By B.J. Lisko The Repository, Canton, Ohio
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) WWE superstar Sasha Banks has helped to change the definition of what it is to be a women's wrestler. In addition to holding the WWE Women's title belt, Banks was one of the first two female superstars to headline a pay-per-view event at last year's Hell in a Cell event.
The Repository, Canton, Ohio
WWE superstar Sasha Banks has had little trouble living up to the "Boss" nickname she coined during her time in the company's NXT developmental organization.
Banks, along with Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Alexa Bliss, have helped fuel the WWE's women's revolution.
Specifically, Banks' recent feud with Flair was a show-stealing rivalry on par with any other storyline in the company. The duo swapped the WWE Women's Championship in an Iron Man match, a steel cage and have been bloodied and bruised all over the world since striking gold with their drama-filled, squared circle war.
"It's insane how much history we made with each other," Banks said. "I get so overwhelmed, sometimes I can't even think about it."
Banks, Flair and other marquee WWE talent including Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and the New Day, among others, will perform Jan. 22 in Canton as part of WWE Live at Canton Memorial Civic Center.
The 24-year-old Banks got hooked on wrestling as a bright-eyed preteen after seeing the late, legendary Eddie Guerrero in action.
"I had never seen anything like it," Banks said. "I knew that I wanted to be in the WWE, but I also wanted to be more than what you saw from the women back then. I wanted to be someone who would change the definition of what it was to be a women's wrestler."
Banks has certainly accomplished the goal. In addition to holding the WWE Women's title belt, Banks and Flair were the first two female superstars to headline a pay-per-view event at last year's Hell in a Cell. Prior to that, Banks was named Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Woman of the Year, and also won NXT's Match of the Year Award in 2015 for a epic, intense bout with Bayley.
An upbeat, confident Banks chatted recently about her meteoric rise in wrestling, the famous cousin who helped inspire her character and her favorite aspects of being a WWE superstar ahead of her Canton appearance.
Q. Now that your rivalry with Charlotte appears to be on the back burner, have you been able to reflect at all on everything the two of you were able to accomplish during the course of your feud?
A. "Charlotte and I have such a long history. We started in NXT together and came up together, and our rivalry will definitely go down in history as one of the best. Everything really happens so quickly, and you never know what you're gonna do. I'm kind of happy it's over with just to get a break from her, but looking back, it's been insane. When I actually have time to think about it, I'm legit like, 'Oh my God.' It's been amazing."
Q. All of your matches have contained some potentially-dangerous high spots. How do you avoid getting seriously hurt?
A. "When you're the best in the world like me, I'm very blessed. You can't have fear going into matches. Whenever you are fearful, that's when you get hurt. You've gotta believe in everything you do. Every time I'm out there I want to put on a show where fans walk out legit saying, 'Oh my God, these women are amazing.' But you can't have any fear. As far as high spots go, it's kind of crazy, because it always seems to be the little things where people are getting injured."
Q. With the high-risk maneuvers you do, are you ever worried about topping yourself?
A. "Yes and no. At the end of the day, the fans can't control you. You have to control the fans. You kind of know what the fans want, but you're the one telling them the story, and they're the ones that are on the ride. I do put a lot of pressure on myself, but at the end of the day I know what I bring to the table, and I know what I bring to that ring. I know fans will enjoy what we do. We do top ourselves, but it's not with the moves, it's with the story."
Q. What are you most proud of about your career so far?
A. "I wanted to change what it meant to be a women's wrestler, and now, here we are. We're not divas, we're superstars of the WWE. We're doing everything just like the men. We're getting the same respect as the men. We're main eventing just like the men. It's crazy to think from when I was a little girl just dreaming about wrestling, to now here I am at 24 living my dream every single day. Having little girls come up to me now saying, 'I want to be a wrestler because I've seen you,' that legit gives me goosebumps, because I remember being just like them. It's crazy how life works, and it's crazy that if you truly believe in everything you're doing and you put your whole heart and passion into it, you can accomplish anything you want to be."
Q. When did you see attitudes change towards what women were capable of in the ring?
A. "I feel like it really started in NXT. Triple H really gave the women a platform to perform. I had a fatal four-way match with Becky, Charlotte and Bayley. I remember after that match having this feeling of accomplishment. We heard little comments like, 'Oh my God, I think those girls stole the show.' Ever since that moment, we're like, 'Damn right we stole the show! We're gonna steal the show every time we go out there and wrestle!' At that moment, I realized we could be something more in the WWE. We can have this change I always dreamt of having."
Q. What are the intangibles that separate wrestlers who graduate from the independent organizations to the big leagues in WWE?
A. "I really can't put my finger on it. You never know what WWE wants at the moment. When I got signed, I was just lucky. I couldn't believe they would choose someone like me who is so small and wasn't the typical diva. I didn't think I was the WWE fit. I remember having my tryout and thinking, 'I'm not gonna leave this place unless I get signed.' And they signed me. It's quite incredible looking down at NXT now, and there are women who are getting signed with independent wrestling backgrounds. They're not just models anymore. Because of what we were doing on NXT and what's happened with the women's revolution on Raw and Smackdown, women can get signed. It legit brings me joy."
Q. Being cousins with Snoop Dogg as well as Brandy and Ray J, your family has a bit of a show-business pedigree, too. Have they helped you at all with your journey into the wrestling world?
A. "Definitely with my character. I remember early on looking around and thinking 'What am I missing?' I knew I was a very good wrestler, because that was my No. 1 dream, but I didn't have that character that connected with fans. Then I was like, 'What are you doing? You're cousins with Snoop Dogg!' (laughs) He's so flashy and so cocky. He comes out with big furs and big bling. All his security people call him 'The Boss.' So I took that for my name, and I also looked at people like Nicki Minaj and Floyd Mayweather and Kanye West. I took all those personalities and put them into Sasha Banks and made her larger than life. Now I'm here as the legit boss of the WWE taking over every single week."