The Man: From Afterthought to Female GOAT

What makes somebody the greatest of all-time? In something as complex as professional wrestling which shares the competitive nature of sports, but rather in a predetermined environment where it’s about entertainment value and making money, I think a variety of things go into it. What are the aspects to look at? Promo work? In ring work? Booking? Did they provide a moment that will stand the test of time? I’d say being a strong, compelling character that transcends the industry, a money maker, a strong in-ring competitor and somebody with an array of accolades fit the bill. For the women, for years they were an afterthought and it wasn’t until the Four Horsewomen of NXT came out that people started to push for the women to get more time and a grand stage. WWE took the narrative and put their own spin on it, for years making it feel forced, until one woman turned into The Man to make it organic in 2018. But, the groundswell goes back longer than that: a lot longer.

The Four Horsewomen of NXT were Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. In NXT, Sasha Banks exuded the breakout star, Bayley was the purebred babyface and Charlotte Flair fit the second-generation mold Vince McMahon adores. The afterthought was Becky Lynch. But Becky’s story is one of the most remarkable in the history of Pro Wrestling. Becky Lynch, real name Rebecca Quin, began training in 2002. Coming from Ireland where wrestling wasn’t a hotbed and not being the most gifted athlete (she failed high school PE), she’s had to work that much harder. In 2006, she suffered a head injury so drastic, she retired for 6 years before returning to the sport in 2012. She signed with WWE’s developmental territory, NXT, in 2013…it was there she was handed a rather insensitive Irish Jig gimmick but immediately formed a bond with Sasha, Bayley and Charlotte.

From left to right: Becky Lynch, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks.

The four ended up having a match at Takeover: Rival where Sasha Banks defeated the other three to win Charlotte’s NXT Women’s Championship. Becky then entered a program with Sasha, and it was this program, specifically their contract signing, that made me a giant Becky Lynch fan.

The match at Takeover: Unstoppable ended up being NXT’s best women’s match up to that point in the brands history, being critically acclaimed across the industry and a major breakout for Becky Lynch, despite coming up short. But perhaps the biggest part of that night was the debut of the steampunk “Irish Lasskicker” character that carried a major resemblance to Chandra Nalaar. This match wouldn’t have even happened if Dusty Rhodes hadn’t saved her job when she was about to be released from her WWE contract.

Following Takeover, WWE wanted to inject new blood into the women’s revolution, so they called up both competitors and Charlotte. Joining forces with Charlotte and Paige on Raw, she immediately became an afterthought until the 2016 draft. People forget just how unused Becky was, and when she did get on television, it was to make somebody else look good who wasn’t as good. She fell victim to being such a good hand that’s all they ever wanted Becky Lynch to be, despite the fact she was the most genuine and likable person not just on their show, but in all of professional wrestling. Every single wrestler who has ever spoken a word about Becky Lynch has said she is the sweetest person they’ve met. She’s stopped autograph sessions to help save a fans life, she wears fanmade jackets to the ring, she’s just a genuinely likable person.

It wasn’t until she was the only Horsewoman drafted to SmackDown live in the 2016 draft that she got an opportunity. She used this opportunity to become the first ever SmackDown Women’s Champion at Backlash, where she defeated Carmella, Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss, Natalya and Naomi in a six-pack challenge match.

This should’ve been the moment she rocket strapped, but as champion she was barely featured up until TLC, where she lost to young upstart Alexa Bliss in a tables match after Bliss powerbombed her off of the apron through the table. After that, she feuded with Bliss but always ended up getting screwed out of the title, including a steel cage match against Bliss in early 2017 on SmackDown, a match largely forgotten about was critically praised, probably Bliss’s best match ever and featured the return of a fellow top five all-time female wrestler Mickie James, as La Luchadora.

