The Man takes the spotlight

There is one character in WWE that has been the talk of the industry far and above all others. That we can have a week where Daniel Bryan not only turns heel, but wins the WWE Championship, and that’s barely even in the top five talking points for the week, you know someone is on fire.

To say that Becky Lynch has been on a roll would be a drastic understatement. Sky Sports published an interview with Lynch earlier today where she claimed to be the face of the industry, and as far as WWE is concerned she is absolutely right. She has been so good that the fans didn’t let her turn heel, and ever since she has been getting one of the loudest reactions on the show.

The thing is, this has been a long time coming.

Ironically, I can draw quite a big comparison to Daniel Bryan, because there seems to be a feeling that Becky was never meant to get this spot. Becky was a big part of the change of perception in women’s wrestling as part of NXT’s Four Horsewomen, but if you were to believe that she was fourth in that group, there wasn’t much until recently to argue against that.

4 horsewomen
If you felt that Becky Lynch was overshadowed in the NXT incarnation of the Four Horsewomen, you’d be right.

Let’s go back to NXT. First let me caveat this by saying that I started believing in the potential of the NXT women’s division with Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable. I adore that match, and on that night the fans showed their appreciation for Lynch. But out of Lynch, Banks, Charlotte and Bayley, the Irish Lass-kicker was the only one not to hold gold.

That in itself may not mean that much – by the time Lynch got called up to the main roster there had only ever been three NXT Women’s Champions. Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax and countless others never held gold in NXT.

But when Lynch did get called up, she was immediately put in a no-win situation. Sure, the debut of Lynch, Charlotte and Banks in one go was an incredible moment, and just getting to Raw after having earlier quite the wrestling industry was a massive accomplishment.

But from the perspective of Lynch, she was immediately the bottom of another group – PCB. Paige was the leader as the established main roster star, Charlotte was clearly going to be the next big thing. So Lynch was… just kind of there. She was a great worker, who maybe didn’t stand out as much character-wise as those around her, and so she became the sidekick.

Just look at the triple threat match for the newly rechristened Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 32. It was Lynch vs Banks vs Charlotte. Banks had her cousin, the newly inducted WWE hall of famer Snoop Dogg rapping her to the ring. Charlotte had a lot of pyro, and was accompanied to the ring by the two-time hall of famer, and her father, Ric Flair.

Becky had a hat.

She was in the spot, and she deserved to be, but it’s little nuances like those that tells the casual fan who is at a level of superstardom, who the top stars are, and who is worth investing in. On that night, impressive as she may have been in the ring, the presentation of all three women left you thinking that Lynch was the lesser star.

Fast forward again to the 2016 Draft. Becky was split up from her NXT comrades, all three of whom would end up on Monday nights while Becky was SmackDown’s first female draft pick. It finally seemed like Becky’s time had come to build her own path, and show that she could lead the division. It was a prophecy that would come true, as she became the first SmackDown Women’s Champion at Backlash.

But it quickly became apparent that momentum was not on her side one more time. Backlash was in September that year, and less than three months later Lynch had been usurped as SmackDown’s top female star. Alexa Bliss had debuted on the main roster in the aftermath of the draft, and she went about making her star rise. Her work on the microphone was so good that she quickly put herself in title contention, and at TLC Bliss put Becky through a table to become the new champion.

The focus eventually moved from Lynch as the focal point of the division to Bliss vs Naomi for the title, and Becky was left without a real direction. Then in the Superstar Shake-Up in 2017, SmackDown welcomed Charlotte, which saw old patterns emerge.

Being aligned with the woman who had become the top female star across the entire company meant that Becky was back in storylines and a featured superstar, but it also made her a sidekick again. She became a featured star in the first (and second) ever women’s Money In The Bank ladder match, but the whole story each time was that Becky was the nearly-woman, the one who came close but couldn’t quite get over the line.

Again Becky found herself without all that much to do towards the end of the year, but 2018 has proven to be a new dawn. Back at the Royal Rumble, Becky was the second entrant and lasted over half an hour. But, yet again, that was quickly forgotten as Sasha Banks lasted for over 50 minutes and in amongst all of the surprises, not helped by the fact that Becky was eliminated long before the closing stretch.

Of course, that was also the night that Ronda Rousey debuted in WWE.

Becky competed in the women’s battle royal at Wrestlemania 34 and this year’s Money In The Bank ladder match without really doing much else. But as SummerSlam approached on the horizon, she worked her way back into title contention by going on a winning streak. Finally, this seemed like it was going to be her time to shine again.

