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[2015-05-20-WWE-NXT Takeover: Unstoppable] Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch

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If nothing else this match will always be a watershed moment for women in mainstream wrestling. Sasha, in particular, was well thought of before this match. But after this match, people started talking about her as being the best in the WWE, if not the world.

 

The match itself starts out with some back and forth exchanges leading to Becky ending up with the slight advantages at the end which force Sasha back on her heels. Sasha fires back in a big way by blocking a Becky kick and yanking her down to the apron by grabbing her arm. Sasha follows that up by spending the next several minutes just torturing Becky's arm, with the big highlight being Sasha bending back Becky's arm with her foot. I did like Becky's comeback leading to a good near-finish with the armbar, even if her selling was a bit spotty along the way. Didn't like the finish though as Sasha basically has to no-sell not just being thrown into the steps after her dive, but also the arm work, by putting on the Bank Statement with Becky right by the ropes. The last 90 seconds is what keeps this from being in the top tier of women's matches for the year. ****1/4

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Just saw this match for the first time yesterday and loved it. As someone who really only watches the Network, I know my list of Matches of the Year is incredibly skewed and uninformed, but I have this as my Number 7. Not as emotionally powerful as Bayley/Banks (my actual MOTY), but definitely a remarkable match that, as the OP states, cemented Sasha Banks as not just a breakout star, but THE breakout star of 2015 for me. Loved the number of arm submissions she locked in, loved the character work (her ability to go from irritated early in the match to irate with the referee to arrogant jerk and have all these emotions come out naturally is uncanny), and loved that Becky's retalliatory (sp?) offense was logical and also, as the commentators pointed out, stuck with her original plan to attack Banks' arm/shoulder (for example, Lynch doesn't just hit her with some nifty neck-centric suplexes, she makes sure that they target Banks' shoulder by tying her arm up behind her back). The little details made this an easy choice for my top 10.

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NXT Women's Title Match

Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
For those who miss Nigel McGuinness, this is the match for you. What will make this instant classic hold up so well I believe is that this wasn't a bomb-throwing near-fall extravaganza. Instead, these two outstanding athletes told a magnificently compelling story through body language, submission work, psychology, and old-school storytelling.
Lynch of course went after the left arm of Banks, obviously setting up the champ for the seated Fujiwara arm bar. The match would become even though when both were on the apron and Lynch went for a Yakuza kick, only for Banks to grab the leg, thrust the challenger forward, and channel Triple H at WrestleMania XXX with an arm twist takedown right on Lynch's left arm and shoulder.
Simply put, this was an absolutely sensational match with all kinds of great storytelling through submissions and limb work, including a London Dungeon, multiple lungblowers on different body parts, and of course Banks putting the sports-entertainment icing on the cake by being a cocky shit, mocking her former ally. It certainly looked like Lynch would pull off the breathtaking win once she was up top with Banks down on the mat, but the champ showed off her own resiliency; she got up quickly, giving a lungblowner on Lynch's badly damaged left arm and shoulder, then finished off her greatest challenger to this point with the Banks Statement.
This was Lynch's breakout match in the company, and unfortunately all these months later, it's looking like this will be her career highlight, rather than springboarding her into genuine stardom. But that takes nothing away from this match. Every piece of praise poured on this was earned, and this is a match to show to any aspiring wrestler than storytelling matters far more than a plethora of bumps in order to engage the audience. One need look no further than Lynch's post-match standing ovation for evidence of that. ****1/2

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I know this happened a while back now, but it's pretty crazy watching it in 2019, three days after a Wrestlemania headlined by one of them, where that same one of them became the first unified women's champion in WWE history (unless they had a unified Divas champion that I've forgotten about). Even if I wasn't really following NXT in 2015 I know how highly thought of Sasha Banks was. You had this, the Bayley series, folk talking her up as the absolute prodigy of women's wrestling in the US. A year later she was part of the very first women's hell in a cell as women headlined a WWE PPV for the first time ever. If you had to bet on one of these two main eventing the first women's Wrestlemania main event you'd have put the house on it being Sasha. Honestly, I haven't really cared about Sasha in a while. It's not that she's a terrible babyface or anything, she's just not very interesting. But this was heel Sasha and she felt so much more natural. You could see it against Rousey when she got to show some of her heel chops, how she got to be real nasty working the arm, the way she mostly worked from the top and didn't need to focus so much of garnering sympathy. This was a similar performance from an offensive standpoint, only it was ramped way up and she got to go all the way with the mugging and shit-talking. The arm work was mean and inventive and I liked how it came about as a response to Becky trying to do it first. She took over with a big arm-wringer drop onto the ring apron, then worked a great straightjacket choke where she'd stomp Becky's arms into the mat as the hold was applied. There was an awesome bit as well where Becky crawled over to the ropes to pull herself up, ending up straddling the middle rope, so Sasha yanked her into the position Becky would assume for her pre-match headbanging and twisted her arm over the top rope at a nasty angle, mimicking Becky at the same time. Becky going for Sasha's arm in kind gave us a really cool dual limb work dynamic, which isn't really something we've ever gotten a lot of in WWE. Even though she was technically the babyface the crowd were largely behind Sasha, but by the end they were all for Becky submitting her with the armbar. She mostly sold that arm the whole way through as well, hanging it by her side as she climbed the turnbuckles and generally reminded you that she was working hurt. The arm breaker off the top at the end didn't come off great, but it definitely worked as a payoff to the arm work and a nice set up for the Banks Statement. Really cool match. Maybe Becky Lynch might get over after all. 

