Did you know you were Bayley's favorite fan?
Okay, I can't say that specifically, because I don't know who you are or what you're wearing right now (get your mind out of the gutter - although based on the comment thread for the announcement that the Hugster is rematching with Sasha Banks on October 7 in a 30 minute Iron Person match, it's safe to assume you're not wearing pants). But the NXT Women's champ seems to love all her fans, and we're only growing in number, so you're probably in her top five.
In a great new interview with Alex Obert's Journey of a Frontman, Bayley talks about her fans, journey to the title and becoming one of the most popular women in wrestling today.
Obert asks her about the wide range of support she receives from the audience, with everyone from little girls to grown men wearing her merchandise.
I was actually just talking about this recently with one of my friends and my dad. I see all these little girls who are dressing up like me and it's amazing. That used to be me, I was dressing up like Lita or whoever it was that I loved that time. And then I see a grown man in an "I'm A Hugger" shirt and he's proudly wearing it. I have the moms come up to me and thank me for inspiring their kids. And there's support from teenagers and stuff. I'm really noticing different varieties of fans that I'm getting whether it's because they want to cheer for me or be like me or they're just thankful for me because their kid has a role model.
But I think my favorite is a grown man in a Hugger shirt. (laughs) It's really cool. I never thought that I'd have such an impact in such a short amount of time. I'm happy and excited to see how much bigger it can get.
In talking about the genesis of her gimmick Bayley, like so many who've come up in NXT, gives credit to Dusty Rhodes for helping her refine and improve her initial idea.
Every week he was like "Oh you should do this. You should start out with the yearbook and have all these pictures of the Divas and the Superstars. Just have them come out and sign it!" So much material and so much knowledge. He just kept telling me "Just reach back to when you were actually eleven years old or twelve years old as a fan. Just bring that out of you."
Once he said that, it was so easy because this is literally how I was when I was ten or twelve years old.
In fact, the side-pony that's become an integral part of her look and her babyface comeback, is thanks to The American Dream:
In my first match as Bayley against Alicia Fox, I put my hair in a side ponytail. But if you watch it back, once I got in the ring, I took it out. I was like "Well I need to have my hair down. This is a wrestling match." I normally had my hair down for matches.
When I got to the back, the first person waiting there was Dusty. And he said "Why did you take your hair out?"
"Because I don't want it to get messed up." I didn't want it to get all crazy.
He was like "You wear a ponytail forever now. You go out there with the ponytail, you wrestle with the ponytail. I don't care how it looks when you get back, that's your thing."
And I was like "Okay, cool." So then I always wore the ponytail and I was so happy he gave me that word of advice.
Whatever the future holds for Bayley - and it should hold a ton of money if WWE can resist the urge to have her character act crazy and try to sleep with a bunch of different male wrestlers when they call her up - she'll always remember and be remembered for her title win in Brooklyn last month, and the touching scene with her fellow "Four Horsewomen" (Banks, Charlotte & Becky Lynch) that followed. In the interview, she reflects on the moment and what it meant:
It was really cool and I feel like that was a defining moment in our careers, all four of us. I feel like it's something a lot of the fans wanted to see because they've seen all four of us grow up together in the past couple years. They know how hard we all worked together and what we've done for the division. They've all seen us grow separately and go our own ways. They saw Sasha and Charlotte win championships and everything.
Storylines aside and everything, I know it meant the world to us because we've all seen each other training every day and working for the same goal. We all know how important every championship match is, especially that one. We knew that all four of us together, including the other Divas, all of us worked to get to that match where it was Sasha versus myself. If it wasn't for Becky and Charlotte and everybody else that works hard in the division, we wouldn't have been able to be in that spot. To us, it was all four of us together until who knows how long. They're all doing their thing, they're all busy on RAW and Smackdown. I'm holding it down in NXT, so who knows the next time we'll all get to be in a ring together.
And it was just respect, regardless of how we feel about each other, problems in the past. I think I finally gained Sasha Banks's respect and showed her that I'm not just giving out high-fives and stuff, I want to take the division as far as she does.
It was a really cool moment, personally and professionally. I think that's what the fans remember most.
Word. That's just basic Huganomics.
Check out the whole interview over at Journey of a Frontman for more on these topics, thoughts on music, Sami Zayn and the next big stars coming out of NXT.
Unfortunately, the interview was conducted before this week's big announcement that she and Sasha will be main eventing the next TakeOver live show, but she does discuss heading into that as champion instead of plucky challenger for the first time.
Regardless of what type of Bayley fan you are, what do you see in the future for the Hugster?