Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Bayley signed with WWE in 2012 with Irish wrestler Becky Lynch arriving a year later. They quickly made their mark in the developmental NXT sub-promotion and soon became among their main attractions, no mean feat in a roster that included Dash & Dawson, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens & Samoa Joe.
NXT Women’s Championship reigns quickly followed for Charlotte Flair in 2014 (and later in 2020), Sasha Banks in 2015, winning it from Charlotte Flair at NXT Takeover: Rival in a four-way that also included Bayley and Becky Lynch, & Bayley in 2015, winning from Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, in what was arguably the best match in the company, if not the world.
That year (WWE controversially gave the Slammy Award for Match of the Year in 2015 to Brock Lesnar v The Undertaker at Hell in a Cell, discounting Sasha Banks V Bayley as it fell under the NXT banner. The match did win NXT Match of the Year for 2015). There was no NXT Women’s Championship reign for Becky Lynch.
After Charlotte, Sasha and Becky debuted on Raw in July 2015 under Stephanie McMahon’s proposed “Women’s Revolution”, Charlotte Flair defeated Nikki Bella to become the 26th (and last) Divas Champion. At Wrestlemania 32, the Divas Championship was decommissioned and would become the WWE Women’s Championship, with the winner to be crowned after a triple threat match between Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, 9 months after all 3 women had debuted on the main WWE roster.
At Backlash 2016, after a draft split meant that the WWE Women’s Championship was stationed on Raw and became the Raw Women’s Championship, Smackdown held a six-pack challenge to crown the inaugural Smackdown Women’s Champion.
Becky Lynch was given the nod to have such the honour of defeating Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Naomi, Natalya and Nikki Bella. She would hold the title for 84 days before dropping the strap to another NXT graduate, Alexa Bliss, at TLC 2016 in a Table Match.
A full year after the main roster debut of three of the Horsewomen, the fourth member, Bayley, made her debut as Sasha Banks’ mystery tag partner against Charlotte Flair and Dana Brooke at Battleground 2016.
She would then appear next on August 22nd when she was made a member of the Raw roster by then General Manager Mick Foley.
Since that day in July 2015, The Four Horsewomen have 11 Raw Women’s Championship reigns, 11 Smackdown Women’s Championship reigns, 1 Divas Championship reign, a Women’s Tag Team reign, 2 winners of the Women’s Royal Rumble and 2 Wrestlemania headline matches between them but who among them is the best?
Let’s take a deeper look as WWE’s creative direction would like you to think it Charlotte Flair, the merch sales, crowd reactions and social media engagement would suggest it, Becky Lynch, the “smart” fans will shout from the top of Titan Towers that it is Sasha Banks… and then there are contrarians like myself who are adamant that it is definitely Bayley.
Charlotte Flair is WWE royalty. Daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair, holder of 4 Raw Women’s Championships and 5 Smackdown Championships, 1 Divas Championship and the winner of the 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble.
She has been a champion for a combined 600+ days. She stands at 5’10 with flowing blonde hair, an Amazonian-esque physique completed with flamboyant ring costumes mirroring her dad’s penchant for the flash and in-your-face visuals, all contrasting a dominant in-ring style, she is the embodiment of Vince McMahon’s “How To Look Like A Wrestler” 101.
So where is the problem? Why isn’t she at top of the pile? Quite simply, she has trouble connecting with the fans.
Ever since the whispers that WWE creative and Vince McMahon were very keen on having Charlotte equal, or even better, her dads (debatable) 16 title reigns and she started to clock up these reigns at an alarming pace, the fans started to feel this approach was all too familiar, hot on the heels of “the John Cena era” and started to turn on her.
If she’s presented as a face, she gets heel heat, if she is a heel, she receives “Go Away” or “X-Pac” heat. So what about someone who got over with the fans…?
Sasha Banks has a record 5 Raw Women’s Championship reigns, 1 Smackdown Women’s Championship and is the first winner of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship.
A stunningly beautiful woman displaying a bling hip-hop aesthetic (her cousin is Snoop Dogg after all), she exudes cool and a brash, infectious aura of self-belief and attitude all complimented with an in-ring style modelled on her idol, the late, great Eddie Guerrero.
