Exclusive: Sasha Banks on WWE Survivor Series, Mandalorian, Acting Future, More
Between becoming SmackDown women's champion at Hell in a Cell and appearing in The Mandalorian, few WWE Superstars have the momentum that Sasha Banks does right now, both inside and outside of the ring.
Banks has been brilliant in the heel role since returning to the company in August 2019, but it wasn't until after WrestleMania 36 that she started doing some of her strongest work alongside Bayley. The two of them have arguably been the best part of the product during the pandemic era and now find themselves fighting over the top prize in SmackDown's women's division.
Coming off reigns as Raw women's champion and WWE women's tag team champion earlier in the year, The Boss finally clinched the SmackDown Women's Championship from her former friend inside Hell in a Cell, no less. She followed that up with an appearance as Koska Reeves in the critically acclaimed Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, just last week.
Looking ahead to Sunday, she'll be representing the blue brand when she rekindles her rivalry with Raw women's champion Asuka at Survivor Series. A win there on one of WWE's grandest stages would be a fitting way for her to close out what's been a career year for her.
The all-new SmackDown women's champion took the time to chat with Bleacher Report about her recent success on SmackDown, what's in store at Survivor Series, her acting aspirations and wanting to surpass Roman Reigns as the face of Friday nights.
Click through to catch the highlights and listen to the full interview at the end.
Becoming SmackDown Women's Champion and Debuting on The Mandalorian
Sasha Banks becoming SmackDown women's champion at Hell in a Cell last month was a long time coming, as it was the one title that has always eluded her in WWE. She is now only the third-ever female Grand Slam champion in WWE after Bayley and Asuka.
Her latest title victory was the culmination of what has been a fantastic 2020 for her. Despite the unfortunate circumstances most of success has happened under, she feels this has easily been the best year of her main roster career so far.
"I only think about the future and I don't want to go back," Banks said. "I can already say 2021 will be even better absolutely because I feel like every single year, for me, it just keeps getting better, whether that's with championships or the universe teaching me lessons where I'm supposed to grow and receive things for the next year where I'll be able to handle it like the boss that I am and accomplish all my dreams.
"I definitely have to say that 2020 has really blessed me and really given me a great, great year. I don't want to say it's been awesome because it has been hard. I'm actually going through a lot of tough times right now, but I will always try to think of the most positive things in life and how after everything is said and done, we always be OK and everything will be all right. I'm so thankful for this time.”
The last few weeks alone for The Boss have been nothing short of a whirlwind, starting with her Hell in a Cell win that was followed by her Mandalorian debut last Sunday. The buzz she has at the moment speaks to how big of a star she truly is as well as her reach outside of wrestling.
"I know that as Mercedes [her given first name] or as Sasha Banks, I can do whatever I put my mind to, I can make happen," she said about the opportunities she's received. "I'm so thankful to be the SmackDown Women's champion, to have a successful Hell in a Cell where people are still talking about it and raving about it, and it's just another classic in my wrestling journey.
"Now Star Wars, it's one thing to be a part of it, and I knew the excitement of it all and I was so incredibly nervous, but to see the reach and to see the success of the episode alone, people are just loving it, and it might be one of the best episodes in the history of television, I think. It's so awesome, and I can't wait to see what else is going to happen in my life."
Honoring Eddie Guerrero and Her Acting Future
Sasha Banks' admiration for Eddie Guerrero has been well documented over the years, as he indirectly helped her get through tough times growing up and ultimately inspired her to break into the wrestling business.
The Boss has paid tribute to the late, great WWE Hall of Famer on countless occasions, including at WrestleMania 32 with her gear. However, it was especially meaningful for her Mandalorian debut to occur on November 13, the exact 15-year anniversary of Guerrero's untimely passing.
"I could not believe the timing and how before, November 13th was a nightmare for me," Banks said. "I hated it. I was like, 'How dare the universe take away my hero!' And then I turned that day into wanting to celebrate Eddie Guerrero and every single time I step into that ring, I want to celebrate him. It's now an even more important day in my life being a part of this whole new world in the Star Wars world, and it's so incredible. It's something I'll never forget and I'm so thankful that due to this man Eddie Guerrero, I'm living my dream and I've accomplished so much because of how much he inspired me."
