Here’s what I don’t really feel like talking about: Monday’s MizTV or the aftermath on social media or WWE’s internal ire or whatever the hell else erupted from a hideously constructed segment that proved beyond any doubt that the "Diva Revolution" is nothing more than a phrase that’s supposed to mean something.
There’s no substance to back one iota of the new philosophy up, and every single appearance one of the women makes on main roster television or on pay-per-view (PPV) backs the reality that WWE is as WWE does when it comes to females. 2015 is not the year of women in sports, nor was 2014 or 2013.
Serena Williams has been ridiculously talented in tennis for well over a decade. She’s been the best in the sport, seemingly, for eons. Ronda Rousey didn’t just pop up out of nowhere in 2015. US Women’s Soccer won the World Cup for the first time since 1999, but in no way have these ladies been a disaster area at any time between their two biggest victories.
We knew who Abby and Carli and Hope and Megan were prior to this year. Jennie Finch has been a well-known name in sports for many years. Candace Parker or Lisa Leslie or Diana Taurasi or Maya Moore or whomever you want to include has been good at basketball for a long time. Missy Franklin was awesome in the Olympics and was one of the biggest stars of the 2012 Games.
These are just more recent examples. It's been a great year for women in sports, but anyone shocked...shouldn't be. This isn’t a new truth, but it is to WWE, because at some point, they began to notice people were watching women wrestle in NXT…because (shudder), they were supremely talented. Along with that ability though, came smart writing and the inclusion of NXT women on the same level as any other superstar. Dave Meltzer said as much on Monday night when he made the statement that outside of the Champion and the number one contender, no one is treated with more respect in NXT than the top women.
On Saturday night in Brooklyn, NXT’s women had their final shining moment. Following the culmination of all of their hard work, two of their own, Bayley and Sasha Banks, tore the house down and made it impossible for two incredibly popular, excellent performers to follow them in a ladder match for the Championship.
A one on one match between two women was the best matchup of that night and yes, was the best match of the weekend, as good as Seth Rollins was the next evening at SummerSlam. Sasha is on the main roster and was in the ring for all of about 15 seconds on Sunday, then not used at all on RAW; this despite the fans chanting for her on both shows. That’s out of touch (even if she was banged up, she could have APPEARED in some form. even a backstage promo or segment), but here’s the story of the weekend.
Bayley is going to draw money unless somebody screws this up…and somebody is probably going to screw this up.
On Squared Circle Radio (my Nashville wrestling program) this past Sunday, we spent the first 19 minutes of the program on nothing but the NXT Women’s Championship match, and Bayley in particular. Sasha Banks is the best in-ring female performer in the world, but Bayley is the one that had us all fighting back tears.
A year ago, perhaps it was 15 months, we discussed on air the difficulty of taking a beloved developmental gimmick and translating it to the WWE. We had UPROXX.com's Brandon Stroud on the show and he agreed, using Emma as the cautionary tale.
That gimmick worked in NXT, but was simply thrown on RAW with no backstory. It looked ridiculous. Months later, it was a thing of the past. She’s now attempting to turn things around with more of an edge and pushing the sex appeal a bit more. She’s also still overcoming the stigma of the iPhone case incident that almost cost her any chance for redemption as a WWE employee.
I wasn’t sure Bayley would work, because it was so child-like. Then, something very special happened.
Bayley became a much more serious character, while never losing the innocence that made her irresistible as an attraction. Her work in the ring tightened up, her attitude when the bell rang all of a sudden felt completely different, and the emotion of her "real" promos and the underdog status played into her favor. When she lost, we felt that pain. We were completely invested in her run towards the top.
She was on TV long before Becky Lynch, but Becky found that "it" on television and was fast tracked right past her. Charlotte and Sasha were the top of the heap, and we knew and know how high the company is on Alexa Bliss. So, when would it be Bayley’s turn?
One of my co-hosts, Brandon Haghany, made an exceptional comparison on Sunday that might have been better than my own. While it’s often tedious to try and determine who a particular worker might favor respective to who he or she could be in the future, here it informs quite a bit about how far Bayley might be able to go.
