I’m a huge NXT fan and have been for years now. Ever since the show started back in 2012, I knew there was something special going on there and that this really was some of the best wrestling television in the world. If there was one thing the promotion knew how to do, it was create stars. One of their best examples is Bayley, who rose from little more than a comedy character to become the biggest star in the promotion. Now she’s on “Monday Night Raw” as the Women’s Champion and I can only wonder: what the heck has gone wrong?

Let’s flash back to the early Bayley days. She started her “NXT” tenure as a jobber who was VERY happy to be there. Bayley came off as the ultimate fangirl who just wanted to be around wrestling and freaked out over the idea of being in the presence of various legends. Over time, this evolved into the more standard innocent character who was defined by her love of hugs, leading to the Bayley to Belly finishing move and Hug Life/Hug Like a Champ shirt designs.

In a word, this character WORKED. Fans got behind Bayley, who was nothing like your traditional wrestler. She was someone the people could associate with because she loved wrestling so much and had wanted to get here for her entire life. This was a great way to get people to support her and it worked like few others had ever done, especially down in NXT.

Bayley vs. Charlotte: WWE NXT, June 5, 2014

Unfortunately, this didn’t exactly lead to in-ring success. Bayley was almost immediately behind her peers in the ring but no one had her level of charisma. Over time, Bayley went from a total novice to someone who could hang with the rest of the division, but it was clear that she wasn’t ready to beat them. As you might expect, this turned into Bayley’s main story: finally winning the matches that she never could pull off. As you also might expect, this was a very, very successful idea.

This whole story culminated at “Takeover: Brooklyn” where Bayley challenged Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Champion. In the real main event of the night (with apologies to Finn Balor and Kevin Owens), Bayley won the title in a great match for one of the loudest ovations you’ll ever hear. Bayley was instantly a star and the women one upped themselves in the main event of “Takeover: Respect” when they had a thirty minute Iron Man match with Bayley retaining.

With these wins, Bayley was suddenly the biggest star in the promotion (yes, moreso than the men) and ready to lead things forward. This marked a new step in her character as she was now confident in her abilities while still being one of the most friendly characters in the promotion. It was a combination of her innocence and everything that made her popular with a newfound level of skill, making her a much more well rounded performer. In other words: Bayley had grown up before our eyes and was hitting on all cylinders.

Bayley makes history: WWE NXT TakeOver: Respect, on WWE Network

After losing the title to the offensive machine Asuka, it was clear that Bayley was ready to come up to the main roster and of course that meant it was time to start panicking. Due to a variety of reasons, NXT talented had a very bad history of not exactly transitioning smoothly over to the main roster. You can call it a combination of not understanding the characters, not having the amount of time necessary to focus on the characters or the main shows not knowing what they’re doing, but there was a very, very shaky success rate in the transition.

As you can probably guess, things didn’t go all that well for Bayley on the main roster, at least not at first. In short, she just didn’t fit. Instead of the character that was well put together and allowed to develop over time, Bayley was basically thrown into the middle of everything without being properly allowed to grow on the fans. It was great for NXT fans, but the WWE only fans didn’t quite get it at first.

Then there was the mess that was the title change and ensuing reign. When Bayley won the NXT Women’s Title, it was a long built story with Bayley fighting against the odds and FINALLY overcoming everything. In WWE, she won the title about six months after making her full time roster debut. On top of that, it wasn’t even a major match. It was defeating Charlotte (a big deal) on a regular episode of “Monday Night Raw”, just like Banks had done a few times. Bayley won the title with some assistance from Banks, which tainted it a bit but not horribly.

Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair - Raw Women's Championship Match: Raw, Feb. 13, 2017

That brings us to the almost infamous title defense against Charlotte at “Fastlane 2017” which is still one of the most confusing booking choices I’ve seen in a long time. Banks flat out cheated this time, beating Charlotte up in the aisle when Bayley was in trouble. She also pointed out Charlotte cheating (which isn’t a heel action and was fine), allowing Bayley to get a quick pin, which was Charlotte’s first singles loss on a pay per view.

Yeah that’s how things went. Bayley didn’t get the title in a big moment to end Charlotte’s huge streak. Instead she won the title in a match that Charlotte has lost multiple times before winning the big title defense via some shenanigans that didn’t need to be here. This doesn’t do much for Bayley and made a lot of people shake their heads, which has been the case with a lot of wrestling fans.

So….what do you do with Bayley? She’s the current Women’s Champion and does more than passable work but it’s definitely not clicking like it was in NXT. My best recommendation would be to have her get into a more personal feud other than “you’re just a fan and I’m a wrestler” that she had with Charlotte as we need to have a better chance to get to know her. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly WWE’s strong point so I’m not sure I’d get my hopes up.

Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair - Raw Women's Title Match: WWE Fastlane 2017 (WWE Network Exclusive)

Bayley is a very unique kind of talent and can work wonders for WWE in certain areas. Can you name anyone else in WWE history who was more able to connect with young female fans? I know some of them look up to the Bellas (someone save us) but how many wrestlers are capable of getting young girls into wrestling? I can’t think of one, but I know Bayley was doing it down in NXT.

While I don’t know if Bayley can recreate the magical run that worked so well for her down in NXT, it’s clear that there’s a ton of talent in there waiting for the right combination to bring it out. There are flashes of it every now and then as it’s clear the fans want to cheer Bayley, but they haven’t really been given a reason to yet. If WWE can put the pieces together, Bayley is going to be a very big star for a very long time. It worked in NXT and, with the right adjustments, it’s going to work on the main roster too.


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