Friday, January 15, 2016

Sasha Banks: the greatest wrestler of 2015

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When I wrote my own personal Top 20 list for 2015, only one name made sense to put on the top. Still I was worried that it was a name other people might not rate as highly as I did. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Sasha Banks was the greatest wrestler of 2015, hands down. She had a series of amazing matches on every NXT Takeover card but one. Her television matches on NXT and Raw never failed at giving at least a glimpse of how great she was, even when WWE seemed ready to relegate her to secondary shows and PPV pre-shows. Because you just can't keep greatness down.

And did I mention she's only 23?

After debuting at eighteen on the independents as Mercedes KV, Sasha Banks signed with WWE in 2012. Her first televised match was against Paige and she continued to grow from that period until 2015, slowly working her way up the roster. She carried a unit with Summer Rae and Charlotte (before Charlotte was even fully trained to wrestle) before a split between the two women led to animosity throughout late 2014. But those weren't last year's matches.

Sasha's 2015 kicked off in a big way when she won the NXT Women's Title from Charlotte in a fatal four-way match also involving Becky Lynch and Bayley. From there, she lit NXT Takeover on fire with another match with Becky Lynch before she ended up on a collision course with Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn.

But before that could happen, she ended up joining the main roster to form Team BAD with Naomi and Tamina. While her new alliance didn't get her as much attention as Becky Lynch and Charlotte, she still managed to wow the crowd while also making a splash on social media with her new gal pals.

And then Takeover: Brooklyn happened. Sasha Banks defended the NXT Women's Title against Bayley. And two female wrestlers on WWE's B brand did something I suspect no one thought possible: they put on a match that surpassed anything any male talent did not only at that Takeover, but arguably in WWE all year. And while their epic encounter did not take the main event spot (Kevin Owens final NXT match with Finn Balor did), few fans would disagree that it was the true main event of the evening, an 18 minute classic that would be nearly impossible to top. NXT voters named it the best match of 2015 by a wide margin.

But Sasha and Bayley weren't quite done yet. With Takeover: Respect coming up just a few weeks after the Brooklyn show, the two women signed on for something never before done on WWE television: a PPV women's match on the main event of the card. Not only that, but it would be a thirty minute iron woman match.

A lot has been written about that main event. It certainly wasn't as solid as the Takeover: Brooklyn match. Yet it still proved to be one of the most competitive matches in WWE and easily one of the five best of anyone on the roster. But this time, Sasha and Bayley didn't need to steal the show. They were at the top of it, right where they belonged.

While Bayley had an impressive 2015 as well, I don't personally think her success would have been nearly as impressive without Sasha as her foil. My respondents clearly agreed. In addition to my first place vote, Sasha received another #1 vote from Lauren Price as well as two more second place votes. No one even came close to her place on the list.

In her top nomination, Lauren summed up the power of Sasha perfectly:

“The whole superstar package. A killer on the mic and in the ring. Her matches with Bayley have been legit game changers and are the best matches I have seen this year. She is not being used to her full potential on the main roster but her talent still shines and folks still chant for her.”

Her 2016 might not have a chance of topping her last year, but I suspect most fans agree with me that if anyone can change the face of women's wrestling on a national stage it is Sasha Banks. With the right push behind her, she could be one of the biggest wrestling stars in the history of the business. And whether she gets that chance or not, she plans to shine.

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