NXT TakeOver Retrospective: How Sasha Banks vs. Bayley Changed The Course Of History

(Photo by Lukas Schulze/Bongarts/Getty Images)

It’s already been a little over 4 years since we witnessed the greatest women’s match in WWE history. It’s crazy to look at it in retrospect because WWE was still in the infancy stage of what they first dubbed as the “Divas Revolution”. At the time, it was NXT where all the buzz was about the women and how they were taking it to the next level.

Sure, in the course of WWE history, the company will never forget to mention pioneers of the past and even the Divas for that matter, but the reality is that it was an effort that WWE really began only in 2014-15, looking at MMA, Tennis and the other sports that saw the rise and continual growth of megastars such as Ronda Rousey and Serena Williams, among many others.

It was Triple H and his crew who were the first to really give the women the opportunity to shine in NXT. Sasha Banks had openly stated that women were initially trained to wrestle as “divas” and not female competitors. This included hair pulling and more. However, luckily for Banks and all the other aspiring women on the roster, there was a change in the way of thinking and it all began at NXT. While the women on the main roster were still not getting the same opportunities as Divas, there were four women in particular who were making a serious name for themselves at NXT.

There’s no doubt that Paige and Emma were the first two significant women for the yellow brand, but if they began a process, then Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch all took it to a whole other level. It’s even believed that Sasha Banks vs Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 31 weekend was a match that Vince McMahon personally oversaw and one that reportedly changed his entire mindset about women’s wrestling.

They were quite late to the game in realizing that women are also extremely marketable stars as competitors and not Divas and thus, the seeds of change had slowly begun. While it had taken over a year on the main roster for the women to start to shine, the opposite was the case at NXT.

It was the summer of 2015 and then-NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks was called up to the main roster along with Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. Bayley was left behind, but for a very good reason. The women’s division in NXT clearly lost three out of its four biggest female stars and they needed an anchor – a leader for the division until a replacement would come up.

This is what led to the pinnacle of Sasha Banks’ reign as NXT Women’s Champion. She already had a solid match against Becky Lynch and it was Bayley who would step up to the plate at SummerSlam 2015 weekend. In fact, this was the first NXT Takeover outside of Full Sail University and to no surprise, it sold out rapidly.

However, nobody anticipated that it would be the women who would steal the show that night. It wasn’t the main event, but it was a story that every fan watching was invested in. There was nothing complicated about it and Bayley was the perfect underdog to counter a nasty heel like Sasha Banks.

While Sasha Banks was still popular at the time despite being a heel, there was no doubt that fans got behind Bayley more. It wasn’t exactly a culmination in retrospect, but it was one of the greatest championship crownings in WWE history and also one of the most emotional moments in NXT history up to that point.

What Sasha Banks and Bayley created in the ring was more than just magic. It was clear that the two women put everything they had into that match and on the night, no man could come close to what they did. In fact, that entire SummerSlam weekend, there really wasn’t a match that was nearly on that level.

Kevin Owens and Finn Balor may have main evented in Owens’ conclusion in NXT, but it was the women who people were buzzing about. For fans who followed NXT, it was rewarding to see the women steal the show in such emphatic fashion and for those who weren’t familiar, it was an eye-opener as to what the women truly were capable of.

Sasha Banks and Bayley would hug it out, but have one final match at NXT a couple of months later at NXT Takeover: Respect. This time, they main evented the show and stole it as usual with a 30-minute Iron Man match – the first in WWE Women’s history. In retrospect, it’s incredible to think of how this match set such a high standard for the women.

Many have argued that there is yet to be a woman’s match in WWE that has been on the same level, but there’s no denying that there have been matches that have come very close. This would be the beginning and the Divas Revolution turned into the Women’s Revolution, with it all culminating 3 years later at WrestleMania 35, where the women main evented WrestleMania for the first time ever. It was the conclusion of what was dubbed as the “Evolution” and this match doesn’t get enough credit for its impact on that.

It’s a shame that we are yet to see Sasha Banks and Bayley replicate this magic – simply because they haven’t been given the opportunity to do so. But given their love and passion for wrestling, there’s no doubt that we’ll see something like that someday down the line.