IN THANKS TO SASHA BANKS & MS. CHARLOTTE
It is difficult to articulate the intersection of joy and mourning.
In that intersection exists an awakening to the preciousness of every millisecond of our lives - we cheer for what’s to come, we cry for what has passed and we cry for what’s to come and we cheer for what has passed in equal measure.
This is what professional wrestling, when it's at its best, can give us.
It’s an overwhelming experience when two seemingly opposed emotional states crash together in the same moment, revealing that these emotions are inherently linked and perhaps even synonymous. Excited as we might be for the future, forging ahead inevitably means letting go of something we loved; a person, a career, a particular stretch of time in our lives. It can be difficult to reconcile your love of the present or your love of the past with your need to fulfill future ambitions.
The only appropriate response to such an experience is to burst into tears and wild laughter.
Try as I might, I can never describe that intersection of emotions as well as Sasha Banks and Ms. Charlotte showed it in their main event championship match on the July 15th, 2015 episode of NXT.
I have been writing about Charlotte and Sasha Banks for a year now.
Almost to the day.
They have refined their characters and honed their craft with every single moment of screen-time they had. Their segments and matches (along with the other women in NXT) became the segments and matches to look forward to.
For months and months, through promos and face-turns and heel-turns and epic championship matches and fabled live-show spectaculars, Sasha Banks and Charlotte gave me the gift of being able to watch them go to work.
Not once did they disappoint. Not once did a wide-smile not spread across my face the moment either of their entrance themes blared on the speakers.
To know they were going to be on a show was to know that it was a show worth watching.
It’s easy to get used to that when you get it every week. It’s easy to take that for granted. And that’s why I’m writing this today; I want Charlotte and Sasha Banks to know how thoroughly they inspired and uplifted me with their work for a full calendar year.
I want them to know how grateful this particular fan is; that everything they’ve done, down to the tinniest of details (such as realizing the weave has been snatched and then working that into the intensity of the moment), has been appreciated beyond measure.
It might not be immediately apparent how an excellent pro-wrestler can inspire a writer to be a better writer. But there are bridges that unite all creative endeavors, all crafts. I want to write a sentence that's as good as a Charlotte-chop. I want to strike the keys of my computer with the swagger and confidence apparent in Sasha's walk. I want to create something that moves people to the same emotional highs and emotional lows that Sasha and Charlotte inspire with one of their epic in-ring masterpieces.
It is a venerable skill to be able to rip people out of their complicated lives, make them forget all their troubles and all their cares, and move them to The Movement of Pop.
It is a commendable skill to be able to inspire people to think a little better of themselves, to find a confidence within thanks to a good example of confidence without.
Sasha Banks and Charlotte did that for me, consistently, for an entire year.
And I know I’m not alone in this.
Their latest match was no different, save that a peculiar air of significance surrounded the event; the knowledge that this might be the last time we saw them do battle, in this way, on this stage. The match became the embodiment of not just the intersection of joy and mourning (the inevitable passage of time) but it became the embodiment of everything they’ve worked for in NXT.
One of the clearest and simplest signs that their work in NXT has been a resounding success is the fact that no one questioned or even made a big deal out of two women being in the main event of Wednesday’s show.
It was simply understood that nothing else could possibly take that spot.
The first time Sasha and Charlotte had a main event championship match several months back on NXT’s Wednesday show, social media and even NXT emphasized how unprecedented it was that two women would close that particular episode.
Only a few months later, and not only would no one question the decision to close with Sasha and Charlotte, people reacted as if such was normal.
And that is the purest form of progress - when what was once unheard of becomes commonplace, tacitly endorsed without a second thought.
This is an achievement few fans will actually be cognizant of (which, once again, is a testament to the change the women of NXT have inspired), and that’s another reason I’m writing this; I want the reader to understand what the women of NXT have done.
It’s incredibly hard to pop a crowd.
It’s near impossible to change people’s minds.
Most professional wrestlers only have to worry about “getting over”. Their mission is straightforward and personal, the stakes relatively low and unrelated to a larger social consciousness.
Sasha Banks and Charlotte not only “got themselves over”, they also changed people’s bigoted minds. At this point, any internet fool who dares to write nonsense like “women can’t wrestle” or “I just don’t find women wrestlers entertaining” or “women wrestlers just can’t do things the men do! That’s just science” will be ostracized and shunned, called out for the fools they are and pitied for missing out on some of the finest pro-wrestling in the medium’s history.
Whether it was their conscious goal or not, Sasha and Charlotte’s work helped redefine women’s wrestling. They showed people what women’s wrestling can be and what women’s wrestling naturally wants to be in 2015. That helps the male race as much as it helps the female race - something anti-feminists or those who do not understand the equalitarian basis of feminism fail to comprehend.
What’s best for women in our society is also what’s best for men.
Think of all those young boys and young girls alike who would’ve never been inspired to pursue their dream had they not witnessed Sasha and Charlotte go to work this past year?
Think of all those cures, inventions, and beneficial social movements throughout human history we could have had long ago but didn’t because the individual who had the knowledge or the idea or the capacity to find that cure or create that invention or inspire others toward change was told “You can’t” because they were a member of a marganlized group. We all benefit, whether we want to recognize it or not, from a more equal society that refuses to accept the lies of our forefathers.
Whether the benefit is reflected in our laws or whether the benefit is reflected in better pro-wrestling shows, the benefit is clear.
The perspective that regards women as nothing more than eye candy is the perspective that doesn't result in the kind of match we saw between Sasha and Charlotte. The perspective that endorses the lies of prejudice shortchanges itself, denying itself edifying, invaluable experiences. Without respectfully booked women's wrestling, we will never see the kinds of inspiring, shocking, uplifting matches we've seen from the NXT Women's Division.
The booker's of Monday Night Raw should take note.
With their passion and their excellence, Sasha and Charlotte have demonstrated to men and women the world over that, “You can!” Theirs is a message of hope and hard work and it moves people to create.
When I see them walk down that aisle and get into that wrestling ring I know that if I pursue my goal with the same tenacity, integrity, and relentless power that my goal will be accomplished.
In the year that Sasha and Charlotte ascended, inspiring me with their every word and every move, my effort to celebrate and analyze pro-wrestling as an art form has gone from a blogger site that only a handful of people read to this website and a weekly podcast that garnered the attention and interest of some of my pro-wrestling heroes.
I owe that progress to a number of people, and it still all emanates from my personal desire to hone my own craft and connect with the right people about the right ideas.
But I also know that if I didn’t have Sasha and Charlotte as role-models then I might not have been quite as inspired. I might not have crafted quite as good a paragraph, and that subpar paragraph might have resulted in someone disregarding my writing. Or, if I'd given in to a bout of laziness or despair, I might have decided to play video games instead of writing The Women Warriors of NXT. But I didn't give in. I kept pushing, because I saw what would happen if I kept working as hard as I possibly could.
And I certainly would’t have been inspired to write this particular piece had it not been for everything they freely gave professional wrestling fans over the past year.
Today, I write about Sasha Banks and Ms. Charlotte with that blend of joy and mourning.
I cannot help but be sad knowing that the year of perfection has passed, that my innocent, happy, reliable pro-wrestling show that airs Wednesday nights on the WWE Network has grown up, and that it will continue to transform.
But I’m nothing but grateful for having had that time.
And now, the joy of watching Sasha Banks and Ms. Charlotte go to work on Monday Night Raw has begun.
Godspeed, women warriors of professional wrestling. And thank you.
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