The Mandalorian marked Banks' first taste of acting outside of WWE, and it just so happened to be for one of the hottest shows on any streaming service right now. She's since received plenty of positive feedback for the role she had in the episode, with fans hoping that her days as an actress are only getting started.
The 28-year-old is leaving the door open for more acting opportunities that come her way as she continues to build her brand and become more of a mainstream star.
"I already am an actress," she said. "I act every single week on Friday Night SmackDown, but of course I got the itch for more. The crew, the production, the whole value of it all was just so enlightening, and it made me so happy. It just made me want more and more and more. If I can get it, I would love it."
Her Hiatus in 2019 and Hell in a Cell History
After debuting on WWE's main roster in July 2015, Sasha Banks quickly endeared herself to the audience and won the Raw Women's Championship the subsequent summer. She was a featured face in the division from that point forward but wasn't as big of a star as she could have been because of questionable booking.
She and Bayley became the inaugural WWE women's tag team champions at the onset of 2019 but lost the title less than two months later at WrestleMania 35. The Boss then abruptly disappeared from WWE TV as fans questioned her status with the company, though she later clarified in her Chronicle documentary on the WWE Network that burnout and prioritizing her mental health were the main reasons why she took the time off.
"I found myself," she said when asked what's changed for her since the spring of 2019. "For so long, I was playing Sasha Banks and I forgot who Mercedes was. I forgot that Mercedes created Sasha Banks and Mercedes had that dream of becoming a wrestler, and I lost that. I took that time to re-find my love and re-find my passion and re-find what I wanted in life and what I wanted to be and what I aspired to be because I kept living in my past and not thinking about my future.
"I took the time for me and really discovered myself and after I did that, it's almost like the universe has opened so many doors for myself when I realized who Mercedes was," she continued. "It was a beautiful lesson and a beautiful journey, and I'm so thankful for all my hardships and rocks in the road because they've guided me and taught me so much. I'm so thankful for that time I got to take off because now I'm better than ever. I feel amazing."
One of her first bouts back last year was inside Hell in a Cell against Becky Lynch for the Raw women's title. It was widely regarded by fans to be a Match of the Year candidate, much like her Hell in a Cell outing with Bayley in October.
Having competed in every female Hell in a Cell matchup to date, Banks considers herself a Hell in a Cell legend among the illustrious likes of The Undertaker, Triple H and Randy Orton.
"I'm like an active icon," she said in character. "I'm just beyond my time. I'm once in a lifetime. My body of work speaks for itself. There's a reason my name is bigger than any title. It's a marquee name, it's a star because of my work. I'm so thankful for putting in the work to wanting to be the best. It just shows I'm one of the greatest.”
Feuding with Bayley
What made last month's Hell in a Cell clash between Bayley and Sasha so special was that it been in the works for several years dating back to their NXT days. WWE took its time telling the story, and it ultimately paid off in marvelous fashion.
The anticipation was at an all-time high, the promos leading up to the event were excellent, and the match delivered. Although Banks has now beaten Bayley twice, it's entirely possible the feud will continue in the coming weeks, and it's virtually guaranteed to be revisited again down the road.
"I think it's better when it's something longer lasting," she said. "We can go back years and say, 'Why does she hate for her this? Why did this happen?' It's not just a two-week storyline. You're invested in our storyline and it goes all the way back to NXT. Bayley's whole career has been teaming up with me, so it's been a long time coming and I think Hell in a Cell is the perfect way to finally end things or put things to a pause.
"You never know if we'll come back to it. We create such magic together, especially at a time when there's no audience in attendance besides the ThunderDome. We always have such amazing chemistry and magic because we always had the same dream."
Bayley vs. Banks felt like it could have come to fruition on several occasions since 2017. It wound up being for the best that the company held off as long as it did, though some have said the storyline could have been stretched out even further into WrestleMania season.