COMPARISON ONE: SAMI ZAYN
It should in no way be overlooked that both of these comparisons are to men, because in the case of the Four Horsewomen, most true dyed-in-the-wool wrestling fans don’t see them as anything but entertaining members of a roster. They weren’t branded or stamped with a bogus trademark. They were just…really good, and couldn’t be outshined. I was more interested in the NXT Women’s Division over the past 12 months than anything in pro wrestling. Haghany mentioned Zayn after my other co-host, David Reed (and I) mentioned the other. Here’s the rationale.
Sami Zayn, through matches with Cesaro and Neville and everybody else, became the lovable loser who had unbelievable talent and oozed babyface charisma. He could work, he had a very believable reactionary tone to his interviews, and he worked his rear end off. Think of how many times you pulled for Sami to win, only to leave with the "maybe next time" attitude. When Sami finally found the summit of NXT’s Everest against Neville in December, recall your reaction and recall Full Sail’s reaction. It was joy at watching someone who had come so close, so many times, GET THERE. He was too small. The muscles never rippled. He didn’t "look" like a star at first glance.
Bayley, through close calls with Charlotte and near misses with Paige or Emma or Becky or Sasha or any number of others, became that one girl you really wanted to see GET THERE. She wasn’t the biggest, and despite having a fantastic look, might not appear like a star immediately. The music was a little too juvenile and it felt a little contrived. Then, the music changed, the tube men arrived, and she moved, as Haghany said, "from Eugene to Sami."
Now, recall your reaction Saturday night when she won the Championship and then her three compadres entered to celebrate as all showcased ultimate mutual respect for the journey of each friend and the current positioning of every woman in that ring. Sami Zayn, as I wrote here last year, is a pure babyface in a way we haven’t seen in ages.
Bayley is a pure babyface that even rivals Sami, but she also has the credibility that sets her apart from the manufactured gimmicked "heroes" that end up booed by smarks who assume that’s the right thing to do. So does Zayn. His music also changed for the better, just to add another tidbit to the argument.
COMPARISON TWO: JOHN CENA
David Reed and I both saw Cena in Bayley on Saturday night. All you have to do is look at someone like her biggest fan, Izzy, or all the little girls who idolize her. Bayley is a role-model style of character for youngsters. She works hard in the ring, in the gym, she eats right, she says the right things, she’s great to her fans, and then the bell strikes and she kicks butt in the squared circle. She hasn’t lost the "cheese" completely, but she’s limited it to the point where mainstream acceptance isn’t just possible, but assured. She’s approachable for the five year old and flat out awesome to the forty year old.
There’s no question that Bayley could be the kind of character granting Make-A-Wish dreams once she gets out of Florida. There’s no question she can sell merchandise and be the kids’ favorite wrestler. There’s also no question, as she walked out Saturday clad in ivory and gold, that she has transformed herself and her character into the LOOK of a Champion. She walked out with a stride that showcased realized and activated potential.
The difference between Cena and Bayley is that the latter's push has been an organic, "you must push this woman" fan response. This may never have happened without the fans. In that way, she could also be compared to someone else that would be highly flattering if she ever heard it stated: Daniel Bryan. Watching her evolution is reminiscent in some ways of the DB Michael Cole attacked on commentary to the DB who beat Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista all in one night in New Orleans last year.
Also, she has never (to my knowledge) attempted a Springboard Stunner, so she’s got that going for her, which is nice.
Cena is polarizing. Perhaps Bayley would be also, but she’s already won so many of John’s haters over through her talent and her drive. Every time you see her, she impresses you more. I look back and wonder exactly how we ever wondered if this gimmick would work in front of 15-thousand people. She’s already far more likable AS A CHARACTER than the Usos, and they’ve been successful with the kids and the work in the ring has kept them viable with the larger audience. Now, it’s almost unthinkable that Bayley wouldn’t fly with just about everybody, but unfortunately, we’ve seen the last six weeks of WWE television.
THE SAD REALITY OF IT ALL
Saturday night, we all marveled and saw what pro wrestling is supposed to feel like, what it’s supposed to look like, and what near perfection leaves us with as fans. We were riveted, even though we knew the result before the match ever began. It got a little dusty in many of our rooms. We bought the false finishes and we even felt the crippling pain in Bayley’s hand as she looked to us and sold and cried and refused to give up. Through her comeback, she continued to sell the discomfort. Along with Zayn, she and Becky Lynch may be the best pure salespeople in the company. We love Bayley. We loved her before TakeOver and we love her even more now. The expansion of our belief in her and our connection to her isn’t a surprise.
