Wrestling fans are used to drama happening during their favorite TV shows. Of course, it generally happens in the ring or in connection with a storyline. On Monday, things went extremely off-script in WWE’s women’s division when two of its champions walked out on Monday Night Raw, deciding not to perform in the scheduled main event.
Ahead of WWE Monday Night Raw, the company advertised the main event as a six-pack challenge to determine the No. 1 contender for the Raw Women’s Championship. It was supposed to include Becky Lynch, Asuka, Doudrop, Nikki ASH and women’s tag team champions Sasha Banks (real name Mercedes Varnado) and Naomi (real name Trinity Fatu).
According to Fightful, before the show started, Sasha got into a disagreement with Vince McMahon about the creative direction of the women’s tag team division. “The issue was about the creative surrounding the tag team championships and those being de-emphasized in the following weeks, with no laid out follow up after Hell in a Cell,” per FightfulSelect.
It was then reported on-air that the duo had walked out and the match would be changed to a one-on-one between Becky Lynch and Asuka. Throughout Raw, the pair were referred to as “unprofessional” and denigrated for leaving. This is where I tell you that Vince approves everything that happens on the show, even directly feeding lines to commentary. Clearly, he wasn’t happy they had the nerve to stand up to him and wanted to make them look bad. It backfired as fans knew exactly what was going on the whole time.
Sasha’s not wrong. Storylines for the women’s division as a whole, but especially tag teams, have been awful. All the established teams have either been released or broken up. There are only three teams right now and it’s well-known among superstars, fans and wrestling media that the titles aren’t important. WWE actually has a very talented, diverse women’s roster, but for whatever reason, Vince and his stooges refuse to put them on TV. This means we get the same matches between the same women over and over. We also don’t get feuds outside of the championship, so if two or three women are fighting for the title, they are the only ones who get significant TV time.
Sasha and Naomi are extremely popular superstars who the crowd always explodes for when their music hits. They are the only reason anyone is even remotely invested in the tag team division right now, and yet they were going to be used as props in a pointless match because no one knows who Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair should fight. According to FightulSelect, Naomi was supposed to win the six-way main event and then lose to Bianca at the next big show Hell in a Cell. As someone who watches all WWE programming, I can tell you that story doesn’t make any sense and would not have helped either woman. If Vince and creative are just winging it, I can certainly understand why Sasha and Naomi would get fed up and just leave, Especially when other champions like Roman Reigns, Charlotte, The Usos and RK-Bro don’t get treated this way.
And let’s not bypass the fact that “unprofessional” somehow only rears its head when Black wrestlers dare to speak their truth or step off the path companies and certain fans think they belong on. It’s always OK for white wrestlers to be dissatisfied and speak their mind, but wrestlers of color are expected to just swallow bullshit and be happy about it. The bravery of Mercedes and Trinity to walk away and advocate for themselves against the most powerful man in the business cannot be overstated.
After Raw went off the air, WWE released the following statement:
“When Sasha Banks and Naomi arrived at the arena this afternoon, they were informed of their participation in the main event of tonight’s Monday Night Raw.
During the broadcast, they walked into WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis office with their suitcases in hand, placed their tag team championship belts on his desk and walked out.
They claimed they weren’t respected enough as tag team champions. And even though they had eight hours to rehearse and construct their match, they claimed they were uncomfortable in the ring with two of their opponents even though they’d had matches with those individuals in the past with no consequence. Monday Night Raw is a scripted live TV show, whose characters are expected to perform the requirements of their contract.
We regret we were unable to deliver, as advertised, tonight’s main event.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. WWE almost never references the fact that its product is scripted. It is only when something goes terribly wrong or a story gets so big the company can’t avoid it, that it acknowledges the truth. Also, any fan worth their salt knows that the other four women in the match are all experienced veterans who Sasha and Naomi have no problem working with. This has led the greater wrestling community to think this is just a blatant lie.
To this point, Varnado and Fatu have remained quiet on what happened, but knowing how petty Vince is, there will probably be consequences, though Fightful notes that no one backstage expects either to be released.
All this scandal will likely lead to record ratings for Friday Night SmackDown this week, but don’t tune in expecting this to lead to some amazing new story. My guess is, the whole thing will either be ignored or quickly addressed before the show moves on to its planned rundown.