2016 Pro Wrestling Awards: Female Wrestler of the Year

Sasha Banks

Photo: WWE

Sasha Banks Won Our Vote For 2016 Female Wrestler Of The Year

Over the years, women’s wrestling has struggled to remain relevant. Women, such as Miss Elizabeth, Terri Runnels, and Sunny, have been used as valets and eye candy for male talent. Others, like Alundra Blayze, Wendi Richter, Rockin’ Robin, Bull Nakano and The Fabulous Moolah, have fought their way into the spotlight. Even with their sacrifices, women seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

The premiere championship for women has been the WWE Women’s Championship. The title has been in existence since 1956. The title was vacated in 1990, reactivated in 1993 and vacated again in 1995. The Attitude Era saw the return of the Women’s Championship in 1998.

In the late 90’s through the early 2000’s, women were still seen as eye candy. WWE continued to degrade women by placing them in Pudding matches, Evening Gown matches and Pillow Fights instead of actual wrestling matches. It wasn’t until the mid-2000’s that women found a solid place in the ring.

Trish Stratus, Chyna, Lita, Ivory, Victoria and Molly Holly led a new generation of women who made women’s wrestling popular again. During the initial brand split, the Women’s Championship was exclusive to the RAW brand. The Divas Championship was introduced in 2008 for the women of the Smackdown brand. In 2010, Michelle McCool unified the two titles. The Women’s Championship was retired yet again making the Divas Championship the primary title.

Between 2010 and 2015, the women of WWE continued to perform in the ring. They were still limited in what they were allowed to do and their matches were never the caliber of their male counterparts. The Divas Revolution began in 2015 with the likes of Paige, The Bella Twins, Natalya, Naomi, Charlotte and Becky Lynch.

2016 was a history-making year for women in professional wrestling. Sasha Banks has been one of the strongest influences of the women’s revolution. She has helped propel women’s wrestling, and her career, to new heights with history-making matches in both NXT and WWE, which is why TopRopePress named her the 2016 Female Wrestler of the Year.

Sasha Banks kicked off 2016 with a bang at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. She attacked Charlotte and Becky Lynch after their Divas Championship match, staking her claim to the title. In order to challenge for the Divas Title, she had to break away from Team B.A.D. Sasha battled her former team members, Naomi and Tamina Snuka, throughout February.

Team BAD

Photo: WWE

Shortly following the Team B.A.D. feud, Sasha and Becky Lynch were battling to become number one contender for Charlotte’s Divas Championship. Both of their number one contender matches ended in a No Contest. Therefore, a Triple Threat Match for the Divas Championship was made for WrestleMania 32 featuring Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. Before the big match at WrestleMania, the Divas Championship was retired along with the term Diva. A new Women’s Championship was unveiled which was more fitting for the women’s revolution.


ADVERTISEMENT

After losing the triple threat match at WrestleMania, Sasha was off television until early June. Upon her return, she reignited her feud with Charlotte for the WWE Women’s Championship. Sasha Banks was drafted to the RAW brand on the July 19th episode of Monday Night RAW.

After several beat downs throughout June and July, she recruited a mystery partner in her quest to topple the duo of Charlotte and Dana Brooke. Bayley made her main roster debut at WWE Battleground on July 24th as Sasha’s mystery partner, and the two of them picked up the win over Charlotte and Dana Brooke. The following night on RAW, Sasha defeated Charlotte to win her first WWE Women’s Championship.

Her first title reign lasted just 27 days, with Charlotte regained the title in August at SummerSlam. Sasha sustained a back injury at SummerSlam that would put her out of action for about four weeks. During that time, Sasha quietly married her longtime partner, Sarath Ton, who also works for WWE as a costume designer.

Sasha returned for a triple threat championship match on September 25th at Clash of Champions. Charlotte retained the title beating both Sasha and Bayley. Sasha was granted her one-on-one rematch on the October 3rd episode of RAW, and she captured her second WWE Women’s Championship during the main event of that show.

Hell In A Cell

Photo: WWE

Due to the rematch clause, Charlotte was granted another title shot. Sasha challenged her to a Hell in a Cell match. Charlotte accepted, making history once again as the only two women to have competed inside the steel structure. Additionally, the two were the main event of the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view on October 30th, becoming the first two women to headline a major pay-per-view for WWE. Sasha was unable to fend off Charlotte in the cell and lost the title once again.

On November 20, 2016, Sasha joined the women’s RAW Survivor Series team. While she was eliminated by Natalya of Team SmackDown, the RAW team went on to victory. On November 21, 2016, Sasha invoked her rematch clause, challenging Charlotte to another history making match. During the November 28 episode of RAW, Sasha made history again by forcing Charlotte to tap out in a Falls Count Anywhere match to win the WWE Women’s Championship for the third time.

Sasha versus Charlotte

Photo: WWE

RAW General Manager Mick Foley eventually announced the final battle between Sasha and Charlotte. It would take place on December 18, 2016, at Roadblock: End of the Line and would be a 30-minute Iron Man Match. The match came down to 2-2 at the end of the 30 minutes. During overtime, Sasha could not overcome the odds to retain the title.

Over the course of 2016, Sasha Banks defied odds and brought the women’s division to new heights. From being the main event of a pay-per-view, to being one of the first women to compete in the Hell in a Cell, to holding the WWE Women’s championship three times in 2016. What do you think 2017 has in store for the Boss?

 

Runner-Ups For 2016 Female Wrestler of the Year

  1. Io Shirai
  2. Charlotte Flair

Methodology: The TopRopePress.com staff participated exclusively in our year end awards project. Staff members first submitted nominations for each award category. Following our nominations phase, voting among staff members took place by secret ballot to determine the winners.