WWE could bring back Sasha Banks, but there’s a catch.
According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingNews.co), Banks—currently performing for New Japan Pro-Wrestling as Mercedes Mone—could return to WWE if she meets one important condition: “The door for Mone to return to WWE is open if she’s willing to give up asking for certain points that she wanted when in talks with WWE while away from the company and before she got her release.”
Arguably the best all-around performer in the history of WWE’s women’s division, Banks, along with Naomi, walked out of the company after a creative disagreement regarding the booking of its tag team titles. Neither Banks nor Naomi has appeared for WWE since then, and in true WWE fashion, the company has gone out of its way to scrub Banks from its memory.
Pro wrestling fans, however, have the memory of an elephant, so Banks won’t soon be forgotten. In fact, she continues to make waves under the Mone moniker, achieving her long-term dream of wrestling in Japan and being paid quite handsomely to do so. She remains an elite pro wrestler, a beloved fan favorite and a game-changer inside the squared circle.
But Banks’ tenure as Mone could be short-lived, if she’s willing to make some concessions.
WrestlingNews.co notes that one of the reasons why Banks left WWE to begin with is that she “wanted to be paid like Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch,” who are paid like the main eventers they are. One could easily argue that Banks is in the same category as—or even better than—both of those stars, but despite winning the NXT, Raw, SmackDown and tag titles during her WWE tenure, it was also pretty clear that she wasn’t consistently pushed at the same level as Lynch and Flair.
Flair is now a 14-time world champion who may be getting forced into another WrestleMania main event while Lynch is one of the greatest and most accomplished stars in WWE history, regardless of gender. Indeed, Banks walked out of WWE nearly a year ago for a good reason: She was stuck in a tag team division with no direction despite her strong desire to turn it around.
Banks took a stand not many would take. She left WWE and made her way to NJPW, where she’s been able to reinvent herself and wrestle a handful of dream matches. But Banks will be a free agent in less than a month, and the one thing that has changed significantly since Banks left WWE is that Triple H is now running the show.
Since taking over WWE’s creative process last year, Triple H has brought back a number of marquee performers, including Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman, who left WWE under rocky circumstances at some point within the past couple of years. In pro wrestling, seemingly unfixable divides between superstars and the companies they once wrestled for are often mended.
There’s a long list of stars, ranging from Goldberg to Brock Lesnar, who ultimately returned to WWE despite once leaving the company when they were unhappy. Of course, it’s far from a guarantee that any changes to WWE’s creative process would result in Banks coming back, especially with Banks indicating that she’s close to former WWE boss Vince McMahon on numerous occasions.
In fact, it might be McMahon’s reported presence in WWE’s creative process that could result in Mone transforming back into Banks. But the reality is, Banks has a number of aspirations outside of WWE that she would likely have to delay or give up altogether in order to return to the company
Then, there’s the issue of pay.
In recent years, WWE has made strides to close the gender pay gap, but unless you’re a Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns, chances are you’re badly underpaid by WWE, which generated $1.3 billion in revenue in 2022 but pays its top stars much less in comparison to sports like the NFL and NBA. Banks, like just about everyone else in WWE, should have been paid more—and pushed more—especially given what many superstars give up to be in WWE.
One of the things that that has made WWE’s competitor AEW so appealing is that its stars can more freely pursue outside endeavors without the company interfering. WWE once banned its performers from third-party deals, and even though those restrictions were ultimately loosened, WWE doesn’t simply give its talent free reign to pursue business opportunities outside of the confines of sports entertainment.
Is Banks’ pursuit of outside endeavors something she’s willing to give up? That’s a waiting game, but history suggests that most WWE talents—aside from stars viewed to be on the same level as guys like Cena—are only going to be able to do what WWE wants them to do, despite the fact that they’re technically independent contractors.
That’s a different debate for a different day, but what’s not debatable is that Banks is a tremendous performer with a wide-ranging fan base, true pop culture appeal and the ability to make history, as she did on numerous occasions—like at WrestleMania 37.
So, while Mercedes Mone may not be as well known as Sasha Banks, Mone might be happier, and even though the door is likely wide open for her to return to WWE, there is little to suggest that she’d do anything but slam it shut.