Mix this with a technical, hard-hitting element similar to Dean Malenko, Sasha should be the de-facto stand-out of The Four Horsewomen and she would most certainly be if it wasn’t for her four-month strop after dropping the Women’s Tag Team Championships to The Iiconics at Wrestlemania 35.
There was a large proportion who wanted Banks back in the company and on TV and an equal amount who would also accept her back but believed she should start at the bottom of the pile so when she returned straight into a feud with top dog Sasha Banks and re-align herself with best friend and then-Smackdown Women’s Champion, Bayley, many feared that may set an unacceptable precedent for others to go on a moody holiday should they not like their creative direction (it remains to be seen if the fans would take the moral high ground though if CM Punk ever makes a return).
So what about someone who is SUPER over with the fans and didn’t disappear in a huff?
Becky Lynch. The Irish Lass Kicker. The Man. Becky was always considered “The Quiet One” of The Four Horsewomen. A ridiculously attractive woman with flame-red hair and a steampunk look, she has always been well received by live crowds with fans begging for her to be given a proper push.
Cruelly overlooked for an NXT title reign, her run as the first Smackdown Women’s Champion was short and she seemed destined to be the nearly woman. All that changed, however, on August 19th 2018 at Summerslam.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair were heading in to a triple threat match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship against another NXT success and then-champion Carmella. Becky was the white-hot fan favourite but Charlotte was the back-office favourite and was given the nod, picking up the win with a pin over Lynch.
In what was supposed to be a heel turn, Lynch attacked Flair post-match but instead of boos, the roof of the Barclays Centre almost became unglued. Attempts were made by creative to have the fans turn on her including an OUCH putdown delivered to Edge on an episode of Smackdown and free reign to go all-out offence on Twitter and red-hot promos on TV but it was all futile.
Everyone loved Becky Lynch and she was THE top draw in the company, very much in the character mould of Anti-hero seen in WWE legend Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Title reigns followed and a win in the 2019 Women’s Royal Rumble set up the triple threat match with Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair at Wrestlemania 35 for both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships and became the first Wrestlemania headlined by women.
She held the Raw Championship for over a year before relinquishing the title on an episode of Raw in April 2020 after falling pregnant. So why isn’t the biggest success story of recent days ahead of the pack?
Well, quite simply, her in-ring work isn’t all that good. She is sloppy and clumsy and always seems to be tripping over her feet and has a very slow stop-start method of moving around the ring. She even managed to botch the ending to the Wrestlemania 35 main event. I, personally loved her promos, her attitude and her social media output but I couldn’t watch her matches.
So it’s Bayley. As previously mentioned, a Match of the Year winner, 3 title reigns stretching over 600 days, first Women’s Tag Team Champion but the accolades aside, her resilience is unmatched.
She had the flamboyant entrance akin to Charlotte Flair with the tube people and the bubblegum pop entrance music but when she started to go stale in terms of her character, she changed everything down to her famous ponytail and even literally slashing the tub people.
The fans booed her and received genuine heel heat and this way of working and manipulating the crowd is something Charlotte Flair could only dream of. Like Sasha Banks, she was also unhappy at dropping the Tag Titles so soon after winning them but unlike Sasha Banks, she stayed professional and was ultimately rewarded with a Smackdown Women’s Champion run.
She also worked on her promos after being criticised for being “too kid-friendly” and this resulted in her backstage skits at Wrestlemania 37 being incredibly entertaining. She isn’t, and probably will never be, at Becky Lynch’s level in that regard but her progress is blinding.
She also knows how to shift merchandise with her iconic violet “I’m A Hugger” t-shirt being amongst WWE Shop’s top sellers and repeatedly selling out frequently at live events… and this was when she was still in NXT! Her in-ring work is consistently strong, probably the best wrestler out of The Four Horsewomen, just edging out Sasha Banks and I feel she could have a great match with anyone in the company.
Bayley is the crown jewel in the WWE’s women’s division. What should not go unsaid in regards to these four women is the inspiration they give to female wrestling fans and especially those who aspire to be a professional wrestler. All these women are terrific role models, they have broken down so many barriers and will hopefully continue in that vein and inspire others to do so.