She’s become so much more integral to us now for one depressing reason: She hasn’t been ruined yet on the main roster.
Her absence from the shows that are neutralizing, marginalizing, and stunting everything her colleagues are doing in WWE has made her that last bastion of women's The new NXT Women's Champion is white hot right now. She's gone from the underdog to the main event and we've been with her the whole way. Why she may be the last true source of hope for what should be as we watch the atrocity on the main roster.. Bayley has doubled or tripled in visibility and adoration among our ilk because she is entirely external of the cesspool that has victimized her friends.
If she was on the main roster, she’d be right there in the even-steven nonsense that has completely negated any potential strides the company has made in its treatment of women on the roster. Monday was the biggest example, but it began with the tetherball teams picked by SMH on day one.
Every time I see Sasha in her video saying "Do you think I would align with Charlotte and Becky? I wouldn’t join up with Team Bella, I only align myself with winners," it drives me insane, because she didn’t pick a side. Stephanie put her with Naomi and Tamina, which took any potential storytelling completely out of the proceedings.
Bayley isn’t doing pinky swears or finishing her partners’ sentences or joking or winning meaningless matches with no stakes.
Instead, she’s winning matches in a division that was long ago put on a pedestal, and still, even with all the call-ups, remains strong. If she helps Carmella and Alexa and Eva and whomever else grow on camera, while Sara Amato and Norman Smiley craft them off it, she’ll be knighted in many fans’ eyes.
There is a challenge to be found here. Some of the newer women brought in have skill and experience, but Bayley is now the John Cena of NXT women, and with that nameplate comes ultimate responsibility. She is the star, even if Eva Marie is the handpicked Roman Reigns of the division. I truly believe Bayley is ready and equipped to tackle what’s to come, but, and I can’t stress this enough…
I look highly forward to NOT seeing her on the main roster for a good while.
WWE is making me roll my eyes at how they’re treating the women (including one in Becky, who I absolutely love to pieces), and I find myself disinterested in what they’re doing. I care about Bayley. In fact, if she’s still in NXT up until WrestleMania 32, it’s quite likely she’ll be our unanimous favorite by that time. She’ll be rolling right along, booked intelligently, improving and crafting the edges of her character. I’ve become such a fan of hers over the past year that as the 36-year-old man that I am, I almost purchased a purple "I’m a Hugger" shirt. That slogan would require far too many explanations to non-fans, just like "Lass Kicker" would if I chose to wear Becky gear.
Bayley is an unstoppable freight train right now. Thank God we have her. She’s unsullied, unaltered, and hasn’t been destroyed.
Consider her an Episode IV Leia, but with a Luke Skywalker push. She could also pull off the metal bikini. And if she's Carrie Fisher (before that classification became an insult), the Divas Revolution is Hayden Christensen. I’m not sure she could do any wrong right now, because the people writing the scripts down in Florida actually know how to make this work. Bayley definitely knows how to make this work.
All hail Bayley, who we cling onto like our first teddy bear as attentive fans. I continue to pray that someone up north actually figures this thing out with the WWE women before it’s too late. I fear we’re approaching that point in record time. The Divas Revolution is, at best, on life support. Those Brooklyn chants weren’t disrespectful to women. They were and are the byproduct of piss-poor creative and boneheaded stupidity behind the curtain.
Here's the really disappointing thing: Who can we compare any of the women on RAW to at the present time?
They may as well be Zack Ryder after the ball was dropped or Wade Barrett over the last eight months. They're merely there, which is a shame at worst and disgraceful at best. Charlotte (what): merely there. Becky (holy cow, I'm so sad to say this): merely there. Sasha (are you kidding me): merely there. Paige...long ago a complete non-factor, when she's anything but. Nothing has changed. This is the SOS folks, the SOS.
Perhaps everybody involved needs an injection? Maybe…just maybe, they need a hug, and I’ve got the perfect woman for that job.
Help me Princess Bayley, you’re our only hope. This woman's force has definitely awakened.