How Sasha Banks, Bayley told their breakup story and what’s next

WWE, Sasha Banks, Bayley Photo:
WWE, Sasha Banks, Bayley Photo: /

Bayley snapped and mercilessly beat up an injured Sasha Banks on SmackDown last week. Here’s what led to that moment and where we could be going next.

“Is it Boss time now, huh?! Is it?!”

Those were the words Bayley screamed at Michael Cole on WWE SmackDown after she used the steel steps to utterly destroy Sasha Banks’ already-injured knee, which had been slammed through the ring post earlier in a second defeat to Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax.

Bayley’s attack on Sasha had already been damaging enough to that point, both in terms of the physical damage to Sasha’s knee and the emotional damage to her former best friend and to the audience that was still processing what just happened.

But Bayley didn’t stop there. She wrapped a steel chair around Sasha’s neck, laid her down on the canvas, and jumped off the top rope so that the chair snapped into the Boss’ neck. As she did this, she took long pauses, sneering as she admired her work.

While Bayley’s attack on Sasha wasn’t out of nowhere – we saw it coming after Sasha’s distrust of Bayley on the previous week’s SmackDown – it was as emotionally jarring as it would have been if it were completely out of the blue.

Bayley was always going to be the heel in this story

From the way the match preceding the attack was laid out, you knew Sasha Banks was going to be the babyface in this feud. Sasha was the one, bumping, selling, and scratching and clawing (always have to use my favorite phrase from WWE babyface promos, right?) in the tag match. She put on a vintage babyface-selling match, and as much as fans love to see Sasha as a heel, how many wrestlers can perform like she can as a face? Hard to think of many, if any.

And then the same goes for Bayley as a heel. Based on the work she’s done over the past year since turning heel, she has been the best villain in the entire company. Randy Orton and Seth Rollins have been excellent, no doubt, but what Bayley’s done week after week is on another level completely.

So it was always going to be Bayley as the heel, Sasha as the face. And that’s the perfect way to make sure this program is as different as possible from what the two accomplished in NXT when the produced literally two of the greatest matches of the decade together. Because this rivarly can be just as good, with a completely different story.

Last week when Sasha Banks started avoiding eye contact with Bayley, referred to the tag titles as “My”, and absorbed a verbal blow from Bayley about her lack of successful Raw Women’s Title defenses, we KNEW the breakup was incoming. We didn’t know if it would happen as quickly as Payback or the following episode of SmackDown, but we knew the Women’s Tag Titles – and with them, their friendship – would be wiped away shortly.

The seeds of Sasha Banks vs. Bayley began before WrestleMania 36

But the seeds of the breakup go back a little further than that, even back to the build to WrestleMania 36 when Stephanie McMahon booked Sasha Banks into Bayley’s title defense at the Show of Shows. Based on the glimmer in her eye, you could tell Sasha wanted nothing more than to win the SmackDown Women’s Title for the first time in her career.

Remember how Sasha was eliminated in that match? She and Bayley had been working together to take out the competition, since the plan seemed to be to have Sasha and Bayley as the last two. Instead, Lacey Evans pinned Sasha with the Woman’s Right, and Bayley just stared at her take the pin. She did nothing to intervene.

Sasha still kept helping Bayley and never turned on her for that, but Charlotte Flair certainly tried her best to drive a wedge between them. She put over Sasha in a promo in May, insinuating that Sasha was being kept below her level of greatness by supporting Bayley. In almost every promo interaction, Bayley was the one speaking over Sasha. She would speak on Banks’ behalf, and she would even book Sasha into matches that Sasha never asked for – a trick Banks would later use, too.

But you can see, Bayley was always the more villainous one, the one pulling the strings and using Sasha to her own gain. To her and Banks, quietly, the title was always just a little bit more important than their friendship. Yes, the were great friends and part of a Two-Woman Power Trip, but the power and the signifiers of excellence that championships belts are, those things mattered more than a close bond.

Asuka made the choice Bayley wouldn’t have

That’s not the case for everyone in WWE. Take Asuka, for example. When she and Sasha had a Raw Women’s Championship match after Extreme Rules, Asuka had a choice. She could either choose to save Kairi Sane from Bayley’s brutal backstage beatdown and lose the women’s title, or she could stay in the ring and beat Sasha, whom she had frustrated and stymied to that point in the match. For Asuka, the choice was clear. She went to save her best friend.

It makes sense, then, that once Sasha Banks and Bayley lost the Women’s Tag Titles they gained at Backlash, they would break up. Storyline-wise, it makes sense since the tag titles were literally keeping them together. There were teases of a breakup before Backlash, the tag title victory solidified their togetherness and began a reign of dominance through all the brands, and all of that was undone after Payback.

But on a figurative level, the tag titles were the final bond between Sasha and Bayley from Bayley’s perspective. Once Bayley felt Sasha was the weak link to her personal success and blamed her for losing that second-chance tag title match on SmackDown, she snapped. She threw away Sasha’s friendship, because she believed it no longer served her.

What interests me the most, though, is how much Bayley did to put the Raw Women’s Title on her. A lot has been made of how Bayley didn’t go out of her way to help Sasha in those matches against Asuka, but she did do her part. It just didn’t mean anything to her personally, as evidenced by her remark before the match that she’d finally have something to fight for at SummerSlam against Asuka with the SmackDown Women’s Title on the line.

Bayley’s title reign has always been about her insecurity of Sasha Banks

She had lost on the previous episode of Raw to Asuka in a match that, if she had won, would have meant Asuka vs. Sasha wouldn’t have happened at SummerSlam. And Sasha would have never lost the title. So the risk of Sasha losing did not matter to Bayley, but the risk of her losing her own title did.

What does this have to do with Bayley wearing the referee’s gear so that Sasha would win at Extreme Rules or attacking Kairi backstage? Self-preservation. For Bayley, Sasha was always her biggest threat to the SmackDown Women’s Title. Their friendship and story has always been about the never-ending game of, “Who is the best?” Both want to be the best, and negotiating that hunger for greatness with their own friendship has been their enduring, tragic struggle.

Bayley thought that if Sasha had the Raw Women’s Title, she wouldn’t have to challenge her for the SmackDown Women’s Title. They could keep their friendship going. And since Bayley was the one who helped Sasha win both matches through blatant cheating, her own ego was assuaged; she would not have to deal with the self-doubt of Sasha having been “better” than her in beating Asuka cleanly, whom Bayley herself has a dubious record against.

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley is about two great wrestlers wanting to be the GOAT

Through all the complexities, Sasha Banks vs. Bayley is the same story it was in NXT. It’s about two incredible wrestlers who want to prove they are the best. In NXT, Sasha was the one who was jealous and did everything she could to undermine Bayley, with it all backfiring against the Legit Boss. And on SmackDown, it looks like the story will swing the other way, with Bayley as the envious villain in need of comeuppance from her ultimate equal.

When Sasha Banks returns from this beatdown, she and Bayley will have a feud for the ages. They are even better performers than they were in NXT, having been through it all with the highs and lows of the main roster, developing their characters and in-ring work into the all-time greats you see before you today.

Next. An early WWE Royal Rumble 2021 match card prediction. dark

Whether it’s in the main event of WrestleMania 37 after a gusty Sasha Banks Rumble victory, in the main event of an acclaimed Evolution 2, or somewhere else, Sasha and Bayley will deliver as they have always done throughout their careers. Except now, they are better than they’ve ever been and have years of great storyline to build off of. And the best part is, the more patient we continue to be, the better the eventual payoff.