Don’t bet against Sasha Banks. She first saw WWE at ten years old, and knew from the moment that she saw it that it was what she wanted to do. By 16, she was training. By 18, she’d wrestled her first match. Still only 27, Banks has, in her time in the ring, helped change the sport, continually shattering barriers that had been placed in the way of women wrestlers.
Tonight, she wrestles MMA legend Ronda Rousey for the Raw women’s championship at Royal Rumble 2019.
There’s been rumors for months that 2019 could be the year that the women main-event the biggest yearly event in the sport—Wrestlemania. Many have speculated that spot could be filled by Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch—one star who is internationally famous for her UFC and acting work, another who has stolen the spotlight in the last year to become perhaps the most popular wrestler in all of the WWE, the heir to Stone Cold’s antihero phenomenon. Charlotte Flair, the daughter of the legendary Ric Flair and the person with whom Sasha has had some of her biggest matches with, could also make it to that spot.
Sasha has been saying for years that main-eventing WrestleMania is her goal. She is not ready to cede that to anyone else, she told me in December.
“I hope it’s me main-eventing WrestleMania. I’ve been saying it since day one. As far as Becky goes, she’s part of the Four Horsewomen so I have so much love and respect for her. With Ronda Rousey, it’s cool to have her here, but she’s not the legit boss. She’s not the Man. She’s not the Queen. She’s not the Hugger. She’s not like us. She has her little teammates on the side that want to be like us and try to use our name. It’s cool that she’s here because she does bring a lot of viewers to WWE from the outside world, but she’s not us,” says Banks.
“You’ve had so many firsts for women’s wrestling, maybe someone else should have the chance to break ground,” I say in jest.
Banks does not laugh.
“There’s no one else that’s going to break more ground than I am. I said from day one that I wanted to main event a WrestleMania. I put it out in the universe. If I see someone else does that, that’s going to break my heart. My hard work and someone else takes it? I don’t think so,” she says.
WrestleMania’s main event is not Sasha’s only goal remaining. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced at the turn of the year that the women will be getting tag team champions for the first time in WWE. Even before the announcement came, this is something that Sasha had campaigned for, and started working for with her tag team partner Bayley.
“I feel like we have come such a long way with the women’s division of the WWE, but it is hard. There’s always just that one story—chasing that women’s title. When we do have another title to chase for, especially when we do have tag matches every single week. I don’t understand why we can’t have titles for it to have a secondary storyline where people will be more invested in what we do,” says Banks.
“Me and Bayley tag team all the time, but I feel like if we have a tag title to chase after, if we are champions, we can go to both brands and show the world that women’s tag team [wrestling] is where it’s at. For 2019 that is definitely the goal,” says Banks.
Banks and Bayley have been both training and watching tape in order to improve their tag team skills.
“Me and Bayley really focused down and we became this tag team, the Boss and Hug Connection. We got matching gear, we’ve been watching wrestling together working on our tag team moves, so I feel like it’s time. It’s time to show the world.
[We watch] Eddie [Guerrero] and Rey [Mysterio], Eddie and Chavo [Guerrero]. We watch the Rockers. There are so may things we watch. We also try to come up with our own stuff ourselves. We try to watch a lot of stuff ourselves. We try to watch a lot of stuff that’s not just within WWE so we’re not focused n one thing—we try to watch a lot of outside brands to try to create more moves. Teddy Hart is trying to teach us more moves too because he loves move and he’s so cool. We’re trying to bet he best tag team in the world,” says Banks.
Banks is also focused on WWE’s partnership with the Special Olympics, which will be holding its next World Games in Abu Dhabi in March 2019.
“With WWE, we have such a huge platform to use our voice and show that we support the Special Olympics. It’s not bout their disabilities, it’s about the abilities, and what they can do, overcome and achieve. Meeting Sheikha [a UAE Special Olympics representative] and talking to her, she has so much passion and drive, and she’s showing people all around the world it’s not about her disability, it’s about her heart, and her desire to change the world. That’s’ what I’ve learned so far, and that’s what WWE is about,” says Banks.
“What keeps me motivated is amazing women like Sheikha who really inspire me to keep on doing this. It’s very hard right now. Sometimes I think, what am I doing? Then I meet incredible people with an amazing story and have so much passion and are driven to change the world. That’s my goal too. It’s not just about performing inside the ring, it’s what I can do using my voice and using my platform to make a difference. That’s what keeps me going. IT’s not just performing inside the ring, it’s about using my voice and my platform to make a difference. That’s what keeps me going and jut wanting to be the best I can possibly be. I had the goal of being the greatest women’s wrestler of all time, but my goal is to be the greatest wrestler of all time. There’s no gender to it.”