The subject of this article is the beloved Bayley, the world's most huggable wrestler. From inauspicious beginnings as an excitable fangirl, Bayley has arguably become the most over performer male or female on WWE television today. Adored by fans regardless of age or gender, an anthology of incredible matches and an infectious personality have endeared her to wrestling fans the world over. But, will her stock plummet like so many before her when she trades the limelight and logic of NXT to the bewildering realm known as WWE RAW?
BackgroundFirst, a background on Bayley. Strangely, she was not born by Immaculate Conception and carried from the heavens on the back of a rainbow unicorn. Pamela Rose Martinez was born June 15, 1989 in Newark, California. Attending Big Time Wrestling events since she was 11, she became enamored with the business from a young age. She began her training at 18, debuting in Big Time Wrestling in 2008 under the name Davina Rose.
Originally trained by Jason Styles, Martinez found a mentor in former WWE performer Serena Deeb, best known for her time in the Straight Edge Society. She became embroiled with Serena's rivalry with the Canadian Ninjas in Shimmer, before earning singles victories over Cherry Bomb and Rhia O'Reilly. However, her stint on the independent circuit would not last long, as NXT beckoned only four years into her career.
The Last 12 Months...I don't think it is much of an exaggeration that 2015 was the year of Bayley in NXT. While amazing competitors like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe stood out on the male roster, nobody captured the imagination like the Master of the Hugplex. Long removed from the days as a doe-eyed fangirl, Bayley burst into the spotlight and developed an amazing connection with the audience. Although primarily geared to children, nobody was immune to her charm and tenacity.
A year ago, Bayley was feuding with Emma, who was in the infancy of her ego-driven heel persona that has resurrected the Aussie from the Future Endeavored list. After coming out on top, Bayley officially set her sights on the NXT Women's Title (at the time the only prestigious women's title in WWE). Defeating fellow Horsewomen Charlotte and Becky Lynch, she earned her way to a showdown with Sasha Banks at Takeover: Brooklyn. What followed was nothing short of a classic, producing what is undoubtedly the greatest women's match in WWE history, with Bayley standing tall as the new champion when the dust settled.
Bayley would once again overcome Banks in an astonishing 30-minute Ironman match in the main event of Takeover: Respect. After besting her toughest rival, Bayley would not shy away from challenges, defending her title against the likes of Alexa Bliss, Eva Marie, Nia Jax and Carmella. However, her 223 day reign was finally brought to a shuddering halt at Takeover: Dallas, as she passed out to the imperious Asuka.
ImpactIf Bayley retired today, she would have already left an unforgettable mark on women's wrestling. After years of being conditioned that women in WWE were either eye candy, novelty acts or bathroom break filler, the athletes in NXT lit up the world with performances that ranged from good to outstanding, and Bayley stood at the top. Only Sasha Banks rivals her in storytelling ability, but in terms of garnering emotion from the crowd, Bayley is peerless, and that counts for both the male and female roster.
She has led the true 'Revolution' in women's wrestling, and the manner in which she has done it deserves to be commended. Bayley has stayed true to who she is, which has endeared her to the wrestling community at large. She has a fantastic attitude, is always striving to improve and generates genuine empathy from the audience. Frankly, she is everything WWE probably wants Roman Reigns to be, and John Cena before him.
Win-Loss Record (NXT TV tapings and Takeovers since WrestleMania 31)16 Wins
NXT Takeover Results
Takeover - Defeated Sasha Banks (dark match, no rating)
Fatal 4-Way - Lost to Charlotte (NXT Women's Championship, 2.75*)
Rival - Lost Sasha Banks, also featuring Charlotte and Becky Lynch (NXT Women's Championship, 4*)
Unstoppable - Defeated Emma and Dana Brooke (w/ Charlotte, 2*)
Brooklyn - Defeated Sasha Banks (NXT Women's Championship, 4.5*)
Respect - Defeated Sasha Banks (Ironman Match for NXT Women's Championship, 4.25*)
London - Defeated Nia Jax (NXT Women's Championship, 3.25*)
Dallas - Lost to Asuka (NXT Women's Championship, 3.75*)
Gimmick Potential & LookBayley's gimmick is difficult to pin down, as it is essentially herself. She portrays a hard-working, enthusiastic and devoted wrestler doing what she loves, and that is apparent every time she steps in the ring. She is a child at heart, apparent by her colorful attire, hugging the crowd and wacky inflatable tube men. However, there is no questioning her heart in the ring, as she will become incredibly aggressive and dogged in order to secure a victory. Effectively, Bayley will keep swinging until someone rips her arms off.
Yet, this has a pretty obvious limitation - Bayley will likely never be a convincing heel. Maybe she has something up her sleeve where she can pull off a fierce, threatening heel, but she's built up so much goodwill with the fans it would seem very unnatural. She's too adorable, too nice, and too easy to root for. But, if you've stumbled across the perfect babyface, why would you bother to turn them heel?
Signature Moves & RingworkIt's kind of hard to place Bayley here, as she doesn't have a particularly remarkable moveset to her name. In terms of breadth of offense, both Charlotte and Sasha Banks have Bayley topped. But, you don't win a PWI Match of the Year award for being a slouch. She has an impressive Bayleycanrana from the top rope, a wide array of suplexes and clotheslines, and the aptly named Bayley-to-Belly. Where she excels though is selling, playing the sympathetic babyface being devastated by a dominant heel.
