Dark Side of the Ring’s October 14 episode chronicled the troubled life of former WWE, Extreme Championship Wrestling, et al. performer Luna Vachon. A talented in-ring worker with a unique, edgy persona, Vachon’s career never reached the heights her talent merited partially because of profound struggles with mental illness and substance abuse. However, the limitations placed on the presentation of and investment in female wrestlers by WWE, then the World Wrestling Federation, was also a significant factor. Vachon was with the company during its first stab at a women’s division, which was so severely underdeveloped that reigning champion, and friend of Vachon’s, Madusa notoriously dropped the title in a garbage can upon decamping to World Championship Wrestling. In her second run and the women’s division’s second incarnation, Vachon found her talents underrated and herself in the middle of lingerie beauty contests and on the losing end of a squash match that saw valet Sable crowned champion. This brings us to our modern main topic of Banks vs Lynch.
Banks vs Lynch – Why It Was Needed
The Shift from the Divas Division
As the women’s division 2.0 transitioned into the Divas division, the song remained much the same: for over a decade, WWE’s female performers were love interests, valets, and the punchlines of crude humor, their athleticism and credibility in the ring stymied by short and gimmicky matches. As DSOTR compared then to now, footage of SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch’s matches played as Madusa expressed her approval of WWE’s current women’s scene, and that the departed Vachon would have loved to have competed in such an environment.
Although the post-women’s evolution WWE women’s division is a far cry from the days of Sunny and Sable, it has had recent missteps. Recent women’s matches have barely cracked the 2:00 minute mark, a devolution back to the Divas days. The releases of summers 2020 and 2021, which winnowed talent like Ruby Soho and The IInspiration, left the women’s mid-card bare by the time the inaugural Queen’s Crown tournament kicked off on October 8, and NXT call-ups like Shotzi Blackheart, Tegan Nox, and Toni Storm haven’t been given the opportunities they are capable of as they were in their black-and-gold brand days.
Even the return of the trailblazing Lynch has been off to a rough start, with “The Man” going from scrappy brawler to cowardly, obfuscating heel whose defeat of Bianca Belair at SummerSlam lasted a baffling, disappointing 26 seconds-this, from a woman who once brawled Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey from the ring, up the ramp, backstage, and out the back door till the kayfabe cops were called. Lynch can go all night, but her heel turn has been strangely subdued.
— WWE (@WWE) October 16, 2021
Heading into Banks vs Lynch
October 15’s bout between Lynch and Sasha Banks had a lot on its shoulders. The main event of October 15’s SuperSized SmackDown, the match was scheduled during the show’s commercial-free half-hour, head to head against the first half of TNT’s AEW Rampage. For the first time, WWE was acknowledging that AEW had thrown down the gauntlet, and they were, in fact, in a TV war. Banks and Lynch were tapped to fight on the front lines of that war, just as they had been at the vanguard of 2016’s image overhaul of WWE’s women’s division.
The roughly 20-minute match was exactly what WWE’s women have needed; Gritty. Brutal. Punishing. Athletically credible and visually engaging with robust, full-bodied, believable violence. Banks vs Lynch spared none of the two female performers’ well-honed arsenals, showcasing the best of both of them.
Banks’s in-ring work is the sum of her influences: she’s never afraid to go for bravura moves patented in the past by male performers, like the frog splash and “Three Amigos” maneuvers of her childhood hero Eddie Guerrero. She’s fearless, fast, and effective in-ring. As for Lynch, what she lacks in move-set she makes up for in tenacity and endurance. Getting her opponent in the Dis-Arm-Her submission is her go-to and she’s not too proud to try it several times in a row. But, there’s little she’s not willing to do to get her opponent worn out. The knife’s edge of desperation and determination gradually become apparent in her body language, and the crowd can’t help but connect with a performer who’s punching from the corner, like Lynch is so good at portraying.
As the action spilled out of the ring and up to the barricade and announce table, Belair accidentally took some damage from Lynch. She paid it back with a whip of her hair to Lynch’s arm, enough of a distraction for Banks to capitalize on with a Backstabber, subduing Lynch and getting the pin for a victory ahead of the three’s triple threat at Crown Jewel. The pay-per-view airs live at an awkward time for many U.S. viewers; 12 o’clock noon in most locations. Nonetheless, Banks vs Lynch is a heady enticement to tune into the Peacock replay to see more of the same, but with the SmackDown women’s title on the line and Belair, who has threatened to take the belt to Monday Night Raw if she wins in Riyadh, in the mix.
— WWE (@WWE) October 16, 2021
The long, meaningful, and straightforward match didn’t utilize or need any gimmicks, and it was an excellent showcase for Banks and Lynch: WWE’s women’s division at its finest, in spite of some recent missteps backward, into past tactics that alienated performers like Luna Vachon and Madusa, and at times threatens to do the same to WWE’s current female performers and those invested in them.
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