RAW general manager Mick Foley recently wrote a blog on his Facebook page about Sasha Banks winning the WWE Women’s Title last Monday night on RAW. You can read the blog here:
In the aftermath of WWE title changes, I have seen balloons dropped by the hundreds, confetti raining down from high above, great displays of pyrotechnics and entire rosters rushing the ring to share in the moment of glory. I was personally given a ride atop the shoulders of DX, after my first WWE title win, in addition to having Mr. McMahon and his evil cronies ringside to witness the moment, adding to the grandeur of the occasion.
Sasha Banks WWE Women’s Championship victory on this past WWE Raw – a thrilling contest with Charlotte – featured none of the of the obvious pomp and circumstance of so many historic title changes, but backstage, was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever witnessed – in wrestling, in sports, or in life. Please allow me to take you on a backstage tour in the moments leading up to, and following the victory, and see it all through my eyes.
For all intents and purposes, my duties as WWE Raw General Manager were completed following my promo with Stephanie McMahon – WWE and the entire roster of #MondayNightRaw that kicked off the fist episode of this #NewEra of Raw. Unlike my first Monday on the job, where I scurried from in-ring introduction, to a series of backstage interviews, and finally, a seat with Stephanie at ringside to scout the evening’s main event, I was free to hang out and watch the matches at my leisure, having no idea that a moment of great magnitude was heading our way.
Some fans love the spoilers – hints or rumors about what might happen during the course of a show. Personally, I like to be surprised. One evening earlier, at #Battleground I HOPED I would see Bayley as Sasha’s mystery partner, but I didn’t KNOW, until her music hit, the crowd went wild, and I rushed out into the live crowd as fast as my knees, hips and back would allow me to.
I love being out there in the actual arena (or stadium) when great moments take place; there’s nothing like the actual roar of the crowd, and being IN the moment, to take me back to the days when I would hitch-hike or take trains and buses to The Garden in search of that special brand of magic that only wrestling can provide.
On this night, I found myself in the male talent dressing room when the Banks/Charlotte match began, watching a small monitor on a table, with only a couple of my coworkers looking on. It’s funny, because there are some nights when I throw my bag in the TV locker room, other times when I ask the writers if I can just put my stuff in their room, and plenty of nights where I have no bag at all; I just walk in and out with the clothes on my back…and maybe my ghastly fanny-pack. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, as the new Raw GM, if I get my own office in the near future.
But, earlier in the day, I had placed my bag in the male talent room, so that’s where I watched the matches – meaning that my Raw viewing experience up until the Banks/Charlotte match began, had been shared by one or two wrestlers at a time – talking with Mark Henry for a little while, Enzo Amore for a few, and AJ Styles (who had been summoned back to Raw for the non-televised main event that would conclude the evening) for a few more. The rest of the talent was in and out – hustling off for backstage interviews, matches, catering, or any number of places that talent heads off for to get a break from the scent of B.O. and Ben Gay.
Then I saw…something on the screen made me turn in my chair, looking for someone… anyone to share an observation with. I saw Seth Rollins putting on his boots.
“Seth”, I said, “do you think the title might change hands tonight?”
“I don’t know”, he said. “Why do you ask?”
I thought about it, realizing I had no real evidence to go on – just a gut feeling, and said “Just a facial expression. Something about the expression on Sasha’s face looks….different.”
Rollins takes a look, notes that there seemed to be something different about Charlotte’s demeanor as well, and says, “If Brooke gets tossed, (if Charlotte’s assistant, Dana Brooke, gets thrown out of the match) I’d say it’s possible.”
Moments later, Brooke gets caught grabbing Sasha’s foot, and referee Mike Chioda emphatically issues a warning. Rollins and I both yell out loud, and a little buzz starts in the dressing room. In what I can only compare to the “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are” scene from
“The Wizard of Oz”, where munchkins appear from every conceivable hiding spot following the death the Wicked Witch of the West – the little guys were cracking out of eggs, peeking out of bushes, emerging from within flowers – WWE Superstars begin to emerge and gather around the monitor. Chris Jericho wanders in. Sin Cara takes a seat to my left. All three New Day members bring their positivity to the proceedings. Rusev rushes in from the shower, a towel wrapped around his waist.
The action heats up, speculation runs wild, and the announce team brings viewers on the USA network into a commercial break – even as the in-ring action continues on the dressing room monitor. I give serious thought to departing the dressing room, and heading out into the audience to take in that unique atmosphere. But then I think about the atmosphere in this dressing room – unique unto itself, and realize there is no place I would rather be if history shines its light on this episode of Raw, than right here with the boys, the B.O. and the Ben Gay.
Raw returns live, and grown men who do this wrestling stuff for a living start actively rooting for this historic victory. Charlotte is as good as I’ve ever seen her – looking nothing less that ferocious in her moves and attitude. She hits a moonsault from the top rope to the floor that is awe-inspiring in its beauty. She shoves Sasha with a boot and the Boss takes a hard bump into the ringside barricade, giving Charlotte time to grab her women’s championship and taunt The Boss.
