wonder Bayley personifies, the sincerity and the innocence with which she portrays her character feels intimately connected to the pro-wrestling faith expressed in her essay; the simple desire to be the best, and the unwavering belief in her beloved sport despite the naysayers around her.
There's some heartbreak in Bayley's essay. It's that heartbreak that wins the crowd.
High School-Bayley emphasizes how her dream makes her an outsider; how people find her passion strange. This is what every pro-wrestling fan inevitably contends with - we must defend our love for so many regard pro-wrestling as "fake" or stupid or classless.
NXT-Bayley has faced similar opposition from her competitors, often labelled naive and infantile all the while earning unanimous adoration from the crowd for embracing that innocence and that wonder. She is loved because she embodies love.
We adults ruined by cynicism secretly yearn for the days when we ran through the world wildly crying and laughing as children, fascinated by anything and everything around us.
In Bayley, we have found the fulfillment of that wish.
The present-day narratives built around these performers are born out of the thoughts and feelings expressed in these essays. In retaining their purest selves and holding true to their dreams, they've helped build and define the fictional pro-wrestling universe they now inhabit. We have witnessed the manifestation of a child's deepest desires.
These essays demonstrate why, at the time of this writing, NXT is best known for its Women's Division.
The young women who wrote about being "that damn good" and wanting to be "elite" were penning prophecy. There is a thread connecting these women to their pasts, a pro-wrestling truth that has persisted throughout their lives. And that’s why people are so captivated by Bayley and Sasha Banks.
That's why Bayley and Sasha banks effortlessly move viewers to The Moment of Pop.
There isn't one contrived thing about either pro-wrestler.
They're not feigning enthusiasm and they're not feigning conviction.
They inspire faith in the viewer because they possess that same faith.
When they perform they are not "sports entertainers" fighting to entertain the crowd; they are professional wrestlers fighting to be the best athlete in their division.
That is what separates elite from non-elite, pro-wrestler from "entertainer", truly getting over with the crowd and limply getting over with the crowd.
Today's "superstar" seems encouraged to disregard the fundamental conceit of the pro-wrestling medium (that a pro-wrestling match is a legitimate contest taking place in a legitimate sports division) in favor of "entertaining" the crowd. That perspective breaks the fiction of pro-wrestling and trains an audience to disbelieve what they're seeing (that perspective also transfers power from the performer to the viewer, resulting in complacent audiences who either like or do not like what they see rather than thoughtful audiences willing to watch a narrative evolve over time).
The perspective Sasha Banks and Bayley share on their chosen form of performance is what allows them to tell such believable, emotionally rewarding sports-stories. Their language is the language of the professional wrestling fan; the language of the past and the language of the future.
When the Sasha Banks character jumps through the ropes to the outside, she's not doing it to pop the crowd. She's doing it because an opportunity to best her opponent has presented itself. The purity of that perspective is sorely missed on the main roster; treating pro-wrestling like a shoot, respecting it and creating a consistent sport-centered story from first to final bell.
Sasha Banks and Bayley succeed in entertaining their audience because they're not transparently trying to entertain their audience. There is no self-consciousness. They don't telegraph that they're telling a story. They don't ask the viewer for permission to proceed through a promo and they don't check with the crowd to make sure everyone is having a good time. They go to work. They simply tell their stories and they tell them exceedingly well because they have honed their craft and because they clearly believe in what they're doing.
They understand that a good performance is one that doesn't seem like a performance.
And both, even at a young age, shared a similar, empowering perspective on what a woman wrestler should be.
They wrote about "female wrestlers". They did not write about "Divas". In fact, they forged arguments against the kind of booking that’s become commonplace over the past fifteen years, and that's where the true importance of these essays is revealed.
This insight into their lives isn't just cute or heartwarming or inspiring.
These essays are a testament to our need for credible heroes.
Sasha and Bayley responded to the sincerity they saw in their female and male role models. They were inspired by the depth of the professional wrestling craft. They were inspired by powerful women and men who were booked in a way that celebrated that power rather than undermined it.
And now they are two of the best professional wrestlers in the business. That's not a coincidence.
Does Bayley and Sasha Banks become the Bayley and Sasha Banks we know and love if little-Sasha and little-Bayley had been trained to think they weren't worth more than five minutes of screentime?
Today, Sasha Banks and Bayley have achieved even more than the goals they've outlined in their essays.
They've become role models not unlike the ones who inspired them; without the common-sense, superb NXT-booking that has provided these talented women with the freedom and support they needed to get over in the hearts and minds of wrestling fans, that doesn't necessarily happen.
If the booker doesn't create an environment where talents are free to embrace their truest selves and encouraged to tell captivating stories in the ring, no one gets over and no one gets inspired.
If we do not provide Picasso a museum to preserve and showcase his masterpiece, then we don't find out about Picasso's genius and Picasso's genius isn't passed on to the next generation.
The WWE would be wise to heed the implied message of these essays: to continue on the company's present path where "catfights" and "five minute matches" and a lack of narrative substance remain commonplace on the main roster is to actively deny future generations the heroes they need and deserve.
The stakes could not be higher.
The future rests firmly on the WWE's shoulders to right whatever wrongs remain with regard to women's wrestling, to listen to intelligent, modernday-minds, and to celebrate the power of their female roster in a manner befitting their excellence.
We don’t want children who think being a women’s wrestler means nothing more than wearing a skimpy outfit and rolling around in the ring whilst pulling hair for five minutes. We don't want children who believe vapidity and misogyny are to be celebrated.
We want our children to write about honor and respect.
We want our children to believe in something honest and true.
We want our children to find good heroes.
In Sasha Banks and Bayley, they have found those good heroes.
We all have.