Over the next few days, you are going to hear a lot of bad takes about how Sasha Banks and Naomi failed the fans and failed in their duties by choosing to walk out rather than participate in the booking of a WWE Raw main event they disagreed with. These takes will come from fans and sometimes even "journalists" who have been trained for decades to believe that the interest of WWE as a corporate entity is one and the same with the interest of the fans. These takes are misguided. They are wrong. Sasha Banks and Naomi were right to walk out on WWE on Monday night, and WWE would be a better company for both talent and fans if more people followed suit.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Took His Ball and Went Home
Anyone who read WWE's vicious statement attacking Banks and Naomi in the wake of Monday's events may already be getting flashbacks from twenty years ago. When Stone Cold Steve Austin, still the top guy in WWE but nearing the end of his career, refused to lose to an up-and-coming Brock Lesnar with no build, WWE immediately began a months-long propaganda campaign to smear him centered on the oft-repeated line, "Stone Cold Steve Austin took his ball and went home." This was said not just in corporate statements, but by talent like The Rock on television. But as the biggest star professional wrestling has ever seen, Steve Austin had the right and, in fact, the responsibility to ensure his character was treated the way he felt he deserved.
After Sasha Banks and Naomi walked on WWE Raw last night, WWE put a similar plan in motion. Both Becky Lynch and Corey Graves were instructed to mention the incident and disparage both women live on the air. WWE released an internal memo to talent bashing them, implying they were hurting other talent by refusing to participate, and aggressively pushing the line that a disagreement with WWE management is an affront to talent and fans. That memo was leaked to the wrestling press and then released publicly on WWE's website the next day.
WWE Wrestlers are "Independent Contractors"
It's in WWE's interest to isolate wrestlers from their peers during a dispute. But it's not in talent's best interest to go along with it. Much has been said about WWE's classification of its wrestlers as "independent contractors." This designation seems to make no sense when WWE wrestlers are only allowed to work for WWE and are not allowed to engage in side ventures like Twitch streaming to make money (unless done through WWE, with WWE keeping most or all of the profits). Classifying wrestlers as independent contractors allows WWE to avoid many of the responsibilities an employer would normally be legally forced to comply with. But the one way that being classified as an "independent contractor" benefits talent is that it is 100% within their rights to disagree with a booking decision and refuse to go along with it.
As independent contractors, WWE wrestlers have no one to look out for their best interests other than themselves. It's their responsibility as businesspeople to do so, and to say "no" to booking requests that would damage their value. That Sasha Banks and Naomi did this at WWE Raw last night shows that they understand their position perfectly. Other talent should look to their defiance as an example to be followed, not despised as the WWE talent memo wants them to believe. If more wrestlers exercised their rights as independent contractors, WWE would be forced to treat its wrestlers with more respect, which is something everyone should want.
What's Good for WWE is Almost Never Good for the Fans
Nobody who's watched WWE recently, or even over the past decade or two, is satisfied with the company's creative decisions. WWE booking decisions are widely derided by fans as boring, nonsensical, and often harmful to the wrestlers. When fans don't react well to WWE's storylines, WWE pumps in fake crowd noise to cover it up. When wrestlers take bad creative and get over with the crowd using it despite WWE's best efforts, the company often punishes them for it (see: Zack Ryder), which has driven massive fan movements like the one supporting Daniel Bryan that forced WWE to put him in the main event of WrestleMania 30 where he won the championship. But for some reason, when a wrestler refuses to go along with bad creative decisions, fans are all-too-willing to go along with the company line that it's a betrayal of WWE and therefore a betrayal of the fans.
But refusing to participate in a bad storyline isn't a betrayal of the fans. It's a service to the fans. If more wrestlers refused to participate in bad storylines, insisted their storylines made sense and had healthy outcomes for talent, maybe there would be fewer bad storylines and WWE television would be more entertaining to watch. Watching the Women's Tag Team Champions feud and break up when their run has barely started, or job to the Raw and Smackdown Women's Champions at the next PPV as is rumored to be the plan WWE wanted, would not be a storyline that fans would enjoy. Fans would complain that WWE is misusing Banks and Naomi and misusing the tag belts. So why is it a bad thing that they stood up to that proposed storyline and refused to do it? They saved everyone from having to watch something none of us would have enjoyed.
Sasha Banks and Naomi Deserve Better
Sasha Banks is one of WWE's top stars, but she has always played second fiddle to others. When Trish Stratus entered the first Women's Royal Rumble match, she fought and was eliminated by Banks, prompting fan demand for a Banks vs. Stratus one-on-one match that still exists today. Instead, Stratus was fed to Charlotte Flair. Stratus has never been booked as well as Flair or Becky Lynch, but she remains one of WWE's most popular personalities, with ratings data showing more people watch when she's on-screen. But Banks is presented like she's a step below top stars like Flair, Lynch, and Ronda Rousey, even though by all rights she should be equal or even above them.
Naomi has been treated even less well than Banks. Her first real title run was was less than four months long and the only notable victories Naomi had after winning the belt were over Lana before she dropped the title to Natalya at SummerSlam 2016. In 2020, fans vocally rejected WWE's attempts to book her as a jobber in Divas-style two-minute matches. Naomi has remained popular despite being mostly booked as a loser throughout much of her career. It's no surprise she would be fed up and stand up for her rights as an independent contractor and refuse to slide back into that terrible booking. The tag team championship run with Sasha Banks is the best Naomi has been booked in years.
Stand with Sasha Banks and Naomi
You're going to hear a lot of bad takes in the coming days about how Sasha Banks and Naomi betrayed WWE and betrayed the fans by walking out on WWE Raw last night. It's in WWE's best interest for everyone to go along with them. But it's in everyone's best interest, fans and talent and even "journalists" alike, to reject those takes and stand up for their own interests instead.
We stand with Sasha Banks and Naomi, and you should too.