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31 Days of Wrestling: (12/6/16): Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for the RAW Women's Championship, Hell In A Cell

Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. It's that time of year again when we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match a day for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling this calendar year produced for us.

Today, we'll be talking about two women who led the movement to redefine women's wrestling in 2016.



To say that women's wrestling has come a long way since the bra-and-panties matches of the likes of Torrie Wilson and Sable is an understatement. The movement to legitimize women's wrestling has been going on for years, way before the WWE decided to let it grow under its umbrella. And when it did starting with the NXT Women's Championship match between Paige and Emma at NXT Arrival, it showed that there was someone willing to throw them a bone. But even then, it seemed more like a concession, a privilege, than something the women were actually entitled to as much as the men were.

Today, neither Paige nor Emma are significant players on the main roster, but what they started has been taken to new heights by the Four Horsewomen. We don't need to get into who they are and what they've individually done at this point. When you mention that phrase—the Four Horsewomen—you think of all the exciting matches that Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley have been a part of over the last couple of years.

Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky stole the show at this year's WrestleMania with a superb performance, planting the seeds that the idea of women main-eventing a 'Mania might not be so far-fetched after all. Charlotte and Sasha followed it up on the RAW following the WWE Draft, when they had a RAW classic, where Sasha won the title for the first time. And then they took it to another level—despite doing the same matchup and replicating the same moment—when they main-evented RAW last September. 




Just when we all thought that they'd gone as far as they can go this year, the WWE surprised us all when they let Sasha and Charlotte's Cell Match go on last at this year's Hell In A Cell. Granted, Mick Foley already made the announcement prematurely on social media, only for WWE to backtrack and brand all three Cell Matches to headline the card as a triple main event. By the end of the night, however, the WWE did the right thing by giving Sasha and Charlotte their moment as the true stars of the night.

We can argue back and forth about whether or not Sasha should have retained at Hell In A Cell. (She totally should have and the WWE missed out on a signature moment right there in Sasha's own hometown.) But at the end of the day, the subtext of their Hell In A Cell Match carries a lot of weight for the future of the women's division.

For starters, giving Charlotte the victory is a silent acknowledgment of her being the division's true anchor because of all the tools she brings to the table from her look, to her character work, to her durability as a performer. While that isn't necessarily an indictment of Sasha Banks—as many smark fans would like to postulate—the fact that we got the women's Cell match in the main event speaks volumes about how far WWE is willing to be part of the women's evolution.

It's too early to assume, let alone demand, that the women main-event the next WrestleMania. Even we agree that we've got a long way to go until then. However, the women have also come quite far since this whole movement began to take form in WWE. No longer are the women's matches considered popcorn or bathroom breaks at PPVs. Hell, they're bonafide must-see events at this point.

When we look back at women's wrestling from the year 2016, Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks inside Hell in a Cell is definitely one of its highlights. That's because everything about it screams victory for everyone who's ever advocated for women to be held in the same regard as the men in this industry. Here's to hoping that 2016 is just a stepping stone and that things get better (through whatever) from 2017 onward.


*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2016.

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