Friday, January 11, 2019

The Man Comes Around! Becky Lynch is the top wrestler of 2018!

Becky Lynch by Rob Schamberger.
Rarely can I say a talent topping the year end list made a mark on only part of the calendar year. Sasha Banks, Broken Matt Hardy and AJ Styles had career defining years with matches and stories that reshaped the wrestling world for much of 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively. The same cannot be said for Becky Lynch.

Becky first came on my radar when she was still Rebecca Knox. In the earliest days of Shimmer, she worked for the promotion yet her career seemed to be speeding to an end. She retired from in ring activity in 2008, a perplexing decision for me as she seemed to be one of the best women on the independents at the time.

In 2012 she returned to wrestling and almost immediately signed with WWE, as the promotion clearly had something in mind for the woman they renamed Becky Lynch. If you look at those early days, she clearly seemed positioned to serve as a training body for the talents WWE wanted to bring up. She wrestled regularly against Bayley, Carmella and Sasha Banks. But even as she became a more important figure in NXT, she was the one member of the Four Horsewomen never to hold the title.

Even when she was called up to the main roster, it seemed like she was destined to forever be the bridesmaid but never the bride. Even when called up to the main roster, the Divas and then Women's title eluded her grasp until the new brand split. She seemed mostly defined by betrayals during this period, with both Paige and Charlotte turning on her at one point or another. She became the inaugural Smackdown Women's Champion, but no one saw her reign as anything exceptional, and Alexa Bliss quickly stole her thunder as the next "in" star.

She spent much of the first part of the year as a body in various battles with the Riott Squad. The Iiconics became her next regular feud, but one confined only to television, and one frequently interspersed with random battles with Mandy Rose or Sonya Deville. She seemed stuck in a rut.

But SummerSlam... well, it changed a few things. In the lead up to the match between Becky Lynch and Carmella, Charlotte made her return to the roster. She won a match that inserted her into the SummerSlam title match. Becky was none too pleased that her friend turned enemy turned friend was inserted herself in Becky's chance for the title.

Things came to a head at SummerSlam. Charlotte stole a victory and became Women's Champion, only to be brutally assaulted by Becky Lynch. Thus, The Man was born.

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Since that time, Becky has become a dominant force on Smackdown. She would win the title at Hell in the Cell and defend it against Charlotte twice more. It's hard to argue that she's the top female wrestler in the company when she went on to put on multiple amazing matches for the remaining pay-per-views of the year. Her new personality came with a cutting wit that she was only allowed to show rarely before. Even dropping the title at TLC (without being pinned) just set her up to continue a dominant streak in the months ahead.

Yet the most interesting thing about Becky throughout her WWE career is that she's carried a narrative through-line. She's always been the good person, the one that wants a better division, a better place on the card and friends. Yet even since NXT, she's always the one being betrayed by those friends. Even in her turn to the Man, she continued to be the face in her own story. Charlotte betrayed her by inserting herself in the match and taking Becky's victory. The Man is just Becky finally letting her old friendships go in favor of a better her and a better women's division.

Perhaps no place shows this better than Smackdown's invasion of Raw before Survivor Series. While it would cost Becky a place at the pay-per-view, the invasion marked her as the leader of an entire division. Her dominance made it clear she could main event anywhere and the inadvertent injury may very well end with her facing Ronda Rousey in the first ever women's main event at Wrestlemania.

Becky Lynch is the Man. And we can all be damn glad she came around.

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