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Sasha Banks

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Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks Axxess 2018 crop.jpg
Banks at WrestleMania 34 Axxess
Born
Mercedes Justine Kaestner-Varnado

(1992-01-26) January 26, 1992 (age 29)
Occupation
  • Professional wrestler
  • actress
Spouse(s)
Sarath Ton
(m. 2016)
RelativesSnoop Dogg (cousin)
Brandy Norwood (cousin)
Ray J (cousin)
Daz Dillinger (cousin)
Ring name(s)Mercedes KV
Miss Mercedes
Sasha Banks
Billed height5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)[1]
Billed fromBoston, Massachusetts[1]
Cambridge, Massachusetts[2]
Trained byBrian Fury[3]
Brian Milonas[citation needed]
Hanson[citation needed]
Sara Del Rey[4]
DebutAugust 8, 2010

Mercedes Justine Kaestner-Varnado (born January 26, 1992)[5][6] is an American professional wrestler currently signed to WWE as a member of the SmackDown brand under the ring name Sasha Banks.

Banks previously wrestled on the independent circuit, most notably for Chaotic Wrestling, where she won the Chaotic Wrestling Women's Championship. She signed with WWE in 2012 and was assigned to the NXT brand. She was promoted to WWE's main roster in 2015. Her match against Bayley at NXT TakeOver: Respect in October 2015 was the first women's match to ever headline a NXT TakeOver, the first iron woman match in WWE history, and the longest women's match in WWE history at the time with a length of 30 minutes.[7] Their match was voted by Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) as Match of the Year, with Banks also being voted as Woman of the Year.

Banks went on to hold the Raw Women's Championship five times. In 2016, she and Charlotte Flair became the first women to headline a WWE pay-per-view event, the first women to compete in a Hell in a Cell match, and the first women to win the PWI award for Feud of the Year.[8] In 2019, she won the inaugural WWE Women's Tag Team Championship with her former tag team partner, Bayley, at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. In 2020, she won the SmackDown Women's Championship at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, thus becoming the third-ever WWE Women's Grand Slam Champion and the fourth WWE Women's Triple Crown Winner. That year, she was named Wrestler of the Year by Sports Illustrated.[9] At WrestleMania 37 in 2021, Banks and opponent Bianca Belair became the first Black women to jointly headline a WrestleMania.[10][11]

Early life

Mercedes Justine Kaestner-Varnado[12][13] was born on January 26, 1992, in Fairfield, California, and later moved to various places, including Minnesota, to find schools and hospitals for her autistic brother.[14] Her family settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where she began her professional wrestling career.[15] She went to school online and grew up watching All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (AJW).[16] Her father is African American and her mother is of German descent.[17]

Professional wrestling career

Chaotic Wrestling (2010–2012)

Kaestner-Varnado began training at Chaotic Wrestling (CW), based in Woburn, Massachusetts, in 2008.[citation needed] She made her in-ring debut, under the ring name Mercedes KV, on October 1, 2010, in an intergender tag team match, where she teamed with Nikki Roxx in a losing effort to Alexxis and Danny E. KV and Roxx quickly formed an alliance, teaming together regularly and accompanying each other to ringside.[citation needed] On October 22, KV lost her debut singles match to Danny E,[18] and lost a rematch to him on November 13.[19]

On January 7, 2011, KV earned her first victory when she and Roxx defeated Alexxis and Mistress Belmont in a tag team match. On February 11, KV took part in a five-woman gauntlet match to determine the inaugural Chaotic Wrestling Women's Champion, but was unsuccessful.[20] KV continued competing in singles matches throughout the remainder of 2011 and on December 2 defeated Alexxis in a "I Quit" match to win the Chaotic Wrestling Women's Championship for the first time.[21]

KV made her first successful title defense against Barbie on January 6, 2012.[22] KV faced Luscious Latasha with the championship on the line on January 27, where KV retained the title.[23] KV successfully defended the championship against Alexxis in a rematch.[24] She then successfully defended the championship twice against Nikki Roxx. On June 1, KV defeated Alexxis, Barbie and Mistress Belmont in a fatal four-way match to retain the championship, after which she became the longest reigning Chaotic Wrestling Women's Champion in history by breaking Alexxis's previous record of 182 days.[25] KV went on to defend and successfully retain the championship against Barbie on June 24, against Aida Marie on July 20, and on August 17 against Kasey Ray.[26] KV made her final appearance for Chaotic Wrestling on August 18, where she lost to Ivy Fit in a non-title match. On August 17, the Chaotic Wrestling Women's Championship was declared vacant after Kaestner-Varnado signed a contract with WWE, thus ending her reign at 259 days.[27]