When asked about whether there were any points when she felt WWE was going to book the bout sooner than she hoped, she explained that it's her job to take whatever Vince McMahon wants and make it work to the best of her ability, regardless of what it is or how she feels about it.
“Whatever Vince wants, that's what I'm going to do," she said. "Anything he gives me, I want to take it and make it as magical as I can make it. I won't just take a storyline and say, 'OK, let me just go through it.' How can I make it the best? How can I make it the most talked-about and the most watched? As you can see, it is. We are the most viewed. We are the highest rated. I have to put in the work, but Vince is the creator. He has to tell me what he wants, and I'm going to create that magic.”
Representing SmackDown and Having the Best Women's Division in WWE
Following a three-year stint on Raw, Sasha Banks finally made the move to SmackDown in the 2019 WWE draft. She's proved to be a much better fit there than she ever was on Raw, and the success she's had in the last year is proof of that.
Despite her previous ties to Raw, Banks believes that the SmackDown women's roster is far superior to Raw's and will have no problem beating them at Survivor Series. She's looking forward to the opportunity to lead the division as its women's champion going forward.
"It matters to me to represent SmackDown to the best of my ability because I will put it out there and say that our locker room, the SmackDown women's division, is way better than the Raw one," she said. "They can't touch or even compete with us. Asuka can't even compete with me. She's amazing, but they don't hold a candle to me or my locker room. It's definitely a brand I want to represent. Of course I want the win, but I definitely want to do it for my team, and I represent them. We are a team and I want to continue being a team because it shouldn't be one person being successful. It should be everybody."
Regardless of what brand she finds herself on, The Boss is confident she's the best anywhere right now. SmackDown was the show she was always drawn to growing up as a fan, and even all these years, she's still of the mindset that the blue brand is light-years ahead of Raw.
"I always felt wherever I was put, I just wanted to be the best," she said. "I always want people to talk about my name; I always want it to matter. That didn't matter if it was Raw or SmackDown. It could be NXT; it could be NXT UK. It's still going to be about Sasha Banks. My favorites were always on [SmackDown] growing up. I still to this day think SmackDown is better than Raw. I don't know if WWE wants me to say that, but I do! I think SmackDown is better than Raw. I think the talent is incredible."
Feuding with Carmella and Facing Asuka at Survivor Series
Now that her rivalry with Bayley appears to be over for now, Sasha Banks is shifting her focus toward Carmella, who recently returned to SmackDown and has ambushed the SmackDown women's champion in back-to-back weeks.
Interestingly enough, Banks and Carmella have never gone one-on-one before in WWE, not even in NXT. Thus, it's a fresh feud that is sure to elevate both women by the time it's over, no matter who emerges from it with the gold in their grasp.
Along with Carmella, The Boss couldn't be more excited to mix it up with everyone else in SmackDown's women's division and continue to take the title to new heights.
"I'm super excited about [facing Carmella] because of this draft that just happened. It brought over a lot of new people and a lot of people I haven't had matches with. Even like Liv Morgan or Bianca Belair or Ruby Riott. I've tangled with them a little bit here and there, but it's so different now, so I'm so excited to work with Carmella and people I have not worked with before because it just makes me more excited to go to work."
Come Survivor Series on Sunday, she'll be facing a familiar foe in Asuka. The two traded the Raw Women's Championship back and forth over the summer and made magic in the ring together every time.
Next to Bayley, Asuka is undoubtedly one of Banks' favorite opponents. This time around, however, she's aiming to beat The Empress of Tomorrow all on her own in the battle for brand supremacy.
"Any time I can face Asuka, I am so down because of her style and her creativity and her mindset," she said. "I've always been a huge fan of the joshi style and that was always a big dream of mine: to go to Japan and learn that style. To get a little taste of that with her is so awesome for me because it gets my 'little girl' heart so excited. I feel like any time we get in the ring, it's not the same match and it's never really the same style, and that's what I really love about her.