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I was the only person to have this in my Top 100 for the Greatest Matches Ever poll last year (#82 to be exact) and have still never got round to putting down why I'm so massively high on this match. I'm going to rectify that now.

The viciousness of the armwork has already been talked about, but I'd like to go into how perfect a choice this was in the context of this feud and their characterisation. Becky had debuted the previous year in NXT in a very stereotypical Irish all green outfit doing a river dancing outfit. In her interview on NXT TV on an earlier episode, she talked about how she was trying to please the fans and give them what they wanted, but wasn't really being herself. Not long after this, Sasha (who had just been dumped by Charlotte so is looking for a new ally as she never has the confidence to do anything on her own) convinces Becky to be her new protege, and together they are Team BAE. Becky's finisher up to this point had been the Bexploder Suplex, but soon after joining with Sasha (a submission wrestler) she shifts towards submissions, and soon debuts Dis-Arm-Her armbar.

Sasha later wins the NXT Women's Championship from Charlotte Flair. In this feud, it's established that one of Sasha's character traits is she reacts to any perceived "betrayal" with extreme vindictiveness. Her promos against Charlotte those few months were full of very personal shots on her "daddy issues" and in their match at Takeover: R-Evolution especially, Sasha starts the match by chopping Charlotte, putting her in a figure-four headlock and woooing throughout. Merely winning isn't her motivation, she has to throw in some personal humiliation to punish those who betray her.

After Sasha is champion, Becky (while still a heel) wins a #1 contender's match and challenges Sasha for her title. In a backstage interaction a few weeks before, Sasha goes after Becky's self-esteem telling her "Don't forget. I made you Becky." "You did not make me. I made me. Sasha I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal." Becky confidently blurts back, not allowing Sasha to put her down like the little underling she wants her to be. This is followed up at their contract signing where Sasha cheapshots and beats down Becky, only for Becky to turn the tables and put Sasha in her armbar and force Sasha to tap! That moment sets up where this match with go, and how Sasha will take her vengeance.

I should note at this point that this match is also the debut of the orange haired 'steampunk' Becky, which you can read as symbolising Becky finally breaking out on her own. This is biggest fight of her life, and she's not going to come out with a look designed to pander to the crowd, or the look associated with her time under Sasha. Once she's in the ring, her eyes are locked onto the entrance ramp, and if you pay attention to the ring during Sasha's entrance, not once does Becky keep her eyes off her. Pure focus on the task at hand.

2.gif.307546bc0a2744e0d3cf0ba56623e120.gifThe match starts, and after exchanging some Dean-Eddie style pinfall reversals (which is a slight flaw in the match as it didn't really fit everything else), Becky quits that and goes straight for that armbar. Sasha rolls away and gives a mixed look of fear and hurt as she realises now Becky is deadly serious about tapping her out tonight. The announcer then recaps Becky's comments in an earlier interview saying "I still respect Sasha, I still think she's an exceptional character. But when you speak to Sasha, I don't think she respects Becky at all."

1.gif.be992ccfcc28a882e46a7bc7d413fa5f.gifSasha charges at Becky to try and get back on the offensive, but each time Becky grabs a hold of her arm and continues to work at it. The second time around she hits Sasha with a beautiful armdrag that Ricky Steamboat would be proud of, straight into punishing Sasha's arm again. From this point on, the focus never slips, she is going to destroy Sasha's arm until she taps out just like she did in the contract signing. But take always all the character-driven nuances here, this is a babyface shine segment to open the match. Sasha is getting outmatched, and her only defense at the moment is to flee to the ropes, which she does again here. At this point we see Becky smirking with confidence while Sasha begs off. But here Becky makes the mistake, she allows her own arm to come lose as Sasha catches her stomp, and then violently yanks her shoulder down to the floor so Becky's face bounces off the apron. Cool spot! Becky holds her shoulder and grimaces in pain on the floor. The Arm-Snapping Battle has been joined!