Independent circuit (2010–2012)

Banks as Mercedes KV in February 2012

On August 8, 2010, KV made her debut in New England Championship Wrestling (NECW), teaming with Ivy to defeat the team of Ariel and Sammi Lane.[28] She returned to the NECW on September 4, 2011, again teaming with Ivy, defeating Mistress Belmont and Veda Scott.[29] On September 23, KV defeated Mistress Belmont in a singles match.[30] KV once again returned to the promotion on July 14, 2012, at the Red White and Bruised event, where she was defeated by Adrianna by countout.[31]

KV, under the ring name Miss Mercedes, debuted for National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) on November 19, 2010, where she faced Julian Starr in a losing effort.[32] On the following two nights, Mercedes defeated Sheik Ali and Nick Fahrenheit in singles matches.[33] Mercedes began to feud with The Great Cheyenne, losing to her on several occasions. On August 9, 2011, she wrestled her last match for the NWA, defeating Arlene in a singles match.[34]

WWE

The BFFs (2012–2014)

In June 2012, Kaestner-Varnado participated in a WWE tryout camp and on August 18, it was announced that she had been signed to a contract.[35] She was assigned to NXT, WWE's developmental territory, where she adopted the ring name Sasha Banks, and made her televised debut on NXT on December 12, losing to Paige.[36][37] Banks' first televised win on NXT was on the January 23, 2013 episode against Alicia Fox.[38][39] Banks then entered a storyline where she received letters from a secret admirer, who was eventually revealed to be Audrey Marie, who returned and attacked Banks on the February 20 episode of NXT, due to Marie's jealousy of Banks' success.[40][41] Marie went on to defeat Banks in a match later that episode.[42] Banks' feud with Marie came to an end on the April 3 episode of NXT, when Banks teamed with Paige to defeat Marie and Summer Rae.[43][44] On the June 19 episode of NXT, Banks competed in the NXT Women's Championship tournament to determine the inaugural champion, but lost to Rae in the first round.[45]

After weeks of influence by Summer Rae to make herself relevant, Banks was defeated by the NXT Women's Champion Paige on the September 11 episode of NXT, after which she attacked Paige after the latter attempted to console her, leading to Banks turn into a villainess.[46] Two weeks later on NXT, Banks defeated Bayley, while accompanied by Rae.[citation needed] After the match, Banks cut a promo with Rae and debuted a new gimmick as "The Boss".[47] Banks and Rae, who dubbed themselves The Beautiful, Fierce Females (BFFs), faced Paige and Emma on the October 16 episode of NXT, where they emerged victorious.[48] On the November 13 episode of NXT, the BFFs defeated Bayley and Charlotte in a tag team match, when Charlotte attacked Bayley and aligned herself with Banks and Rae.[49] In mid-January 2014, as Rae moved up to WWE's main roster, Banks and Charlotte began a rivalry with Bayley, who had aligned herself with Natalya, and lost in both singles and tag team matches.[50][51][52] On April 6, Banks made an appearance at WrestleMania XXX as a part of Triple H's entrance.[53] In May, Banks entered a tournament for the vacant NXT Women's Championship, defeating Bayley in the first round, but losing to Natalya in the semi-finals.[54][55] On the July 3 episode of NXT, Banks and Charlotte defeated Bayley and Becky Lynch, only for Charlotte to leave Banks after the match to get attacked by Bayley, with Banks officially disbanding the BFFs in a backstage segment later that night.[56]

NXT Women's Champion (2014–2015)

Banks wrestling Charlotte during a house show

On the August 14 episode of NXT, Banks lost to Bayley in a match to determine the number one contender to the NXT Women's Championship.[57] At NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way on September 11, Banks attacked Bayley after her title match with Charlotte, before Charlotte stopped her.[58] Becky Lynch turned on Bayley and aligned herself with Banks on the October 23 episode of NXT after Banks defeated Bayley in a singles match.[59] Banks promptly began feuding with NXT Women's Champion Charlotte, leading to a match between the two at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution on December 11 with Charlotte's championship on the line, which Banks lost.[60] Banks received a rematch on the December 25 episode of NXT, where she was once again unsuccessful.[61] Banks first appeared on WWE's main roster on the December 30, 2014 episode of Main Event, where she lost to Charlotte in a non-title match.[62] On January 21, 2015, Banks received another title match against Charlotte, which she lost after Becky Lynch attacked Charlotte, causing a disqualification, which led to dissension between Banks and Lynch.[63]