"She always changes it up on me, she always makes me think of my feet because she is really speedy and really technical, but I also have to remember that so am I. I'm really good at that, too. I think our styles mesh really well with each other because she's technical, she knows submissions and she can fly as well. I can do all those things, but I am Sasha Banks and I can put that Bank Statement out of nowhere. I think at Survivor Series, it's going to be another classic between Banks and Asuka."
Surpassing Roman Reigns and Keeping in Contact with Snoop Dogg
The incarnation of Sasha Banks fans see every Friday night on SmackDown just may be the best yet, specifically because of how she's evolved as The Boss throughout her tenure on the main roster. She isn't a certified babyface or a heel at the moment, and that's what makes her character so compelling.
Her main motivation is to be the best—plain and simple. She's been able to back up that claim with her recent success, but she's determined to eclipse not only everyone else in the women's division, but the entire company as a whole. That includes universal champion Roman Reigns.
"I'm not afraid to let people know that I'm better than Roman Reigns. I really am," she said. "I'm the face of SmackDown. I'm better than Drew McIntyre. I am. There are facts; you can look at the science and the numbers. I am the face of the company. I am the best and that's just who I am. I'm a legit boss. I'm here to be the greatest, I'm here to make a legacy and I'm here to make so much history and create change and create magic, and I already know that I'm doing that right now."
While discussing if any male Superstars in WWE have stood out to her lately, Banks revealed she doesn't tune into the other shows and that Reigns is her biggest threat right now on SmackDown.
"Is there anybody that's sticking out to me? It's hard to say. I only watch myself," she said while in character. "I don't watch NXT. I don't watch Raw. But the only person I do see that gets more time than me is Roman. I'm not hating on it, but I'm just letting the company know that I need my time as well. That's who I'm seeing. To me, that's my competition."
On the subject of The Big Dog, Banks also mentioned that she frequently keeps in contact with her cousin Snoop Dogg, who was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016. He also rapped to her on the way to the ring at WrestleMania 32 and performed her new entrance music last year.
“When I talked about taking my break and I asked for advice, he gave me the greatest advice ever," she said. "He is legit family. He will help me out with anything I need, and I feel his love every single week. He's a phone call away. He's not just family; he's a friend. He's a legend and an icon, and I can only hope to be like him some day, but I'm following in my own footsteps and I'm creating my own lane. I'm just doing our family really, really proud.”
Her Favorite WWE Moment So Far and Dream Opponent for WrestleMania
From competing in the inaugural women's Royal Rumble match to headlining Hell in a Cell with Charlotte Flair in 2016, Sasha Banks had had countless memorable moments throughout her time in WWE. Not including NXT, she admitted that her favorite was when she captured the Raw Women's Championship for the first time on Raw in July 2016.
It was an instant classic against Charlotte, and the episode just so happened to be the beginning of a new era in the company. They had multiple Match of the Year contenders together in 2016, but that bout was arguably the best of the bunch.
“It was such an amazing match," she said. "It wasn't a match we planned weeks before. It was just a match made that night and the magic I was able to create with Charlotte. There's WrestleMania, there's Abu Dhabi for the first time. I've had so many incredible experiences in WWE. There's too many to pick; I'm just so thankful for them all. I'm so lucky that within these five years I've been able to say I've had the career that I've had."
As for what the future holds for her, she aspires to be nothing less than a fighting SmackDown women's champion and to defend her coveted title against all comers. Although she doesn't have one specific dream opponent for WrestleMania 37, Bayley still leads the list.
The two have been involved in four different WrestleMania matches together since 2017, but it's never been one-on-one. She hopes for that to change come the Show of Shows next spring.
"I hate saying one person because in WWE you never know," she said. "You never know who's going to be in WWE. There can be new people, new faces, people I don't even know. Of course, a dream match of mine is against Bayley at WrestleMania. The magic we create is like nothing I can even explain. Like I said, we have the greatest roster of all time, so it could honestly be any of those girls and we would steal the show."
Don't miss Sasha Banks vs. Asuka this Sunday, November 22 at WWE Survivor Series at starting at 7/6c on WWE Network.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.