While working with a Mickie James in her first program back is certainly a big deal, Becky Lynch had no credibility after it. She went 8 straight pay-per-views losing clean, while also losing clean on most episodes of SmackDown, all by the same roll up as if her character never learns and is just stupid. For awhile there, it was really difficult to be a fan of somebody who is that dense. Of course, I still own my Lasskicker shirt from that time period, but alas, I wear my two shirts from The Man run a lot more (although that may be because the Lasskicker one is fading. I do have a fourth Becky shirt coming in the mail, to the surprise of absolutely nobody). She went 15 months without a win on pay-per-view, with few and far televised wins in between that, seemingly always losing by the same illogical roll-up. For years, they tore her down to put over the Alexa Bliss type but never built her back up. But in early 2018, fans were behind her enough and fed up, and she was putting out by far the best promos on the show. People are putting the Man on this pedestal as the greatest female mic worker of all-time, but that work has always been there. Here is a promo from June of 2017, right after she got screwed out of Money in the Bank, that I was instantly sold that Becky Lynch could be the biggest star in women’s wrestling.

This is what the quintessential babyface promo is supposed to be. “Is doing the right thing really that complicated?”

A good friend of mine, who’s also somebody I wrote with at another site many moons ago, texted me a little over a month ago asking for the best baby face promos. I gave him about 15, ranging everywhere from ECW Tommy Dreamer to early Dusty Rhodes (the “lightning bolt” promo needs more love). The one woman included in this was this promo by Becky Lynch, for whatever reason, it has always stood out to me. Ironically, I also gave him a bunch of Mick Foley stuff, and Foley, Dreamer and Dusty are three people she’s learned the most from. The idea for a face promo is to get you to feel bad for the victimized baby face, have something that sticks with you in your mind, but they also have to be such a good actor that you believe every word that they say. That is that promo for me. It feels real, you can see the genuine emotion, while also eliciting emotion out of the audience watching on national television.

If you go back and watch the 2018 Money in the Bank pay-per-view, the loudest reactions of the night is when Becky touches the briefcase, and if you thought that was a one time audience, you hadn’t been listening and you were in for a rude awakening heading forward.

The Irish Lasskicker Transforms Into The Man

Becky Lynch then started getting strong wins and entered a feud with SmackDown’s Women’s Champion Carmella, and everybody thought Becky Lynch was finally going to get her moment, before Charlotte Flair made her SmackDown return, on year 4 of a push that had beaten to a pulp for four years, with literally nobody even caring about Charlotte, no matter how immensely talented of an in-ring performer she is. It was Becky’s time, until Charlotte Flair took her moment in a triple threat match at Summerslam that she had no business even being apart of. The WWE then had Becky snap to try and gain Charlotte sympathy, but with so many people soured on Charlotte, this backfired when the audience gave Becky the loudest reaction of the year up to that point, with the rowdy fans screaming “YOU DESERVE IT!” at Charlotte.

This was a poorly calculated attempt in trying to get Charlotte Flair to next level over that to this day she still hasn’t reached. Becky Lynch was never the heel and I still to this day believe that in my heart. A heel is somebody nobody likes who comes back and screws her friend out of the title. That’s exactly what Charlotte did. There was zero likable quality about Charlotte and every time Charlotte got hers, we were happy. Charlotte telling Becky that she wasn’t good enough to win the big one, pretending to be the be the great friend when in reality she’s really being the egocentric, abusive best friend using that friendship to get her out of the title picture (her biggest threat). Charlotte using her name to get anything and everything she wants, like a spoiled brat. Charlotte was definitely the heel in the situation and that’s why I feel it was a very different and unique way to tell the story because the obvious roles are reversed. I shouldn’t relate to a heel, and no matter how they tried to get anybody to boo Becky Lynch, she is the most genuinely likable and relatable person on every show. It didn’t work.

Becky became a 2x SmackDown Women’s Champion at Hell in a Cell 2018, before retaining at Super Showdown, thus, “The Man” was born. Ric Flair used to say “to be the Man, you’ve gotta beat the Man” and Becky Lynch beat the Man.

