The brand extension has brought with it the return of the squash match to WWE, and despite the concept — wherein matches are designed for the betterment of only one Superstar — being viewed in distaste, it has done its duty to build up the undercard on Raw, and on occasion, SmackDown Live.
In particular, we’ve seen Braun Strowman, Nia Jax, Bo Dallas, American Alpha and now the budding tag team between Sheamus and Cesaro benefit from these encounters, and it’s done the trick well enough that each of the stars in question have come out looking better off for it.
If you’ve read any of our interviews with local talents here at Today’s Powerbomb, you’ll also know that the general consensus among is that the exposure on WWE programming is monumental for their own respective careers, despite the crippling losses they seem to be on paper.
But as successful as this revival of the old concept has been thus far, there is such a thing as “too much,” and we saw a glimpse of that this week on Raw when Bayley stepped in the ring.
Having taken the pinfall in her triple threat Raw Women’s Championship opportunity at Clash of Champions, the newest female acquisition for the red brand needed to recuperate and try to earn back a little bit of the momentum she lost at the hands of the champion the night before.
WWE tried to accomplish that in having Bayley compete against Anna Fields, known locally as independent wrestler Hannah Hartkoph, or “Miss Hannah.” This is where the concept of the squash match falls flat, and it’s mainly because of who we’re dealing with here.
People like Braun Strowman and Nia Jax benefit from dismantling their opponents in quick fashion because their underlying gimmick revolves around them being a powerhouse.
It works for Bo Dallas because after so long being treated like a comedy Superstar, the man needs an outlet for his frustrations and the quickest way to get him back over as a legitimate performer is to have him show new aggression and make short work of nameless talents.
Even Cesaro and Sheamus, whose tag team match was much more competitive than the standard squash match you’d be used to seeing on WWE programming, needed to tower over their opponents and use them as a stepping stone in their current storyline because from the very start, the feud between Cesaro and Sheamus has been based on competition. Of course they’re going to continue that one-upmanship whether they’re on the same page or on opposite sides of the ring.
But Bayley, simply put, just isn’t fit for the squash match mentality.
Admittedly, the Bayley character is a lot harder to book than your run-of-the-mill competitor. She prides herself on being an easy-going and friendly individual who relishes in the thought of putting a smile on the faces in the audience. The “I’m A Hugger” t-shirts and the wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube men back that up every week, basically slotting her right there in the “ultimate underdog” role that has become storied in professional wrestling.
Sure, she is one of the most talented women in the company, but her gimmick runs on pure fan support, which means that whoever Bayley is in the ring with is pivotal in maintaining her character. When you put Bayley up against a jobber, it flips the script and sends her into the match as the alpha in the situation, a dynamic that just doesn’t work for a character as fragile as Bayley’s.
It’s understandable that WWE would want to cover all the bases and ensure that, although Sasha Banks and Charlotte are now heading into a singles match for the title next week, Bayley is still right up there as a top contender for whoever walks out wearing gold.
But if it want to do that, here’s a thought: Why doesn’t WWE use the talent that’s at its disposal?
Someone like Summer Rae would have come in perfectly here. They could have given Bayley a competitive match-up, maintaining the face vs. heel dynamic that comes as a necessity for a gimmick like Bayley’s, while also sending her into the next phase of her career with some momentum. It would also have given a talent like Summer Rae some much-needed exposure on the flagship show.
The handling of the Bayley character should be approached with the utmost delicacy, because the success of the gimmick hangs on the support of the fans. One slip up and the fans might not be so enthused by Bayley’s performance each week and could turn her fun-loving and energetic presence into somewhat of an irredeemable John Cena-like mix of love and distaste.
If we’re ever to witness the dream match of Bayley vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship on a stage as big as WrestleMania, the WWE will need to put a little more thought into preserving the all-important fan support that Bayley carries with her to the ring on a weekly basis.