When you factor in the years-long match series between Charlotte and Sasha Banks as a reviewer prior to tonight’s PPV, it becomes a splendid opportunity to review and track the progress of both. That’s why we’ve ended up here, with me writing and you checking this out. On Twitter I’ve not only recently moved my full-time social media to the site’s account (along with admin Quentin), but I’ve also partly tracked series of matches via Tweets and GIFs as well. So follow us, dammit! Without further ado, it’s time to look back at a bundle of these two’s matches prior to their biggest match yet, well, at least on par with Hell in a Cell, on Sunday.
NXT Women's Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha BanksNXT TakeOver: R-Evolution
It’s bizarre to time travel back to only two years ago. NXT was much different. Much more raw. Much more on the “upswing” rather than attempts at standing ground as a super indie. This is where the heel Banks vs. babyface Flair daughter feud came into play, both having teamed for a good while. Also, BFFs! This match was so great. Even to the point where Sasha had her character down pat, still showing signs of her dare-devil persona that would come out in spades two years later. If there’s one thing to take away from this match, it’s the fact that Charlotte was nearly as good as she is now in 2014. In 2015, there’s was a hard to understand rough patch, but all in all I’ve always liked Charlotte more than most, and she’s at her best when facing Banks. I also realized how many adjustments have been made, such as Sasha doing a dive as a last resort instead of a full-on trademark. Such as Sasha hitting the backstabber, but not rolling back, gripping her opponent in the arm-stretch instead, which is what I prefer. The most impressive thing was forgetting the spot where Charlotte landed on her feet after a moonsault, only to pop right into a senton. If that isn’t a super-human feat, then color me blind. Everything else was crisp and gritty. For the most part, crisp, OR gritty, but sometimes there was urgency combined with gorgeous looking wrestling. In the end Charlotte had the ultimate charged before Sasha (my Overwatch fanboy-ism is affecting my writing now), hitting the top rope Natural Selection super finisher for the victory.
NXT Women's Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha BanksNXT 12/25/14
I vividly remember watching this episode, and I still think it was smart to include a big match bundled in with the typical end of year recap stuff. More promotions should do that. Just don’t have an entire show be end of year highlights, unless they’re all super entertaining or presented in wacky countdown fashion. I feel as if this is nearly on par with the R-Evolution match, even though it was half as long, and was completely different as to how it worked. Yet these two provided another out of this world match. It revolved around Flair and Becky being ringside, Charlotte trying to assert prominence within the women’s division and Sasha trying to take the title home in a Christmas miracle. From the jump Sasha showed A+ character work, trying to get past the ref, all jumpy like she drank 5 energy drinks, just because she wanted to get her hands on the champ. This led to intense work over and dominance, going to a break after Charlotte had her shoulder rammed into the post. Charlotte’s comeback felt 100% organic, with twists and turns resulting in a huge neckbreaker being hit. Everything flowed so well, and this wasn’t even a 10 minute match on an end of year recap show. Sasha finally hit the superplex she’s been waiting to hit since the feud began. It was sold like a glorious car wreck. Sasha had to use part of Charlotte to get back to her feet. She still wasn’t good enough though, with roll-ups not being enough either. The finish finally saw the Figure Four be locked in, for an awkward Sasha tap. This was brilliant with unreal storytelling. Keep in mind. SUB 10 MINUTE TV MATCH!
Charlotte vs. Sasha BanksMain Event 12/30/14
This occurred when a) Main Event meant a little more than it does now, banking off the Network’s launch, which was still recent at the time and b) WWE had NXT preview matches throughout their shows either pre or post TakeOver specials. This was a super duper sprint that obviously flew by, but even more so because the work was so fast. We got some repeat spots like Sasha slaps, Charlotte doing the ridiculous moonsault/senton combo, but other than that there wasn’t a lot to work with. Sasha kept bumping huge and hitting a money neckbreaker. Charlotte ended up hitting a facebuster/Natural Selection combo which should be used today. Still a recommended watch, but a match that doesn’t even last five minutes, and is a quick, odd adjacent preview to what’s going on in the grand NXT universe’s treatment of women/this feud.