3.gif.3f6006dfcda6b31d30a2801c4fc2c4e5.gifKeeping score on unique offense targeting the arm, we're now Becky 5 - Sasha 1.

Sasha then drags Becky into the ropes and torments her by pulling her arm backwards over the top rope and sarcastically raising her other arm above her head in a 'victory' pose. She follows this up by taking the piss out of Becky's old metal-chick entrance tossing her hair back and forth. "She does it better anyway" Corey Graves comments. Mean. This is what makes this match special. Not only is the armwork technically proficient and interesting, it's all wrapped up in the personal nature of the feud. Like with Charlotte, Sasha is not out to just defeat Becky, she needs to punish her for leaving her by destroying her self-esteem. What better way to prove that "I made you Becky... I taught you everything you know, but I didn't teach you everything I know" than by beating Becky with Becky's own speciality, attacking opponent arms. A speciality Becky only really developed after she starting teaming with Sasha.

This is what makes this match psychologically deeper than say, Tanahashi vs. Okada in 2013, which also had great armwork, but there wasn't that much more to it. They were just using it as tactic to win a pro-wrestling match. Each escalation of Becky and Sasha trying to snap each others arms isn't just about winning the match, it's a deeply personal and nasty psychological war stemming from one toxic insecure individual's desire to punish rejection, and another's determination to stand up to her.

Now we're well into Sasha's heat section, which is one of the greatest heel heat sections in modern WWE, where the house style is heels get the crowd to hate them by being really boring lying around in chinlocks for ages, but really all it achieves is boring everyone. See for example Seth Rollins in 2015 or Kevin Owens title reign the next year. Dire stuff. Meanwhile 23 year old Sasha Banks is teaching a seminar in stellar heel work by just being interesting more than anything else. She hits Becky with an arms first neckbreaker, then instead of a boring stationary chinlock for a "resthold" she nastily pulls Becky's arms crossed behind her in a straightjacket choke and torments her across the ring in various ways like repeatedly slamming Becky's elbows in the mat while she's still in the hold. You want to keep watching to see what new nastiness Sasha is gonna come out with. And then we get this moment:

4.gif.3e483588823edf2dcf16bc67afc24588.gifYou see? Sasha switches up one of regular spots, the double knees to the gut in the ropes, to target Becky's arm instead, and thereby displaying a greater understanding of psychology than 95% of WWE's current roster.

This all goes on for a solid 6 minutes, Becky tries fighting back a few times but it's way too fleeting to really count as a hope spot. It's all Sasha on offense, and the longer it goes on, the more gratuitously cruel she gets. The commentators sound genuinely disturbed when Sasha wrenches Becky's arm backwards (video) and inhumanely uses her foot to bend her shoulder the wrong way backwards as far as she can. And just in the last seconds, you can just about hear her yell "HOW'S THAT BECKY HUH!?" before giving her a humilating slap across the face. There's a well-remembered spot in the later Bayley Brooklyn match where Sasha sarcastically imitates Bayley's tubemen before slapping her right in the face, but there's an even meaner one here when Sasha demeaningly grabs Becky by the chin and slaps her hard in the face while berating her, can't work out what she's saying this time unfortunately.

The crowd is now chanting "Sasha's gonna kill you" as Sasha locks in a crucifix armbreaker and yells at Becky "You wanna make this hard? I'm gonna break your arm" and pay attention you'll see she even bites Becky's other arm at one point! If we include biting, Sasha is now 12-5 up in the unique offense targeting the arm score. Soon after though Becky powers up like Hulk Hogan breaking the camel clutch and drops Sasha on the mat, breaking the hold. Becky gets her comeback going here, throwing forearms and clotheslines and follows up with a big dropkick off the top turnbuckle. She doesn't noticeably sell her arm throughout this, I have that part criticised. I don't think it's a big deal because she only ever uses her right arm to hit Sasha with, and Sasha was working the left, but I still do agree this 30 seconds would be a bit better if Becky had acknowledged the damage in some way so this is another flaw in the match I'll identify. It's only a very minor one though as Becky starts selling her left arm immediately after this, noticeably slowing down with trying to use both arms to drag Sasha around and pulling with her right more. The fight now spills to the outside and Becky grabs Sasha's arm and yanks her shoulder first into the ring post to start her comeback against Sasha's arm.

