Lash Legend has a lot of haters. That's a good thing.
I made a mistake in my recent post about NXT talent Lash Legend: by hyping her up so much, I’ve gotten myself personally invested in her success as a way to prove me right compared to the large number of wrestling fans who have been discrediting her. This is likely a symptom of being too online and having some form of undocumented mental illness, but as long as we’re here, it might be fun to continue to keep tabs on Lash, especially since I’m enjoying the process of watching her talent develop and still think her upside is higher than anyone’s in NXT.
WWE’s version of pro wrestling is all based on heat, which is basically the idea of provoking a reaction, either positive or negative, from the audience. The babyfaces want to be cheered, the heels want to be booed and hated, and nobody ever wants to come out to complete indifference. There are different ways of getting this heat, but based on watching Lash in WWE so far, I think one of the best ways is to be a big, confident black woman. What is most exciting about Lash as a prospect is she has the potential to be an absolute heat magnet as a heel, and I think a lot of the negativity towards her online is a manifestation of that — fans will say they hate her because “she sucks in the ring” or whatever, but watching NXT, a lot of the fan favorites aren’t that good either. My theory is that Lash’s character, with her race being a major factor, gets under people’s skin in a way they don’t even recognize, and it’s generally productive heel heat that makes people want to see her lose.
It’s a tricky line to walk, because I don’t want to entirely suggest so many wrestling fans are virulent racists. And admittedly, black women like Naomi, Sasha Banks, and Bianca Belair are popular with most of the crowd. But there hasn’t been a black woman like Lash in WWE, who has this size that lets her bully around babyfaces and this kind of cocky loudmouth heel energy on the mic. The reception to Lash reminds me of the very polarized reactions to pop stars like Cardi B or Lizzo (who admittedly has gotten under my skin at times), where a lot of people are either obsessive fans or total haters — this is exactly what wrestlers in WWE should be going for, and it’s pretty much how you make money in any entertainment medium.
Lash’s calling card is always going to be her character and promo ability. The above promo didn’t air on TV, but watching it made me think she might already be the second-best woman in the company on the mic behind Becky Lynch. As brief as it is, it shows how advanced Lash is at having a natural feel for character, being obnoxious in a productive heel way, and sounding like she means what she says, even while sneaking in some potential catch phrases that can go on merch. They seem to have moved away from her talk show gimmick, so I hope they find ways to let her run her mouth more on TV, because she has this ability to rile people up and spark interest in feuds. Nobody else on NXT is cutting promos near this level, and so Lash’s ability to do this should be a way to always be a factor on TV as she continues to master the physical side of wrestling.
The recent highlight for Lash on NXT was her match against Roxanne Perez, and it illustrated the scouting concept of measuring current ability vs. projection/ceiling. Roxanne is a mega babyface who has the indie cred from being a Ring of Honor champion, and she has a lot of experience so is much more polished in the ring than Lash. But this doesn’t make Roxanne a better overall prospect for the future: her small size limits her to a babyface role, and also makes it difficult for me to imagine her ever being in a major spotlight match at WrestleMania, no matter how good fans think she is in the ring. Roxanne also needs a lot of work on her promos, and the main roster is highly promo-driven. Roxanne won the match and is getting the big push in NXT right now, but I would bet almost anything that Lash will surpass her on the main roster due to her character, promos, and eventually improved in-ring ability.
The geniuses on Reddit and elsewhere decided long ago that Lash sucks in the ring, and they’ll probably never give her a chance due to the aforementioned race/character thing and the fact that wrestling fans hold grudges longer than any group of people I’ve ever seen. I’ve been watching her matches closely and feel like I’m being gaslit, because I don’t see what she is doing wrong for a rookie wrestler. Of course she can improve on everything, and they’re keeping her matches short as she learns, but I’m not seeing her flagrantly botch moves, and to my eyes she is trying hard and executing her power offense while getting reactions from the crowd. Her selling has been a point of contention, but this feels more like WWE coaching her to work as a dominant heel who doesn’t bounce all over the ring for tiny wrestlers like Perez, who Lash would absolutely decimate in a real fight in about 10 seconds. In the match, Perez has to chop Lash down after taking a lot of punishment and gets a sneaky win, which is a classic David vs. Goliath formula that will probably be Lash’s bread-and-butter as far as in-ring goes.
Lash has also been getting some run in NXT UK, a show that maybe four people watch and I personally avoid due to its excruciatingly dull collection of technical British wrestlers who have the charisma of sandpaper. I’ve been tuning in for her segments though, and in contrast to her NXT appearances where she talks a big game and loses, they’re giving us a glimpse of what an alpha heel Lash looks like on TV. She’s been backstage towering over the other women and talking shit, and backed it up by winning her first match against Emilia McKenzie. The crowd of British workrate nerds who are protective of their little show no one cares about seem horrified by this American usurper taking over the division, and the boos and “Lash is trash” chants have already started ringing out.
A major key for Lash will be embracing those reactions and not taking them personally. Like I’ve mentioned with Ronda Rousey, I think it can be difficult for performers to accept hatred from the crowd, even if that’s ostensibly their job. If Lash can lean into this hate and fully play into it, she can be the top heel in WWE’s women’s division for a long time, causing flooding with the tears of hardcore fans after she beats up whatever tiny babyface they are fixated on.
I’ve seen people seriously suggest Lash might get released (WWE has been aggressive about cutting people lately), which means either I’m crazy or they’re crazy. My experience is wrestling fans are very bad at understanding the concept of marketability (these people thought Cesaro should be world champion), and they tend to underestimate how much promo/character matters in WWE. I believe Lash looking, acting, and talking like a star means she’ll get all the time in the world to tighten up her in-ring work (which is also not as bad as they think it is), and once she gets out of NXT and into the big arenas and larger-than-life promo-driven style of Raw/Smackdown, she’ll take off. And they’ll absolutely push someone who looks like she could be a hip-hop star and has this promo ability and athleticism.
In some respects, the hate Lash gets feels like it is more about the philosophical differences between the hardcore fans and WWE’s presentation of pro wrestling. This is magnified further because she is one of the faces of this NXT shift that, in some people’s minds, left “real pro wrestlers” like Kyle O’Reilly in the rear-view mirror as WWE focuses on athletes who have the look and personality to actually put an ass in a seat instead of guys who are smaller than Lash and have 1/1000th of her charisma. For some, Lash (and NXT 2.0, and WWE in general) succeeding means the bad guys win or something. I anticipate these people will continue to whine about Lash for her entire career, even as she makes more money in the wrestling business than they will see in their entire lives.