WWE has done much to reintroduce the use of local talents across its weekly shows. It started with Braun Strowman running roughshod through a number of men, paralleled by Nia Jax’s equally dominant stint against some forgettable names on Raw. Bayley most recently took to the ring to take on a local talent, only this match wasn’t of the “squash” variety. It was a competitive outing — one WWE could take a grand lesson from as it continues to build its stable of female competitors on SmackDown.
Bayley’s opponent, Anna Fields, had a far nastier, vicious streak than WWE’s favorite hugger. Even though Bayley came out victorious, the story told was one of an underdog who clawed her way to the top fending off someone equally hungry but far more aggressive. It worked well for Bayley’s development; she sells realistically, as any uber-face should, and always catches that second wind to overcome adversity, looking thoroughly knackered and stretched to her limits in the process.
But most importantly, Bayley competed in an actual match, with someone other than the top carders she’s currently up against (and with such a small division, there isn’t really much of a mid-card to speak of). This keeps things from being repetitive, and Bayley in the limelight and looking like she’s well prepared for her next big opportunity.
Compare this to what happened last Tuesday on SmackDown.
Becky Lynch was on her way down to the ring, ready for a match with… well, we never found out, because before she was even halfway down the ramp she was ambushed by Alexa Bliss. The last-minute run-in before an aborted match is a narrative device that is drastically overused on WWE TV, and particularly with the women’s division.
Fans must’ve lost count, for example, of how many times Natalya beat the life out of people while they were on the way down to the ring, before towering over them looking smug. It’s a perfectly valid heel tactic, but not when it is used almost every single week and deprives us what could be separate matches for both competitors in a feud to look strong.
Nobody needs matches more than Alexa Bliss right now; she is sorely lacking in mainstream singles competition, and audiences probably could do with seeing how resourceful she is as a heel in the ring to get a flavor of what she’s going to bring to the table when she faces off against Becky Lynch for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at No Mercy.
So, why not have more local talents featuring in the SmackDown women’s division? They don’t all have to be squash matches (although Alexa Bliss sure wouldn’t look out of place putting one on), but they could be competitive. It would also mean that if WWE really did feel compelled to have a top title contender in a match, it wouldn’t have to pluck the likes of Carmella or Nikki Bella out of their feud with each other.
Having your No. 1 contender go up against anybody on their road to a PPV is going to be predictable anyway, so knowing 100 percent who is going to come out on top against a local talent isn’t going to make all that much difference. It would also serve as a decent contingency plan while WWE hopefully seeks to deepen its female mid-card with new signings throughout the year. It would be far more desirable than counting down the seconds before a face’s intro is unceremoniously interrupted by a beatdown.