At only 24 years old, Sasha Banks is one of the most talented and fastest rising stars in WWE today, male or female. Although her heel persona as The Boss is a huge part of what catapulted her to fame, after spending a month away from WWE due to a minor injury, she returned at the 2016 Royal Rumble and was quickly accepted as one of the most popular superstars on the roster.
Sasha signed with WWE when she was only 20 years old, and in the past four years has begun what should be a career that will go down in history books. With her incredible wrestling talent backing up her exceptional character work, Sasha is one of the main reasons for the increased focus on women’s wrestling in WWE. She has already helped permanently change women’s wrestling with her work in NXT, and now that she’s rapidly making her journey to the top of WWE, fans just can’t get enough of The Boss. Read on to learn 10 things new fans need to know about Sasha Banks.
10. Her Brother Is Disabled
Sasha was born Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado in Farfield, California, but she’s hardly a California girl. Sasha’s family was constantly moving around when she was a child, largely due to the fact her brother suffers undisclosed disabilities. In pursuit of the best hospital to assist the family in helping her brother, Sasha’s family left California for Minnesota, and later moved to Massachusetts, where she started her career. Sasha hasn’t gone into much detail about her brother or his health condition, presumably because she doesn’t want to exploit her family’s troubles or make it part of her character. Knowing how WWE has dealt with superstars’ families in the past, this is probably a wise decision on her part. On the other hand, Sasha has a different family member who she loves talking about…
9. She’s Snoop Dogg’s Cousin
It’s fresh in everyone’s minds after he became a WWE Hall of Famer and rapped Sasha down to the ring at WrestleMania 32, but every one of Sasha’s fans can probably remember just how shocked and surprised they were when they first heard the news: she’s Snoop Dogg’s first cousin. Sasha’s father is Snoop’s uncle, and from Sasha’s stories, the two seemed about as close as cousins can be when one of them is a world famous hip-hop megastar. Sasha worked extremely hard and earned her way into the wrestling business on her own, but years before she made it, she begged her cousin to get her backstage at WrestleMania XXIV. She was only 16 at the time, though, and had yet to train, so it would still be a little while before she ended up on the other side of the curtain. It’s not Snoop who she’s blasting during her training sessions, though…
8. She Loves Asian Pop Culture
With a cousin like Snoop Dogg and a style at least somewhat influenced by Kanye West and Beyoncé, fans probably expect Sasha to be a fan of the rap and R&B anthems those artists are best known for. In actuality, Sasha is more of a fan of Korean pop music, naming Rain, Taeyang and G-Dragon as some of her favorite artists. She also describes herself as a huge fan of Sailor Moon, citing Serena as her favorite character. Her interest in wrestling even begins with the Orient, as she was a huge fan of All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling while growing up. This starts to explain why she focuses on a more skill-based wrestling style than the former divas of WWE’s past. She was a pretty big fan of stateside wrestling too, though, in particular because…
7. Eddie Guerrero Is Her Favorite Wrestler
When Sasha Banks appeared on Chris Jericho’s podcast, she made the following statement: “I want to be the female Eddie Guerrero.” She’s actually been saying it most of her career, and fans who watched WrestleMania 32 and saw her juke, jive, and shimmy around the ring got a glimpse of Sasha living her dream. Hearing Sasha and Jericho talk about Eddie, even someone who never saw him wrestle could quickly become a fan through their love and admiration, and that’s typically the case. Unfortunately for Sasha, she never got to see her favorite wrestler in the ring live, nor tell him how much he meant to her, and the story only gets sadder when you learn the details.
Sasha was actually in attendance at Raw on November 14, 2005, and brought a sign expressing how much she loved Eddie to the arena. When she got to the show and saw hundreds of RIP Eddie signs, the 13-year old Banks assumed that meant he was facing The Undertaker, but as we now know the news was much more tragic. Eddie died suddenly due to heart failure the day before. When she heard the news, what was supposed to be the best day of her life became one of worst, but it only inspired her further to become a wrestler and make Eddie proud.
