Sasha Banks on How Dealing With Racism Inspired Her To Become a Wrestler

Sasha Banks on How Dealing With Racism Inspired Her To Become a Wrestler

Sasha Banks has been riding a red-hot wave of momentum ever since her feud with SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley kicked off. Alongside the likes of Bayley, Asuka, and Becky Lynch, Banks has had one of the most successful years of her career in 2020. However, ‘The Boss’ is not satisfied with being just “one” of the best.

Speaking on The New Day: Feel the Power podcast, Banks is confident in saying she is the best going right now.

“I’ve always had that mindset of wanting to be the greatest and just wanting to be more than I ever thought I could be for myself as a kid. And now, here I am at 28. It’s like, ‘Whoa, my dreams are a reality now,'” Banks said. “I’m the greatest, and I truly believe that. I’ve come such a long way that I can’t even believe it.”

While some may mistake Banks’s words for arrogance, the former Women’s Champion says it’s important that younger people see her confidence as inspiration.

“You have the power of your dreams and the power of manifesting things,” Banks said. “It’s so important to do that, and I just really want to invoke that message to people – just to manifest everything you want in life and it will come to you. I promise you that.”

Banks’s journey to the WWE was not an easy one. Her family uprooted a lot, moving across the country from California to Massachusetts and living in states that made Banks feel isolated at times. The real-life Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado attributes her difficult childhood as a key motivator to getting her where she is today.

“I mean, for me, it was just so hard being a kid,” Banks said. “First, I was living in Iowa at the time. [I was] the only black girl in the whole freaking county. It felt plain and just– the only black girl. I was like, ‘Man, where am I and what’s going to happen with my life?’. So before that, I lived in California and around a lot of other cultures and different experiences, hearing people say the ‘N’ Word. But back then, ‘N’ Word is like ‘Hey’ as a friend. When I hear it back in Calfornia, you say it as a friend. The first time I heard it in such a negative way was when I was living in California.”

Banks recalled a specific instance of dealing with racism first-hand. While the experience made Banks feel scared, Banks says watching wrestling gave her the drive to become something larger than life.

“I was walking home from softball practice and this guy on his porch was screaming at me, ‘Hey ‘N’ Word, get the f–k out of here!’ And instantly, I became so shy and so scared,” Banks said. “Next thing I know, I’m watching wrestling like, ‘Whoa! This is who I’m going to be; I’m going to be larger than life. I’m going to be something that I can’t be right now, and I have to do this because this is my dream and I have to break this fear’. So ever since I laid my eyes on wrestling, it was just always my mindset, and this is what was going to save me. It was going to break me away from being a scared little child and being so fearful. But now, I’m here, breaking so many fears, and it’s crazy.

“It’s all because of my experience, my journey. But you have to go through those things to know where you are now and to grow. And now, here I am, going back. And, like, okay, because of that, here I am today being the most successful women’s wrestler in history’.”

Banks began training in 2008 at a Massachusetts-based promotion, Chaotic Wrestling. Banks made her in-ring debut in 2010 as Mercedes KV, and continued to wrestle on the independent circuit for just two years before getting signed to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2012. Banks says getting that WWE contract was exhilarating but that magic quickly wore off.

“It was when I finally got signed, I was like, ‘D–n, did I just [get] signed? What the hell?’. You know when you first get started, you’re just like, ‘Holy– man, this everything’. And then, you’re there, and you’re like, ‘They’re not doing s–t with me,'” Banks said. “I’m just losing every single week. D–n – seeing new girls get called up before me? Dang it. Seeing new girls get put on TV before me.

“I thought I was good; I thought I was doing awesome. I was everything, and I wanted to be the best. ‘Aren’t you the best?’ That’s what I said to myself. And I was like, “Dang. I actually might get released’. I just felt that energy. I felt that around the coaches, and I just thought I was going to be on the chopping block.”

According to Banks, Tyler Breeze, a.k.a ‘Prince Pretty’, was one of a few stars who helped her define her ‘Boss’ character.

“[Breeze] really helped me,” Banks said. “He made me write down five different characters. You helped him a lot, too, [Xavier] Woods, right? [We were] making videos, and I think I was going to ask [Woods] too as well. But I did my first promo as ‘The Boss’, just trying my first character, and I clicked – long story short.

“If we’re going to talk about people who helped me, Woods and Tyler Breeze are saviors to FCW. I can say you, Tyler Breeze, and [Byron] Saxton. People don’t give you guys enough credit. Angels. Just savior, and just helping so many people keep their jobs, and I thank you.”

It’s hard to imagine ‘The Boss’ with a name other than Sasha Banks. Even though the name has become a second identity for the Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado, Banks revealed it was not her first choice.

“I never thought about a last name when it came to wrestling,” Banks said. “I thought just Mercedes, but then [I was told], ‘You got to have a last name’. I was like, ‘D–n, I can’t think of anything. I don’t want anything basic. Just Mercedes KV’. Just the first– well, they were like, ‘Can you put down a list of names?’ And I put Sasha with a different last name and Banks with a different first name. I really wanted the name, Jade. It was my number one choice. I really liked that name, but I remember Sara [Del Rey] just came into the locker room. ‘Oh, you’re just Sasha Banks’. I was like, ‘Oh, I kind of liked that name’. It clicks!”

Outside the squared circle, Banks is set to star in Season 2 of Disney+’s The Mandalorian. The new season begins streaming next Friday, but Banks is still wrapping her head around the opportunity.

“It still has not hit me,” Banks said. “It’s crazy. Freaking, Star Wars!? It’s insane. There’s not much I can talk about yet, but all I can say is I’m in it. I can’t believe it and I’m so thankful.”

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