And just like that, WWE’s biggest star is gone.
Becky Lynch has been the company’s poster girl for the last year and a half or so. In that time, “The Man” got over to a degree like nobody else has in the last few years. She broke barriers and glass ceilings while doing it: sharing the ring with the Rock on Smackdown’s debut on network television, holding the Raw Women’s title for over a year, and of course, headlining multiple PPVs, among them WrestleMania 35, and selling tons of merch.
But now, ‘The Man’ is preparing to be a mom. This leaves a huge hole in WWE, especially its women’s division. The biggest babyface is gone. The question now is: who can replace her?
The answer to that question is: nobody. At least not right away. Now more than ever, the tricky thing about booking a top babyface is that a company can’t just pick and choose and expect its audience to automatically accept the newly anointed Chosen One – Roman Reigns knows that all too well. The simple fact that wrestling promotions have to deal with is that a top babyface can’t just be replaced with the next talent in line on the totem pole; it just doesn’t work that way.
Take a look at the franchise players of the last thirty years, and it was always a sudden burst in popularity that brought them to the top: Steve Austin in 1997, The Rock in 2000, John Cena in 2004, Daniel Bryan in 2013. Even Roman Reigns’ push began that way in the fall 2014 before everything went south.
The worst thing WWE can do now is to try and pick Becky Lynch’s replacement out of thin air or force its desired choice on the WWE universe. But if the company can’t just handpick a new Chosen One, what is it supposed to do then?
As unpopular as it may be, Becky’s departure means that the women’s division will drop in overall ranking and importance. The void is too big for one single woman to step in and fill, so the entire division needs to step in. WWE still has a ton of talented female wrestlers, but talent alone doesn’t sell. If it did, the current roster should probably outdraw any other generation before them. It is unlikely that anybody will organically get over to the degree that Becky did, at least within the next few months, maybe even the next year. These things take time and are inherently unpredictable.
What complicates the situation even further is that Becky’s future is uncertain. There is a chance that she will return in 2020 or 2021, perhaps on a reduced schedule. If she does, she will probably receive a hero’s (or heroine’s) welcome. But the thing is: nobody knows for sure. A lot can happen between now and then.
Creatively, Becky’s last segment on Monday Night Raw was brilliant. Becky left without losing the title, which gives her, the biggest female star, a reason to eventually return, if she so chooses. At the same time, the popular and established Asuka took her place as the new champion. Later in the night, Shayna Baszler also commented on Becky’s departure. Between Asuka’s tweener gimmick and a potential rematch with Shayna still floating around, WWE left two options open as potential Becky Lynch opponents waiting for her should she return.
Of course, the rest of female roster is still stacked with amazing talent too. One name that might come to mind as a replacement for Becky Lynch is Rhea Ripley. However, debuting Rhea on the main roster with a potential Becky Lynch return still in limbo is a bad idea that could hurt Rhea in the long run: any Becky return within the next twelve to eighteen months would overshadow Rhea’s rise. Therefore, WWE should keep Ripley in NXT and away from the main roster until Becky has made a decision on when – or if – to return. Rhea Ripley is only 23 years old and another year or two in NXT, where she can become the face of the brand, will not hurt her career prospects one bit.
In the end, WWE needs to find a way to let the women’s division simmer in the “The Man”s absence while at the same time tightening its hierarchy. With Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Asuka and Shayna Baszler, there is no shortage of believable and talented champions. Aside from Rhea Ripley, NXT is also stacked with potential call ups, from Mia Yim to Io Shirai, Candice LeRae and Tegan Nox.
WWE does not need to find the new Becky Lynch just yet, especially not while it still cannot let crowds back in to voice their support — but it can send out the casting call. There’s a spot open at the top – and if “The Man” comes back, she will need to take it back from somebody.
With its franchise player gone, WWE needs to remain calm and wait until crowds are back, and until 'The Man' has made a decision about her future.