6. Her Wrestling Career Had A Chaotic Start
Sasha officially began her training to become a wrestler in 2008 at Chaotic Wrestling in Massachusetts. Her initial character was named Mercedes KV, a shortened version of her real name. Banks entered and won a Tough Enough style competition which earned her a full scholarship to the Chaotic Training Center. It was there Sasha got her first true introduction to the business by training in a class where she was the only woman, which meant she learned by facing the men. Some other superstars to have gone through this wrestling program include Kofi Kingston and John Cena. At the time, her trainers included Brian Milonas, Brian Fury, and Handsome Johnny, but her favorite trainer was still to come…
5. Her Favorite Trainer Was Norman Smiley
Sasha had her first tryout with WWE on August 18, 2012, and was quickly signed to a contract and began appearing in NXT. She’s had nothing but good things to say about the majority of her trainers at the NXT Performance Center, citing Joey Mercury and Sara Del Rey as great to work with, and saying that although Billy Gunn didn’t enjoy training women at first, Sasha and her contemporaries eventually made him change his mind. Like everyone else who knew him, she has nothing but good things to say about Dusty Rhodes as well, but from interviews with her it would seem that Sasha’s favorite trainer was Norman Smiley. Smiley was never a major name in American wrestling despite his considerable talent, but he did have some success in the dying days of WCW, and his work training Sasha and others is enough to continue propelling his legacy as a master craftsman of the sport.
4. She Was B.F.F.’s With Summer Rae
Sasha debuted on NXT’s television show in December of 2012, but didn’t make much of an impact for her first several months with the company. Banks eventually began hanging out with Summer Rae, who had been with the company only slightly longer, and who successfully influenced Banks into having more of an edge, turning heel and attacking the then NXT Women’s Champion, Paige. Banks and Rae soon formed a tag team, lead by Rae and with the goal of controlling the NXT women’s division. They called themselves the B.F.F.’s—beautiful, fierce females. Rae was called up to the main roster in January of 2014 and left Sasha to fend for herself, which was probably ultimately a good thing, as it lead to Sasha working with Charlotte and Becky Lynch.
3. She Made Her WWE Debut on Main Event
In the wake of WrestleMania 32, several NXT superstars made their big debuts on Raw in surprising moments. Baron Corbin even got to debut on the main roster at WrestleMania itself, and he made a huge splash by doing so. Sasha wasn’t so lucky—her WWE debut was in a random tossed off match from December 2014 aired on Main Event, a show that isn’t even aired on television for the majority of the world. Her debut was not only on a program nobody watched, but it was pretty ignominious, as she simply lost to the NXT Women’s Champion, Charlotte. WWE made good on this mistake by quickly pretending it never happened, and allowing Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky Lynch to all “debut” together in July of 2015 in a much bigger moment.
2. She Was In The First Iron Woman Match In WWE History
With Sasha already revolutionizing the women’s division with her charisma and wrestling skills, it’s natural she would revolutionize the business in more significant ways than that. In one swift move, Sasha Banks and Bayley became the first two women to do two things—wrestle in an Iron Woman match, and main event a major event produced by WWE. The main event of NXT TakeOver: Respect was also the longest women’s match in WWE history by default. Bayley retained the NXT Women’s Title against Sasha with a score of 3-2, after 30 minutes of nonstop, hard fought action that proved both women more than deserved the main event spot. Sasha and Bayley accomplished something else with this match too, which was arguably more important than any of that…
1. She Was One Of The First Women to Wrestle in the Match of the Year
It’s impressive being one of the first women to main event a show, and of course that main event being an incredible gimmick match few people would even dare to participate in, let alone succeed on the level Sasha and Bayley did, only made it more noteworthy. However, the true mark of success for Sasha Banks and Bayley is that they wrestled two matches that multiple major wrestling publications called two of the best matches of the year in 2015. Women’s wrestling hasn’t been a major focus of WWE until recently, and in fact with a few exceptions, it was kind of a scandalous joke until then.
Today, women’s wrestling has become such a big deal that Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Rolling Stone magazine, and the fans of NXT all voted in droves to name women’s matches the Match of the Year. All three publications gave Sasha and Bayley the nod, with Rolling Stone and the NXT fans preferring the Brooklyn match in favor of the bout from Respect, but either way it’s clear these two women dominated a field in which women hadn’t even been considered for decades. There’s no saying how more many awards Sasha will win in the future, but one thing about Sasha Banks is absolutely clear: she’ll always be The Boss.