Meanwhile, Becky Lynch was using Twitter to go viral on a daily basis, just making her more over to more than just the wrestling audience, and getting publicity from every outlet imaginable.

They even put Becky in the ring with Edge at SmackDown 1000, had Becky mock the career-ending (at the time) neck injury of one of the most beloved wrestlers ever, and it just made her get cheered more. Edge, the best crowd worker of his generation, went out there with the intent to get her booed and he could not. He went back to Vince and said “this is your next megastar, she is not getting booed for anything.”

It was during this time that Becky Lynch became WWE’s highest ratings grabber across any brand, the first women to ever regularly be their most watched superstar, during this time she also became the first women in WWE history to be the top merchandise seller, outselling everybody from John Cena to Randy Orton in merchandise.

It was also during this time that SmackDown’s Women’s Division became the most critically acclaimed in the industry, and with WWE heading into the first ever all women’s pay-per-view, Lynch and Charlotte were looking to steal the headlines. They did just that as they put on the greatest match in the history of women’s wrestling. Their last woman standing match was physical, emotional and dramatic. I think it also has an edge over say, the NXT Ironwoman between Sasha Banks and Bayley, because you didn’t know who was winning as opposed to the obvious outcome in the latter. It had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and the ending was full circle. The match that started Becky Lynch’s downward spiral and killed he confidence is when Alexa Bliss powerbombed through the table at TLC 2016. Now, 2 years later, she validated her career by powerbombing Charlotte through the table to end the match.

Becky Lynch appeared on Raw once in 2018. That also happened to be the highest rated segment on the whole program that year and delivered the women’s Steve Austin moment. When I say Steve Austin moment, I mean the iconic shot at WrestleMania 13 where the blood pours down his face while he’s trapped in Bret Hart’s vaunted sharpshooter. That still image has stood the test of time.

Heading into Survivor Series, WWE had booked SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch against Raw’s Champion Ronda Rousey. In typical Becky fashion, she led an army of SmackDown superstars and kicked the crap out of Rousey and the entire Raw roster, looking like the badass she truly is. But in the process, she got severely concussed when Nia Jax legitimately tagged her. What did Becky do? Continue to give us a moment none of us will ever forget. In the process, while absolutely destroying for the former UFC Bantamweight Champion, she dropped the phrase she is now synonymous with: “everyone’s tough ’til the man comes around!”

Unfortunately for Lynch, the doctor’s wouldn’t clear her due to her concussion she received, thus she took a few weeks off. At the 2018 TLC pay-per-view, she main evented but ultimately lost her championship to Asuka after interference from Ronda Rousey. But in January, she appeared on screen with John Cena even hit him with a “U Can’t See Me.”

She then submitted to Asuka to open the Royal Rumble pay-per-view in another absolute banger of a match, but in the Royal Rumble match, she guaranteed her spot at WrestleMania by winning the entire thing.

In the process, WWE started an arduous road where WWE completely misbooked everything. That promo was perfect, it set up the match everybody wanted to see…until they took Becky out, suspended her and put Charlotte in, had Becky have some kind of knee injury, and end up beating Charlotte to be re-added, for both championships. The convoluted booking killed a lot of hype and a perfect story, especially since they were doing it at the same time with Kofi Kingston on SmackDown. However, that’s a tangent for this piece because this is to celebrate the run Becky Lynch just had, and out of that, we got a segment with Triple H:

We also got this gem from the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, in all of her Kill Bill glory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkv0W9Hry2E

At WrestleMania 35, the three became the first female main-event in WrestleMania history. I, for one, love the entrance of Becky. It might be my favorite of recent WrestleMania entrances because of the lack of pageantry. Becky Lynch’s character is that she had to claw to be there and the golden goose, who got a helicopter, and the person they wanted for mainstream appeal got Joan Jett. Becky? She had The Man and that was also she needed. In the end, it was Lynch who handed Rousey her first pinfall loss in WWE, and gifted us the iconic still image of her holding up both championships to end WrestleMania, officially marking her as the face of the company.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiI562Vypzs