But Sasha kicks Charlotte away, the belt drops to the floor, and paying tribute to her idol – the great Eddie Guerrero – Sasha flips the belt to Dana Brooke, and then feigns injury. Referee Chioda turns to see the fallen Banks with the unwitting Brooke holding the belt, and in quick and dramatic fashion, ejects Brooke from ringside. The live crowd erupts and so does the dressing room! To quote Seth Rollins, Dana Brooke has been “tossed”. The title change doesn’t seem merely possible; it seems inevitable. The title is going to change hands. It HAS to change hands! We can feel it!
And then Sasha hits the ropes and takes flight, diving through the ropes…and a collective gasp of horror fills the dressing room as Sasha lands in truly disturbing fashion – her upper torso hitting the concrete with such force that her body folds up like an accordion, leaving her motionless on the floor. Suddenly the possibility of a title-change and even the match itself no longer seems important. As she lies there, the landing is shown in slow-motion three times – each one accompanied by another horrific gasp from the dressing room.
Some of us shield our eyes. Chris Jericho, yells out before the final replay, “please don’t show it again!” I run through several outcomes in my head for the possible fallout from such an impact – and none of them are good: a serious neck or back injury, a fracture or bruise of the sternum, a dislocation, separation or fracture of the shoulder or collarbone. In none of my scenarios do I foresee this match continuing. It’s a diverse group in that dressing room – white, black, hispanic, Bulgarian – all of us hoping, wishing and praying that the woman lying motionless on our TV screen will somehow be alright.
Xavier Woods begins talking softly to the TV screen : “come on Sasha, get up…get up Sasha.” and is joined by others talking to the screen – imploring Sasha to start moving, or asking God to lend a hand. It’s a group of tough men huddled in front of the TV monitor – former WWE champions, world class power-lifters, an Olympian – but none tougher than the little lady with the big dreams, who summons the will to move, to rise, to somehow carry on.
But Sasha doesn’t just continue; she excels – hitting her moves with precision and grace. Both women are at the top of their game, but fate is on Sasha’s side on this particular night. She hits the back-stabber, and then the Banks statement and moments later, she is the new WWE Women’s Champion.
A wave of pure joy sweeps over the room. We have been through quite a journey together in the last few minutes – an emotional roller-coaster, where excitement and anticipation were replaced by fear, then relief, and finally euphoria. “Let’s go!”, I hear Big E say, and with that, all three members of New Day are running for the curtain that leads to the fabled “Gorilla position” – the spot where WWE Superstars make their entrances and exits – named in honor of WWE Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon. I follow suit – just not quite as speedily – and by the time I reach Gorilla, a line has already formed, eager to greet and congratulate the Boss.
I occasionally make it a point to wait right outside of the Gorilla position to congratulate a WWE Superstar after a title win or an incredible match. I stood outside the curtain following Shane McMahon’s match with Undertaker at #WrestleMania – because I specifically wanted to be one of the first people Shane McMahon saw when he walked through that curtain. On random occasions, I’ve been met with applause after walking through the curtain from Gorilla. But in all my years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd this large lining up outside the curtain to specifically congratulate one person. I have certainly never seen so many tears.
While some superstars are beaming, the majority of those waiting for their moment with the Boss are either openly crying, or struggling with varying degrees of success to fight that urge to let loose the tears. Then, breaking protocol, her colleagues bypass the curtain and actually file into the fabled Gorilla position. I can’t claim that it’s never happened before; just that I’ve personally never seen it, or heard of it. None of us feel like we are breaking any rules; we all just want to be part of this special moment in time.
Sasha walks through that curtain, holding on to the championship title, amazingly showing no sign of injury – although she will admit the next day that her back is pretty sore – and this impromptu backstage entourage breaks into applause. Triple H is the first to greet her – a man whose vision of what #WomensWrestling could be in WWE has been so instrumental in her life.
He looks into the Boss’s eyes and speaks ever so gently to her. It’s a moment of great tenderness, and I snap a photo to capture that moment – a photo that reveals a tear rolling down the cheek of The Game. I wait my turn as those who have known her longer, have seen her struggle up close, have helped build a new generation of women’s wrestling, embrace her and thank her.
I look over at Stephanie McMahon, standing off to the side letting all who have been along with Sasha on this bumpy, uphill, but ultimately incredible ride to the top, have their moment with the Boss. Her arms are folded, she has the warmest smile on her face, and her eyes are welled up with tears. When I finally get my moment with the Boss, I simply say, “no one has ever worked harder, and no one has ever deserved it more.” And then I too lose in my battle of the tears.
There were no balloons, confetti, displays of brilliant pyrotechnics or in-ring celebrations to commemorate this title victory. But looking around this room, at the smiles, the hugs, the tears, I realize that I have never seen so many people so genuinely happy at another person’s success. And I know that I will never forget this night – when the little girl who never stopped dreaming, who refused to take no for an answer, who made the words “be so good they can’t ignore you” her mantra in life, became the NEW WWE Women’s Champion.