Becky Lynch won me over on January 18, 2016. It was the moment the lass kicker’s appeal clicked into place for me. On the go home edition of Raw, heading into Roman Reigns’ now quaint one-versus-all Royal Rumble, heel Charlotte had just refused Becky another match for the Divas Championship. The champ had already “beaten” Lynch rather dubiously back in November, and no arrogant heel would be worth their salt if they didn’t twist a questionable win into a get out of jail free card.
Except Charlotte was not alone. In her corner was her father, Ric Flair. If the champ wouldn’t consent to a rematch, maybe the Nature Boy would.
“What would all those Hall of Famers think of your daughter?” Becky asked. “Ric, you never backed down from a challenge”. While the accuracy of this last statement is a little soft under scrutiny, it did have the desired effect – Becky got her title match, sanction by Flair Sr himself. Becky Lynch had gone mic to mic with the greatest promo machine in history and she’d come out on top.
Sure, it was likely all scripted, but that night in Columbus, Ohio Becky showed a seed of the charisma that’s made her a low key fan favourite ever since.
That’s right, Charisma. In an increasingly stacked women’s division Becky Lynch ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack for promo delivery (Alexa Bliss is more focused and Charlotte, on the right day, is more intense) but everyone else pales in comparison to her natural ability to be a compelling personality. She’s goofy. She makes terrible puns. But in a company which scripts promos like they’re auditioning for the SNL writers’ room, Becky is one of the few who never sounds like she’s reading lines.
Which brings me to the unpleasant part. The more I see of how WWE utilise Becky Lynch, the more I worry her talents might occupy a blind spot in the company’s management. Her goofy charm, her accent (Kevin Dunn, you utter cretin) and her steampunk gimmick all place a ceiling on her within WWE. There’s no doubt, of course, that WWE values Becky as a popular workhorse, but it’s obvious she’s seen as the lowest priority of the now foundational four horsewomen. She was rewarded for her hard work with the first ever Smackdown Women’s Championship, it’s true. But her successor Alexa Bliss has seen a far more sustained push since, to the point of being redrafted to the flagship show.
A 71 year old republican who launched a failed football league cannot conceive of an Irish lass kicker with shiny orange hair and a penchant for steampunk goggles as a marketable top babyface. This sort of audience-blindness isn’t new. HBO turned down Mad Men before it landed on AMC. Columbia and Disney passed on Back to the Future before it became a hit for Universal. In wrestling, however, there is only one “studio” and one “network” at the top. If the WWE passes on a potentially bank making superstar there’s really nowhere for them to go. Just ask Daniel Bryan. Ask CM Punk.
Call me cynical, but if it were up to Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn, I strongly suspect women would still be fighting in mud filled paddling pools for the dubious honour of appearing in Playboy. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H cannot take enough credit for ridding us of that garbage. Even so, Becky Lynch may soon find herself languishing in the same frustrating space as Bryan and Punk before her. Here stands yet another star with presence and fan connection enough to make WWE millions of dollars, but from an audience they cannot understand. Perhaps they don’t want to.
Still, perhaps it’s a hidden blessing WWE aren’t as high on Becky Lynch as they are on some of her women’s division co-stars. Bayley, for whom I still hold an undying appreciation and an unapologetically purple t-shirt, is the most recent result of WWE pushing a woman like she’s a star without ever truly understanding her appeal. At least Becky, who’s been simmering just outside the title picture since February, has the advantage of forward momentum.
WWE will not see her star power until it is too late. They may never see the audience she could attract. But this is nothing new. WWE feels more and more hampered by a creative genius who can no longer stick to a plan. Star making opportunities (most recently, Money in the Bank) are sacrificed in the name of popping ratings or simple stubbornness. This is the company that seemingly mind-fucked CM Punk so badly he left the business. It’s the company that saw Daniel Bryan blossom into a bearded icon and instead told us Orton and Batista would be the biggest main event in Wrestlemania history.
It’s anyone’s guess if Becky Lynch can catch fire in the same way Bryan and Punk did. But within WWE’s current roster she ranks in a select group for which it is not outside the realms of possibility. Her gimmick is unique, her look is recognisable and her charm and heart make her easy to relate to. No doubt WWE will see fit to give her another title push sooner or later, but whether they ever pull the proverbial trigger on her is far from certain. The whole thing vexes me, you guys. It’s like a crossword puzzle where none of the answers fit.