We won’t be getting a singles match between Sasha Banks and Bayley at WrestleMania 36 for a variety of reasons, but the match was always better saved for SummerSlam 2020.
With the recent announcement that the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship would be defended at WrestleMania 36 in a Six-Pack Challenge Match, which then got changed to a Fatal 5-Way, it’s left some disappointed that we didn’t see a well built WrestleMania collision between longtime friends and rivals Sasha Banks and Bayley. While that’s understandable, the match always needed to be saved for SummerSlam 2020.
First off, there’s the elephant in the room. Nothing in wrestling is really normal right now, WrestleMania 36 especially included. The reality is that WWE probably shouldn’t even be having the event, closed set and precautions or not, but Vince McMahon reportedly is the only person who insists on going forward, which means we’re going forward. That’s how a dictatorship works, and Vince is undoubtedly the omnipotent dictator of this company.
Now, for a moment, let’s try and ignore all of that. Let’s try, as I know we all really want to, and forget about the worsening global pandemic. Even assuming the usual build towards WrestleMania 36 had continued unimpeded, and the event had gone on in its previous form at Raymond James Stadium, it still wouldn’t have been the right time to present Sasha Banks vs. Bayley for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship.
This is a rivalry that deserves significant build, nuance, and tension along the way. Whether WWE is going to give it that or not remains to be seen, but drawing things out also allows Sasha Banks and Bayley to do little things and plant seeds in the meantime. To see this, look no further their brief backstage interaction earlier this month on SmackDown.
Forgive yourself if you missed it, because their skill is making it get lost in this moment. If you watch closely, Sasha Banks turns her glance towards the SmackDown Women’s Championship itself and away from Bayley. Her eyes only shift to meet Bayley’s when Bayley is looking directly at her.
When Banks makes a point to say “that’s why you’re my role model,” she seems to be initially looking at and even pointing to the championship itself. Banks tops it off by saying she’ll dedicate her album “to you,” and while she’s looking at Bayley when she says “to you,” she’s actually touching the championship itself.
Even in a perfect world, rushing the implosion of and eventual monumental match between Sasha Banks and Bayley from that moment on March 6 into WrestleMania on April 5, the only day it was originally scheduled for, would have been a travesty.
Instead, we’re getting more seeds via WrestleMania 36. The Fatal 5-Way where Bayley must defend her SmackDown Women’s Championship includes Lacey Evans, Naomi, and Tamina, but it also includes Sasha Banks herself. Banks showed some reluctance when initially announced for the match, but her eventual desire to be champion again is clear.
With WWE programming surely to exist in an unconventional form in the coming months, if at all, the next most likely environment to set up this match is SummerSlam, and in reality it’s all the more fitting. The roots of Sasha Banks and Bayley go all the way back to NXT, where they had what is still seen as one of the greatest women’s matches in WWE history at the inaugural NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2015.
Going into that show, which took place during SummerSlam weekend, Bayley was undeniably one of the best “white meat babyfaces” wrestling had seen in some time, and definitely the biggest babyface in NXT. Despite WWE’s relative botching of her main roster work at various junctures, Bayley was truly beloved at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, which made her victory over the nefarious NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks all the more special.
Now, fast forward five years later, and things look very different. Bayley has been with WWE since all the way back in 2012, and made her NXT debut in March of 2013. In the subsequent years, Bayley was exclusively a babyface. She’d never turned heel even for a brief moment until September of 2019.
Back in September, Bayley shocked the world. She entered the arena with a new look and new haircut, having removed the beloved and innocent side ponytail. Bayley then took a truly terrifying makeshift axe handle with razor blades attached to it and destroyed her beloved Bayley Buddies. In a single moment, Bayley destroyed everything she had once stood for, and just minutes later had defeated Charlotte Flair to become the new WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion.
The timing felt more than coincidental, as Sasha Banks had made her triumphant return to WWE just one month prior and executed and equally shocking heel turn of her own. When the brands were shaken up because of SmackDown’s debut on FOX, Sasha Banks found herself on the same brand as Bayley, and for the first time The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection were both heels standing side by side.
Now, the stage is set and the trajectory is clear. There are really two ways for WWE to go with this. Sasha Banks could betray Bayley, ultimately confirming the backstabbing nature WWE has tried to have Banks represent for so long, and leaving Bayley wounded that her best friend would still choose to do this to her. It would bring back the beloved innocent Bayley, and see her true self back in place, hopefully to triumph over the evil Sasha Banks.
That’s great, but we’ve seen it before. We saw it at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, and as much faith as I have in Sasha Banks and Bayley, it’s basically impossible for them to top their match back in 2015 if they’re telling the same story. Of course, they could always tell a new story.
Another key moment of nuance, notice the way Bayley has been carrying the SmackDown Women’s Championship in recent months. Rather than draped over her shoulder, it’s usually nestled entirely over her neck and shoulder, keeping it as physically close as possible, despite the fact that she’s usually got her friend Sasha Banks at her side.
Bayley is exhibiting small examples of jealousy, paranoia, and fear that Banks may eventually turn on her. Were Bayley to make the first move and attack Sasha Banks, it would flip the rivalry on its head and give us a version of it we’ve never seen and many had never even imagined until recently.
Who can blame Sasha Banks for wanting to be champion again? For as heelish as she acts, Banks is still beloved by a large section of the WWE Universe. If she dares to try and win the match at WrestleMania 36, Bayley could see it as the ultimate betrayal. How dare her friend try and take what means most to Bayley: the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
And there’s the key to all of this. To Bayley, the most important things used to be friendship and the love and connection she had with people, peers and fans alike. It’s not like that anymore. The most important thing to Bayley is staying champion, and she’ll do that at all costs, even if it means attacking Banks and destroying that friendship.
Setting that stage, we’d see a return of a beloved babyface version of Sasha Banks, hopefully just in time for her upcoming album (release date unknown at this time). We’d also see Banks, back on top as a babyface, taking on her best friend after being betrayed, and doing this in her hometown of Boston.
If it continues as currently planned, SummerSlam 2020 is scheduled to emanate from Boston’s TD Garden, and there’s truly no better place to present a babyface Sasha Banks. After being betrayed by her best friend, and finding her path back to the top, with the fans at her side, Sasha Banks could vanquish Bayley at SummerSlam 2020 in front of her hometown crowd to become the new WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion.
I know wrestling is weird right now, and one of the things a lot of us hoped for just a few months ago was a big WrestleMania 36 moment where Sasha Banks would face Bayley with no one else around, but hang in there. This one is going to be worth the wait. SummerSlam 2020 was always the perfect place for this rematch five years in the making, and that can still happen.