Sasha Banks, Naomi’s WWE Walkout and Suspension Explained

Sasha Banks and Naomi.
Photo: WWE

Sasha Banks and Naomi (real names Mercedes Varnado and Trinity Fatu) – two of WWE’s biggest stars and current Women’s Tag Team Champions – left a Monday night Raw Accepted on May 16 and refused to perform at the main event. According to a statement released by WWE, the two questioned some creative decisions and then “walked into WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis’ office, suitcases in hand, laying their tag team championship belts on his desk and went out”. While it’s not uncommon to leave a show — Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk both famously left over similar disputes — even in New York, Sasha and Naomi’s punishment was so quick and severe post Office thinks it looks bad. But the reaction has also made them virtual folk heroes, especially to those critical of WWE leadership.

It started during Monday night Raw when color commentator Corey Graves announced the couple had “Leave the arena unprofessionally.” Although the Raw Team managed to write the main event walkout into the show and deliver a main event between Becky Lynch and Asuka that was perfect, WWE released a statement later that night to explain the absence of their tag team champions to explain.

“They claimed they weren’t respected enough as tag team champions,” the statement said. “And despite having eight hours to rehearse and set up their match, they claimed that they felt uncomfortable in the ring with two of their opponents despite having had matches with those individuals in the past without consequences. Monday Night Raw is a scripted live television show whose characters are expected to fulfill the requirements of their contract.”

The statement appeared to confirm rumors that Sasha and Naomi were having issues with a new storyline set to begin that night, which would have separated them just weeks after winning their tag team title – something they’ve been on since February worked together and this saw Sasha Banks’ first (very emotional) wrestlemania to win. The storyline, set to begin that night, would have reportedly got Sasha and Naomi turning on each other, with Naomi pinning Sasha and winning a shot to challenge Bianca Belair for the singles Raw Women’s Championship, then loss to Belair. Sascha would have challenged that knock down Women’s Champion Rhonda Rousey before also losing. This would have put their tag team on hold as WWE used Naomi and Sasha’s star power to create more excitement for their individual champions. A viral twitter thread by someone who seems to be a friend of Naomi’s – or at least a fan of hers follows and interacts with online – claimed that when they expressed their frustration, they were called “spoiled” and told to “fix their attitudes” and may even have erupted in screams, ultimately leading to their decision to leave.

The statement’s negative tone was particularly blunt in light of recent events. To say that Sasha and Naomi “claimed” they were uncomfortable with two of their opponents that night — assuming that’s true — is an odd thing for WWE that WWE is derogatory about given the promotion right now another superstar, Big E, broke his neck during a botched suplex knock down just two months ago. Banks also has cause for concern as she recently sustained a shoulder injury during a game in 2019 that nearly sidelined her. Why the promotion seems to want to publicly shame every wrestler for making them feel uncomfortable is unclear, but it’s possible that this comment is just a bit of strategy to create bad blood with the other cast members. The fact that this particularly patronizing reaction happens to be aimed at WWE’s first black female tag team champions — not to mention that Sasha and Bianca Belair were actually the first black women in the history to the headline wrestlemania only last year– makes it all the more outrageous.

Naomi and Sasha have kept a low profile on the matter throughout the week, aside from Sasha’s decision to unfollow WWE, Vince McMahon, and several other Superstars on Twitter and Naomi Removed all mentions of WWE from her Twitter bio – even after the WWE announced on Friday May 20th knock down that it suspended the duo indefinitely and revoked their tag team championship.

“Sasha Banks and Naomi let us all down,” said commentator Michael Cole. “Their actions have disappointed millions of WWE fans and their fellow Superstars.” Fans noted that commentator Pat McAfee’s confused expression belied Cole’s words, leading McAfee later addressed in his podcast, The Pat McAfee Show.

“That was the first time I heard what Cole was saying live there,” McAfee said. “They were our champions,” he continued, adding that he was just as confused as anyone by this turn of events. “I honestly have no idea what to make of this whole thing.”

The severity of this punishment is very clear: Banks and Naomi’s merchandise has already been pulled from the WWE Store and they are no longer booked for upcoming shows. WWE plans to hold a new tag team tournament to redistribute the title. Banks and Naomi reportedly did, however were not released through the promotion, which means they remain contractually bound to WWE.

This puts Banks and Naomi in the unenviable position of working for a company that seemingly wants nothing to do with them, but can also prevent them from working anywhere else. Current Superstars and veterans alike have expressed their support for the duo, albeit cautiously. Former WWE Women’s Champion Mickie James told Busted Open Radio“I actually applaud them for how they stand about their beliefs and how they felt,” she said. “There’s always ‘ticket subject to change’ and there have certainly been people who have left, just left, packed up and gone home or been labeled ‘unprofessional,’ but it’s never been pointed out before. So I find that a bit ironic.” Hall of Famer Mark Henry was careful to say that his main issue was Corey Graves’ “unprofessional” commentary. Shayna Baysler posted photos of their matches with the duo via a Warhammer quoteand CM Punk shared a tweet Many read it as a call for fellow wrestlers to show their good old solidarity to Banks and Naomi. “It doesn’t matter whether you think positively or negatively of your colleague. Stand by them,” he wrote. “Because they’ll do the same to you and you’ll want someone to help. Trust me. you are expendable Together you are unstoppable.”

While neither Naomi nor Sasha have publicly posted or said anything since the strike, Sasha’s cousin Snoop Dogg has posted photos with her to his Instagram feed (one with the caption “Bloodline,” which could be read as a nod to WWE Universal Champion’s Roman Reigns ‘ Cabal villain wrestler named Bloodline), and she was spotted dancing with his son Cordell at a Steve Aoki show on Sunday night.

The strike between Naomi and Sasha could be a turning point for WWE. When All elite wrestling It was released on TNT in the fall of 2019 and marked the end of Vince McMahon’s functional monopoly on professional wrestling. Performers unhappy with the way WWE does business can now pursue careers elsewhere — something that would have been almost impossible just a few years ago — and the fans uninterested, the stars who they love to be seen disappearing in the backroom because of little quarrels, can follow them.

But for now, fans can only wait and see where Banks and Naomi will make their next dramatic appearance. Be it WWE, AEW or a Disney+ spinoff series by Koska Reeves. Sasha Banks, Naomi’s WWE Walkout and Suspension Explained

Lindsay Lowe

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