Banks as NXT Women's Champion in March 2015

On February 11 at NXT TakeOver: Rival, Banks won the NXT Women's Championship by pinning Charlotte in a fatal four-way match that also involved Lynch and Bayley.[64] Banks successfully retained the championship against Charlotte in a rematch on the March 4 episode of NXT,[65] and against Alexa Bliss on March 25.[66] At NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable on May 20, Banks defended and retained the title against Becky Lynch.[67] On the July 8 episode of NXT, Banks teamed with Charlotte to defeat Emma and Dana Brooke, after which Charlotte challenged Banks to an NXT Women's Championship match, which Banks accepted.[68] They had their championship match the following week on the July 15 episode of NXT, in which Banks retained the championship and the two shared a hug, with Charlotte raising Banks's hand as a sign of respect.[69]

At NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn on August 22, Banks dropped the NXT Women's Championship to Bayley, thus ending her reign at 192 days.[70] After the match, Banks celebrated with Bayley and former rivals Becky Lynch and Charlotte.[71] The match was highly praised by critics and won Match of the Year at the NXT Year-End Awards.[72] At NXT TakeOver: Respect on October 7, Banks was defeated by Bayley in the main event in the first women's 30-minute Iron man match in WWE history, losing two falls to three in what would be her last match in NXT.[7][73]

Team B.A.D. (2015–2016)

Banks made her official debut on the July 13, 2015 episode of Raw along with Charlotte and Becky Lynch, after Stephanie McMahon called for a "revolution" in the WWE Divas division. While Lynch and Charlotte allied with Paige, who was feuding with Team Bella (Alicia Fox, Brie and Nikki Bella), Banks allied with Naomi and Tamina, who later dubbed themselves as Team B.A.D. (Beautiful and Dangerous), leading to a brawl between the three teams.[74] In her WWE pay-per-view debut on July 19 at Battleground, Banks competed in a triple threat match against Charlotte and Brie Bella, which Charlotte won.[75] Banks went on to defeat Paige twice, first by submission on the July 20 episode of Raw, in a tag team match where Banks teamed with Naomi for the first time,[76] and again on the July 27 episode of Raw in a singles match.[77] After defeating the Divas Champion Nikki Bella by submission in a non-title match on the August 17 episode of Raw,[78] Banks participated in the first-ever Divas number one contender's Beat the Clock challenge match, in which she fought Paige to a time limit draw and Charlotte was named the number one contender.[79] Following this, Banks rekindled her rivalry with Paige and defeated her twice on the September 7 and 14 episodes of Raw.[80][81] Although she lost in a fatal four-way number one contender's match for Charlotte's Divas Championship in November,[82] Banks was not pinned and began a winning streak, defeating the likes of Brie Bella,[83] Alicia Fox,[84] and Becky Lynch on various shows.[85][86][87]

Banks hitting a frog splash during the triple threat women's title match at WrestleMania 32

After a month off television,[88] Banks returned at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on January 24, 2016, attacking Charlotte and Becky Lynch after their championship match, showing her intentions to gain the Divas Championship.[89] Prior to a match with Lynch on the February 1 episode of Raw, Banks claimed that she was "on her own", signaling that she had moved on from Team B.A.D., only to be attacked by Naomi and Tamina during the match, turning Banks into a fan favorite in the process.[90] The feud between Banks and Naomi and Tamina continued throughout February,[91][92][93][94] and led to a tag team match at Fastlane on February 21, where Banks allied with Lynch to defeat the two.[95] Banks and Lynch went on to compete in two matches to determine the number one contender for Charlotte's Divas Championship at WrestleMania 32,[96] with the first bout ending in a draw after a double pin occurred as both of their shoulders were down for the count,[97] and the second in a no contest after both Banks and Lynch were attacked by Charlotte.[98] As a result, a triple threat match between Banks, Lynch and Charlotte for the Divas Championship was announced for WrestleMania.[99][100] At the event on April 3, the Divas Championship was retired and replaced with the new WWE Women's Championship,[101] with all three women competing for it in the triple threat match; Banks was unsuccessful in capturing the new title at her WrestleMania in-ring debut.[102][103]

