On August 21, 2021, Becky Lynch finally made her return to WWE in controversial fashion. At SummerSlam, the Irish superstar received a thunderous welcome before a puzzled crowd looked on as she unceremoniously defeated Bianca Belair to become the new SmackDown women's champion.
This result quickly sparked outrage online, raising the ire of fans who rallied behind The EST of WWE. It's still hard to understand what exactly the end goal is for both Lynch and Belair following such an atrocious last-minute change. However, one could infer that The Man was due for a character change because she didn't act like the popular babyface who vacated the Raw Women's Championship in a heartwarming moment 15 months ago.
Still, having the returning superstar pin the reigning champion in 26 seconds is one of the most confounding booking decisions in recent memory. Even worse, it devalued Belair's history-making year in search of a shocking twist, but such a highly anticipated comeback was already a big enough moment.
Nevertheless, the events of The Biggest Party of Summer seemed to signal a heel turn for one of the biggest stars on the women's roster. Reports have surfaced that suggest it was Lynch's idea, but how can this possibly work for someone who experienced such a meteoric rise in 2019?
Becky Lynch has the prowess to make this work
First and foremost, dethroning such a beloved protagonist in Belair is an effective way to generate heat, even though WWE poorly executed everything surrounding the SmackDown Women's Championship match. Sometimes, wrestling works best when it presents simple plot points. At SummerSlam, the fans received a convoluted attempt to kill two birds with one stone.
As such, it's hard to imagine that it could benefit any of the women involved. To make matters worse, most fans didn't see Lynch cheap-shot Belair and pin her after immediately turning on her. In the end, fans questioned the company for seemingly ruining another up-and-coming babyface champion's reign prematurely again.
It will be difficult to overcome that perspective with some viewers, but it's not impossible. If anyone can turn this around and deliver an interesting character change, it's The Man, but it's going to take some time to get there. The 34-year-old certainly has the mic skills, and her trademark intensity has been her greatest strength since she famously turned on Charlotte Flair in 2018.
Furthermore, Lynch has proved that she knows how to use social media and play off the fandom online. During her feud with Ronda Rousey, she did a tremendous job at this, and this approach informed most of her tenure with the Raw women's title. There is so much potential here for a performer who is quick and understands how to utilize promos and the internet to fill in the gaps that WWE programming doesn't.
Has The Man persona run its course?
Even the most unreasonable fans can probably see that the five-time women's champion has the aptitude and charisma to be a fantastic heel. That's not the crux of the issue. Most of the WWE audience don't see why she would shy away from the persona that propelled her to superstardom.
The answer is simple. It just doesn't work anymore because she is no longer an underdog who the company is holding back. That has been a believable motive for Lynch since she won the Winner Take All match at WrestleMania 35, but it's not anymore.
It would've been unwise for her to return from a 15-month hiatus cutting the same anti-authority promos and seeking vengeance on those who crossed her. That connected with viewers when she languished on the blue brand as the Irish Lass Kicker, but she just isn't the same person anymore.
The Man isn't just one of the most preeminent women's wrestlers of her generation; she's legitimately one of the top stars in the industry. No one could possibly undermine her popularity at this point and because of that, she has become everything she used to hate about her longtime friend and rival, Flair.
It's easy to look at what Lynch did to Belair at SummerSlam as out of character. After all, it's precisely what The Queen would've done. However, things have changed, and the two-time PWI Woman of the Year knows exactly what it feels like to lose her spot now. So, there's a compelling story to tell about what she would do to get it back and protect it.
The Verdict: Buy
It might seem ridiculous to turn someone in demand, and the catalyst will remain divisive, but Becky Lynch can have a successful run as a heel on SmackDown. On the surface, this looks a lot like Daniel Bryan's abrupt transition into antagonist when he finally won the WWE Championship again. At the time, it seemed like no one wanted to boo after everything he went through to get back to in-ring competition.
But consider what his tenure as The Planet's Champion did for him in the long run. Bryan was never universally despised in the role, but it was some of his best character work to date. This has the potential to be the same kind of career resurgence for The Man.
More importantly, the blue brand's women's division could use a new top heel to replace Bayley, who is injured. Her fellow horsewoman fits the bill, and we can't wait to see how she evolves as a character.