Over the next year, her booking wasn’t the best but she main evented multiple pay per views, didn’t lose cleanly a single time, had solid matches with Lacey Evans, a great match with Natalya at Summerslam and Sasha Banks inside of Hell in a Cell, had a great tag team match at TLC, somehow topped the Rumble ’19 match with Asuka at Rumble ’20 and had a very compelling feud with Shayna Baszler. She also main evented Survivor Series. She was the highest rated segment for NXT on USA in a great with Rhea Ripley, and has been the highest rated segment on SmackDown since its debut on FOX, appearing side by side with The Rock.

But on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw, she relinquished the Women’s Championship and announced that she and fiancee, former WWE Champion Seth Rollins, are expecting.

So, where is she at on the GOAT conversation? She’s been the best female mic worker for a long time. She’s not had a bad match, and has carried women such as Bliss, Brie Bella and Lacey Evans to their best matches. She’s been in the greatest women’s match in WWE history on top of that.

Does her kayfabe accomplishments scream greatest ever? Well, she’s a 4x Women’s Champion, and has held the SD and Raw Women’s Championships for over a cumulative 600 days, the next closest woman isn’t even at 500. In One reign as Raw Women’s Champion, she’s held the belt longer than anybody in total days ever, which is far impressive than say, Charlotte Flair averaging two months per reign, or Sasha Banks averaging 20 days a reign. She won the Women’s Royal Rumble and the first main event for the women in WrestleMania history. She was the only woman to pin Ronda Rousey. She was the first ever SmackDown Live Women’s Champion. She’s defeated every top star. The most impressive stat? She is the only singles champion to ever win a championship at WrestleMania and leave with that same belt the next year having never lost it. I say absolutely.

Did she make money and crossover? How big of a star is she? Well, she isn’t Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan, but she is by far the biggest star in women’s wrestling history. She’s on non-WWE cereal boxes, she’s set to join the biggest movie franchise in the history of the box office and that’s after appearing on other big outside ventures such as This Is Sportscenter and Billions. She’s covered by every major news outlet in the world, most recently PEOPLE magazine. She is becoming known by non-wrestling fans. She is the highest paid woman in WWE history. Higher paid than Chyna, Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, Lita, Trish Stratus or any other woman you would think made a lot of money. She is the only woman in WWE history to be number one in merchandise sales and she draws the best ratings of anybody they currently have. Yes, it’s not even close, she is by far the biggest star in women’s wrestling history. She is the only person I can think of who’s been on top longer than a year and not get booed out of a single building. Despite a somewhat loud minority, she is the most beloved person in wrestling today.

Did she create moments that will stand the test of time? The two most iconic stills for women’s wrestling is Becky Lynch, on top of everything else she did. She didn’t just create moments, she set the bar for the moments going forward.

With Becky Lynch pregnant, Pro Sports Extra would like to say congratulations. A person who’s been getting such publicity, is a woman at the pinnacle of a male dominant profession, crossing over into Hollywood, is also going to be a mother on top of that? PEOPLE is only the beginning. She’s about to become the poster girl for women empowerment. Imagine the reaction she’ll get if she returns in the 2022 Royal Rumble match to take back what’s hers?

As frustrating as it was for years to be a Becky Lynch fan, I wouldn’t trade it because I’ve been spoiled the last two years. She’s become the face of the WWE, something nobody ever thought would happen, and it fell into their lap because she undeniably has that IT factor that no woman before her has ever had. While it’s sad as a fan that she won’t be on television anymore, she’s also 33 with a concussion history and moving to Hollywood eventually, she didn’t have much longer left. Seth and Becky are two of my absolute favorites and they’ve given their lives for pro wrestling, it’s time they do something for them. Anybody who risks their body 52 weeks a year for us deserves this.

One thing is for sure if we’ve seen the last of Becky Lynch: The Man has solidified herself as the greatest female wrestler in the history of Pro Wrestling.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheJameus

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