The shadow cast by the absence of Sasha Banks over the WWE Raw women's roster right now is gigantic.
And if Banks isn't walking back through that door, fortunately, Nikki Cross could explode out of the darkness to take a top spot.
Cross has been rightfully inserted into the Money in the Bank ladder match for a women's championship match contract at Sunday's pay-per-view in place of the injured Alex Bliss.
And looking at the participants, it isn't hard to see why:
- Dana Brooke
- Mandy Rose
- Ember Moon
- Nikki Cross
The women's division has simply lost some steam since WrestleMania. As expected, throwing both women's titles into the main event at 'Mania was a bad swerve that created some stagnation at the top. That the division is missing a star like Banks isn't helping matters.
While Becky Lynch defends against Lacey Evans and Charlotte Flair on the same night, the match with a briefcase swinging above the ring doesn't feature many interesting outcomes. Naomi and Carmella have been done before. Bayley is a predictable winner, though one could argue her character isn't salvageable. And the rest haven't done enough to get fans excited.
Then there is the recent slingshotting of Cross into the match while she picks up some wins and displays some new character wrinkles. Really, the suddenness and depth of it almost reminds one of the seemingly overnight push for Kofi Kingston recently.
And Cross has something a lot of stars don't have right now: character.
Yes, Cross was the wildcard in NXT and chaotic member of Sanity. But the recent Bliss storyline has let her quickly evolve into something quite a bit more interesting.
Just look at the interaction here:
This isn't anything too new for fans who keep up with social media though. Cross has always had an interesting character with depth and recent social media posts tell quite the tale:
That is leagues and leagues more interesting than most stories being told in WWE right now. Cross has this solid mix of character depth most fans don't know about and the specter of her completely snapping that few this side of Bray Wyatt or a Demon can match.
In the short term, Cross is the type of chaotic element that makes a briefcase match with a handful of competitors great. She's not only good in the ring, but unpredictable and willing to take some risks.
And that goes double for a briefcase holder, which is what would make her such a great winner. Fans can't know when Cross is going to strike, but when she does it will probably be excellent. WWE has to stop ruining the importance of the briefcase anyway after the massive duds thrown out by Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman lately.
Given Cross' past tendencies, there is an angle here with Bliss where she's just playing along. It's being presented as if Bliss is manipulating Cross, but the real swerve could be this unfolding the other way around. If Cross wins the briefcase, WWE has itself a non-title storyline for months and months that could unfold as the two grapple for control of the contract.
The story of Cross can save WWE quite a bit of hassle in other areas too. Not only does it give the women's Raw scene some diversity at the top, it makes NXT look better. Because right now, NXT call ups have gone from a celebratory thing to mostly a thing of dread—to say there have been more duds than success stories would be an understatement. Most of the tag teams have bombed. EC3 is missing in action. Ruby Riott and Cross, to this point, have been afterthoughts, to name a few missteps.
But Cross could be a nice intersection of character work and smart presentation to fans that uplifts both of these areas.
Of course, WWE has generally shied away from in-depth storytelling and characters lately. It tried to make amends with fans at WrestleMania 35 in many ways. Brock Lesnar lost a belt, Lynch won two, Kingston won. But the ratings are still hurting and the resulting panic has led to silly things like the Wild Card rule.
WWE has to give fans a reason to invest in the product each week and breathing new life into the Raw women's division is one way to start saving the red brand. Letting Cross run wild with the character depth while hanging around the outer edges of the main-event scene before striking for a title is a good way to do this while making a star.
Suggesting Cross was the answer to many of WWE's woes even two months ago might have been met with some silly looks. But things are moving at a blinding pace for WWE right now and decisions made on the fly have helped the most. Cross stepping into the gap left by someone such as Banks would be another good example of letting something organically unfold and both the company and fans end up reaping the benefits.