In 2002, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin did the unthinkable. He walked out on the WWE. Upset with being booked against the nWo and Scott Hall at WrestleMania 18, Austin left Toronto’s SkyDome as soon as their match was over and flew home.
Austin wouldn’t return to WWE television until two weeks later.
Austin would do the same thing in June 2002, when asked to face and lose to Brock Lesnar in a qualifying match for the King of the Ring tournament. Austin walked out on the WWE yet again.
Vince McMahon himself would go to the ring on Raw the very next week, address fans and call Austin out.
“Austin has a lot of explaining and a lot of apologizing to do before he comes back. When Austin walked out last Monday it wasn’t the first time he walked out on us. It happened once before, the day after WrestleMania when Austin packed his bag without notifying anyone and went home,” said McMahon to the fans on the June 17th edition of Raw.
McMahon also said that Austin should apologize to every superstar in the locker room, the company he helped build and the fans.
Years later, Austin would admit that although he did have some justifiable criticisms and concerns, that he addressed the situation poorly.
“I handled it in the worst way I could by saying that’s when I effectively quit and I was gone for six or eight months or whatever it was but, hell, it was basically career suicide for almost anybody! I lost a lot of money. The company lost a lot of money. It was just a bad part of my life that I handled in a horrible fashion. I blew that one and it was on me,” Austin said on his own Steve Austin Show.
Last night, history repeated itself when Sasha Banks and Naomi surrendered the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship belts before walking out on the live broadcast of Raw.
Word is Banks was not happy with how they were being booked in the main event of the evening.
On air, the WWE called their actions “unprofessional” and issued a statement.
“During the broadcast, they walked into WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis’ office with their suitcases in hand, placed their tag team championship belts on his desk and walked out. They claimed they weren’t respected enough as tag team champions. And even though they had eight hours to rehearse and construct their match, they claimed they were uncomfortable in the ring with two of their opponents – even though they’d had matches with those individuals in the past with no consequence,” wrote the WWE.
This isn’t the first time Sasha Banks has walked out on the WWE. In 2019, Banks did that same thing when she and Bayley were scripted to drop the titles to The Iiconics at WrestleMania 35.
I wrote an editorial about the situation then and here I am three years later doing the same thing. Yup. It seems the WWE has a Sasha Banks problem… yet again.
Once again it also appears that many wrestling fans on Twitter don’t understand how the wrestling business works so let me enlighten them.
Being a wrestler is no different than being a Hollywood actor in a television show or a movie. You are paid to play a role. Very few actors have any major influence or say in how their character is portrayed, written or how the story plays out. That isn’t their role or their responsibility.
Wrestling is no different. As an independent worker, you sign a contract with the WWE to depict a persona and all of their ups and downs during the WWE storylines written by bookers, writers and Vince McMahon himself.
The WWE does encourage its talent to bring their own ideas to the table and many do when they question what the creative team has them doing. Many have even justifiably quit the company over the direction of their characters. Not many have just taken their ball and gone home though, which is what Banks and Naomi did last night. They left the WWE, its fans at a live event, and the other superstars who they were supposed to be working with in the lurch because they didn’t like the script.
Sasha Banks seems to have the same issue that Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and others did in the past. They take their portrayals far too seriously while people like Sting, Kevin Owens and others just roll with the punches recognizing what their place is in the bigger picture. Your persona/character wins when the bookers say you win and you lose when the bookers say you lose. That’s your job. Infamously, Bret Hart had a lot of trouble making the distinction between the “The Hitman” character that he played in the ring and being Bret Hart outside of it.
Back in the day when kayfabe was a thing, people confusing the persona with the actual person was more of a thing but these days, the overwhelming majority of fans know the wrestlers they see are just following a script that is written for them. They know full well that wrestling is a physical, athletic soap opera with all of the happenings and the matches being determined beforehand. For the most part, there is that separation.
What Banks also hasn’t learned is that no one talent is bigger than the WWE itself. The company and their system is set up that way. Steve Austin, John Cena, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, The Rock, etc., have all left the WWE at various times and the show has went on without them and always will. Everyone, even … (gasp!) … Roman Reigns … is replaceable as there is always someone else waiting in the wings to take their place, whether a full-timer or a returning part-timer like a Brock Lesnar or Goldberg.
If Banks’ disagreement is over how the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions have been portrayed as a whole, she does have a point. Most of the time they come off as a burden to the WWE, forgotten and downplayed the majority of the time. On the other hand, some of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the business never held a single title during their run in the WWE, never mind defending a championship at pay-per-views or even a WrestleMania.
As for Naomi, one cannot help but to wonder if her family ties will shield her from any possible repercussions as she does have an advantage in backstage politics that others on the roster simply don’t. Naomi’s husband, Jimmy Uso, has been in hot water outside of the WWE and hasn’t seemed to have suffered any kind of fallout from those incidents.
Walking out on the company and the other employees and superstars you are supposed to be working with is not that way to solve or deal with that issue though. Communication and diplomacy is. If that fails and no compromise can be reached, you do what others have done and leave to go work elsewhere when you can, as soon as you can, depending on your contract with the company. You don’t sabotage a live broadcast because a decision didn’t go your way.
To me, Corey Graves is a massive dope, but he was right in what he said on Raw when he called their actions “unprofessional.” Perhaps Sasha Banks really does need to move on to what she seemingly really wants to do — star in movies and television shows. She has already appeared as Koska Reeves in The Mandalorian. I am sure her cousin Snoop Dog could open even more doors for her.
Although one wonders if the issues she has would follow her there too?
What I wrote three years ago still stands true today: “Wrestlers have every right to voice their opinion and disappointment if they think their talents are not being used to their fullest. What separates true professionals from others though is how a superstar reacts to and works through that dissatisfaction.”
If the details of what happened last night are accurate, both Banks and Naomi blew this one and as Steve Austin said about his own situation, that’s on them. They owe their colleagues and the WWE universe an apology.
- May 20, 2022: Sasha Banks and Naomi suspended
- May 18, 2022: Jimmy Smith clarifies Raw walkout details
- May 17, 2022: Mat Matters: Banks, Naomi owe fans, their colleagues and the WWE an apology
- May 17, 2022: Raw report: Re-structured main event leaves Becky Lynch all misty-eyed
- May 16, 2022: Sasha Banks and Naomi surrender titles, walk out of Raw