Becky Lynch: Maintaining the Mountain Top

In history, WrestleMania will always hold a special place in Becky Lynch’s career. After all, it was on that stage that ‘The Man’ was officially crowned. It was on that stage that Lynch’s momentous ascent received its exclamation point. Lynch left last year’s WrestleMania as double-champion, defeating Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair in the event’s main event match. It was a feat that once seemed unfathomable but with Lynch at the peak of her powers, simply felt fitting. Lynch had reached the mountain top in the most storybook fashion imaginable, there was no higher height.

In any career, that achievement commands acclaim but for Lynch, it was particularly validating. Lynch’s main roster run had been a rollercoaster at times, often featured but seldom as the focal figure that many believed she could be. That’s best represented just one WrestleMania prior to Lynch’s double-title win, as she entered the inaugural women’s battle royal in an instance that while frustrating, wasn’t at all surprising. Lynch just hadn’t been much of an emphasis, not consistently at least and as a result, this triumph was all the more remarkable.

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Naturally though, that also brought some question marks. Lynch’s climb to the top was stunning but could she maintain that form? Could she cement the position that once didn’t even exist, let alone for Lynch herself? The last six months had been extraordinary but at WrestleMania’s close, a real challenge awaited Lynch. She’d now received the most emphatic seal of approval imaginable and inevitably, skeptics would emerge. Though Lynch had been champion twice before, this was uncharted territory, putting the women’s division on her back and far transcending those ranks too.

In truth though, Lynch’s aspirations to silence the doubters would be swiftly stalled. While she now legitimately felt like a WWE centerpiece, Lynch’s initial programme failed to match the lofty heights that ‘The Man’ had reached. Still paired with Flair on the SmackDown side, Lynch received an unexpected assignment almost immediately on RAW. Rather than a tried and true choice, Lynch’s first fresh challenger would be Lacey Evans, a recent NXT call-up. Since debuting a few months prior, Evans rarely wrestled on television, instead being introduced as a constant cause of interruption.

Evans’ potential was a clear emphasis, but this was an unusually large leap, instantly testing the champion’s standing. This wasn’t a meeting of main event players but instead, an immediate reliance on Lynch’s versatility in this role. For the first time in a long time, Lynch found herself opposite a relative unknown quantity, striving to elevate her rival while maintaining the immense momentum she’d built. As expected, Lynch’s time as double champion was short lived but with the RAW Women’s Title still around her waist, the conflict opposite Evans took center stage.

Three PPV bouts later, including a mixed tag main event, and the responses were varied. In terms of relevance, this felt like an uphill battle compared to Lynch’s Road to WrestleMania. To some extent, that was to be expected but regardless of positioning, this never truly stood alone as a main event attraction. With that being said, I think Lynch deserves credit for her performances during that time. Lynch vs. Evans wasn’t a wild success, but the champion maximized her opposition, producing mostly entertaining matches and keeping their programme as central as possible.

That spoke to Lynch’s potential in this position and her next chapter would amplify exactly that. In SummerSlam season, Lynch would reach a different hurdle, taking on Natalya in Toronto, Canada. Though a contrast to Evans in terms of experience, Natalya still didn’t carry the blockbuster appeal that could provide Lynch with a fitting sequel to WrestleMania. Once again though, the final product was hard to disparage. Assisted by the submission stipulation and an invested crowd, Lynch and Natalya produced an enjoyable opener that exceeded expectations.

Things would only improve from there too, as Sasha Banks’ return supplied Lynch with the marquee match she’d been waiting for. With a resurgent momentum on her side, Banks was the first truly formidable foe that Lynch had met in this portion of her career, the first time that a title change appeared almost likely. That expectation wouldn’t come to fruition, but the result was still spectacular for Lynch’s reign, producing two sublime PPV matches including a remarkable Hell in a Cell clash.

That series ticked a necessary box for Lynch, providing two more examples of her increasing in-ring ceiling. The matches with Evans and Natalya were solid at the least but this was a different level, again proving that Lynch could steal a show under the right circumstances. After leaving that programme with her title still intact though, Lynch’s time as champion has been a mixed bag. As her status suggested, Lynch was then drafted to RAW, setting up a potential rematch with Asuka but first, brand supremacy took the spotlight.

As RAW’s representative, Lynch clashed with fellow champions Bayley and Shayna Baszler, headlining Survivor Series. While the build-up had some interesting elements, the concept in general seemed flawed and this particular matchup failed to capture the audience’s imagination. Though their triple threat filled the main event position, the result was a disappointing affair that never really hit its stride. That felt like the consequence of a range of factors, most prominently being a stylistic clash that was exacerbated by the multi-person format itself.

Without the jolt to make it work under these conditions, this match lacked the supporting story to hook fans on its stakes. In the end though, it was just a disappointing night at the office. Nonetheless, Lynch had an exciting programme ahead, pursuing redemption opposite the aforementioned Asuka. Using some of her best character work yet, Lynch guided a refreshing conflict against her old conqueror, adding a layer of importance that went beyond the belt alone. That culminated in another strong title tilt at Royal Rumble, as well as an even better RAW sequel.

With a rare blemish removed from ‘The Man’s resume, Lynch’s WrestleMania opponent became clear, with Baszler reigniting their recent conflict. Since, that always likely choice has come under scrutiny, taking a route that didn’t drum up as much immediate interest as intended. However, the feud has found its feet since returning to basics, with Lynch’s live promos remaining their best promotional tool. Lynch has become incredibly assured in that role, selling matches with a story she’s telling herself, becoming the voice of her own rivalries.

That trait has placed Lynch in a select group, keeping the champion close to her fans through each moment of the last year. With WrestleMania less than a week away, Lynch’s upcoming match with Shayna Baszler still feels lacking in some ways. There’s not a great deal of depth here, and nor has it sustained the spark that seemed possible when this all began. Combine that with the bizarre circumstances and it’s fair to say that for Lynch especially, this year’s WrestleMania pales in comparison to last year’s event.

Outside of a few fleeting alternatives though, that was almost inevitable. Lynch’s year as champion may not have been ideal but even still, it’s lent credence to the notion that ‘The Man’s popularity wasn’t an anomaly but instead, the start of a career as a headline act. Lynch has shown genuine versatility in this role, making the most of relatively limited opponents while stealing the show against the elite. Not every slant of this character will be a success but there’s still a confidence to every step, an authenticity that Lynch is very much here to stay.

In many ways, Becky Lynch is the first female figurehead of this ilk and while far from perfect, I think it’s been an encouraging year. Lynch has turned in some strong in-ring performances, adapting to a range of opponents both new and old. Moreover, audiences remain firmly on Lynch’s side and though slightly inconsistent at times, this character is still someone they can believe in. Beyond all the details, that’s the persisting root of Lynch’s appeal and as the last year has shown, it’s perhaps her most sustainable skill as well.

Timing was a factor and circumstance too but as champion, ‘The Man’ has proven that she’s capable of being the woman that fills this role for far more than just one or two magical nights. That ascent may have felt like a fairy-tale, but Lynch has many stories left to tell and this character has many chapters left to write. After some ups as well as a few downs, Becky Lynch enters this WrestleMania in the same position that she left the last, leading the women’s division and still striving to break the shackles surrounding those ranks.

It’s been an interesting year for Lynch but as its conclusion approaches, it feels increasingly apparent that in truth, we’re closer to the start of this journey than we are to the end of it. Lynch may not always be the champion but for the foreseeable future, she seems certain to remain ‘The Man.’

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