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LOTS MORE ON THE SASHA BANKS-NAOMI WALKOUT LAST NIGHT AT RAW

By Mike Johnson on 2022-05-17 11:23:00

For those who have asked about the Raw walkout, one version of the story that has been floated by several PWInsider.com has spoken with is that the originally conceived finish would feature the WWE Women's Tag Team Champions facing off during the main event of Raw in the Six Pack Challenge, with Naomi beating Sasha Banks to end the match.

PWInsider.com is told that the original plan for Raw would have seen Banks and Naomi featured in two or three segments building up the idea that they would be facing off in the main event.  After the bout, Raw would have gone off the air with the pair celebrating that Naomi was going to face Belair at the Hell in the Cell PPV.

The conceived storyline idea was that Naomi would then go on to Hell In A Cell and lose to Bianca Belair.  There are some who believe that at this week’s Smackdown, an angle would have also been shot for Sasha Banks to wrestle and lose to Ronda Rousey, likely also at HIAC.  So, the Women's Tag Team Champions would have effectively been used to put over the Raw and Smackdown Women's Championship titleholders in the weeks ahead.

We are told that at some point during the day, likely after the initial concerns about creative were raised, there was an alternative idea that would have been Banks and Naomi have a short tag team match instead and be beat down after to set up a different program.  One source cited their opponents would have been Nikki A.S.H. and Doudrop but we have not 100% confirmed that to be the case.

We are told that shortly before Raw, Banks and Naomi were informed by WWE Producer Molly Holly that WWE was going with the Six Pack Challenge direction with Naomi going over.  Shortly after, they informed John Laurinaitis they were leaving, leaving the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship belts behind.  

PWInsider.com is told Vince McMahon, sitting at the gorilla position, was told about the talents leaving just as or right after Raw went on the air.  The Becky Lynch-Adam Pearce segment was pitched on the spot (one source credited Lynch with the idea) and McMahon ordered it to be shot and then placed into the show to start explaining the change to the by-now announced Raw main event.

The belief among some is that the creative issue was not with Banks losing to Naomi but how the duo would have been portrayed over the next several weeks, especially after they had put so much time into building their team once Vince McMahon issued an edict that they would be teaming and winning the Women’s Tag Team titles at Wrestlemania 38 - and that after diving into building that team, they were going to wrestle each other and go off to put over other talents, leaving them, exactly where no one knows, which apparently was the crux of the issue.  The WWE plan looks to have been that the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship would have been downplayed until their next program after Hell In A Cell concluded.  

There are two trains of thought here, depending on what side of the fence you are on:

1 - Sasha Banks and Naomi stood up against what they felt was bad creative that worked against them and everything they had built for themselves over the last several months.   Therefore, they were fighting for themselves, what they felt was best and their fans.

2 - Sasha Banks and Naomi were talents who were instructed to do what the promotion that pays them wanted them to do, fought against it and when they didn’t beat City Hall, instead opted to walk out and not perform.  Therefore, they let the company and their own fans down.

That’s a black and white way of looking at things.  The truth, however, probably sits somewhere in a gray area in the middle.   

Some are going to think Banks and Naomi were being marks for themselves, especially in the unfathomable situation where a talent is told she is going over in the main event of Monday Night Raw, balks at the idea and walks out.  Some will easily point at Banks and Naomi and claim this was an ego or an attitude issue.   

Others will look at this as a moment where talents, faced with creative that didn't click or have any true building blocks underneath it as support, shoved back and refused, wanting something better for themselves and the audience. 

It all depends on what side you have sympathy for and believe was in the right, based on the information at hand.  

Sources have indicated that at the center of the issue was that neither Sasha Banks nor Vince McMahon blinked when the other refused to back down on what they wanted. 

However, only a few know for sure what was said in the room when it all went down.  The true unanswered question here is what happened in the meeting with Vince McMahon.  Did he agree to change some of the direction and then changed his mind?  Did he put his foot down and say absolutely not?  Did other producers or creative team members get involved?  Were Banks and Naomi told to stop the arguments and go with the plan?  We don't know, as we don’t yet have those answers. 

We do, however, have WWE’s statement and Corey Graves’ comments on Raw about the duo being unprofessional.  The statement comes off as if someone from WWE’s legal department laid it out, building the foundation for an argument that Banks and Naomi had potentially breached their WWE contracts, putting WWE in a position where they couldn’t deliver their advertised main event.  

Surely, there have been an infinite amount of times where WWE advertised and didn’t deliver something, but they can always argue that they changed their scripted storylines, where here, the talents refused to play their parts.  After all, they could argue, if you are on The Walking Dead, you don’t get to argue you don’t want to get bit by the zombie when you are scripted to be bit, but that’s what Banks and Naomi allegedly did, therefore WWE and their fans were harmed.  From the outside looking in, you can see them winding up that pitch.

The comments on Raw about the duo being unprofessional came off as if they were dictated by Vince McMahon himself.  You know if there’s one thing McMahon doesn’t want, it’s to have to change his TV show for the umpteenth time for any outside reason beyond his own whims.  Whether all the parties make up today or tomorrow, in the moment, you could feel the Vince “doesn’t give a sh**” anger coming through on that line of commentary.

The WWE statement issued to PWInsider.com last night was later published on WWE’s website and social media.  It was also sent to the entire talent roster.

As to whether this was a work, it wasn't.   But, that doesn't mean that should things smooth over, things cannot retroactively be worked into WWE's official storylines.  

As of this morning, Banks and Naomi remain on WWE’s active roster internally.  If, where and when they appear on WWE programming again remains to be seen - as is the status of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship - and there won’t be any clarity on that until there’s additional communication between the two sides.  

Whether this becomes something that gradually blows over or becomes a more involved legal issue remains to be seen in the days ahead.

If you enjoy PWInsider.com you can check out the AD-FREE PWInsider Elite section, which features exclusive audio updates, news, our critically acclaimed podcasts, interviews and more by clicking here!

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