To WWE fans, Sasha Banks, aka “The Boss,” is the current SmackDown Women’s Champion. But to “Star Wars” fans, she may be better known as Koska Reeves on “The Mandalorian.”
Banks, whose real name is Mercedes Justine Kaestner-Varnado, was a recurring guest star on Season 2 of the hit Disney+ series, appearing on Episodes 11 and 16. While Banks’ between-the-ropes work surely informed the “Mandalorian” action scenes, it was the acting gig that made her a(n even) better professional wrestler, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told TheWrap.
“Sasha’s star only continues to rise,” McMahon said. “I think that experience for her gave her a different set of confidence that maybe she didn’t have before.”
“The Boss” winning The Belt on the Oct. 25, 2020 pay-per-view “Hell in a Cell” came mere weeks before her Nov. 13 Disney+ debut. Considering that the pro-wrestling business often selects its champions to “reflect pop culture,” as McMahon told us, that timing is likely not a coincidence.
But that doesn’t mean “Sasha Banks, SmackDown Women’s Champion” is an unearned title.
“Sasha is one of our biggest stars with some of the best charisma and potential. And on top of her athleticism and her storytelling abilities, she just shines. When she walks out, you pay attention. I love her attitude and just everything about her,” McMahon said. “So I think Sasha is really just getting started.”
Beyond the weekly “SmackDown” shows and Jan. 31’s “Royal Rumble” pay-per-view, “WrestleMania 37” is looming. Last year’s event was originally slated to be held at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium (home of the Buccaneers), but had to be moved to WWE’s own Performance Center due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, the WWE will get another shot at Raymond James Stadium for its so-called Super Bowl of professional wrestling — just nine weeks after the actual Super Bowl (LV) will take place at the same venue.
“It certainly does, I think, this year, work to our favor to be the event after the Super Bowl in the same stadium, especially given all of the key learnings that the Super Bowl will have,” McMahon told TheWrap. “And hopefully we’ll be able to glean some insights from them in terms of what works, what doesn’t work, what we need to do to really ensure the best experience possible.”
Read more about what that might look like — with or without fans — here.
“SmackDown” airs every Friday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fox.