Raw Women's Champion (2016–2017)

After a hiatus, Banks returned to WWE television in early June,[104] and later reignited her feud with Charlotte over the WWE Women's Championship after an attack along with Paige on the June 20 episode of Raw.[105][106] This led to a tag team match the following week, on the June 27 episode of Raw, where Banks and Paige scored the victory.[107] Following multiple attacks and matches between Banks and Dana Brooke,[108][109][110] Banks and her mystery partner Bayley defeated Brooke and Charlotte in a tag team match on July 24 at Battleground.[111]

Banks in September 2016

After being drafted to the Raw brand as part of the 2016 WWE draft on July 19, 2016,[112][113] Banks made her first appearance for the brand on July 25, where she defeated Charlotte to win the WWE Women's Championship for the first time.[114] On August 21 at SummerSlam, Banks dropped the championship back to Charlotte, ending her reign at 27 days. Around that time the title was renamed the Raw Women's Championship following the creation of the SmackDown Women's Championship.[115] On September 25, Charlotte successfully retained the championship against Banks and Bayley in a triple threat match at Clash of Champions.[116] Banks was granted a one-on-one rematch on the October 3 episode of Raw, where she defeated Charlotte in the main event to capture her second Raw Women's Championship.[117] Banks challenged Charlotte to compete for the championship in the first ever women's Hell in a Cell match at the titular Hell in a Cell pay-per-view event on October 30,[118] which was then announced as the main event, making it the first time women had received the last match of a pay-per-view card in WWE.[119] At the event, Charlotte defeated Banks, again ending her reign at 27 days.[120] A few weeks later, on November 20, Banks was part of Raw's women's team for Survivor Series, during which she was eliminated by Natalya, but Team Raw was ultimately victorious.[121] On the November 28 episode of Raw, after invoking her rematch clause a week prior,[122] Banks defeated Charlotte in a falls count anywhere match to win the Raw Women's Championship for the record-tying third time.[123] A 30-minute Iron man match between the two took place at Roadblock: End of the Line on December 18,[124] which resulted in a 2–2 draw, but Banks lost to Flair 3–2 in sudden death overtime. With the loss, the feud between the two was ended, since it was stipulated that Banks could not invoke her rematch clause if she lost.[125][126]

The next night on Raw after Roadblock, Banks called Flair out to congratulate her on her victory, but Nia Jax came out instead and attacked her.[127] This led to a match between the two at the Royal Rumble pre-show on January 29, 2017,[128] where Banks was defeated.[129][130] On the February 13 episode of Raw, Banks helped Bayley defeat Charlotte Flair to win the Raw Women's Championship in the main event after she stopped Flair's submission and attacked her with her crutches.[131] Banks gained revenge on Jax as she defeated her at Fastlane on March 5, thus handing Nia her first loss since she joined the main roster.[132][133] Banks again helped Bayley defeat Flair to retain her championship.[134] The feud between Banks and Jax, and Bayley and Flair led to a fatal four-way elimination match at WrestleMania 33 on April 2,[135][136][137] where Bayley retained the Raw Women's Championship.[138]

On the June 26 episode of Raw, Banks scored a victory over Bayley, Jax, Dana Brooke, Mickie James, and Emma in a gauntlet match to become the number one contender for Alexa Bliss's Raw Women's Championship.[139] Banks received her title match on July 9 at Great Balls of Fire, where she defeated Bliss via count-out, which allowed Bliss to retain the title.[140] In a rematch between the two on August 20 at SummerSlam, Banks defeated Bliss to become a record-tying four-time Raw Women's Champion.[141] Eight days later, Banks dropped the title back to Bliss on Raw.[142] At No Mercy on September 24, Banks received her rematch for the title as she took part in a fatal five-way match which was won by Bliss.[143]

The Boss 'n' Hug Connection (2017–2019)

At the end of 2017, Banks alongside Bayley and Mickie James started a feud with the debuting faction Absolution (Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville) who continuously attacked them on different occasions.[144][145] That led to various singles[146] and tag team matches,[147] that were mostly won by Absolution.[148][149][150][151] Also in December, Banks competed in the first-ever women's match contested in the Middle East against Alexa Bliss.[152][153] On January 28, 2018, at the Royal Rumble, Banks was the first entry in the first Women's Royal Rumble match, and she eliminated Vickie Guerrero, Bayley, and Trish Stratus, lasting 54:46, due to being outside the ring for most of that time, before being eliminated by The Bella Twins.[154] A few weeks later, on February 25, Banks took part in the first-ever women's Elimination Chamber match at the namesake pay-per-view, where she helped Alexa Bliss, the eventual winner, eliminate Bayley from the match after she pushed her off the pod when the two were "apparently" working together to eliminate Bliss.[155]

