WWE once again showed us who they are with the Banks/Naomi situation

WWE diva Sasha Bank gets introduced before her match on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford.Wwe Supershow010
WWE diva Sasha Bank gets introduced before her match on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford.Wwe Supershow010 /

It has now been almost a week since former WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Naomi and Sasha Banks turned in their titles and walked out of Norfolk Scope Arena — which hosted the May 16 episode of WWE Raw — over creative differences and in that time, WWE has gone full Future and pulled the mask entirely off.

Or, more accurately, it simply shined a spotlight on its already-visible, hideous face.

First came the Vince McMahon-fed burial on that very episode of Raw by color commentator Corey Graves, who framed the walkout as “unprofessional”. Then came that gross statement WWE released not long after that on-screen mudslinging.

Finally, we got the last bit of WWE pettiness on this past Friday’s SmackDown when we heard more McMahon-directed slander from lead announcer Michael Cole, who added that Banks and Naomi “let us all down” and “disappointed millions of fans before announcing that the ladies’ indefinite suspension and that WWE would hold a tournament to crown new tag team champions…even though there are only two women’s teams on the main roster.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the company removing all of Banks and Naomi’s merchandise from WWE Shop.

Now, unless you’re one of those people who jump at the chance to put on the cape for a billion-dollar wrestling corporation (a corporation that wouldn’t move a proverbial muscle to do the same for them, by the way) you rightly saw this as a callous attempt at sullying Banks and Naomi’s names. But in a broader sense, it also reflects how WWE has always felt about these two and anyone who dares to stand up against the company.

As far as Banks and Naomi are concerned, WWE clearly recognizes how popular they are as individual acts and as a team, which speaks to this horrid response from the company; less-heralded wrestlers likely would’ve just gotten released (which, to be clear, isn’t good either). But WWE has never viewed them as true centerpiece stars and that it’s two Black women that WWE finds every reason not to treat properly uncovers something far more insidious.

This inaccurate evaluation is why Banks almost never successfully defends championships. It’s also why Naomi can catch heat for adding lights to the SmackDown Women’s Title despite the company having a spinner world title for nearly a decade and why Banks and Naomi are often tasked with putting over the “real stars”.

Even the rumored plans for Sasha and Naomi to each get singles title shots exemplifies the “break glass in case we run out of opponents for our champions” presentation they often get.

Deep down, WWE knows that it’s casual disregard for Banks and Naomi’s star power is rooted in some resentment that these two have a stronger fanbase than, say, a Lacey Evans or a Charlotte Flair (why else would WWE constantly attempt to make Evans and Flair babyfaces despite bing natural heels). The misogynoir of the “Banks and Naomi, with their ‘bad attitudes’, have bit the hand that feeds them” narrative is impossible for anyone operating in good faith to ignore, too.

After all, this same company did not give Charlotte Flair the same treatment when she mucked up that silly title swap segment last November. And heaven knows how many white men get applauded for sticking up for themselves. Of course, Banks and Naomi reportedly stuck up for their own creative and the other women who would benefit from a more focused women’s tag division, so maybe that level of selflessness was too much for WWE.

And for as much as WWE tried to get fans to turn against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin when he “took his ball and went home” in 2002 — a situation that’s the closest equivalent to what Banks and Naomi did — neither he nor any of his fans had to endure the trove of comments from the sort of folks who think that racism ended the second a Black man became President of the United States.

The Austin and Banks/Naomi situations do share a penchant for exposing how this company acts when the labor chooses to flex whatever power they have.

Since this is a promotion that’s aggressively anti-union and classifies its wrestlers as independent contractors in order to deny them benefits (which really puts those “I’m just happy to be in WWE” babyface gimmicks into perspective) it’s accustomed to exerting that power over a talent pool with little options.

But with there being more viable choices for wrestlers now, WWE can feel a bit of that power slipping away (though not nearly as much as there should be for all promotions), and its attempt to regain some of it at Banks and Naomi’s expense will allow more fans — like Pat McAfee when Cole read that smear piece — to see WWE for what it is and not what it pretends to be.

Next. The New Day/Sheamus and friends feud needs to end soon. dark

So, no, Banks and Naomi haven’t disappointed or let down anyone. You could say that WWE has, but that would imply that anyone expects it to do anything other than what it did.