Coming out of SummerSlam 2021, it was near impossible to justify WWE booking the returning Becky Lynch to beat Bianca Belair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in under a minute.
We’re over a month removed from that moment and it’s still difficult to defend that decision. Even with Belair vs. Sasha Banks not happening as advertised (despite WWE reportedly being well aware in advance that Banks wouldn’t compete at the pay-per-view), the way that bout was booked didn’t do either of them any favors.
We now know that the idea from the get-go was to turn Lynch heel, but perception is reality, and because Lynch didn’t do anything too dastardly to defeat Belair, it made The EST of WWE look incompetent. Fans were unsure how she’d rebound from such a setback, if at all.
Of course, the narrative that she was “buried” that evening was completely overblown, but that only seemed to be the vast minority of the audience. Most fans were curious how WWE would choose to follow up on it, and so far, their feud has been handled as well as it possibly could have been.
The worst thing WWE could have done was turn Belair heel instead of Lynch. That was what some fans were led to believe after how Belair reacted to her loss at SummerSlam, but Lynch going rogue instead made much more sense from a storyline standpoint.
In reality, Lynch was beloved from the instant she walked out of the curtain at SummerSlam. No one wanted to boo her, as made evident by the reaction to her title win on that same show. The audience was conflicted because both women are beloved and there was nothing wrong with them in their respective roles.
Regardless of whose idea it was for Lynch to turn, she has at least managed to make the most of it. The fear would be that, similar to what happened following SummerSlam 2018, the WWE Universe would side with The Man over Belair even though Lynch is the intended villain, but thankfully, that has yet to be the case.
After Lynch refused to give Belair her rightful rematch for the championship, Belair went out and won a Fatal 4-Way match to prove she was worthy of the shot. Since then, she and Lynch have only interacted in talking segments and have knocked it out of the park each and every time.
Lynch is gradually getting more and more booed while Belair is still receiving strong reactions. It was entirely possible that fans would have lost interest in her after how she lost at SummerSlam, but that hasn’t been the case in the slightest.
At Extreme Rules, they will collide again with the gold up for grabs. It almost doesn’t matter who wins because the feud is guaranteed to continue and either outcome could spawn several interesting scenarios.
At this current trajectory, Belair could end up even more over as a fan favorite than she was before once this rivalry runs its course.
Of course, WWE doesn’t have the most reliable track record when it comes to long-term storytelling, even though history has shown that they can pay off storylines properly when they want to.
Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley was a prime example of a feud that never had a definite conclusion. It certainly never saw Ripley avenge any of her previous losses to Flair before being demoted to the women’s tag team scene.
If fans have no faith in WWE’s booking based on their checkered past, it’s hard to blame them. It’s entirely dependent on how the finish to their encounter at Extreme Rules goes down and if Belair will be protected in defeat (assuming she loses) to keep the rivalry going.
A case can be made for Lynch vs. Belair being among WWE’s best feuds of the year so far and it’s only in its infancy. That’s solely because of the excellent promo battles they’ve had over the last month, and it’s bound to heat up even more once they start having the high-quality matches everyone knows they’re capable of together.
Belair, more than almost any other female who has come up from NXT in recent years, has cemented her spot as a headliner in WWE with the incredible year she’s had and isn’t likely to fall by the wayside whenever her rivalry with Lynch comes to an end.
For years, WWE has relied largely on the Four Horsewomen as their featured faces in the Raw and SmackDown women’s divisions. Asuka and others have had success, but Bayley, Banks, Flair, and Lynch are the ones the company has put the most effort into making feel special.
Belair should be the first to fully break through that glass ceiling and assert her dominance over all four of them. She’s already beaten Banks and Bayley decisively, and while it may not be in the immediate future (to allow the story to play out), Lynch should be the next big star she conquers to reclaim her spot as SmackDown’s lead female face.
If Lynch can continue to turn the crowd against her, in theory, Belair beating The Man should endear her to the audience even more and make her a bigger babyface than she was when she was champion the first time.
It may be easier said than done, especially given WWE’s history of incompetence in regards to this type of stuff, but the potential is there for this feud to take Belair to another level of superstardom.