On the March 26 episode of Raw, after weeks of animosity between the two, including Bayley betraying Banks during their matches,[156][157] they brawled backstage and had to be separated.[158][159] Banks and Bayley faced off in mid-April but their match ended in a no-contest after The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan) interfered and attacked them both.[160] In the following weeks, Banks competed in different singles[161] and tag team matches in both winning and losing efforts.[162][163] In June, after she defeated Ruby Riott in the finals of a gauntlet match for the last spot,[164][165] Banks competed for the first time in her career in a Money in the Bank ladder match, that was ultimately won by Alexa Bliss.[166] Throughout mid-2018, after Banks and Bayley continued to attack each other,[167][168] they were told to attend counsellor meetings to help maintain their friendship.[169][170][171] In July, the two reconciled and created a tag team, known as "The Boss 'n' Hug Connection".[172][173][174]

After a short hiatus from the ring due to an undisclosed injury, Banks returned to WWE television in October,[175][176] and took part in the first-ever all women's pay-per-view Evolution, where she teamed with Bayley and Natalya in a winning effort against The Riott Squad.[177][178] In November, Banks again competed at Survivor Series as part of Team Raw, where she was the last woman from the team that was eliminated by Asuka after an attack by teammate Nia Jax.[179][180] On January 27, 2019, at the Royal Rumble, after she defeated Nia Jax to earn herself a title match,[181][182][183] Banks unsuccessfully challenged Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women's Championship.[184]

On February 17, at the Elimination Chamber, Banks and Bayley won the inaugural WWE Women's Tag Team Championship by lastly eliminating Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville in a six tag team Elimination Chamber match.[185] In their first title defense, Banks and Bayley successfully retained over Nia Jax and Tamina, at Fastlane, on March 10.[186] At WrestleMania 35 on April 7, Banks and Bayley lost the championship to The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) in a fatal four-way tag team match after Kay pinned Bayley, ending their reign at 49 days.[187]

Hiatus and partnership with Bayley (2019–2020)

Banks with a fan in 2019

The following day, Banks cancelled an appearance on the morning talk show Wendy at the last minute.[188] Throughout the following week, speculation from dirt sheets emerged that she was looking to quit the company due to her longstanding frustrations with WWE. Banks held the impression that she and Bayley were going to have a long title reign to bring credibility to the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship, with the two allegedly not being informed until the last minute that they would be dropping the titles at WrestleMania.[189][190] Her talk show cancellation was reported to be due to a personal matter.[188] As she'd been dealing with depression, she asked Vince McMahon for her release. While McMahon denied her request, he granted Banks time off to reconsider her career.[191]

After a four-month hiatus, Banks returned on the August 12 episode of Raw as a heel.[192] In September, Banks reunited with then SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley, when the latter also turned heel, and the two attacked both Lynch and Charlotte Flair.[193][194] Upon her return, Banks reignited her feud with Lynch, which led to a match between the two at Clash of Champions for Lynch's Raw Women's Championship on September 15.[195] At the event, Banks took a win via disqualification after Lynch inadvertently attacked the referee with a steel chair, and after the match, the two continued to brawl inside the arena.[196] The feud between the two women eventually led to the second-ever women's Hell in a Cell match, which took place on October 6 at the namesake pay-per-view,[197] in which Banks was unsuccessful in capturing the title.[198]

Banks was drafted to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2019 draft.[199] Banks then went on another brief hiatus from TV due to injuring her tailbone, and was not cleared to compete.[200] Banks did however, come to SmackDown on October 18, as Bayley was being interviewed by The Miz.[citation needed] On the November 8 episode of SmackDown, Banks debuted a new remixed theme featuring her cousin Snoop Dogg.[201] On the same episode, it was announced that Banks would be the captain of the SmackDown women's team, leading into Survivor Series.[202] At the pay-per-view, Banks was the last woman standing for the SmackDown brand in the Women's Survivor Series match, however lost to Rhea Ripley from Team NXT.[203][204]