5.gif.c41be182553e86aa07498fffbd9f1d22.gif"We've got two ladies with bad arms" calls the announcer, as both wrestlers are clutching their arms trying to continue. Becky drags Sasha into the ring, locks Sasha's arm behind her back and then suplexes her straight onto her own arm, then lifts that same arm up, legdrops it while Sasha's still on the floor, and then transitions into a crazy move where she hyperextends Sasha's elbow with her feet! I don't know what you call that.

6.gif.49aca17956659d0f6c405397a840707f.gifBecky goes for another suplex, and even bothers to add the detail of wrapping Sasha's arm around her back again so she'll land on it, but this costs her as it buys Sasha another second to wriggle out of it and attempt her own. "I'm the baddest, not you!" she shouts in Becky's face, but now that taking that extra moment to berate Becky costs Sasha as it buys Becky enough time to counter her suplex attempt and roll Sasha up into her Dis-Arm-Her for the first time since the opening minute of the match. Sasha screams horrendously when she's in this hold (video). That look of fear she showed at the start of the match at the initial Dis-Arm-Her attempt is paid off. But alas, this doesn't work out as Becky hoped, and in the process of rolling Sasha into position they ended up quite close to the ropes, so Sasha is able to reach out and force the break before too much damage is inflicted. Becky looks absolutely despondent at having to break it. She almost had the biggest win in her life just there, but didn't quite hit it, and she may never get a chance like that again.

Sasha cowardly begs off again (Sasha wrestles more like Flair than Charlotte ever does) as Becky tries to drag her away from the ropes, but then quickly stops begging off to throw Becky to the outside to buy herself a little time and get her arm working again. She then runs the ropes and hits a suicide dive on Becky, all while keeping her arm in a sling position against her chest! "One arm and all" the announcer calls it. But Becky powers up and lifts Sasha above her shoulders and slowly but surely she struggles with one arm to able to position Sasha in line to slam her into the steel steps, upon which both women collapse with their arms in sling positions. Becky rolls Sasha into the ring and climbs to the top turnbuckle to hit another big move. But her arm is troubling her, she takes a bit longer to reach the top than normal and pains everytime she tries lifting herself up with the left arm. This was a bad move, as Sasha now has time to charge up the ropes, hit Becky with a top-rope armbreaker and in one final sweet touch, puts her in her finishing Bank Statement submission hold, but adds in the detail of wrapping Becky's injured arm outside to hurt it more. Becky should have just kept going after Sasha's arm, but she lost her focus going for a big move when she wasn't able to climb the ropes quickly, but Sasha never lost sight of her goal of winning by destroying Becky's arm.

The post-match is awesome stuff. Becky is lying in the corner sobbing, this was her big moment and she blew it. But the crowd serenades her to her feet by humming the guitar riff of her theme song. It really needs stating that Becky was not that over before this match, Sasha was getting cheered over in the introductions, but by the end of this 15 minute bout she felt like the most beloved babyface in all WWE. She's applauded as she takes to her feet and sinks in the moment for a while, before slowing leaving the arena, left-arm in an invisible sling as the crowd continues to sing her song. Sasha on the other hand, berates the dumb referee for trying to raise her left arm in victory when it'd just been crippled. Did you even watch the match ref!?

7.gif.b6d0bf2318257e527c6d3667a00d4a4d.gif

The unique use of technically solid armwork to advance a broken mentor-protege relationship storyline is a match narrative that's 5 Star worthy, although there are some other flaws that hold me back from going that high. Bayley vs. Sasha at Brooklyn would soon surpass it, but at the time, this was the greatest women's match in the history of WWE. Probably in all of North American wrestling for that matter. It's an essential stepping stone in the road that would lead to these two women becoming major stars and Becky Lynch even main eventing Wrestlemania a mere four years later (absolutely unthinkable at the time).

****1/2

Final Score in the unique offense targeting the arm war was Sasha 15 - Becky 10.

Becky
1. Twisting arm on collar elbow tie up.
2. Fujiwara Armbar
3. Shirome Armbar/Dis-Arm-Her
4. Thigh stamp to the arm
5. Armdrag
6. Pulling shoulder into ringpost
7. Standing arm yank
8. Vertical suplex onto arm.
9. Legdrop onto arm
10. Hyperextending arm with knees


Sasha
1. Shoulder yank into apron facebuster
2. Twisting trample to arm
3. Pulling arm back on the ropes
4. Arm first neckbreaker
5. Straightjacket choke with Becky's own arm
6. Arms first backstabber
7. Repeatedly slamming elbows into mat via straightjacket hold
8. Double knees to arm
9. Bending arm backwards with foot to mat
10. Cross armbreaker
11. Crucifix armbreaker
12. Biting the arm
13. Springboard armdrag
14. Armbreaker from top rope
15. Bank statement with arm wrapped outside

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