It was March 2015 when Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks first fought each other for gold. Back then Banks was the NXT Women’s champion and had very much found herself in the ‘Boss’ role. She was cocky, aggressive and dynamic. A money personality with a bright future obviously ahead. Bliss, on the other hand, was an almost Disney style white-meat babyface, blowing glitter and smiling wide as she made her entrance. Though she was clearly athletic, Bliss’ future very much seemed uncertain. She had earned the title match by scoring a count-out win over Banks in her hometown of Columbus but the crowd mostly sided with the champion regardless, a response very much indicative of the two character’s contrasting momentum at the time.
Bliss was just a short TV program for Banks back then though and ‘The Boss’ successfully defended her title, battering the contender in their rematch. Fast forward just over two years and a lot has changed. In fact, not long after that match, things would change dramatically for both talents. Almost immediately following that loss, Bliss would turn heel and align with then tag champions Blake and Murphy in a transition that would forever alter her career trajectory. Meanwhile, Sasha was soon on the main roster and also dramatically elevated her reputation with standout matches opposite Becky Lynch and Bayley. On the main roster Banks caught fire with the wider audience and quickly became one of the most popular female talents in recent memory.
In July 2016, Banks would finally capture the RAW women’s title in a memorable TV encounter with Charlotte. At that same time Bliss would be brought up to SmackDown Live in the draft and after constant improvement in NXT, quickly thrived on the big stage, within months becoming the brand’s champion and using her promo skills and personality to capture the audience in a way unique to her Horsewomen counterparts. At the same time, Banks feud with Charlotte raged on and whilst the length of it caused issues for some, the quality of most of it was undeniable as both women elevated the belt tremendously, trading it back and forth along the way.
Neither women would win at WrestleMania but two weeks later, the two talents would have their first real interaction since that aforementioned NXT match. Arriving on RAW in the Superstar Shakeup, Bliss would receive a tremendous response from a crowd that cheered every word she said, even when it was mostly a critique of Banks and Bayley. I think part of the audience’s response was due to a frustration with the way Banks and Bayley had been presented but the reaction to Bliss was telling and very much indicative of all the progress she had made since turning heel two years prior. Though it was never the case in NXT, Bliss was now very much on the same level as her old rivals and it showed immediately.
Unfortunately, the interactions between the pair would be mostly limited after that moment, with Bliss pinning Banks to earn a shot at Bayley. That title program would make a very promising start but quickly fell off of a cliff purely due to the confusing direction it was taken. With Bayley now very much damaged though, it appears that the division only has one true marquee match left and this week on RAW, the groundwork was seemingly laid. Banks has been waiting on the sidelines in a harmless mixed-tag program against Noam Dar and Alicia Fox but still remains very much over, as was shown by the strong reaction she received this week on RAW.
The delightfully named Great Balls of Fire is up next and I’m hoping/expecting a multi-woman title defense of some sort for Bliss. Once we get that out of the way, I feel Summerslam is the perfect place for the first real match of a Bliss-Banks title feud. Perception is reality and whilst booking obviously impacts the way talent comes across on TV, I still believe that regardless of all of that, these are the two most charismatic and dynamic personalities in the RAW women’s division. Sasha’s in-ring work can be very, very special and in a big spot, I believe that Bliss can deliver too. Outside of that though, Bliss’ skills on the microphone alone make her an asset and if given the right material, she’s capable of making some very engaging TV.
The biggest criticism of Banks has been her mic work and whilst I understand that complaint, her charisma often overrides any deficiency and more than that, Bliss seems to bring out a fire in Sasha very much reminiscent of those NXT days. This doesn't have to be rigid babyface vs. heel storytelling but instead a clash of popular personalities that are actually pretty similar. Provided that the creative team stays out of its own way, I honestly believe that these two talents can have a rivalry that creates moments and memories that stay with the audience for quite some time. Considering how young both are, their characters can and will change throughout the years but if they stay rivals regardless, that could be something very special.
It’s an absolute credit to Bliss that she finds herself in this spot. After starting as a plain babyface, Bliss has transformed into one of the most engaging villains on the roster today. The same goes for Banks who deserves a ton of props for staying so over even when she’s not always got the focus and/or booking that her talent very much has warranted. Much has changed since that March 2015 match and though this potential feud probably wasn't the first choice, there’s an opportunity for Banks and Bliss to create the kind of rivalry that young girls will look back on fondly in years to come. Let’s hope I’m right because if I am, we could be in for something very, very memorable.