EDIT 2020: Five years on, I think it’s interesting to read this because this is pretty much want happened tenfold. UpUpDownDown became huge, and now every wrestler seems to have their own channel. There is everything from fitness channel Sheamus’ Celtic Warrior Workouts, to Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville’s donut reviewing channel Damandyz Donuts.
However, there is a broad variation in how much they deviate from their characters. Some stay entirely in character online (Sasha Banks), some ditch it entirely (Billie Kay has just launched JMcKayDoes), and others teeter between the two. Tegan Nox has found the best equilibrium. You can find her making videos by her birth name (Steffanie Newell) on Cameo, telling her backstage story on UpUpDownDown, as well as complimenting it by talking about her fictitious falling out with Dakota Kai were a reality. Xavier Woods/Austin Creed/Austin Watson adds to this by treating his playful rivalry with UpUpDownDown champion Tyler Breeze as reality. This was what I wanted to see more of, but now that the whole roster seems to have its own independent social network that is more interesting than WWE programming often is, I’m not sure I want them to overlap anymore!
Are WWE finally getting the hang of social media? It may be a bold statement, but a clique with the tagline of “booty!” (sorry… “#BOOTY”) have become the most positively influential personalities in the WWE. Who would have thought that three women who demonstrate everything that upset fans about the Diva Division? There is the sensational Sasha Banks, now provoking upset by her very presence as fans witness her suppression. There is Tamina, the latest to fall foul to mononym syndrome (how long until Sasha Banks becomes ‘Sasha’), accused of minimal personality. There is Naomi, the ultimate stereotype of the ‘Diva’, oozing bitchiness with a catchphrase “girl-bye” and her diabolical Rear View rear end finisher.
And yes. That was a butt joke from Naomi there. Yet somehow, they are the (no longer) missing link that completes what online fans salivate for in the mid-card – a depth that finally makes proper use of social media.
Let’s face it. Whether fans want to admit it or not, The New Day is the most entertaining thing going on in the WWE main roster programming at the moment, and in recent memory. That’s quite a statement, as Seth Rollins, who months ago, everyone wanted to be the face of the company (albeit, just to prevent Reigns from being so) until Night of Champions, and until Rollins put him through a table, even Sting had presumably been in the running for one of the titles.
In spite of the importance of said personalities, even the uppermost bill struggles with more than one thing taking place in the life of a wrestler. Once a feud is over, it is though they never think about them again until they meet in the ring. A feud never ends amicably with a handshake. Fans have reason to believe that combatants are still at odds with each other, but it is rarely exploited. Whatever one has to say about Reigns, WWE has booked well the fact that he and Rollins are rivals and at some point, the two will find their ways back to each other for a high profile PPV match. There are others that shouldn’t be ignored, but fans fear will be, such as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (dreamed of as a feud that finds its way to Wrestlemania headlining scale), and Bayley and Sasha Banks (after all, NXT Takeover: Respect didn’t end with the hugs and handshakes that Takeover: Brooklyn did. More on this shortly…)
This was something that once upon a time was achieved beautifully as fans knew that Steve Austin and The Rock were not friends, and how in spite of being in their own feuds, would find each other just in time for Wrestlemania.
Today, WWE seems to refuse to do much of the sort. And it is not like they don’t have the time to do so with hours longer on their televised program since the Attitude Era, and now the infinite plain of the internet and social media. So what has this got to do with The New Day, Team B.A.D. and Mario Kart? The semi-kayfabe casual connection online documents for the first time the perfect method of a return to a multi-layered character booking of 2015 and beyond. This looseness is long overdue, and its inevitability has become more apparent with the translucency of NXT. The New Day and Team B.A.D. might have found the ideal middle ground between the extension of total comedy sketches onto the internet (see online exclusive interviews such as this gem from The New Day and Michael Cole) and shedding characters online to be themselves.
The latter first stood out to most with the success of Austin Creed/Xavier Woods’ online video game show UpUpDownDown, with its cast of codenamed WWE superstars discussing video games. Beyond the low-to-mid card wrestlers there (getting great exposure where RAW and Smackdown won’t allow them), there are also high-profile heels such as Rusev and Seth Rollins appearing and discussing their favourite video games. Here, it is obvious that they are completely set aside from their WWE personalities. While there is no problem with this, that obviousness does not add to their character as detached story in character with low production values (simulating convincingly the ‘real’ lives – taking with them their emotions, to the outside of the ‘squared circle’).
The New Day and Team B.A.D. could not be more perfect as a fourth wall breaking stable. They are the most fitting for their character extending out of the arena. This really began on Raw, when after their victory against Randy Orton and Roman Reigns, The New Day could be seen celebrating in the background in shots of wrestlers making their way to the ring. It was that attitude that really continued brilliantly into social media.
Sasha Banks’ difficult situation is an ideal example of how this can be implemented.
Team B.A.D. are in an unusual situation. In spite of Sasha Banks’ popularity, Team B.A.D. are in difficult third pillar territory in bookings. After all, Team PCB are clearly the faces, and whether or not fans are meant to feel that way, the Bellas are heels, or will be until team PCB crumble. Subsequently, about 90% of their popular exposure is online. It seems kind of sad, but the payoff has been absolutely hilarious and possibly helpful for the whole ‘team’ as individuals. They are now in a waiting room, but they aren’t quite gathering dust in spite for awaiting the closure of ‘Bella vs Team PCB member – Round 93’. This independence of WWE, yet interdependence with The New Day, keeps them alive with external, yet partially in character.
So, why am I so tolerant of the idea of Sasha Banks fading into this background? It is an ideal location for her promotion to take place as she awaits a massive return once (assuming that it ever does), for Bellas vs Paige vs Charlotte/Becky Lynch to blow over. This should be the third and final attempt at giving Sasha Banks a proper independent introduction. Her appearance when dumped Her online character will be solidified, where it was diluted alongside the mass NXT Invasion, and making her first appearance since Takeover: Respect with great respect, yet just being a catalyst for the rest of the Divas to rant. By this point it would be beautiful for her to plow through Naomi upon her big return to centre stage over the course of a couple of weeks, in the knowledge that she is on her way to an NXT alumni.
By this logic, Sasha Banks might not have to appear on Raw again for weeks, if she has to (which wouldn’t come as a surprise, as the allotted ‘Diva’ time seems to be shrinking again). Whether she is there or not, the world is watching, and waiting, as in her absence she has become the deepest character in the Diva Division. Pipe dreams or not, there is no denying that the position that The New Day and Team B.A.D. have established themselves in, is precisely where far more wrestlers should be.
Though until a satisfactory entrance is pieced together (fingers crossed it will arrive one day), fans won’t be too sour when watching her just keep dancing for a while.