WWE superstar Sasha Banks fights for 'women's evolution' in sport
Wrestling superstar Sasha Banks says women are "taking over the world" as she drops into New Zealand on a whistlestop promotion tour.
The WWE champ believes we're witnessing a "women's evolution" in sport, and is proud to be playing her part.
"From Ronda Rousey, to the US soccer team, to Serena Williams, women are just killing it in sports around the world," says the 25-year-old.
Banks wrestled in the first women's match to ever headline a WWE event in 2015, after campaigning for the right to receive the same treatment as her male peers.
"Five years ago we weren't given this opportunity that we're having now to be equal to the men," she says.
"Just two years ago we were considered Divas, that was our brand name, and we had a championship that was in the shape of a butterfly.
"I was like 'this is not us, we're not divas, we're superstars'. And so two years ago we changed that."
Banks hopes her success will inspire young girls to consider a future in wrestling.
"We have all different shapes, sizes, all different looks, and it's so beautiful to see, because legit five years ago it was all models," she says.
"Now, the sky's the limit."
Banks, a flashy star who likes to "shine bright like a diamond", believes gender should never be a barrier when choosing a career.
Her husband designs and sews her costumes, but she doesn't see their relationship as breaking down gender expectations.
"I'm a WWE superstar, I'm not Sasha Banks the wrestler who married the seamstress," she says.
"I feel that people can do any job they want, you don't have to gender-fy it."
Banks says she's looking forward to wrestling in New Zealand again later this year, following her first touring visit to Auckland in 2016.
"That was one of my favourite crowds I've ever been in front of," she says. "They were so loud, and so glad to see us, because we hadn't been there in eight years."
Banks will be a star turn when WWE returns to present WWE LIVE in Christchurch on 13 September.
The event will also feature other WWE superstars such as Dean Ambrose, Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews, Big Cass, and Nia Jax.
- Sunday Star Times