How WWE Hugged the Life Out of Bayley | Smark Out Moment

How WWE Hugged the Life Out of Bayley

Posted by Callum Wiggins Thursday, June 8, 2017
As Vince McMahon once said, "Anything can happen in the WWE". 2017 has proven that statement beyond all reasonable doubt, especially now as I speak in a post-WWE Champion Jinder Mahal world. But, there are a few things that we WWE fans cling to in order to remind us that chaos hasn't descended on professional wrestling.

NXT Women's Championship Asuka

John Cena will always be babyface (or as close to babyface it is possible for him to be). Nobody likes Sheamus, unless he's beating up John Cena or Roman Reigns. Fans will chant "You deserve it" after almost every championship win. NXT will always put on a better TakeOver than the subsequent WWE PPV. And Bayley will always be the most over woman on the roster.

Wait... oh god, the apocalypse is upon us!

WWE were handed a golden goose when Bayley was promoted to the main roster - a supremely over and relatable babyface, one capable of putting on outstanding matches with the right opponent, someone who could attract young female fans to shows without unsettling the predominantly male audience, and rival John Cena and The New Day in merchandise sales.

And in typical WWE fashion, they strangled that goose before they realized how many eggs it could lay. Bayley has gone from being the hottest commodity in women's wrestling to at best a joke and at worst completely irredeemable. She has fallen far too deeply into the idiotic babyface trope that cripples many superstars on the roster - and people wonder why virtually everyone prefers to play a heel. Don't be surprised if that move is the thing that drives the final nail in the coffin WWE have lovingly prepared for the most huggable woman in wrestling.

So, how has WWE gone from a gold mine of potential with Bayley to an empty well less than a year after she debuted on the main roster? The ways are many with varying degrees of stupidity, but it began when she was still in NXT. One of the renowned Four Horsewomen of NXT, Bayley was left to head the Yellow Brand as its champion while Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were promoted to the main roster.

Arguably this worked in Bayley's favor, as the early days of the Divas Revolution in WWE were terribly thought out and designed specifically to show off all of WWE's female superstars to prevent criticism rather than get anyone over with the audience. However, while it was right she reigned as NXT Women's Champion for a while, WWE stretched it out far too long. In my opinion, Bayley should have lost the title at NXT TakeOver: London in December 2015 to Nia Jax, in preparation for a post-WrestleMania debut.

Instead, due to NXT's dwindling star power in the women's division following the loss of their biggest stars, Bayley was left there as the goodwill generated from her fantastic matches with Sasha Banks and capturing the title after years of struggle gradually dissipated. By the time she lost the title to Asuka and subsequent rematch at TakeOver: Brooklyn II, she was nowhere near as over with the audience as she once was.

But that didn't seem to matter, as when Bayley was brought up to Raw by Mick Foley following SummerSlam, she received a huge ovation among fans who had followed her NXT journey and wanted to see her resume feuds with the Four Horsewomen. However, the timing of this promotion couldn't have been poorer.

WWE was still in the midst of the epic Charlotte and Sasha Banks feud for the Raw Women's Championship. A story filled with unbelievably good matches and far too many title changes for my taste, it was one of the biggest talking points on Raw every week, and rightly so. Yet, this meant there was no room for Bayley beyond being Sasha Banks' sidekick and tag team partner, which dwindled her star power immediately. When she did feud on her own, it was predominantly against Charlotte's protege Dana Brooke in matches which were atrocious compared to the title matches and had no stakes attached to them.

WWE had seemingly forgotten the formula that got Bayley such widespread love in NXT, or decided to ignore it in the belief that most fans would know what she had been through already, which is by no means the case. Not even all hardcore wrestling fans watch NXT, so for casuals Bayley was likely a name they had heard about but never seen in person. The first few months of her involvement in WWE likely didn't give them any reason to think she was special.

Personally, I feel WWE didn't know how hard to push Bayley when she debuted, and that indecision cost them dearly. She interrupted Charlotte on her first night in, so it was a no-brainer they should feud for the Raw Women's Championship. Bayley could have lost, because her character is an underdog that was not ready to take on the main roster so soon after coming up from NXT, and have to work her way few competitive feuds with the likes of Dana Brooke, Alicia Fox and Nia Jax to season her, before taking on Sasha Banks on her way to challenging Charlotte once more at WrestleMania 33.

Instead, WWE thrust her into the Charlotte/Banks feud for one PPV before letting her flounder in the lower card with Brooke in utterly forgettable matches, before immediately pushing her back up to face Charlotte at Royal Rumble. It is unfortunate that this was probably caused by the bareness of Raw's women division at the time, as the inconsistent pushing of Bayley didn't allow her to build up sympathy as an underdog babyface. She was facing Charlotte because the Sasha Banks feud had become stale and she was the only other babyface on the roster.

