The big question heading into last night’s Friday Night Smackdown, other than who would unify the tag team titles, was if WWE would address Sasha Banks and Naomi’s recent walkout on the air. Well, they did. Announcer Michael Cole addressed the camera directly and absolutely ripped into the two, while Pat McAfee sat there looking partially embarrassed about what was being said and partially distant like a kid watching one of his friends get yelled at by a teacher.
During the segment that lasted a little less than a minute, Michael Cole said Sasha Banks and Naomi ‘let us all down.’ He further said their actions “disappointed millions of WWE fans” and they would be stripped of their WWE Tag Team Titles with a tournament being held to crown new champions. The whole thing came off like a parent lecturing a child, and rather than addressing it and moving on, WWE dropped video of Cole’s comments on YouTube and Twitter. You can watch the video yourself below…
I’m so confused. I’m confused by the circumstances around the initial walkout. I’m confused by how WWE has chosen to handle this, and I’m confused by where the women’s tag team division goes from here. There are still so many unanswered questions around what happened, why the response was delivered in this tone and if this situation is even salvageable. I can’t imagine anyone, from WWE to the superstars themselves to fans are happy about what’s happened. The situation just sucks. So, let’s explore the big unanswered questions for a minute.
Why exactly did Sasha Banks and Naomi walk out again? The most basic story coming from all sides is that Sasha Banks and Naomi walked out of Raw because WWE wanted Naomi to face Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks to face Ronda Rousey at Hell In A Cell. They allegedly felt these matches (both of which they’d assumedly lose) would come at the expense of any momentum the women’s tag team title division was building. They apparently pushed back with creative on Monday, but when they were told it was still happening, they supposedly walked out.
In some ways, that story makes sense, but in other ways, it’s quite confusing. I love WWE, but in the history of bad creative decisions, this one is not thattttttt bad. Both Naomi and Sasha would be fighting in huge singles matches at a premium live event, and it’s not as if they were being asked to put over Aliyah and Shotzi. I wouldn’t love this creative direction if I were Naomi and Sasha, but, in my opinion, this doesn’t strike me as creative that’s so offensive that you’d walk out over it. Be pissed, sure. Walk out? That's a big response that opens up the door to being fired. I certainly wouldn't walk out over this, unless there was more to the story or this was the latest in a long list of grievances I had. But I'm also not going to hate on other people for making a different choice. They're in charge of their own careers, and only they know what's happened and how they feel.
But also, they’re not wrong. Why doesn’t WWE care about the Women’s Tag Team Titles? As confused as I am over a team allegedly walking out over getting two premium matches at Hell In A Cell, the spirit of their complaints is not wrong. WWE systematically deprioritizes and sometimes ignores the women’s tag team division. Giving Sasha Banks and Naomi the titles at WrestleMania, coupled with the deepest field of women’s talent ever should have been the recipe to grow the division quickly. I mean there are so many possibilities, and people need things to do. I’d love to see those two wrestle Alexa Bliss and Asuka or Rhea and a TBD Judgment Day partner.
People can make their own decisions as to whether Naomi and Sasha should have walked out, but their actions should not negate how valid the initial complaint is that WWE is not putting nearly enough time or effort into the women’s tag team division. I mean a real case could be made that the 24/7 title gets more screentime. That’s ridiculous. There is so much potential here, and it’s just being wasted. And why? To give us a third match between Omos and Bobby Lashley that no one asked for? Come'on.
Who is WWE making all of this so public for? I’m genuinely curious. Is it to try and get their side of the story out with fans? That’s a waste of time, in my opinion. Most fans are going to choose Sasha Banks in any dispute against a company, particularly when the spirit of what she’s saying is right. So, why is this whole thing being thrown on social media, with official statements being released and videos dropped on social channels? I wouldn’t think it makes it more likely to get a healthy resolution. So, the options are it’s 1) a misguided attempt by WWE to prove they’re right, 2) a message to other wrestlers to stay in line, 3) petty revenge for walking out, 4) all one of the most elaborate storylines ever that’s going to culminate in something amazing like Naomi and Sasha winning the tournament for their own belts.
I don’t really have a good sense of what’s actually going on among those options. I don’t think this is a shoot given their merchandise was pulled from the store, but there are certainly plenty of fans who believe that. I also can’t really imagine the WWE truly thinks it can come out looking like the good guy here, but who knows?
Is there any possible resolution here? Yes, there is absolutely a possible resolution here. Vince McMahon would work with someone who poisoned him if he thought there was money in it. WWE has a long history of welcoming people back into the fold who left under less than ideal circumstances. Vince let Bret Hart beat him up for what felt like 90 minutes at WrestleMania. If all sides can get in a room and work this out, I’m sure he would be happy for the instant heat a storyline addressing this would generate. If it’ll sell tickets, he’ll go there.
But working this out might require some time. It’s also possible that some of the people involved don’t want to work out a resolution right now. They may be content to just let their contracts run out. It’s not as if Sasha Banks doesn’t have options, whether it be Hollywood or working for other companies down the line. I’d also imagine AEW would swoop Naomi up in a second if she were available. It’s also possible that while McMahon would work with them down the road, he’s not going to give in so quickly so there’s not a perception in the locker room that leaving in the middle of a taping worked.
What is going to happen? I have no idea. I truly don’t. All I know is two of WWE’s best athletes aren’t on TV anymore, and the more WWE addresses what happened, the more confused I get.
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