Her one-on-one title opportunity turned into a triple threat match when Charlotte defeated the reigning champion Carmella and was added to the mix. At the biggest party of the summer, Charlotte would become a two-time SmackDown Women’s Champion. But in the aftermath, Becky turned her back on her former “best friend”, taking out her frustrations on the new champion who had stolen her spotlight.

Becky Lynch heel turn
Turning on Charlotte gave Becky a mean streak, a determination that has seen her shine.

And that was the final straw for a legion of fans who had believed Becky was being underutilised in 2017 and 2018. They agreed that Becky was deserving of the spot, and sided with her over Charlotte. Even though Becky was being made to look like the bad guy, the fans disagreed, and eventually they were so persistent that WWE had no choice but to acknowledge their voice and change plans.

Sound familiar? That’s exactly what happened with Daniel Bryan back in 2013 and 2014. The plans never had Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship back at Wrestlemania 30 until the fans left them with no other choice.

I can’t do justice the amazing work that Lynch has been doing in the last few months. We saw an edgier Lynch, a take-no-crap, completely owning life Lynch. Her character work has been more driven than we’ve possibly ever seen from her before, and that she put on matches like the Last Woman Standing bout with Charlotte at Evolution only helped add fuel to the fire.

Quickly after Evolution, we got the announcement that Survivor Series would feature champion vs champion, SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey. This would have been a great match anyway, but with the form Lynch was showing and the insertion of Rousey right to the top of the division, it was positively mouth-watering to think of what it could be.

I touched on this when I wrote about going to Raw and SmackDown in the UK – Rousey’s promos have been good. I think they’ve hit every mark that they needed to. But there’s just something about Becky at the minute that whatever she touches turns to gold, and if Rousey’s promos have been good Becky has been unbelievable.

That’s in and out of the ring too. Becky hasn’t just been amazing on SmackDown, her Twitter game has been just as scathing.

That brings us to this week’s episode of Raw. After weeks of warring with words, Becky put her money where her mouth is and showed up to Raw, attacking Rousey and leading a SmackDown invasion of their rival brand.

Just think about that for a minute. Ronda Rousey has been pushed as the baddest woman on the planet, a dominating champion who has already taken out Alexa Bliss, Nikki Bella and broken the arm of her boss – Stephanie McMahon. The two women don’t like each other, and Lynch not only didn’t run away, she entered enemy territory to confront Rousey. Lynch walked into Rousey’s house, and tried to take her out.

That. Is. Badass.

Unfortunately, in the inevitable brawl that ensued, Becky took a shot that would leave her bloodied.

While creating an intense visual that summed up the new Becky Lynch, it left a deeper mark. Lynch suffered a broken nose and a concussion, which six days before Survivor Series took her out of the match against Rousey.

I don’t even mind the workaround from Tuesday’s SmackDown. Becky chose which member of the SmackDown roster would replace her and face Rousey instead, and she chose Charlotte. As has been doing the rounds on social media, Lynch never turned against Charlotte personally. What she objected to was Charlotte taking her spotlight. In this instance, Charlotte wasn’t taking her spotlight, Lynch was giving it to the second-generation superstar.

And it would make perfect sense that Becky would choose the woman who took Lynch herself to the limit just a couple of weeks ago. In terms of a level of quality, Becky picked the person she believed to be closest to her own level. And after a match like Last Woman Standing, it would be impossible for Lynch and Charlotte to not respect each other, even if the trust and affection for each other weren’t quite back to where they used to be.

The interesting thing about it was that Ronda Rousey vs Charlotte had been rumoured as a potential Wrestlemania 35 match next year, and even as a possible main event. Doing it at Survivor Series would seem to rule it out for the showcase of the immortals, because we would already have seen it not that long ago.

Then came the report. Ronda Rousey vs Becky Lynch was the new planned main event for Wrestlemania 35.

We can rejoice in that it looks like we will definitely get that match at some stage. Whether it does happen at Wrestlemania, whether it does main event – we all know that cards are always subject to change – it looks like we will see the match.

But there would be a poetry in the overlooked horsewoman rising higher than any of her peers and being in the biggest possible match on the biggest possible stage.

I do worry that by the time April rolls around, Becky’s momentum will have cooled off somewhat and the face off won’t feel like as much of a big deal. After all, this is the company that managed to make AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship, even after a Royal Rumble win, feel like an afterthought. You can never predict who will be in what position in five months’ time.

But should we see Rousey vs Lynch close the show on April 7, the beauty of it will be that Becky has absolutely earned that spot. She will have scratched and clawed her way, from having left the business, all the way up to the summit of western professional wrestling. What’s not to love about that?

Becky Lynch title 2

One Comment on “The Man takes the spotlight

  1. Pingback: WWE’s long term opportunity – TWF

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