WWE finds itself surrounded by controversy once again as two of its Superstars, Sasha Banks and Naomi, decided to walk out of The Scope Arena, Norfolk, Virginia shortly before Raw went out live on air on the USA Network.
It’s been well-documented in the immediate aftermath as to some of the details of what occurred: the pair were booked in the Six-Pack main event for the evening with the winner becoming a number one contender to Bianca Belair’s championship; that the plan was for Naomi to challenge Bianca at Hell in a Cell and for Sasha to take on Rhonda Rousey for the SmackDown Women’s Championship on the same show; that Sasha and Naomi were concerned about how these creative plans would affect their run as WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions and went to speak to Vince McMahon about it; that Sasha and Naomi wouldn’t defend their belts again until the Money In The Bank pay-per-view in July; that the pair were told by an agent that the plans for the main event would run as scheduled; and that Sasha and Naomi gave WWE Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis the tag belts before leaving the arena. Creative plans had to be changed in a hurry and in the end, Asuka defeated Becky Lynch in the main event to win the number one contender against Bianca Belair. Who Rhonda will face at Hell in a Cell is unclear for now.
Of course, there has been much speculation, some of which has been subsequently disproved, although not by either Sasha Banks or Naomi, who haven’t spoken publicly since the incident happened. Amongst the rumours were that Sasha and Naomi didn’t want to wrestle Becky and Asuska, who they considered dangerous; that Naomi was booked to pin Sasha to win the main event; that neither woman wanted to wrestle either Doudrop or Nikki A.S.H. Instead, a picture is being built up of two women who took their championship reign seriously and were concerned about why the company apparently did not.
I’m not going to start picking apart the rights and wrongs of the situation here, other than to say I can see both sides of the argument. It makes sense for WWE to want to help build up Bianca, who is over but needs a little bit of rehabilitation after how WWE did her wrong at SummerSlam last year, and Rhonda, whose relationship with the WWE Universe tends to fluctuate regularly. By having both champions beat established, talented performers like Sasha and Naomi in competitive matches would make a big impact on how Rhonda and Bianca will be perceived as champions.
On the flip side, I can understand Sasha and Naomi’s points of view. Why put them, as champions, in a position where they seemingly forget all about their titles for one-off title matches they are going to lose, just to have to start again from scratch and build themselves back up as tag champions? WWE’s lack of consistency and logic in their booking makes it more difficult for a performer to elevate themselves and the gold they hold when the booking stacks the odds against them.
What I want to focus on here is how the situation resolves itself, because unfortunately, I don’t see it looking good for Sasha and Naomi. Now, while there have been no comments to suggest that Sasha and Naomi are looking to be released from their contracts, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. However, as it is public knowledge that WWE refused to release Mustafa Ali after he made a big fuss to that effect on social media, and now he’s losing regularly back on Raw. While I don’t think Sasha and Naomi would be punished as such—certainly not buried—as they are at a different level of the pecking order than Ali, I certainly don’t think they would get released.
Knowing AEW’s current propensity for building up its roster and picking up the bigger WWE releases, Sasha, in particular, would be on Tony Khan’s radar. Sasha is a big brand name for WWE. She has crossed over into the world of entertainment, having starred in Disney’s Star Wars series The Mandalorian. Vince craves that kind of recognition and crossover with the world of film, TV, and music, which makes Sasha valuable to him. While Vince might be less forgiving of Naomi, if he wants to appease Sasha then he’s going to have to go easy on her.
At the same time, Vince isn’t going to forget the walk-out, whatever the motivation for it, and he’s certainly going to get his point across eventually: he’s the boss. As I said, I don’t think Sasha and Naomi will be buried. I can see Vince looking to appease the pair and bringing them back, either in a few weeks or even a few months, to have a strong run with the tag belts, possibly for a few months. But once the pair drop the titles, I can see Vince being vindictive enough to keep the pair in the mid-card, either as a team or separately, possibly even wrestling against each other. Whether he chooses to elevate the pair again will depend on how well they take to how Vince treats them moving forward.
Then again, I could be wrong about all this. Sasha and Naomi might sit out their contracts. Vince might release them (very unlikely). Hell, he might push them to the moon for sticking to their guns, but I doubt it somehow.
Whatever the destination for this story, the journey has still got a lot of bumps left in the road.