Think back one year ago. Bayley was the biggest babyface in the entire WWE, across the NXT and main roster. She was universally loved and coming off the two biggest and best matches of her life, which had also been the culmination of her entire NXT run to that point. Except here we are; Bayley finally made her way to the main roster in August and after only a few months, the writing on the wall is pretty clear — she’s sinking.
Vince McMahon and the main roster creative team are not good with babyfaces. It only becomes more apparent as time goes on. Think about it: Who actually get the biggest cheers and positive reactions from the crowd? It is a complete mess. On the one hand, you have got New Day who always gets big reactions. Fair enough. But then you have Chris Jericho every week with all his antics majorly over with the crowd, and he’s a heel. McMahon’s favorite “babyface” Roman Reigns is a whole disaster in so many ways that needs no explanation. Yet the top heel on SmackDown, AJ Styles, is also the most popular guy of the Tuesday night brand.
Bayley is falling victim to these realities. Her character was treated right in NXT, and the end result completely reflected that. Now that she is on the main roster, her mistreatment is going to wear down everything the NXT crew did to help make Bayley a special character.
That character is a specific kind of character. Bayley fits right in the role of the white meat, natural underdog babyface. Her character excels most when she is fighting against the odds and struggling through adversity, and doing so by cutting absolutely no corners and never with maliciousness. It’s what opens up her spectrum of fans from middle-aged men who get invested in the underdog stories to young girls who look up to Bayley as a role model. She is almost the female version of Sami Zayn.
And Zayn is actually a great indicator of where Bayley is headed, because you can just look at him to see how WWE handles a babyface of almost the same quality. Like Bayley, Zayn ascended the NXT ranks to become its champion and its most beloved star as “the face of NXT.” He made his debut at the beginning of the year. Despite some shining moments along the way, though, the Zayn who makes his entrance today does not carry nearly the same aura about him, and the reactions he garners have noticeably dampened as months have gone by. Sure, he was able to maintain it for a decent amount of time this year regardless of WWE’s questionable booking, but the audience has clearly faded on him.
Bayley is on that exact same path. It was clear as day on Monday Night Raw (Oct. 31). Now that Sasha Banks is seemingly out of the picture for now, Bayley has emerged as the next contender to Charlotte, but for the time being, they have to team up for the upcoming 5-on-5 women’s Survivor Series match. Now, admittedly, the promo was pretty good at establishing the right dynamic, even if cheesy at times, with Charlotte saying Bayley was the “weak link” of the team. Great. It sets up Bayley as the one always being underestimated and gives her something to prove.
But then Charlotte wanted to see if Bayley could prove her wrong in a match with one of their teammates.
Not surprisingly, McMahon thinks highly of Nia Jax, and even though she has not been on Raw in weeks, that was their Survivor Series teammate. She’s not a good wrestler and still way too green, but she’s big and can play the monster role that McMahon has always loved for the women’s division.
As far as talent level, it’s a terrible matchup for Bayley because she has to wrestle down to Jax’s level and do most of the work in the match. But purely on the dynamic of the characters, it’s actually a good matchup for Bayley as the natural underdog taking on the powerhouse bully. It fits her character just right. And NXT fans will remember that it was already done quite well a year ago.
Surprise, surprise, though, on the main roster, it did not go so well. Again, McMahon just does not seem to understand babyfaces outside of the guys who get over on their own like your Stone Cold’s and Hulk Hogan’s. And even worse, the whole Daniel Bryan phenomenon seems to have somehow been twisted up in his mind as something he helped accomplish, when, in fact, it’s the exact opposite as he actively tried to prevent Bryan from getting over. Now McMahon thinks Bryan is such a huge star to fans because of his booking abilities.
So what happened to Bayley in her match against Jax? She lost. But it is not even so much that she lost — it was how she lost. Obviously, your underdog characters are supposed to lose from time to time. But, for one, they lose way too often on the main roster because McMahon thinks the very act of losing helps garner sympathy. And two, it’s how they lose that makes it effective.
Bayley’s loss to Jax did nothing positive for the former.
Aside from a couple offensive sequences, Jax dominated, and the finish was decisive. It was a plain loss and nothing more. No sympathy was drawn, and no story was told. Bayley just lost, and Charlotte’s point was basically justified.
In other words, it was all wrong. Bayley did not come off looking like she had a chance of victory. She didn’t even come off like she was making it competitive and willing to fight to the bitter end. And her goal of showing she wasn’t a weak link fell to shambles.
It’s the exact same kind of stuff WWE has been flopping on Zayn with for most of this year. And clearly the same is in store for Bayley. Sure, we will probably see some big moments for her. She will almost certainly win the championship down the line, and likely sooner than Zayn ever would just by the lack of talent in the women’s division.
But as far as Bayley being the mega star she became in NXT, it looks like we can say goodbye to those days. Because unless the crowd decides to get behind her as rabidly as they did for Bryan years ago, the booking on its own is always going to keep Bayley down.