Moments of 2016 is a series of articles that detail the year in review for WWE, whether it be specific moments, matches or superstars who've stood out on the WWE main roster and NXT, one way or another. You'll see this series of pieces go through to the end of December. In a special sub-series, here is the third of four articles focusing on The Four Horsewomen of WWE.
I need to put this into personal context first before continuing further.
In the summer, but especially July, I was fighting what was undiagnosed depression and anxiety (I knew it was those things, I just hadn't them diagnosed at the time). I can recall the week of Battleground, and the WWE Draft, being really bad in dealing with depression. It had gotten to a majorly bad place and I was not at the time willing to get myself checked by a doctor for it (I've since done that).
But with the fires finally being stoked for a certain someone finally getting called up to the main roster, I had some excitement going into it thinking, finally, she'd be called up during the Draft. Moreso considering the reports going around there were certain 'Hugger Section' signs being left around.
As well as Raw and SmackDown stars, six NXT callups were promised during the night, although three of them were during SmackDown Live with the other three during the post-show on the Network. So surely it had to be. It must've been.
NXT Pick 1:
"With an eye towards the future, our next draft choice comes fron NXT..."
And with that, I became a bit more alert, moreso considering Charlotte just went number three overall and number two for Raw - a lot higher than I expected (though very awesome considering the positive implication of going high in the draft) - who was coming up?
It wasn't her. But I still marked regardless: Finn was my second most anticipated NXT pick.
NXT pick 2:
"...They are Ready, Willing and Gable..."
Awesome. But it still wasn't her. Surely they'd get her up before SmackDown Live was done?
NXT pick 3:
"Well our next pick, there is no woman quite like her. From NXT..."
"!!!! 'THIS IS IT!' !!!!," I thought. And it seemed like the crowd thought so considering in that brief moment, they started cheering big time.
And we were done here. Considering the caliber and potential, there was no way they were going to have her as a Network-only callup (Carmella, Alexa Bliss and Mojo Rawley were the other three callups). But there was still hope yet, surely.
For all the waving away she did, the false flags and red herrings on social media, the logical assumption for Sasha Banks' mystery partner in her tag match against Charlotte and Dana Brooke would be her greatest rival from NXT, the woman who took her NXT Women's Championship in Brooklyn nearly a year earlier and one-half of the pair who put on the two greatest women's matches last year (if not that, certainly the two most important women's matches ever).
As Battleground kicked off and Charlotte's music started playing, I thought to myself - and subsequently tweeted - "wait, they're doing this already!? Alright, lets go!". And at that point, my heart was starting to race. And then came Sasha's music. To which point, I stood up and hoped for the best. Because surely even WWE wouldn't be so stupid to not capatalise on this and that if it was anyone but her, there would be riots.
In hindsight, the signs were there beforehand: Sasha's gear being a nod to her partner's colour scheme and the fact she couldn't stop looking up at the ramp and smiling like a loon, marking out as much as we were about to. Still, in that brief pause between Sasha's music and her partner coming down, it felt like - for me - time slowed down. Wishing upon wishing, praying upon praying, that finally, 'our girl' would finally get her moment in the sun on the main roster.
No word of a lie, I commenced the marking to end all marking. I've marked for a lot of wrestling moments in my time as a fan, but never have I marked more for anything in my life than this. In fact, I marked for this than all the others combined.
Bayley was finally on the WWE main roster, if albeit as it turned out for one night only. And god damn did it feel good. The wait for her to come up had been super tense with fans and were very eager to see her come up. They made those feelings very clear the night after WrestleMania. Patience might have started to run thin. So by bringing her up for at least one night as Sasha's partner, they helped ease whatever tension, if any, there was in clamoring for her permanent call up.
Not to mention, the pop she got when 'Turn It Up' started playing. I think that may honestly be in the discussion for pop of the year alongside Shane McMahon's return and Seth Rollins's return. The roof on the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. may near enough have exploded.
The match itself wasn't spectacular, it was a by-the-numbers tag match in which Bayley and Sasha won with the latter making Charlotte tap to a Bank Statement - her only PPV loss to date - with the latter two competing in one of the best matches of the year for the WWE Women's Championship 24 hours later on Raw.
But the moment itself where Bayley finally appeared on the main roster was an incredible moment. Personally speaking, it was such an amazing moment, for the better part of half an hour, I rewound the moment over and over again on the Network (and missed the match between the Wyatts and the New Day in the process!) just to watch it again and again and listen to the reaction again and again. The moment helped tide us over whilst she finished up her feud with Asuka for the NXT Women's Championship at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn.
After that finished and was given the NXT farewell she truly deserved (a very emotional one as well, as we'll get to next week), two nights later - and supposedly a lot earlier than planned considering she was due to be called up in September according to one or two rumours at the time - she made her full main roster bow. And that was another moment I marked big for. It was also a very seminal moment too for two reasons:
1 - Doing so a year to the day since her and Sasha faced each other in that classic match at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
2 - Doing so in the Barclays Center, something which Corey Graves made point to in her debut match against Dana Brooke in that she will look back very fondly on it when her career is said and done.
But as amazing as that moment was, to finally see her get her true call up, I'm more fond of the night she made her mark the first time at Battleground. And as I said earlier in the week, it was in a 24-hour period which provided a massive rocket-booster to the women's division of WWE which had stalled big after WrestleMania.
Which ties back into the top of this piece and my depression/anxiety.
Bayley's debut was my one piece of solace that week, the one bit of genuine happiness that I had in that seven day period. I was in a rough space at that time around Battleground. But Bayley has made me love wrestling a lot more than I did a year-and-a-half ago thanks to her rise from plucky underdog to NXT Women's Champion, having had some of the best women's matches of all time with Sasha Banks and to then see her finally get her due - it was beyond happiness. It was genuinely a moment where I actually felt proud for her having seen her grow from NXT to where she was at that moment.
As I said the day after she debuted, happiness was a hug away. And while I never got an actual hug for it, the utter joy I got from seeing Bayley's debut and the reaction she got from it was the next best thing to a hug I could ask for at that time.
Day One: The Phenomenal Year (AJ Styles)
Day Two: Grateful (Daniel Bryan)
Day Three: Here Comes the Money (Shane McMahon)
Day Four: The Rising Sun (Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn)
Day Five: The Queen - Making history (Charlotte - 1/4)
Day Six: Fight Forever (Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens)
Day Seven: The Boss - A new era (Sasha Banks - 2/4)
Day Eight: Shootin' from the lip (The Miz)
Johnny Cullen writes about games for a living and has written for the likes of Eurogamer, VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine UK and also podcasts about games for My Favourite Game. You can follow him on Twitter - for mostly games hijinks but also WWE tweets (and be a bit obsessive over Bayley), The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Jonsi & Alex) - @JohnnyCullen.