One of the biggest surprises at WWE’s SummerSlam came at the end of the SmackDown Women’s Title match between Carmella, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. It wasn’t Flair’s win that was surprising; it was Lynch’s attack on the new champion that had Brooklyn buzzing (and cheering).
But does Becky Lynch’s beatdown of her best friend constitute a heel turn? It’s not so cut-and-dry. To understand Lynch’s motivations, WWE fans should think back to 2015 when she, Flair and Sasha Banks were all called up to the main roster from NXT.
HIGHS AND LOWS
From the start, Flair and Banks were groomed to be the top competitors in the women’s division. Flair won the WWE Divas Championship and retained it after a triple threat match at WrestleMania 31 to become the first RAW Women’s Champion (the Divas belt was retired.) Banks would feud with Flair for the title over the better part of that year, trading victories and title changes.
The WWE Draft would send Lynch to SmackDown Live (the B-show) where she would become the inaugural Women’s Champion for the Blue Brand. However, the addition of another NXT call-up, Alexa Bliss would rock Lynch’s first and only title reign. The two would feud for a couple of months before Bliss won the title in the first ever Women’s Tables Match.
Lynch would not capture the title again, and was relegated to the back of the SmackDown Women’s roster as other competitors climbed the ladder.
Superstars like Naomi and Natalya would become champions in that time, but Lynch was always waiting for her shot. That chance would come in the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match in 2017. Becky Lynch was so close to picking up the briefcase when James Ellsworth, Carmella’s valet, knocked the ladder over and Lynch with it. Carmella would win the match (and the do-over, two nights later) to the chagrin of Lynch.
ROAD TO SUMMERSLAM 2018
In 2017, Alexa Bliss was traded to Monday Night RAW in the Superstar Shakeup with Flair coming over to SmackDown. It didn’t take long for Flair to assert her dominance over the division and capture the title from Natalya at last year’s SummerSlam. After successfully defending her title against Royal Rumble winner Asuka at WrestleMania 34, Flair would lose the championship when Carmella cashed-in her MITB briefcase.
With Flair away from television after surgery, Lynch would go on an impressive winning streak and fight her way into number one contender-ship against Carmella. The two were set to face off at SummerSlam 2018 when Flair returned.
SmackDown Live General Manager, Paige, tried to force Carmella to be a fighting champion, pitting her against Flair. Carmella lost the match and now her SummerSlam match against Lynch would be a triple threat that included Flair.
This immediately caused friction between the best friends, causing weeks of passive aggressive behavior as Lynch sprouted an inferiority complex. It didn’t help that the heels of the show, like the IIconics and Carmella, continually referred to Lynch as Flair’s “sidekick” or say that she was in her shadow.
Despite the weeks of “will they, won’t they,” Flair, Lynch and Carmella wrestled in a great match that had a clean finish. After Lynch embraced Flair for winning the belt, she attacked her best friend unprovoked.
A colleague told me that AJ Styles’ beatdown of Samoa Joe at the end of their match was similar to Becky Lynch’s and if Lynch is a heel because of it than Styles is too. I have to disagree. Joe was clearly being a heel before and during the match, calling out Styles’ family and his wife in particular causing the WWE Champion to lash out in anger.
All Flair did was fight her way into the match that Paige constructed and win the match fairly. Lynch’s assault after the match was because the superstar reached a boiling point, a culmination of years of coming in second. Lynch feels betrayed by her best friend, who took the spotlight from her at SummerSlam.
The story being told was for Becky Lynch to finally go over Carmella. She knew it, and the Brooklyn crowd definitely knew that, which is why the turn isn’t so clear. The malice during the beatdown as well as the lack of reconciliation during the post-show is a traditional heel move. But when her motivations are so relatable and understanding, it’s hard to say one way or another.
The SmackDown on Aug. 21 will really show what happens to Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair’s relationship, and may shed more light into Lynch’s turn.