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Bayley’s debut further proof WWE is headed in the right direction with women’s wrestling

This is a guest post by Josie Becker. Follow her here.

Bayley made her main roster WWE debut last night (July 24, 2016), and it was one of those wrestling moments I’ll remember forever. The hugster was widely rumored to be Sasha Banks’ mystery partner in a tag match at WWE Battleground, the crowd was ready for it, and the way it was handled made me squee with glee.

A little bit about me, the name’s Josie, I used to run SB Nation’s LA Galaxy blog LAGConfidential. I still make my living freelancing in the soccer world, and there’s a surprising amount of overlap between soccer twitter and wrestling twitter. It’s how I got back into WWE. Let’s see if I can weave these two stories together.

When I saw the early reports I didn’t want to read them. I wanted it to be a surprise, but I was also super afraid of being let down. I wanted to see Bayley’s debut at Battleground so bad, I didn’t think I could take disappointment. Then the night started with Charlotte’s music.

This was it. The clues were all there. Being the first match on the card so the internet wasn’t flooded with reports of wacky inflatable tube men stashed just off stage ruining the surprise. The way Sasha Banks didn’t stare down Charlotte to sell the “look what I’ve got in store for you” moment, but looked down the ramp with a genuine smile wanting to see a friend have her big moment and nodded along to the Bayley chants.

The wacky inflatable tube men are what got me back into wrestling in the first place. One of my soccer twitter follows posted Bayley’s entrance, and I asked “is that her everyday entrance or a special event thing?” That someone would come out with a character whose story was essentially “everything you think is great is actually great and just have fun”, I was hooked.

I renamed myself, when I was 18. It’s something that happens when you’re a transgender person. I was taking ancient Greek at the time (was terrible at it, didn’t pass the class) and I was really into the idea of the Moirai. The three fates who aren’t controlling everything, but can see all when it comes to a person’s path. I took it as my middle name: my first name came from a Latin word meaning light-hearted. I was going to accept this crazy path, and I was going to do it lightheartedly.

That’s what I saw in Bayley’s character. She’s the consummate underdog, not supposed to amount to much but using that big heart to push through tough things and pull out wins she was never expected to have. A weird and eclectic adult who likes what she likes and wants to be everyone’s friend. A hugger.

Liking something the greater culture tells you shouldn’t exist is part of the overlap between soccer and wrestling culture. These little niche activities with our own magazines and websites, it’s not a surprise they rose as the internet became mainstream. It’s not a coincidence that it came with the rise of comic book culture. We are the adults now, and we’ve decided what that means.

Which again leads me here:

A women’s wrestler so over in WWE’s developmental territory she got a custom song in London. So talented she was part of a thirty minute Iron Man NXT Women’s Title Match that not only main evented but ended with the entire roster out on the stage.

Think about it this way. Bayley is so popular they kept her debut a secret even though they had a huge draft event earlier in the week. The crowd at the draft was so pumped just to hear Bayley’s name called, that they started cheering the moment Stephanie McMahon said woman and began to boo the second they realized she was talking about Nia Jax.

Bayley will probably tape a few more NXT episodes and work the TakeOver event before SummerSlam. She didn’t get the pin or hit the Bayley-to- Belly, letting Sasha Banks continue her road to the WWE women’s title at SummerSlam.

Still, women’s wrestling took a huge step forward at Battleground. It started with the new title belt and ditching the Diva name. We’re starting to get multiple women’s wrestling storylines, a trend that will only continue with the brand split. Becky Lynch is advocating for serious women’s stories beyond cattiness. A female wrestler’s debut was a huge deal.

Listening to that Washington D.C. crowd explode for Bayley’s debut, it’s clear this women’s revolution is a ground up movement. If anything, creative is moving slower than the crowds would like.

You guys, a side-ponytail wearing rainbow costumed woman who could be the grown up version of Deb from Napoleon Dynamite is going to be a main talking point from a WWE PPV. That’s so freaking cool! And the match was given fifteen minutes and told everyone’s story believably!

I can get behind this.

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