In an era where heroes wear black and heels win over crowds, Bayley is among the last of a dying breed: An unflappable, irrepressible babyface of the highest order, a beloved beau ideal beyond reproach.
So it’s been remarkable – not to mention reassuring – to watch her rise through the NXT ranks, a journey that began in late 2012 when she signed with the nascent promotion out of the indies, continued through no shortage of oh-so-close losses and culminated with her coronation as Women’s Champion following a show-stealing, year-defining battle with Sasha Banks at TakeOver: Brooklyn. Through it all, we’ve witnessed her character grow from wide-eyed ingénue to suplex-busting star, though her motivation has never wavered: Bayley not only wants you to like her, she practically demands it. Cynicism be damned.
That drive not only won over the fickle Full Sail crowd (all those hugs!) and made her a rarity in today’s WWE, but it created a fascinating dynamic within NXT’s Women’s Division. Bayley was the perfect foe for the heelish Banks, the scrappy underdog to the pedigreed Charlotte and the overmatched opponent to the seasoned Becky Lynch. Now, those three women have moved on up to the big leagues, leaving Bayley holding the belt – and responsible for shaping the next generation of stars.
But, if you think she’s shrinking from the spotlight, you don’t know the Hugster. On Wednesday night, she’ll face Banks once again in a history making main event at TakeOver: Respect – and if she manages to hold on to her belt, Bayley has big plans, not just for the future of NXT, but the entire sport of women’s wrestling.
It’s been more than a month since you beat Sasha Banks at TakeOver: Brooklyn to win the NXT Women’s Championship. Have you had a chance to look back on the match, and if so, what sticks out the most from it?
It was really everything. That match was so emotional. My first matches here were against Sasha, and they were just whatever matches, house show matches; I had a practice match with her just so coaches could see how I worked. So it goes that far back, to my first time in Florida Championship Wrestling, and then we get to NXT and we both weren’t really doing anything in storylines, and they’d put us in these matches, like a go-to filler match, and they’d give us five minutes or something, and I’d just kind of joke, “Well, I’ve got Sasha again.” And we both grew up loving wrestling and wanting to be the best; deep down, we’re the same person – but when it comes to wrestling, we’re really competitive.
We had a dark match at the first TakeOver, and as we started getting a little more known with the crowd, we started trying to one-up each other – who can have the better match, who can get the better reaction, whatever. I want to be better than her, and she wants to be better than me. And then when it got to Brooklyn, we knew how special it was. We were going to be able to do this in front of 16,000 people, in the co-main event, and me knowing she cared so much made me emotional, and her knowing I cared made her emotional. And the thought that, if I were to win, it would be one of the last times I’d get to work with her, it was a bittersweet moment. She’s definitely my favorite to work with. It’s a chemistry that you don’t really get with everybody.