Sasha Banks explains how Ronda Rousey has adjusted to WWE and succeeded so quickly
Rousey may need to improve on the mic, but she's an absolute natural in the squared circle
When Sasha Banks joined her fellow WWE superstars in welcoming Ronda Rousey to the women's locker room ahead of the former UFC champion's debut at the Royal Rumble in January, she admits to harboring a few preconceived notions of negativity.
"When I first heard she was going to be here I was a bit like, 'That's not really fair,'" Banks said during an interview with the CBS Sports "In This Corner" podcast. "But she has proven that she belongs and I'm really excited for her to be here with us. Man, I'm a big fan of her."
The 26-year-old Banks, whose real name is Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado, said it ultimately came down to Rousey's respect for the business and how serious she took her craft in such a short time that allowed her to win over her fellow competitors.
Rousey, 31, who came to WWE following a pair of devastating knockout defeats to likely close out her mixed martial arts career, clearly exceeded expectations with a performance in her debut match at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans that has almost universally been hailed as a show-stealer. Rousey teamed with Kurt Angle to defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in a mixed tag team match, following that up earlier this month with a strong performance at Money in the Bank in her televised singles debut against then-Raw women's champion Nia Jax.
"She has been killing it," Banks said. "She has proven all the doubters wrong, and it's so crazy to see her matches. I'm in shock; I'm in awe. I loved her match at WrestleMania. I loved her match at Money in the Bank, and I definitely think she's one to watch. I can't believe Money in the Bank was only her second match. I am so impressed, and I hope that I get to wrestle her in the future. I'm so excited for her career in WWE, and man, she really has been killing it."
Banks, who has joined WWE in promoting the Special Olympics USA Games from July 1-6 in Seattle (the opening ceremony is July 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC), also credited Rousey's ability to sell pain as a babyface as the reason she has connected so deeply with fans.
"To me, when I watch that match at Money in the Bank, I believed every single thing that she took," Banks said. "I believed that she was in pain -- and probably she really was. She was entertaining. For me, I feel like she gets it, and I think it's because she was a fan growing up. She knows what our audience wants to see, and she makes me feel everything that she's going through. I think that's one of the hardest things about being a WWE superstar, which is making people feel whether she's hurt or not."
Banks knows a thing or two about selling. In fact, her own ability to make pain appear so real has incorrectly caused many fans and critics to label her as everything from "dangerous" inside the ring to "injury prone." Banks could only laugh at the notion that she's constantly working the public simply by being good at what she does.
"That's what I do. I want to be the best and go down in history as the greatest woman ever," Banks said. "In fact, screw 'woman,' I want to go down as the greatest wrestler ever, and I have to convince the fans that what we do is very real. I train legit every day and own my craft. Being the best is all I'm dedicated to being. I need people to know I'm the best no matter what. I have like a problem with it."
Banks, whose younger brother has autism, said she feels a special bond with Special Olympics athletes and is inspired by their determination.
"I understood what they were going through because I grew up with my brother in overcoming adversity and his disabilities," Banks said. "It's letting people know that, yes, he has a disability but he can overcome anything. You just have to treat them like normal people. I have been able to meet so many amazing athletes through Special Olympics over the years and they have the purest heart of gold and they always bring such a joy to my face. Being part of this is amazing."
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More information on the Special Olympics USA Games can be found at www.specialolympicsusagames.org.
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