RondaRousey.com’s Classic Match series takes a closer look at significant and super cool matches from wrestling history.
NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn included a demon in a ladder match and a model fighting a beast god, but its most compelling story was its most relatable: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship. The NXT Universe’s lovable underdog took on its arrogant champion in a match that hooked the crowd with its story of determination and standing up to a bully and made women’s wrestling history at the same time.
Going into this match, former friends Bayley and Sasha Banks couldn’t seem more different. Bayley had never hidden the fact that she was chasing her childhood dream, even when her lifelong WWE fandom made her seem uncool to her peers. Fans of all ages were inspired by her enthusiasm and kept rooting for her even as she kept coming up short in her pursuit of the NXT Women’s Championship.
Sasha Banks disagreed with the fans, and constantly put down Bayley’s approach to her wrestling career. Banks had become The Boss in order to succeed, masking her insecurities with trash talk, swagger, and shutter shades. She didn’t just believe Bayley was a loser—she needed to believe Bayley was a loser in order to justify her own actions. And it seemed like after several high-profile losses and a serious hand injury, Bayley might believe it too.
But at the contract signing on the episode of NXT before TakeOver, Bayley finally snapped. She said she could feel that this title shot was different from those she’d had before and called out Sasha to fight right then and there. When Sasha flaunted her appearances on RAW and SmackDown and said Bayley wasn’t worth fighting, Bayley jumped her. It was a glimpse at the Bayley that could beat The Boss, but the question remained whether she could sustain and channel that rage into something that would help her win their actual match.
Stephanie McMahon’s in-ring speech and the video package that followed it reminded fans that this match wasn’t just about the NXT Women’s Championship or a broken friendship or the underdog angle. It was about the evolution of women’s wrestling. Sasha and Bayley’s relationship developed in the context of the Four Horsewomen, the stable of exceptionally talented female NXT wrestlers (rounded out by Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch) driven to make their own opportunities in a male-dominated industry. A women’s championship match in the semi-main event spot on a pay-per-view, with a backstory in which so many fans were so invested, was bound to go down in history.
When the bell rang, a match began that would have been awesome even without its unique historical context. Sasha makes fun of Bayley’s ring gear, including the cast on her right hand (decorated with black and yellow polka dots, a tribute to the recently deceased Dusty Rhodes). Bayley shows the fire sparked at the contract signing and just goes after Banks with strikes. Each woman gives back everything she receives, and each shows how driven she is to be the champion by going for pins early in the match.
The fight’s turning point is when Banks, after throwing Bayley out of the ring, rips the brace off her hand. The Boss continues ruthlessly, crushing her opponent’s injured limb in the steps and making the commentary team think she’s probably broken Bayley’s hand. But Bayley doesn’t give up. She starts using a double axehandle to make up for the weakened hand. She reverses the Banks Statement even after Sasha stomps on her hand to ensure she submits. Sasha tries to beat her down on the turnbuckle, but, with the perfect mix of strength, spirit, and skill, Bayley hits a hurricanrana from the top rope and follows it with her signature Bayley-To-Belly suplex for the win.
Bayley winning the NXT Women’s Championship after so long was one of those perfect, heartwarming moments in wrestling. After years of hard work and being told she wasn’t good enough, Bayley took her place at the top of the women’s division.
Bayley, Sasha Banks, and the other Horsewomen—as well as the rest of WWE’s female wrestlers—would continue to work hard both in NXT and on the main roster, proving the people telling them they weren’t good enough wrong. What in 2015 was called the Divas Revolution would become the Women’s Revolution, and the NXT Women’s Championship match at TakeOver: Brooklyn would be recognized as an important part of the movement.
You can go back and revisit this match (and the entirety of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn) on the WWE Network.