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Writers’ Choice Awards 2015: Best Heel – Sasha Banks

Diva Dirt presents its fifth annual Writers’ Choice Awards, as decided by the Diva Dirt team. As we come to the end of 2015, we have picked the best of the best to be awarded our Writers’ Choice trophies.

Best Heel: Sasha Banks

2015 has been the year of heel/face fluidity, with countless women performing heel turns, babyface turns and flip-flopping in between the two. Some turns have been for the best, while others come across as nothing more than lazy booking. In that sea of uncertainty, one woman has stood self-assuredly in her badness: The Boss, Sasha Banks.

From her ascent to the top of NXT’s Divas division to her seamless transition to the main roster, 2015 saw Sasha fully embrace her character. She became The Boss in every sense of the word, dressing to reflect her boundless confidence and sky high ambitions while honing an in-ring style that captivated fans and created more Match of the Year candidates than any other. All the while, she projected an overwhelming sense of superiority, a classic heel trait that felt uniquely earned.

Strangely, her popularity seemed to increase the more heelish she became, proving an important point: though wrestling is often a world of extremes, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for shades of gray. Fans can love to see a heel perform and even demand their presence – “We want Sasha!” chants, anyone? – but any heel worth their salt will be able to harness crowd enthusiasm and turn it into heat. The crowd wants to see Sasha not because she’s so likable, but rather because she’s so damn good at what she does – kicking ass and oozing attitude – that they want to see her do it live and in person. Now that is the mark of a successful heel.

Even in her most heroic moment – winning the NXT Women’s Title at TakeOver: Rival in February – Sasha refused to gloss over her heelishness. At the end of the match, with Bayley and Becky Lynch temporarily indisposed and and her signature Bank Statement submission locked in on Charlotte, she opted to win the belt by quicker and less spectacular means, converting the hold into a roll-up pin. She earned the three count, winning the match and the title by demonstrating the kind of cleverness and ring awareness that only a shrewd heel could possess.

Her post-match celebration with Charlotte was emotional and appropriately brief, ending with Sasha gloating over the win in perfect Boss fashion. The moment again demonstrated the intricacies of Sasha’s appeal: the enthusiasm she elicits from the audience and her uncanny ability to make her cockiness seem almost understandable.

Similarly emotional moments, like when she hugged Bayley and stood tall with her fellow Four Horsewomen after losing the Women’s Title at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn and tearfully accepted a bouquet of flowers after wrestling in the main event of NXT TakeOver: RESPECT, have been criticized for “breaking kayfabe” and forcing Sasha out of her heel persona. Ultimately, though, neither did anything but enhance her profile and draw attention to her accomplishments.

Even those moments, as feel-good as they are, are indelibly attached to efforts by Sasha to double down on her heelishness: right after TakeOver: Brooklyn, Sasha challenged Bayley to a rematch, cutting a promo that recalled the attitude that prevailed when she first won the title. In the promo, she proclaimed that she’s not here to “steal the show” – she’s here to be the best. In the end, all that matters is what can be gained.

Then, of course, there’s Sasha’s practically sacrilegious disrespect of Bayley superfan Izzy at TakeOver: RESPECT. Sasha had the whole crowd practically calling for her head mere minutes before they were crying with her, applauding her and Bayley’s historic accomplishment along with the rest of the NXT roster.

Truly, this is a woman who has the audience in the palm of her hand. The beauty of it is, though, with her heel persona, she gives the impression that she couldn’t care less. This makes the accomplishment all the more impressive.

The fact is, Sasha has never been a two-dimensional heel. She has attitude, confidence and will do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals, but she’s also a human being with emotions. Shedding tears after huge matches makes the big, big moments feel real. It creates a connection between performer and audience. In short, it gets the talent over. And, when Sasha goes on to maintain her heel persona, the audience is with her all the way, giving her the heat she seeks. She’s got them wrapped around her finger, because she’s made them care about her successes and failures. They’ll boo her, but while perched at the edge of their seats.

Sasha’s transition to the main roster and the formation of Team B.A.D. has only solidified her unique popularity. She’s massively entertaining, her persona enhanced by her alliance with Naomi and Tamina Snuka. When she inevitably wins the Divas Title, it will likely result in something mirroring those emotional NXT moments: jubilation laced with a giant helping of, “I told you so!” on The Boss’s part.

Given Sasha’s popularity, there may be a temptation on the WWE’s part to turn her babyface. In our opinion, that would be a massive waste of potential. Anyone can be shaped into a hero; it takes a special kind of talent to play a villain the crowd is excited to see.

Stay tuned for more Writers’ Choice Award reveals throughout the day.

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