Wrestling fans have an unhealthy obsession with losers. Most online discourse now seems to revolve around who is getting “buried” or who “deserves better,” and often these complaints come with some bonus conspiracy theories about who Vince McMahon likes and why. It’s a very easy habit to fall into because the outcomes are pre-determined, which means theoretically any wrestler could be booked to win any match, so anyone can fantasize about what would happen if their favorite received the strong booking of top stars.
As a long-time Becky Lynch fan, I feel like a veteran of this type of fandom — I’ve already been through it all, come out the other side, and am now free to offer my wisdom to the less experienced fans who don’t know any better. Because Lynch was the loveable loser in WWE for most of her career, really starting with her classic match with Sasha Banks in NXT in 2015, then in her feud with Charlotte Flair, where Becky portrayed the plucky underdog who constantly got screwed by her former friend with a family legacy. At one point, I think Lynch lost something like 11 pay-per-view matches in a row. She was never portrayed as a complete joke, as WWE would throw her a bone with wins here and there, but she was obviously not a priority of the booking team for most of this time.
After a lot of these losses, Becky would go backstage and cut an unscripted fiery promo, where she was outraged at the villainous behavior of the heels and vowed to get revenge. These would be posted on WWE’s YouTube channel, where not a lot of people saw them, but most people who sought them out were won over by Becky’s genuine demeanor, her passion, and her ability to seem real in the increasingly fake world of wrestling. After every loss that should have made fans give up on her, Becky had a knack for saying exactly what she needed to in order to make people keep believing in her. She plucked away at this for a long time, gradually building an army of passionate fans without WWE really taking much notice until they turned her heel and the fans rejected it because they liked her too much. And at WrestleMania 35, it all paid off when she defeated Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey in the first women’s main event as the ascending fan favorite.
At Wrestlemania 36 this past Saturday, Lynch and her fans found themselves in a very different place: she has now been champion for a year, she’s one of their most promoted stars, and there is more scrutiny than ever before. While it’s so easy in wrestling to root for the underdog or the loser, Becky has become the ultimate winner, and a vocal segment of the audience is sick of her “holding back” the division, preventing their favorite losers from becoming stars. Her match with Shayna Baszler seemed prime for a passing of the torch: Baszler is a vicious heel who thrived in NXT and I thought was likely to defeat Becky to cement herself as a major player on the bigger stage of Monday Night Raw.
The company had other plans, and Becky prevailed in my favorite match of the first night of the two-night Wrestlemania spectacular. The match only lasted about nine minutes, but it was hard-hitting, intense, and both wrestlers fought like winning meant more to them than anything. In the end, Becky won with a roll-up out of a submission move by Shayna, which Shayna will likely view as a flukey embarrassment while Becky will see it as her outsmarting Shayna and finding a way to win through superior technique. As chapter one of likely a two or three match story, it was exactly what it should have been.
Watching that match is where I fully realized the weird position I’m in, cheering for the frontrunner as someone who almost never loves anything that’s too popular. Similar to Yankees fans, I’ve learned to embrace the trollish aspect of it — regardless of whether it’s “good booking,” at this point I cheer for Becky to win and then make fun of the people who get mad when she does. As far as I’m concerned, Becky should be champion forever.
This is probably the optimal way to watch wrestling rather than micro-analyzing the business decisions, and her matches particularly benefit from this method of viewing. Becky isn’t the most athletic or smoothest in the ring (she’ll be the first to tell you), but she fights like she cares and is able to scrap out these victories over seemingly much more physically gifted performers. She’s a protagonist people can believe in who is fun to root for, and it all feels natural because she created this energy herself through hard work and determination. So it’s a very different vibe than some of WWE’s other stars like Roman Reigns or (in the past) John Cena, who were the top face but had a certain hand-picked corporate stench to them.
Becky is certainly a corporate favorite now, but only because she made herself undeniable by using every chance she could to develop her character and make herself sympathetic. I included the history lesson at the beginning because I feel like there is some revisionist history around this, where people act like she got over through happenstance and then WWE started pushing her. The reality is that she dug herself out and changed the way the higher-ups perceived her by connecting with the audience at a level few ever have. Nothing is stopping other wrestlers who people moan about “deserving better” from doing this except that they aren’t as talented and smart as Becky Lynch.