It was two weeks before we left for Abu Dhabi when I found out that Alexa Bliss and I would have the potential to compete in WWE's first women's match in the Middle East. We were told that it could either happen, or it might not. They weren't too sure about what the perception, or the reception, would be, but they wanted us to get ready.
In the days leading up to that trip, there was only one word that could describe my state of mind ... NERVOUS! I tried everything I could to prepare.
Due to the cultural differences, I knew we would need special gear made for the event, so I asked my husband, who makes all of my gear, to make the best-looking one piece he possibly could. I wanted it to stand out. I wanted it to be purple. I wanted it to be amazing.
With a week's notice, he put out an amazing costume, like he always does.
It was a 16-hour flight to Abu Dhabi. The nerves were still there. In the back of my mind, I knew all of this stress would be worth it, but that didn't make it any easier. I thought that by showtime, the nerves would have gone away, but they were just as strong as ever.
I started crying because the grand scale of the moment began to take over. All these thoughts were running through my head as far as what this match could accomplish. How it could potentially change not just the perception of what women could do in the United Arab Emirates, but in the Middle East and around the world. It had the potential to show young women everywhere that they can aspire to have the same opportunities as men. There could easily be someone out there who could see this match and tell their fathers, "I want to be a WWE superstar."
All of that hit me at once, and it was just so overwhelming.
"As we got more and more into the match, they started chanting something I'd never heard before -- "This is hope." That was the moment that everything became surreal. It was so hard to carry on with the match, while trying not to cry."Sasha Banks
As I was getting ready for the match to start, a familiar feeling came over me. They were nerves, yes, but they were the same nerves that I'd felt before my NXT TakeOver matches. It was a nervousness that was strangely comforting.
I distinctly remember peeking through the curtain before my entrance and I didn't see any women. That kind of threw me off, and I was thinking that I didn't know how they would perceive us. Then my music hit. They announced it was a women's championship match and the crowd went wild. The roar in the venue was crazy, and I immediately went from nervous to excited. Right when I walked onto the stage, I saw a young girl to my right wearing a "Legit Boss" shirt. Believe me, it took all my might to pull it together and not cry.
As I walked down the ramp, I got my first good look at the crowd, and that's when I saw it. There were so many women in the crowd; and they're all wearing WWE merchandise -- Alexa's gloves, my glasses, rings and shirt, as well as the shirts of all of our female superstars. I couldn't help but think about how so incredibly cool this moment was.
Everything was going great up to this point. We were about to start the match, but before the bell could even ring, the chants began. The fans were chanting "women's wrestling." They were chanting for me and they were even chanting "biscuit butt," which of course was Mickie James' favorite nickname for Alexa. I've heard those same chants all over the world, but on this night, they just seemed so much more potent. As we got more and more into the match, the crowd started chanting something I'd never heard before -- "This is hope." That was the moment that everything became surreal. It was so hard to carry on with the match, while trying not to cry.
When we finished the match, and walked to the back, I was finally able to let it all go. I legit started bawling. The producer, Adam Pearce, came up to us and said, "That was so cool. That was so special." And he gave Alexa and I two big hugs. Triple H was there to see our match as well. He has been with us since NXT, so it meant a lot when he told us how incredibly huge that match was, not just for those in WWE, but having a moment in this women's evolution that carries beyond the ring. I live for every opportunity that I can serve as a role model and as an inspiration to show women that their dreams are endless.
It's easy for me to send the message that you can achieve anything, because I was told that I was too small, and that I was not pretty enough to make it here in WWE. I was told that I would never be here, but here I am, making history. Main-eventing Monday Night Raw, taking part in the first women's Hell in a Cell match, being one of the first women to ever main-event a WWE pay-per-view -- these things have just been incredibly huge.
They all started as little hopes and dreams that I used to write about in my notebook. The potential that it could happen seemed so small, but the fact remains that within the five years I've been signed to WWE, we've been able to accomplish so many historic moments. The women are legit taking over, and we're showing people all over the world that we can do just as much as the guys ... even more!
That match in Abu Dhabi was something that I'm going to remember the rest of my life. Even with all of the things I've been able to accomplish with WWE, I think this has to fall under one of the top three best things I've ever done in this company.
The next step
Fast forward two weeks, it was Dec. 18 on Monday Night Raw, and the Royal Rumble is inching closer and closer. There was a buzz in the air. Royal Rumble is the kickoff to the road to WrestleMania, and determines who's going to get the next opportunity -- who's going could be next in line for the championship.
There's just so much to love about the Royal Rumble. When I was growing up, I always looked forward to the surprise entries. I loved seeing the underdogs trying to make these big leaps. I remember when Rey Mysterio came out. He lasted over an hour and won it for Eddie Guerrero. The other memory that always pops into my mind was when Vince McMahon tore both of his quads as he tried to get into the ring, to make a decision when John Cena and Batista went out at the same time.
When we walked out to the ring that night at the end of Raw, we weren't told what Stephanie McMahon would be saying -- all we were told was that it was going to be something special. We had to pay attention to her words and to let our true emotions show. I kind of figured what the announcement was going to be, but I couldn't wait to hear that phrase; I had to hear it. And when she announced that there was going to be the first women's Royal Rumble match ... CHILLS!
On top of it all, it happened in Providence, Rhode Island, which was close enough to my hometown that my family was able to be there. As Stephanie made the announcement, I looked out into the front row. Seeing my brother, mom and goddaughter just out there smiling, and seeing all of the fans around them chanting, "Yes", was monumental for me.
The thought of participating in a Royal Rumble rates a 100 on a scale of 1 to 10 for me. But what I am really looking forward to is the aftermath, because there's so much that can come out of this match; so many stories that can be told. There's almost certainly going to be at least one singles match for the WWE women's championship at WrestleMania this year. It's incredible to think of, because for me personally that's another huge dream of mine, and it also makes my biggest dream -- to main-event WrestleMania -- feel as if it is that much closer.
Over the course of one month, I've been on such a roller coaster.
Everything happens so fast in WWE. You don't always get the chance to take a moment, sit down and reflect on it all, and think about how far you've come.
I recently got to go home to Boston, and I told the guy who trained me, Brian Fury, that I wanted to come back to the school -- just to sit in the ring and reflect on everything that has happened over the past few years. For me, it was always a dream to go down in the history books as the best, and while I still want to be the greatest women's wrestler ever, now I want to go down as the greatest superstar ever. It's so incredible to be a part of history, and to have that sort of possibility in front of me at age 25 is amazing.
WWE fans have supported the women's evolution, and they're the reason why all of this is happening. If it wasn't for them, and everybody who got involved with #GiveDivasAChance, who knows where we would be. We've done so much within the past three years, made so much history, and it's amazing for them to be chanting for us. They wanted to see this evolution take place. We have the best fans in the world, and we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them.
My message to little girls, women, and all of our fans, male or female, is that if you have a dream, and work hard enough to make it happen, then anything is possible. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't. I'm here as the living proof that anyone telling you otherwise can be proven wrong.