Banks was a fan favorite to win the 2020 Women's Royal Rumble match, however was absent from the event and several episodes of SmackDown preceding it, which led to speculation that she had sustained an injury.[citation needed] During a backstage segment on the January 17 episode of SmackDown, the camera panned to Bayley and Lacey Evans in a brawl, during which Banks was on the floor. The latter had been slated to have a match against Evans later on in the night, however was replaced by Bayley during a segment showing a kayfabe injured Banks in the doctor's office.[205] On the February 28 episode of SmackDown, Banks once again made her return by attacking Naomi, Bayley's opponent.[206][207] On the March 20 episode of SmackDown, Banks and Bayley interrupted a segment featuring Paige, who was slated to confront the latter in the week prior, but was absent due to travel issues.[208] During the segment, Paige proceeded to announce a six-way elimination match (later announced to take place as a fatal five-way) at WrestleMania 36 for Bayley's SmackDown Women's Championship, in which Banks was inserted.[209] At the event, Bayley retained the title with assistance from Banks.[210]

SmackDown Women's Champion (2020–2021)

After WrestleMania 36, Banks and Bayley would begin teasing a potential feud between the two, with the emphasis being put on the narrative that Banks is the reason for Bayley's success and that Bayley is responsible for most of Banks' losing efforts.[211][212][213] Despite their brewing dispute, Banks and Bayley reclaimed the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship on the June 5 episode of SmackDown by defeating Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross.[214][215] They defended the titles against various teams such as Bliss and Cross,[216] Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox,[217] The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce),[218] and The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane).[219][220][221]

On July 19, at The Horror Show at Extreme Rules, Banks faced Asuka for the Raw Women's Championship in a match that ended in controversy when Asuka inadvertently spat green mist in the referee's face. Bayley then removed the referee's shirt and counted the pin for Banks to unofficially win the title.[222][223] On the July 27 episode of Raw, Banks eventually won the title for a record-setting fifth time, after Asuka left the ring to save her tag team partner Kairi Sane, who was attacked backstage by Bayley.[224] With the win, Banks and Bayley became the first female tag team—and the fifth overall—in history to hold singles and tag team titles simultaneously.[225][better source needed] Throughout August, Asuka and Banks continued their feud,[226][227][228][229] which culminated in a title match at SummerSlam on August 23, where Banks dropped the Raw Women's Championship back to Asuka.[230][231] On August 30, at the Payback event, Banks and Bayley lost the Women's Tag Team Championship to Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler.[232]

On the September 4 episode of SmackDown, after losing a rematch to Jax and Baszler, Bayley turned on Banks by brutally attacking her in the ring, thereby turning the latter face in the process and disbanding their team.[233] After attacking and cutting promos on each other,[234][235][236] the two faced off in a title match on the October 9 episode of SmackDown,[237][238] which Banks won via disqualification after Bayley hit her with a steel chair, resulting in the latter retaining her title.[239] The feud between the two eventually culminated in a Hell in a Cell match at the eponymous pay-per-view,[240][241][242] where Banks submitted Bayley to win the SmackDown Women's Championship for the first time in her career. With the win, Banks became the third Women's Grand Slam and fourth Triple Crown Champion.[243] On the November 6 episode of SmackDown, Banks defeated Bayley in a SmackDown Women's Championship rematch to retain the title,[244] thus ending her drought of unsuccessful defenses with a main roster singles title.[245] After the match, Banks was attacked by Carmella, kicking off a feud between the two in the process.[244] Following weeks of attacks from both the former and the latter,[246][247][248] the two would sign a contract for a title match to take place at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view on the December 11 episode of SmackDown.[249] Banks proceeded to challenge Carmella to a title match set to transpire later on in the night, which Carmella accepted.[249] In the culmination of the match, Banks got herself disqualified, consequently retaining her title.[249] At the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs event on December 20, Banks defeated Carmella by submission to retain the SmackDown Women's Championship.[250] On the January 22, 2021 episode of SmackDown, Banks defeated former Cirque du Soleil performer Reginald, who served as Carmella's kayfabe sommelier, in the first intergender wrestling match to have aired on WWE television since 2017.[251][252]

