LOS ANGELES — Inside the Staples Center at Survivor Series, it was supposed to be Becky Lynch‘s night.
When Lynch came through the curtains in Los Angeles in front of a sold-out house, she was supposed to the biggest star in the room. Her opponent, Ronda Rousey, one of the most influential athletes in recent memory, was set to be her foil. Over the past year, Lynch has ridden the wave of momentum coming from the undercurrent of the WWE fan base, similar to the one that saw Daniel Bryan usurp the status quo to become the undisputed world champion at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans.
Everything was lined up perfectly for Lynch to take the stage in front of one of wrestling’s hottest crowds. She might have lost to Rousey, but the match, coupled with the overwhelming majority of the crowd singing her name, would have further catapulted her as one of the hottest acts the somewhat stagnant WWE has seen in some time.
And yet, one Nia Jax punch six days before Survivor Series and one “broken face” diagnosis later, Lynch never got her payoff moment. She sat on the sideline with an injury, and the match was twisted into Rousey against Lynch’s close friend-turned-rival-turned-friend Charlotte Flair, a match that was being penciled in as a WrestleMania showcase. Instead of Lynch having an all-time classic, it was Flair, the highly decorated champion and daughter of the Hall of Famer, having the match of the night with Rousey.
While the crowd’s chants of “BE-CKY! BE-CKY! BE-CKY!” rang throughout the building to begin the match, and as the fight went on, the spectacle inside and outside of the ring took center stage. By the time Flair disqualified herself by hammering Rousey in the ribs with a kendo stick, she was the star of the show. With the same sort of brazen ruthlessness and swagger that helped Lynch to ascend as one of the company’s most beloved performers (at Flair’s expense, no less), Flair drew inspiration from Lynch and made an unforgettable moment of mercilessly attacking Rousey in the ring.
When Flair had finally had enough, and stumbled backward up the ramp with a glazed, wild look in her eyes, Rousey’s own hometown crowd thanked Flair for what she’d done to the former MMA megastar.
In one night, the WWE already had what it needed for its WrestleMania package. Rousey, sneering and appearing to be genuinely hurt at a crowd mercilessly booing her, with close-ups of bruises and cuts across her body. Flair, the long-believed chosen one of the future of women’s wrestling, dipping into her father’s playbook by going to any means necessary to get the job done against a rival. A hot crowd. A match that, if it hadn’t been disrupted by a disqualification, could have been one of the best of the entire year in the WWE.
It was the perfect litmus test at one of the company’s biggest shows of the year, for a debate that’s simmered over the past few years.
Should a women’s match be the main event at WrestleMania?
The answer from the fans in attendance at Survivor Series, who were more invested in the brawl between Rousey and Flair than a first-ever dream match between Bryan and Brock Lesnar, was a resounding yes. At a time when there is no clear hot men’s feud going into 2019, it’s not if the women’s division should have a chance to main-event WrestleMania, it should simply be about who should be involved, and how they get there.
Last year, the WWE could have pulled the trigger by having Rousey main-event WrestleMania 34 in her debut in the mixed-tag match in which Rousey partnered with Kurt Angle against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. It didn’t, and taking its time with the investment it put into Rousey was paid off in spades. The longtime wrestling fan showed a knack for the business from the moment she stepped into the ring in New Orleans, in a similar fashion to the way her tag-team partner that night did when he transitioned from the Olympic wrestling mats to the squared circle.
But at that moment, it wasn’t quite the right time. Rousey wasn’t ready. Flair vs. Asuka was one of the better matches on the show, but didn’t have the buildup of a ‘Mania main event, either. It was too early.
Following the massive success of the first all-women’s pay-per-view, Evolution, which had an absolutely electric crowd, and the bout between Flair and Rousey in Los Angeles, there should be no more reservations. Rousey is ready, Flair is ready, and the division as a whole is ready to headline the biggest show of the year.
The main event for WrestleMania 35 is staring WWE in the face. Ronda Rousey, the baddest woman on the planet and cultural phenomenon, in one corner. Charlotte Flair, the queen of the wrestling business herself, in another. And, in her own corner staring both of the other women down, should be Becky Lynch — the people’s champion, someone who, as recently as one year ago, no one would have believed could be in the ring for the main event at WrestleMania.
At WrestleMania 30, Bryan overcame Randy Orton and Batista to become the top star in the company. Five years on from the “Miracle on Bourbon Street,” as called by Michael Cole, it still holds up as one of the greatest main events in WrestleMania history.
Flair and Rousey proved in Los Angeles that it’s time for a women’s main event at WrestleMania.
Flair, Rousey and Lynch at MetLife Stadium next April could have not just a main event-worthy WrestleMania match — they might quite possibly have a WrestleMania main event for the ages.