Sasha Banks Q&A: 2018 Royal Rumble, future of women’s wrestling, becoming face of WWE

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History was made this past Monday night on Raw when Stephanie McMahon announced that on Jan. 28th, the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match will take place live at a special start time of 7 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.

I had the opportunity to chat with Sasha Banks about if she’s thought about what role she would like to play in the Royal Rumble match, which stars from the past she’s hoping will make a surprise appearance, the next step she wants to take in her career, Ronda Rousey, and why she hates Christmas.

So let’s start off with Ronda … Just kidding

“Yeah, you better not.”

Of course, this interview is about you.

As someone who has dreamt of being in a Royal Rumble match, have you thought about what role you would want to have? I assume starting first and then going on to win the match would be at the top of your list, but there is also something about coming in hot at say like number seven and eliminating a bunch of people that seems like it would be really enticing.

“I don’t know if I would want to start off first. I would have to do extra cardio to prepare and with the holiday season I’ve been eating a lot, so I don’t know if I would be ready for that … just kidding (laughs).

Honestly, I would rather get that lucky number 30 and throw everyone out that’s left. I don’t want to sweat my makeup off. I want to look good! But no, I haven’t seriously thought about it or had a chance to because I’m still kind of in that shock moment and I’ve been more thinking about what legend could be in the match or if we’ll have girls from NXT be in the match because with [the] SmackDown and Raw [rosters] we don’t have enough to get to that 30 number yet.

The potential of what legend can I work has me more excited than which number I’ll be in the Royal Rumble match, but I think when I get closer to the actual Royal Rumble, that’s when I’ll get more of my nerves. I don’t want to say I’m in shock because I guessed that this would happen, but it’s still so crazy to kick off 2018 knowing that the women are going to have a Royal Rumble match at the Royal Rumble. It’s really cool.”

Do you know how many girls are going to be in the match?

“I don’t. I would hope 30, right? Just like the guys.”

I would think so, but when I counted all of the active women on the main roster, I realized almost a third of the match would be legends and NXT girls if that magic 30 number was going to be hit. So perfect time to ask this; is there anyone from the past that you can’t wait to hear their music after the crowd finishes their countdown?

“I would love to hear Trish Stratus’ music. Of course Lita, Molly Holly, Jazz, Jacqueline, man even Victoria. It would be an honor to be in the ring with any of those girls.

Beth Phoenix. Of course I want to win it, but at the same time, I would just want her to pick me up and throw me over the top. I would mark out, but I would land on my hands and go back into the ring like Kofi Kingston (laughs).

Any of those girls would be incredible, but of course I would love to see girls from NXT get the opportunity, but of course they wouldn’t win it because I would be the last person standing.”

What about any girls from the Mae Young Classic?

“I mean a lot of the girls from the Mae Young Classic were signed to NXT, so I guess it would be any of the girls who are in NXT now.

My girl Lacey Evans, she was in the Mae Young Classic and she signed with NXT. I have like a women’s crush on her because she reminds me of Sailor Moon, so I really like her (laughs).”

You talked about wanting to sit in the ring at your old wrestling school and reflect on your career recently. I wondered how much the thought of reassessing your personal goals and figuring out where you’re going to go next with your character played a part in wanting to do that.

“For me it’s always been the goal of wanting to be the best and wanting to make a name, my statement here in the WWE. I want to go down as a legend and as the greatest of all time, so those goals have always been a priority for anything I can do.

If I’m even given a five-minute match, I want it to be the best match on the show. Things like that are easy, but for me the hardest thing is to actually think back about all of the things I have accomplished because with how fast things go here in the WWE, we’re on the road every single week, we do live TV every week, it’s hard to actually get to sit down and reflect on where I came from, where I’ve been and how much I’ve done in the company already and I’ve only been on the main roster for almost three years now and I’ve been with WWE for five.

It’s crazy to actually try to have the time to reflect and not get overwhelmed. Like wow dude, look at all of the stuff you’ve done in three years, but it’s crazy because I just want so much more because I’m never satisfied. Of course after the Royal Rumble, the next goal is to main event WrestleMania, to have a singles match at WrestleMania. To main event WWE house shows is a goal.

There are just so many goals … like we keep talking about this women’s evolution, but I just want it to become normal where it’s not just interviews talking about the women, I just want it to be Sasha Banks the WWE superstar. Being the face of the company.

There are so many goals … what I’ve done in these three years is almost like a haze because sometimes I’m like is this a dream? There’s been a lot of stuff (laughs).”

I feel like it’s only going to take time to get people to realize that the women’s revolution or evolution, whatever you want to call it, was a period of time that was needed to get to a point where it’s normal to have women featured in the main event of any show and it’s not a big deal that needs to be pointed out. The storyline will have dictated the placement.

“Exactly and that’s what the number one thing is. I don’t just want something to be given to us just to put that little stamp like ‘Oh look the women are doing it now it’s cool.’ No.