At the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on January 31, Banks defeated Carmella in a rematch from TLC to retain the SmackDown Women's Championship.[253] Later on in the night, Bianca Belair would go on to win the Women's Royal Rumble match, thereby granting her an opportunity to challenge for a women's championship of her choice at WrestleMania 37.[254] In the weeks to follow, Banks and Belair would proceed to build up to the reveal of Belair's opponent of choice on SmackDown, up until the February 26 episode of the aforementioned show, when Belair officially chose to face Banks for the SmackDown Women's Championship at the event.[255][256][257][258] Over the following month, the two would team up to challenge Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship at the Elimination Chamber and Fastlane pay-per-view events, but were unsuccessful.[259][260][261] On April 9, WWE announced that the bout between Banks and Belair would main-event Night 1 of WrestleMania 37, thus marking the first time in the company's history that two African-American women will have faced each other in a marquee match.[262] Furthermore, the two were the first African-American wrestlers in WrestleMania history to have faced each other in the main event of the show.[263] At the event, Banks dropped the SmackDown Women's Championship to Belair after getting hit with the KOD, the latter's finisher, to conclude the match.[264]

On the July 30 episode of SmackDown, Banks made her return to save Bianca Belair from Carmella and Zelina Vega, ostensibly in a face role. However, after teaming with Belair to defeat the team of Carmella and Vega in the main event of the show, Banks ambushed Belair from behind, thereby turning heel once again in the process.[265] Following a promo by Banks the subsequent week, Belair stated that "if [Banks] wants the title, it’s on", thus formalizing the rematch between the two at SummerSlam.[266][267] Throughout the week leading up to the event, however, Banks and Belair were pulled from various house shows due to "unforeseen circumstances".[268][269] Despite conflicting conjectures through the days leading up to SummerSlam asserting that both wrestlers were cleared to compete,[270] Banks was ultimately pulled from the event. She was, in turn, replaced by a returning Becky Lynch, who defeated Belair to win the SmackDown Women's Championship.[271] At the Extreme Rules pay-per-view event the following month, Banks made her secondary return of the year by ambushing Lynch and Belair in the midst of their SummerSlam rematch, thereby prompting a disqualification.[272] A triple threat match between the three women for the SmackDown Women's Championship was then scheduled for the Crown Jewel event in October, where Banks was unsuccessful at regaining the title.[273][274]

Other media

Video games

Television

Music

  • "Song For Sasha Banks" – Written & performed by The Mountain Goats, tells the story of her childhood, watching Chris Jericho on SmackDown, and then becoming a professional wrestler in her own right. It was released as a single digital track on June 18, 2018.[281]

Others

Filmography

Television
Year Title Role Notes
2015 WWE 24 Herself Episode 4: Documentary about the experiences of various performers at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
2015 Unfiltered Herself Episode 18: Interview show with Renee Young
2016 WWE 24 Herself Episode 9: Documentary about the experiences of various performers at WrestleMania 32
2019 WWE Chronicle Herself Episode 12: Documentary about Sasha Banks and her return to WWE following a four-month hiatus
2020 WWE Untold Herself Episode 14: Sasha Banks and Bayley tell behind-the-scenes stories about their classic match from NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
2020 The Mandalorian Koska Reeves Credited as Mercedes Varnado
2 episodes
2021 Steve Austin's Broken Skull Sessions Herself Episode 13: Interview show with Stone Cold Steve Austin

Personal life

Banks with her cousin Snoop Dogg rapping to her entrance theme at WrestleMania 32

Kaestner-Varnado is a first cousin of rapper Snoop Dogg, who helped develop her in-ring persona.[283][284] She is also a first cousin of music producer Daz Dillinger and singers Brandy Norwood and Ray J.[285][286] She is a fan of K-pop music and the Japanese anime Sailor Moon.[284]

Kaestner-Varnado has cited Eddie Guerrero as her favorite wrestler. She was in attendance at Guerrero's memorial episode of Raw on November 14, 2005, in Minneapolis, and she also revealed that she was unaware that Guerrero had died before she arrived at the arena.[287]

On August 4, 2016, Kaestner-Varnado married Cambodian-American retired professional wrestler Sarath Ton.[288] The two met while they were both wrestling on the independent circuit. Ton, who is widely known by his ring name Mikaze, now works as a costume designer for WWE.[289]

Championships and accomplishments

Notes

  1. ^ During Banks' first reign, the championship was called the WWE Women's Championship. Before her second reign, the title became exclusive to Raw as a result of the 2016 brand extension draft[113] and it was renamed as the Raw Women's Championship after SmackDown created the SmackDown Women's Championship.[309]

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