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For 651 days, Rebecca Quin had to watch as she was continually passed over and overlooked. Despite being the anchor of an entire division and having more than a decade of professional wrestling experience, Quin was the red-headed stepchild – pun intended – of WWE.
Those slights simply fueled the fire inside of Quin and her WWE alter-ego, Becky Lynch.
For the majority of her time in WWE, Lynch has been a “face” – a good guy, in layman’s terms – and has been consistently in the conversation of the most competent performers in the company, but up until 2018 she had only one 84-day championship reign.
This past summer, it looked like Lynch again would fall short in her quest to regain the WWE SmackDown women’s championship, when longtime friend – and sometimes onscreen rival – Charlotte Flair emerged victorious at WWE’s second-largest annual event, SummerSlam.
What happened next ignited what has become the hottest professional wrestling angle in years.
“I think I knew going into it that I wasn’t the bad guy in that situation,” Lynch told Yahoo Sports. “How could I be the bad guy? I had gone on a winning streak unmatched by anyone on ‘Raw’ or ‘SmackDown.’ I owned the show. As soon as Charlotte comes back she gets a title opportunity and then steals the win from me. I think the fans wanted me to have that single moment.”
While Lynch turning on Charlotte in Brooklyn should have solidified her as a “heel” in the ongoing storyline, something bigger happened. Instead of booing the 31-year-old for her dastardly acts, the crowd erupted, creating the most electric moment of the night.
“Yes [I was a bit surprised],” Lynch said. “I don’t think you can ever expect a response like that. When you get one it’s incredible, but it’s never expected or guaranteed.”
In a single moment, Lynch, despite still not having the SmackDown women’s championship, became the top dog in not only her division, but all of WWE.
“[Fans] want somebody that they can look at and emulate,” Lynch said. “Someone who knows when enough is enough. When they’ve been passed over continuously, undermined, underestimated and they say, ‘No, you know what, I deserve this. I worked for more than this, I am more than this. I’m going to show the world.’ That’s what [I’m] doing.”
In the weeks and months that followed, Lynch would undergo an entire character overhaul, something that is rarely seen in real time on WWE programming and a risk that none of her fellow “Four Horsewomen” – Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bayley – have been able to take during their time on the main roster.
While it may have seemed drastic to the viewers, the change is something Lynch admits she had been tinkering with for a long time.
“It’s something that I knew that I had in myself, but I didn’t know how to bring it out, what the right opportunity would be,” Lynch said. “I’ve walked around saying the things that I’ve been saying in my head for a long time and now the truth is coming out and I’m saying what I want to say without any fear of what people think of me, fear of being disliked. It’s been very freeing.”
With the steampunk-inspired attire and chipper demeanor gone, Lynch’s newfound swagger only grew after she took the SmackDown women’s championship off Flair in September. With that, the transformation into “The Man” was finally complete.
“That’s been a gradual thing of self-belief,” Lynch said. “The top dog in the company has always been the man. Now I’m the top dog. It’s been a progression of believing it and owning it.”
Lynch’s unprecedented run has captivated the entire wrestling world. In a business where eliciting a fan reaction is the most valuable thing you can do, Lynch has been compared to the all-time greats – “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and her fellow countryman Conor McGregor.
“Of course, it’s an absolute honor,” Lynch said “Nobody can get compared to two of the best in sports and sports entertainment and be insulted. They’ve certainly never seen a woman do it the way I’m doing it. I’ll take those comparisons all day long, but know that this is something different.”
Lynch’s status and legend grew once more at WWE’s “Evolution” event. The first pay-per-view to feature only women was heralded as a huge success, thanks in part to the instant-classic match put on between Lynch and Flair.
“I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being in the ring as much,” Lynch said. “Before ‘Evolution’, I said that I wanted it to be the best pay-per-view of the year. I think we made that happen. I said that I wanted to have the match of the year, steal the show and blow the roof off the place and that’s what we did.”
Lynch’s performance at “Evolution” set her up for a highly anticipated match against Ronda Rousey – Lynch’s champion counterpart on “Raw” – the following month. With the buzz surrounding the bout at an all-time high, Lynch was seriously injured just days before “Survivor Series.”
Despite suffering a broken nose and a concussion so severe that she told Ariel Helwani on the “MMA Show” that she “completely blacked out” after being hit with a punch by Nia Jax, Lynch continued to push her character by utilizing every tool at her fingertips.
“What I had, it felt like lightning in a bottle and then when you have to sit out for a while, especially when you’re holding a championship, that’s debilitating and it weighs on your mind,” Lynch said. “I know a lot of people get upset with my social media, but it gets people interested and it gets people invested. If running my mouth is all I’m able to do, then that is what I will do. I will do whatever I can do to the best of my ability. If you want to punch me in the face and keep me out, you can’t keep my mouth out of it.”
It’s an undeniably old-school approach where professional wrestlers are expected to stay in character at all times, something that has been lost in an era where Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allow stars to connect with fans on a different level.
“I have 15 minutes on TV, if I’m lucky, to tell people what I think, but if I have a platform at my fingertips, I can tell people what I think constantly so that they know exactly who I am and that they care about who I am and who I am fighting,” Lynch said. “I look at a lot of people’s social media and they are writing love letters to each other, I don’t have time for that, I don’t understand that.”
Although Lynch hasn’t wrestled in nearly a month, her appearances on television have become appointment viewing. Always considered one of the most talented in-ring performers, the world is finally seeing Lynch as the total package when it comes to sports entertainment.
“I studied acting, and the thing is I haven’t had many opportunities to speak on the microphone and talk,” Lynch said. “I hear this a lot from people who are shocked — ‘Oh, Becky’s good on the mic.’ If you go back and look at any of my backstage interviews, they’ve always been good, I’ve always delivered, I’ve always made people care about my matches, I’ve always done it.”
The hype surrounding Lynch is showing no signs of slowing down, and anyone even tangentially involved with her right now is reaping the benefits. On “Raw,” Jax has been able to fully turn heel after embracing the moment where she sidelined Lynch, while on “SmackDown,” Flair’s vicious attack on Rousey in Lynch’s place has thrust her into the anti-hero category.
That said, there’s still just one thing fans are clamoring for in the coming months – Lynch and Rousey in the main event at WrestleMania 35.
“I think it has to happen,” Lynch said. “There’s no two bigger stars in WWE right now. If anybody else can get the fans and the people and the world to care about them more than we have, then they are welcome to that spot, but that’s not going to happen.
“Think of what I’ve done in the past four months, the next four months is going to be a whole different level.”
“TLC” will stream live on the WWE Network this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.