Bayley tops Sasha Banks in NXT TakeOver main event

NXT standouts Bayley and Sasha Banks did more than just deliver another main event-caliber women’s wrestling match Wednesday night – they were the main event.

Fresh off the heels of their remarkable women’s championship classic at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in August, NXT women’s champion Bayley and former title holder Banks once again raised the bar for women’s wrestling by competing in a 30-minute women’s Iron Man match in Winter Park, Fla. for the NXT women’s championship to close out NXT TakeOver: Respect.

The match – which Bayley won three falls to two – marked the first time in NXT history that two women’s wrestlers have main-evented an NXT TakeOver special.

It also marked the first time in both World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and NXT history that two women have competed in an Iron Man match.

Bayley – who was born in Newark, Calif., and started her pro wrestling career in 2008 at age 18 – said in an exclusive interview with WWE.com that it was a privilege to share such an emotional and groundbreaking moment with a performer of Banks’ caliber:

“Personally, it means so much more than it does on a professional level. We’re just the same. We just grew up loving wrestling and this is all we want to do.”

The rules of the match were simple: Whichever competitor earned the most falls by the end of the 30-minute time limit would be declared the winner and NXT women’s champion.

The grueling battle of endurance – which wrestling fans referred to as the Iron Woman match – ultimately came down to the wire with Banks seeking to secure the victory and women’s title with her patented ‘Bank Statement’ crossface submission hold as both women were tied at two falls a piece.

Though Bayley managed to break free from the hold, Banks immediately applied a second Bank Statement and almost forced Bayley to pass out with less than a minute remaining.

But the resilient champion broke free once more and countered Banks’ final Bank Statement attempt with an inverted armbar.

Bayley proceeded to pull back on Banks’ left hand – which Bayley injured earlier in the match – and with less than five seconds remaining, forced her to submit to earn the deciding fall and successfully retain her women’s championship.

Both women received standing ovations from not only their peers on the NXT roster, but also Paul “Triple H” Levesque – WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative – his wife and Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon and talent scout William Regal.

Banks – a product of Fairfield, Calif., who also started her career at age 18 – was overcome with emotion as she walked up the entranceway and cried when Regal presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

McMahon and NXT assistant head coach Sara Amato – best known by wrestling fans as Sara Del Rey – consoled and embraced Banks as the NXT Universe inside Orlando’s Full Sail University proudly and loudly chanted, “Thank you, Sasha!”

Levesque then entered the ring with flowers for Bayley and hugged the women’s champ before raising her hand up in victory. He then exited the ring, allowing Bayley to soak in the emotional moment while the fans showered her and Banks with chants of “You deserve it!”

Levesque took a picture with both women after the event and posted it on his official Twitter account, followed by the tweet:

Bayley annexed then-champion Banks of her women’s title at TakeOver: Brooklyn in a match that featured a superb mix of storytelling, athleticism and emotion.

The match received critical acclaim from throughout the pro wrestling community and was considered by many to be the best women’s wrestling match in years. Fans even acknowledged it as the frontrunner for the match of the year.

So it was only fitting that Bayley and Banks came together once more to make history in a main event the caliber of the Iron Man.

Both women were evenly matched for the first seven minutes of the match and successfully countered each other’s attempted signature moves.

But Banks took an early lead about nine minutes in when she pinned Bayley with a roll-up following an illegal eye poke.

Bayley soon evened things up three minutes later after connecting with her patented Bayley to Belly suplex to earn her first fall.

Banks exhibited a mean streak as the match progressed, repeatedly throwing Bayley into the steel steps. She then turned her mean streak up a notch by viciously slamming Bayley into the LED screen atop the NXT stage.

The damage was evident as Bayley failed to beat the referee’s 10-count, allowing Banks to break the tie at two falls to one.

Banks looked to worsen the pain on Bayley’s back by applying a Boston Crab submission, but Bayley countered with a modified hurricanrana to earn her second fall and even things up once again.

Both women stepped up their game for the remaining ten minutes of the match and once again exhibited their athleticism.

After having her hand repeatedly slammed into the steel steps by Bayley – which ultimately proved to be her downfall in the end – Banks attempted a suicide dive through the ropes to the outside. But Bayley caught her and drilled her with another Bayley to Belly.

The fans inside Full Sail broke into chants of “Iron Woman!” as Bayley positioned Banks on the top turnbuckle and drilled her with a super Bayley to Belly.

But Banks managed to get her foot on the bottom rope – though it was unclear if Bayley’s leverage might have contributed to Banks’ foot touching the rope.

Bayley once again positioned Banks on the top turnbuckle and this time attempted a reverse hurricanarana. But Banks shockingly landed on her feet and drilled the champion with her rendition of the Bayley to Belly for the closest near fall of the match.

Both women then brought the match to its thrilling and emotional conclusion as Bayley escaped the Bank Statement twice and countered Banks’ third attempt with the inverted armbar that sealed the deal for Bayley and forced Banks to tap out.

The main event was most likely Banks’ sendoff from NXT – WWE’s developmental brand – as she has been wrestling on WWE’s main roster since July when she and fellow NXT standouts Charlotte and Becky Lynch debuted on Monday Night Raw to kickstart what was billed the “Divas Revolution.”

While she was a little emotional when asked about whether the Iron Man match was indeed her last match in NXT, Banks told WWE.com that NXT is her home:

“If this is my last one, because who knows in WWE, I’m so lucky that I got to be in the ring with (Bayley) for my last one. I know from years to come – and WrestleMania – this is going to happen again.”

Both women knew from an early age that they wanted to be more than just women’s wrestlers; they wanted to revolutionize the game.

Wednesday night’s main event was a testament to the hard work and dedication they have put in throughout recent years, as well as the journeys and hardships they endured along the way.

From their days wrestling independently for promotions like Big Time Wrestling (Bayley) and Chaotic Wrestling (Banks) to their arrivals in NXT and eventual evolution of their respective characters that culminated with them capturing NXT women’s gold, they have truly embodied what the Divas Revolution is all about.

Bayley and Banks – along with fellow Four Horsewomen Charlotte and Lynch – ultimately dream of one day main-eventing WrestleMania, which is considered the Super Bowl of professional wrestling.

With the Horsewomen consistently having standout matches in recent months and NXT acquiring new female talent – including the recent signing of renowned Japanese star Asuka (formerly known as Kana) – women’s wrestling is alive and well.

As Banks simply put it, she and her wrestling sisters are changing the game:

“This right here – NXT – we’re making history. It’s going to keep getting bigger and better and better and better. God, I look forward to the future and seeing where it’s going to go.”