WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon was on a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast. Simmons asked McMahon who she thinks is WWE’s current top star on the level of Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and Bret Hart.
“I think Roman’s certainly one of them, but you can’t discount our women as well. You’ve got Sasha Banks,” McMahon noted. “Drew McIntyre is on his way as well. Bobby Lashley is starting to really come on the scene. It’s not just one person. It’s part of the diversification of everything of platforms, of content, of all the different ways you can interact and engage with various influencers and talent. One thing about WWE is that there’s someone for everyone. Relatability is so important in storytelling, to be able to see yourself in the story or to be able to put yourself in the story.”
Simmons wondered if Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch will return. He asked McMahon what it’s like to be proud of Lynch’s pregnancy but also be concerned over losing your top star. McMahon revealed a plan Lynch pitched during their conversations.
“Well, I think it’s kind of simultaneous. It’s reality,” McMahon stated. “This is a physical business. It’s not like she could continue to compete because she’s pregnant, but of course, so incredibly happy for her. It’s funny, I kept talking to Becky all during her pregnancy, and then afterwards, she was actually pitching somebody jumping her in the maternity ward. [Maternity Ward match], that’s coming. The second part of the Women’s Evolution (McMahon laughs).”
Simmons noted the impact the loss of top stars like Rousey and Lynch. McMahon talked about the impact of their return on the women’s division.
“That’s the thing with any stars,” McMahon noted. “When you’re building stars and you suddenly you lose them, it takes a little while to rebuild back up, but now that the women’s division is built back up and then they come back, now the stars are really going to rise.”
SmackDown Women’s Champion Sasha Banks has grown into a big star in the absence of Lynch and Rousey. McMahon gave her thoughts on Banks’ current run that has coincided with Bayley’s rise as well.
“I’ve always known that Sasha could be right at the top. She just has that IT Factor,” McMahon stated. “She just shines, but ultimately, it’s not my decision. Certainly very very excited for Sasha to have this moment. I think during the pandemic, I’ve actually heard fans credit Bayley and Sasha for really carrying us during the pandemic with their storyline, and I think they did. I’m so grateful to each of them for doing so.
Simmons later asked McMahon on how WWE handles the workload of the talent. McMahon used Banks as an example of the how the mental toll of talent is something that WWE looks out for.
“It’s something that we constantly keep an eye on,” Stephanie noted. “Vince has this analogy, workhorses, and when you have workhouses, you have to be the one to pull them back because left to their own devices, they’ll run themselves into the ground. But also, these talent, they don’t want to lose their spot in the story, and once you finally get there and you’re a part of this big story, you never want to lose your spot.
“So it’s constantly a balance of trying to do what’s right for your performers, and also what they want and also trying to keep your storylines going and everything else. So whether it’s taking a number of live events off in between television, whether it’s writing someone out of the storyline — Sasha Banks took about four to six months off. She was in a really bad place mentally because it’s not just the physical toll. It’s the mental toll too. When you’re on the road, and you’re going so hard all the time. It’s really hard.
“I think when you’re a star, the world treats you a little bit differently, and it can be quite an interesting experience, but what I didn’t know that I actually just learned is that Sasha went to Japan to train with [Meiko] Satomura. Sasha trained the whole time or at least for a good portion of the time that she was gone and just reconnected with her love of the business and learned to set her own boundaries, which is important. I think it’s important for everybody in life to know what their own boundaries are.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit The Bill Simmons Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.