NXT Women's Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha BanksNXT 1/21/15
I knew this would be the quickest match yet via the Network timestamps. This still managed to be fairly fun for the few minutes allocated. Sasha started out the match in firm control, with commentary doing a good job putting over the fact that Sasha needs to take advantage of this title opportunity, because how many more is she going to get? The two, with a tremendous touch of scrappiness, ended up tussling through the ropes onto the floor. This is where Becky Lynch came into play, who was lurking ringside. She got in the ring, delivering a huge uppercut to Charlotte only for the bell to be rung. Sasha was robbed of yet another chance to win the title, this time from her very own best friend. Bayley came in to clear the ring. Awesome build for what was to come, and in a bubble, the short match itself was good, but could have been so much more. It was being preserved though.
NXT Women's Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. CharlotteNXT 3/4/15
Holy shit. No, like, HOLY SHIT! I did not remember this match, and this was nearly perfection upon rewatch. This came post TakeOver: Rival in which Sasha Banks stole the title from the other horsewomen in what was a near-classic. But this may end up being my TV MOTY for a revised 2015 list. It wasn’t five stars but there could be an argument that it was close. It was worked so brilliantly with a whole new dimension added to the feud. It started out with cowardly Sasha hiding behind Drake upon being called out by the now former champ: “You gonna fight me tonight sweetheart, or what?” Sasha then walked up the ramp with the title planted on her shoulder, she didn’t feel like tonight was the night for a defense. Charlotte grabbed her by her hair and brought her back in for the match to start, but felt the consequences immediately having her back worked over. Not only was her back ruined by being smashed into the L.E.D. board at Rival, but here it was taken to an entirely new level. Trash talk, WOOOOS, and much more came flying out of Sasha’s mouth at rapid speed, while taking any opportunity to decimate Charlotte’s back. Everything was so snug. Charlotte was nearly crying for the majority of the work over. Charlotte had comebacks but they always fell back on her because of some reason. The peak of her fired up babyface comeback saw a figure four locked in against the post, with a splurge of legwork, but she just wasn’t good enough on this night. This wasn’t even a long match but it’s why I love pro wrestling. There were 10/10 callbacks such as Charlotte going for the moonsault senton combo only for Sasha to put her knees up which added to the back injury. The finish was one of the best of 2015. Charlotte went for the top rope natural selection that beat Sasha at R-Evolution, only to land on her back. Sasha executed a dirty pin for the win. Top class and a standout match from a rewatch that needs to be viewed by everyone. Screw just TV MOTY, it’d be on my Top 10 matches for the year too.
NXT Women's Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. CharlotteNXT 7/15/15
It’s the end of Grab Bag Reviews, as this is the last match we’re looking at. It’s the ‘farewell’ match for these two, as they’d shortly debut after on Raw. This was the final chapter in their NXT feud. What a match it was. It was pretty much a greatest hits match to send the two packing in the best ways possible. It was not only a thank you to NXT, but if you’re an educated viewer of the feud, you get even more out of it. Even more callbacks. More spots that pop you still. Charlotte didn’t bring out the moonsault/senton combo though! We had vintage heel Sasha, mocking Charlotte, asking Full Sail if she was “their girl”, only to nearly have that cost her the title. We STILL had the back work placed upon Charlotte. Still, the fired up babyface comeback. One of the more iconic moments from the feud came about this match, as an extension found its way out of Charlotte’s hair. In a tug of war figure four, the two slapped each other with the extension, only for Charlotte to fall out of the ring upside down as Sasha had it locked in. Absolutely incredible scenes. Aside that the escalation was perfect. So many callbacks to Sasha getting cheap wins. Charlotte survived and even hit a ridiculous powerbomb I failed to mention earlier on that shook Sasha. This was yet another example of these two in their natural roles in front of their “home” crowd. Charlotte again found herself with nowhere to go. She was the one trying to keep up. Sasha locked in the Bank Statement. Charlotte fought with all her power to win the title. It was reversed briefly but it was locked back in harder than ever. Charlotte was contorted! She eventually had to tap, and that ends the NXT era of Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte. A feud that was riveting, so natural, comforting to watch in obscure ways, and one of my favorite in ring series of matches, of course extending to this year, in a long time. The Iron Man match at Roadblock tonight is to be sure to add on to the illustrious resume these two produce. There’s nothing quite like a moonsault/senton combo, or a stiff neckbreaker, or seeing Charlotte’s back ruined at such a young age. I love these two. Upon rewatch, even more so. It’s reasons like this, that sometimes, it’s so blatantly obvious that women’s wrestling can be better than men. Not just an attempt to be on par. To blow the other gender out of the water. As a male, I love it. I simply love wrestling.