Then came a moment of madness - Bayley won the Raw Women's Championship on television. While Charlotte had somewhat of a reputation for losing the title on television and it was celebrated as a feel-good surprise by many at the time, hindsight has shown as it often does that this was another big mistake. Bayley should have won the title at WrestleMania 33 - there is no two ways about it, that event is the perfect time to create a new superstar. Beat Charlotte one-on-one at Mania, defend it in a gimmick rematch at Payback, then feud with a heel Sasha Banks. Anyone with half a brain could have pieced that together as the right thing to do.

But no. The Charlotte feud resulted in several very good matches, but started the trend of Bayley is a worthless wrestling fan, too nice for her own good and essentially a child trapped in a woman's body. She won the rematch at Fast Lane thanks to Sasha Banks' interference (making Bayley look like a desperate heel taking advantage of an opportunity), retained again at WrestleMania in a good if short Fatal 4-Way match, and then losing it emphatically to Alexa Bliss at Payback. A brief and far from memorable run with the championship which did nothing to elevate her character.

Imagine all the above were the opening rounds of a boxing match, with WWE creative gradually wearing down Bayley's character in the early rounds. The feud with Alexa Bliss was the devastating combination that left her dazed on the canvas. This rivalry had a lot of promise and not every aspect was horrible - on the contrary, I feel several segments they were involved in the past few months were quite entertaining. The problem is they were primarily entertaining because of Bliss' unbridled charisma on the microphone and great heel work - Bayley was just the fodder she played off of.

Bliss is a rare example of an NXT superstar that has been elevated once promoted to the main roster. Thanks in no small part to her excellent promo work, confidence and steady improvement in the ring, Bliss is arguably the most engaging woman in WWE right now. It is no surprise they quickly moved the Raw Women's Championship onto her less than a month after the Superstar Shake-Up. The only sad thing was this exposed how complete and impressive her character was in comparison to Bayley.

Picking up where Charlotte left off, Alexa Bliss' had a simple strategy to attack Bayley - say she is a child, bring up she's never kissed a boy, and highlight how much of a loser she is because she is a wrestling fan. I have a sneaking suspicion those backstage are using Bayley (and to a lesser extent Sami Zayn) to poke fun and lash out at wrestling fans that criticize them on a daily basis. That sounds petty, but I've heard enough stories about how WWE books talent to not rule this option out.

The utterly horrific This Is Your Life segment was the epitome of this character assassination, as Bliss killed the audience with ten-minutes of defining Bayley as a loser without retort, before our hero emerged to fight back, only to be once again outsmarted and whacked to pieces by a kendo stick. Their match at Extreme Rules was a fitting explanation point, as Bayley was made to look like a complete idiot while Bliss controlled every aspect.

I get the fact Bayley is honorable and wants to win matches the right way, but if you can't bring yourself to hit someone with a kendo stick in a Kendo Stick on a Pole Match when you have been a victim of numerous attacks with said stick in the weeks leading up to this match, then maybe you shouldn't have even come out for the match. It would have been less damaging to Bayley's character if she would have forfeited before the bell even rang. Bliss squashed her with a DDT just over five minutes in, and Bayley hasn't been seen since, now an afterthought while Bliss moves onto Nia Jax.

Bayley was booed at Extreme Rules. Booed. It may have been a small section of predominantly male fans, but it was audible and it would have been unthinkable a year or two ago. There are those 'fans' that will cheer the heels and boo the babyfaces regardless because they think they're the stars of the show (you're not, sit down and wipe the crumbs off your Young Bucks shirt), but it is unquestionable that months of devaluing Bayley's character, inconsistent booking, forgettable segments, awful promos and squashes has taken it's toll on her reputation in the eyes of the fans.

Can Bayley be salvaged? Absolutely, but the fact that will need to be done in the first place. This is was a soft pitch for WWE to knock out of the park, but they still managed to strike out. Both Bayley as a performer and those behind the scenes will have to work hard to resuscitate Bayley from this crippling hug, otherwise she could prove one of the biggest missed opportunities in wrestling history. The fate of someone who could easily be the face of women's wrestling in WWE now hangs in the balance, and I hope they find a way to bring her back from this new low.

And for the love of god: DON'T TURN HER HEEL!

How would you give Bayley's career a much-needed hug? Is she too far gone to be redeemed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and The Mega Maniacs!

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Callum Wiggins hails from Essex in the United Kingdom. He recently graduated from the University of York with a degree in History and has been a fan of professional wrestling since 2002. Outside of wrestling, he is also a fan of Arsenal FC and enjoys video games, darts, and Formula One. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.


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