My goal is to main event WrestleMania and if we’re going to main event it, I need it to be the greatest storyline ever. I need the fans to be invested. I just don’t want to get handed something because they’re putting a first time ever [match] for women. I want it to be a good storyline and I want the crowd to care because those are the moments that …

I feel like the reason people talk about the Brooklyn match [I had] with Bayley so much is because of the history between me and Bayley. You know that she fought from the very beginning to get the women’s championship and for me, I fought to keep that and to show people that I’m the best.

People are invested in the storylines more than just putting a name on something and bam! First time ever, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, and it leads me to this, on the Steve Austin podcast you opened up about the idea of women’s tag team championships as a way to help create storyline options for women and give fans more reasons to invest in the division, which led me to this thought. If there was only going be one title on each show, what about having contender’s rankings, so that way every match has a consequence for the winner and loser. It feels like the crowd is able to check out quite a bit on both men’s and women’s matches because there is no reason to invest in the finish of the match.

“Yeah I can hear that, but at the same time … sometimes you get to the matches and they’re like there’s no story to it, but the main story is that you want to win and the more wins you get, the more management sees you as being a potential to go for a championship, so it’s just more about putting on good matches and having fans invested because every single week I want to win, dude. I don’t want to lose.”

You’ve said that the ‘Boss’ character has given you confidence outside of the world of WWE, but has it helped to give you the confidence to fight for something with your character when you disagree with a direction?

“Absolutely. It’s pretty much we within myself that is someone I always wanted to be because I was very shy growing up. I kept to myself. I didn’t have the confidence that I have when I’m in that ring. So if it’s a storyline or things that I want to do in a match, I can be very opinionated, which sometimes sucks because I have a mouth on me.

You learn to pick your battles and to really feel out what’s important to me because you can’t fight for everything, but the things you do fight for should mean something.

I try to fight for the things that have the potential to make something incredible.”

The last thing I have is, what, if anything, is on your Christmas list?

“Well if you were a fan, you would know that I do not like Christmas.”

(Writer’s note here: I didn’t see this topic come up in any of my research, so yes I felt like a stupid idiot here.)

I did not know that (nervously laughing).

“I don’t like Christmas. I don’t care for it at all. If anyone wants to buy me anything for Christmas, I do love makeup. I love Starbucks gift cards because I’m a coffee addict. I don’t mind getting the gifts, I just don’t like buying people gifts because I feel like they are always so ungrateful.

I would always go to my grandmother’s house for Christmas and she had some money, but every time she wanted me to write her a list, I would write WWE action figure and not a stupid Barbie and she would always buy me a Barbie and it would always hurt my feelings, which is another reason why I don’t like Christmas.

But it’s cool now because I now have an action figure and I have a Barbie, so take that grandma.”

You showed her didn’t you?

“I did (laughs). But the nicest thing I did was I actually surprised my husband with a Christmas tree because that’s how much I dislike Christmas.

He never had one, so that was his Christmas present. He saw it today and he cried.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE: Roman Reigns announces leukemia has returned

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Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, known around the world as WWE superstar Roman Reigns, revealed to the world on Monday night that his leukemia has returned and he’ll be stepping away from the ring for a period of time to be with his family as he undergoes treatment.

Anoaʻi began his promo on Raw by stating “my real name is Joe, and I’ve been living with Leukemia for 11-years and unfortunately it’s back.”

He tearfully told the crowd that he was going to be away from WWE for an unknown period of time, which meant he would be forced to relinquish the WWE Universal championship. He then shared the story of when he was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 22. Anoa’i said he was able to “very quickly” put it in remission.

As Anoa’i continued his moment with the audience that embraces him on a weekly basis with a thunderous, but not always positive … to say the least … response, he said that he didn’t want anyone to feel bad to him. Anoa’i’s connection with WWE’s audience is unique, so it took them a moment to put away their dislike for the character Anoa’i portrays and show appreciation for the human being that has been thrown a life curveball.

A loud “Thank You Roman” erupted after he told the fans that they had helped his dreams come true. Anoa’i said this wasn’t a retirement speech and that he would be back as quickly as possible. Anoa’i then carefully laid the belt in the ring and was embraced by Jonathan David Good (Dean Ambrose) and Colby Lopez (Seth Rollins).

Someone will win $1 million if they beat AJ Styles in WWE 2K19

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The cover athlete for this year’s version of Yuke’s and Visual Concepts’ incredibly popular WWE video game series is simply phenomenal.

That’s right, AJ Styles will be featured on the cover of WWE 2K19, but that’s not his only involvement with this year’s game.

During the cover announcement, Styles mentioned that this year’s game will feature a Million Dollar Challenge. Details were a bit vague, but the “Phenomenal One” said players will have to beat an unannounced mode, submit a promo video, and if they’re selected, they’ll be entered in a tournament.

Whoever wins that tournament will get the opportunity to face Styles in a one-on-one match in WWE 2K19 and if they’re able to beat Styles, they’ll walk away with:

Beating Styles won’t be easy because he’s one of the biggest gamers on WWE’s roster, but Yuke’s and Visual Concepts might want to bring some extra controllers just in case this happens again:

Here’s a look at the cover art:

WWE 2K19 will be released for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 9. For more information on the game visit wwe.2k.com, become a fan on Facebook, follow the game on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #WWE2K19 or subscribe on YouTube.