Bayley takes a hell of a beating during most of her matches, which makes her opponents look great no matter their limitations. Her match with Nia Jax exceeded expectations and helped establish the newcomer as a monster heel despite her loss, and allowed Bayley to adopt more submission moves into her repertoire. Overall, Bayley does a spectacular job getting decimated by rivals before bouncing back with a plucky, intense assault.
Mic Skills & CharismaThis section is a little bit of an odd one for Bayley. On the surface, she couldn't be any further away the term 'charismatic'. She is a hugging, fun-loving, white meat babyface with an inflatable entrance, and above all else is a diehard wrestling fan. She is the type of person The Rock would get a pop for running down on the microphone for being a jabroni back in the Attitude Era. But, what makes Bayley cool is she doesn't care what people think about her, and embrace her completely uncool character.
The effectiveness of her character was brought to the forefront in her feud with Sasha Banks, as her respectful, hard-working attitude was a perfect juxtaposition to the arrogant, brash Boss. It was a match made in heaven, and when Bayley is speaking from the heart, it is hard not to enjoy her promo work. Like a Daniel Bryan or Sami Zayn, she is not objectively strong on the microphone. Yet, she has endeared herself so wholeheartedly to the WWE Universe that they are left hanging on every word.
Championship CredentialsBayley can take heart in being the standard bearer of one of the most over divisions in WWE today - the NXT Women's Division. She finally ascended to the top of the mountain at Takeover: Brooklyn, capturing the NXT Women's Championship from Sasha Banks, although it was already clear she was the most popular performer. Although that is her only title to date, it should be regarded as a springboard towards greatness.
If there's one word I associate with the NXT Women's Championship, it is credibility. Every holder has had at least half a year on top, defending it regularly in competitive bouts. Furthermore, Paige and Charlotte have taken the prestige of their NXT runs into winning the Divas/Women's Title on the main roster, with Banks likely to follow suit by SummerSlam. Among that rich company, Bayley can feel confident her immense popularity and superb ring work will drag her towards the Women's Championship by 2017.
Highest PeakTakeover: Brooklyn (8/22/2015) – The Greatest Women's Match in History
What can I say about this match that has never been said before? Bayley vs Sasha Banks was perfectly built, perfectly executed, and produced the perfect result. While the Women's Revolution in NXT had already been established, this was the match that made people stand up and recognize that the women could match their male counterparts on any given night if they have the right story and time.
The crowd were invested in this encounter from beginning to end, and it was unquestionably the best match of arguably the best show of 2015. But its legacy was not limited to just Brooklyn, as many people regard it as the best women's match ever witnessed, and the match of the year overall. From the sublime submission wrestling, the fierce suplexes and the heart-stopping conclusion, Bayley and Banks made history and changed the perception of women's wrestling in one night.
Lowest ValleyNXT (11/25/2015) – All Dread Everything
Part of me was undecided about making this a positive or negative for Bayley, who on the whole has had an extremely uplifting career besides an unfortunate injury layoff. But, who can really look back proudly after tangling with Eva Marie for a championship title. Granted, Bayley hoisted all her strength to carry her red-headed opponent to a serviceable match, which is currently the best we can hope for out of Marie.
I don't want to sound like I despise Marie, but she needs a lot more fine-tuning in the ring to be considered worthy of the NXT Championship, in spite of the immense heel heat it would garner. She's not at the level that the title's prestige carries, and Bayley was the obvious choice to retain. It was nothing offensive, but it certainly won't end up in a compilation DVD of her greatest moments.
- Outstanding babyface
- Extremely marketable to all age groups, especially children
- Inspirational female character
- An unmistakable passion for wrestling
- Excellent ring skills and storytelling
- Infectious personality
- Popular backstage, potential locker room leader
- Unspectacular mic skills
- Difficult to imagine her as a heel
- Potential to be reduced to a 'comedy' character
- Past examples of NXT megastars flopping on the main roster
ConclusionThis conclusion might surprise a couple of people who have read the entirety of this article (and thanks for taking the time to do so!). I have been especially exuberant about Bayley's ability and natural charm, and that comes from my own personal interaction with her character. There is not a single person in WWE or NXT that makes me smile as much as Bayley - she makes me and thousands of other fans happy because she represents a good person who is living her dream - what could be a more feelgood story than that?
However, the cruel, logical side of me has some hesitation over her future prospects. Bayley won't be on NXT much longer, and moving up to the main roster can often seem like a demotion in many aspects. Why should I believe Bayley will be a main feature when she's appearing on RAW? She could reach the heights of Charlotte and Sasha Banks battling for the Women's Championship, or she could easily be lost in the shuffle like Paige and Emma. There seems to be two trajectories for superstars promoted from NXT: you are either shot to the stratosphere or sent directly to rock bottom.
Yet, looking at her merchandise sales, how beloved she is both in front of the camera and behind the curtain, and the magic moments she can craft in the ring, Bayley could be great. Scratch that, she could monumentally alter women's wrestling as we know it. In my opinion, and bear with me with a second, her popularity and reaction could lead to the women one day headlining a WWE PPV. Maybe that's a crazy assumption, and I wouldn't be surprised if it never happened.
But the fact I'm even considering that possibility shows how much of an impact Bayley has had. She has already had a record-smashing career, and I think by the time she hangs up her headbands, Bayley will be spoken in the same breath as Trish Stratus and The Fabulous Moolah.
Stock Advisement: Future WWE Women's Champion, will lead outstanding stories for years onward, the division's best hope of headlining a PPV.