Ric Flair, the original Man, said it best: “Whether you like it or not, learn to love it, because it’s the best thing going today.” That’s Becky Lynch, right now on the Road to WrestleMania in 2019, and for the foreseeable future beyond. Despite a bit of resistance from WWE, and a bit more from a vocal minority of the WWE Universe, Becky Lynch is the biggest star in wrestling, and she hasn’t even reached her full potential yet.
Who’s the biggest star in WWE right now, if not Becky Lynch? John Cena’s barely a part-timer anymore; he’s an occasional celebrity guest star. Roman Reigns is sadly out of the game until his leukemia is dealt with, but let’s be honest, with all due respect the attempt to make him the top guy was never a rousing success when he was there. Seth Rollins does great work, but the brutal thud of his recent feud with Dean Ambrose doesn’t bode well. Daniel Bryan is doing what might be the best character work of his entire career, but he’s doing it to succeed at being hated as a heel. AJ Styles is coming off of an overlong title run, and it’s not even certain that his next chapter happens in WWE. Ronda Rousey came in as a star, but now she can’t even cut a promo on her own because she’s too shaken by the crowd cheering for Becky. Charlotte Flair has long been built as WWE’s top female homegrown star, but even she lacks Becky’s easy charisma and draws boos anytime the two face off.
Becky’s at the top. WWE seems to have accepted that now, but it wasn’t their idea. It was Becky who turned two years of jobbing into a deliberately paced character arc, and then used a quick underdog storyline last summer, which was supposed to lead to a heel turn at SummerSlam, to get more over with the crowd than anybody’s been in a very long time. You can go back and look at promos she did between losing the Smackdown Women’s Title the first time in December 2016 and the rise of The Man in 2018, and you can see the character work that she’s doing. In this promo from the aftermath of the disastrous 2017 Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match, you can see Becky struggling to remain a pure babyface in a world where that doesn’t get you ahead, and with 20/20 hindsight you can practically hear The Man threatening to rise up in her:
Because here’s the thing: Of every wrestler in WWE right now, Becky Lynch is the best actor. That’s no accident. She trained extensively in acting and performed in plays during her time away from wrestling following a 2006 injury. Whether you enjoyed her work in The Marine 6: Close Quarters or not (I thought the script shortchanged her a bit, personally) you can see just in her wrestling work how good she is at channeling her real feelings into the feelings of her character, and making everyone who watches her feel those feelings as well. She’s in command of every part of herself on a level that not every wrestler is, because that’s what theatrical acting training does for you, and even more so when the physicality of that craft is combined with the more brutal physicality of wrestling training.
Becky Lynch is the top star in WWE right now, and to really thrive in that role you need WWE Creative on your side, which for the moment they seem to be. There may come a time when they try to end her reign, and we’ll see then how that goes. The past six months have convinced me, however, that she’ll be a star in some capacity whether she has WWE’s blessing or not. She’s already a star on social media, with her every post doing massive numbers and getting attention from people who don’t even watch the product. With her combination of physical skills, acting ability, charisma, and yes, beauty, she could be a huge mainstream crossover star, and if that opportunity arises hopefully WWE does as much to support her along the way as they have for guys like the Rock and John Cena.
Let’s talk for a second about crossover stars. WWE wants us to talk about Ronda Rousey like a crossover star, because she was already famous and then joined WWE, but that’s never been how it works. WWE didn’t hire Dwayne Johnson after he’d made some movies, or John Cena after he’d hosted an awards show. They were wrestlers who made their names in WWE and became so big and successful that they ended up in movies and on TV. I don’t know if that’s something Becky even wants, but I genuinely believe it’s something she has the potential for. It’s the step that comes before the movies and TV, where you’re practically a household name just from wrestling, that I know for sure Becky’s after. Fortunately, it’s a road she’s already on.
Since it will come up, yes, I do think that Becky Lynch’s gender is an obstacle for some people. The idea that the top star in professional wrestling can be a woman is very new, and a lot of male wrestling fans have a hard time believing that it’s possible. Now’s the time to get over that. Despite WWE’s dedication to taking a step back for every step forward, women’s wrestling is on the rise. It’s not even about women’s wrestling getting respect instead of being a pee break or a T&A joke anymore. That fight is won. Now it’s about women’s wrestling being equal to men’s wrestling. That’s the road we’re on, even if WWE occasionally has a hard time getting their feet under them. The soaring popularity of Becky Lynch is helping that journey along.
You can say Becky is over-pushed, over-hyped, or just annoying, but know that you’re outnumbered by fans who love her. You can call her ringwork sloppy, but we all know that you’re not just wrong, you’re saying exactly what male wrestling fans say about every female talent they want to diminish. You can say that all of the WrestleMania hype is silly because Ronda Rousey would win in “a real fight,” but if that’s what you’re into you should give up on pro wrestling and go watch real fights — you know, the kind of fights Ronda quit doing when they got too hard for her. The Man Becky Lynch is a star whether you like her or not, and the only question is where she goes from here. If you don’t like her, learn to love her, because she’s the best thing going.